Health Minister Greg Hunt has rejected the suggestion the alcohol industry has watered down a national plan to reduce the harm done by the drug.
The new National Alcohol Strategy was meant to be finalised in 2018, five years after work on it began, but has been repeatedly delayed.
At least two state or territory ministers have taken issue with the latest draft of the document, arguing feedback provided by the alcohol industry's since early 2018 has weakened it.
"I wouldn't accept that proposition at all," Mr Hunt told the National Press Club in Canberra on Wednesday.
The most important thing was that there was progress.
"There are people from all sides who have their input," he said.
"Inevitably, the industry will be disappointed with some of the views. Others may be disappointed that it doesn't go far enough. But it's about taking it forwards."
The strategy is the responsibility of the Ministerial Drug and Alcohol Forum, which includes Mr Hunt and ministers from the states and territories.
Mr Hunt said at least one government was yet to provide their response to the current draft, but he still expected it would be completed "very shortly", likely by the end of the year.
"I think it's extremely important," he said.
Mr Hunt said he's particularly keen to reduce, and then eliminate, Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder, through which women who drink alcohol during pregnancy can give birth to babies with brain defects.
Alcohol Beverages Australia, the alcohol industry's peak body, maintains it simply provided the feedback it was asked for.
"We participated in an open and transparent consultation process as part of providing input to the development of public policy led and decided on by government," it said in a statement last week.
It has also stressed there has been a long-term decline in overall alcohol consumption since the 1970s.
But after viewing a leaked copy of the latest draft of the strategy, the Foundation for Alcohol Research and Education said it contains "significant pro-alcohol modifications".
That's compared to the earlier version circulated for public consultation from December 2017 to February 2018.
"There have been critical word changes, deletions and insertions," FARE chief executive Michael Thorn said.
"A clear statement around the 'alcohol industry having no role in developing national alcohol policy' has been struck out, as have all safeguards to manage conflicts of interest."
Among FARE's concerns is that too few people are even aware of the link between long-term alcohol use and several cancers.
Less than a third (29 per cent) of 1820 people surveyed this year were aware alcohol use was linked with cancers of the mouth and throat, while just 16 per cent knew about a link with breast cancer.
Australian Bureau of Statistics figures show deaths directly attributable to alcohol have ultimately declined since the late 1990s.
But there were still 1366 deaths directly linked to alcohol in 2017 - the latest year for which figures are available - and at least 4186 deaths in which alcohol was cited as a contributing factor.
Australia has been without a national alcohol strategy since 2011.
Australian Associated Press
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