Aussies Bartering Booze In Online Beer Economy

28/08/2015 5:20 PM AEST | Updated 15/07/2016 12:51 PM AEST
...and I were a duck, I'd swim to the bottom and never come up.

Short on cash? In today's economy, you don't need money -- just a broadband connection and a carton of beer.

A slew of "beer economy" pages have popped up in cities across Australia, providing a social media marketplace for Aussies to trade goods and services for -- surprise surprise -- beer. Or wine. Or spirits.

But authorities warn that such trades break liquor licencing laws and could draw penalties from the Australian Tax Office if not declared as a source of income.

"Fence panels... think the colour is Mist Green. Swap for a bottle of Bacardi 151," reads one post in a Perth-based Facebook group with 12,000 members.

"Go Pro Hero brand new in box not opened! Jack Daniels stubbies is my poison! Highest bidder wins," posted another man, offering an action camera.

Numerous pages in Perth and Western Australia have thousands of members, but similar groups are actively operating in cities across the country including Hobart, Brisbane, Adelaide, Townsville, Melbourne and more.

The Huffington Post Australia has viewed at least 36 groups actively operating in Australia, mostly closed groups where potential members need to be admitted by an existing member. Further to the 36 accessible pages, there are many more "secret" groups visible only to members or those invited by members.

beer economy

The trend is a case of life imitating art, after a Tooheys New advertising campaign from 2010 floating the idea of a beer economy, where friends trade cartons of beer for helping mates.

Despite the success of the campaign, its unlikely Tooheys or the advertising company ever seriously envisaged a trading system based on beer... but thanks to Facebook, it has become reality.

"Srixon tour special putter, few years old but still putts well. 4 pack of Turkey," is offered on a Tasmanian page.

"TBE Mountain Bike in good condition 1 x Carlton Dry and 1 bottle of Jack Daniels," reads another.

beer economy

Pages vary in membership, from several dozen to hundreds to tens of thousands in the case of a well-known Perth page, and in rules.

"Absolutely no live animal trading... Trades for alcohol only. NO CASH OFFERS," are among the rules of one page.

A ban on animal trading is, thankfully, a common theme on the rules of most pages.

The majority of members seek alcohol in exchange for unwanted household items, from DVDs and furniture to garage items and bicycles, but some seek services:

beer economy

Or offer up more unconventional goods for trade:

beer economy

While the pages are run in good fun, there are serious real world implications to such trades. The Western Australian Department of Racing Gaming and Liquor said people engaging in trades for alcohol were breaking WA law and could be prosecuted.

"Exchanging liquor for goods or services such as ‘beer economy transactions’ constitutes selling liquor without a licence," said a department spokesman.

"In order to prosecute, the licensing authority, in conjunction with WA Police, would need to identify the person supplying the liquor, confirm the transaction has taken place and track that person down."

The Australian Tax Office regards barter transactions as "assessable and deductible for income tax purposes to the same extent as other cash or credit transactions."

Moral of the story -- the beer economy isn't quite the paradise envisaged by advertisers.

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