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Monday, 22 August 2011
Page: 8738

Mr GEORGANAS (Hindmarsh) (12:45): On behalf of the Standing Committee on Health and Ageing, I present the committee's report entitled Advisory report on the Tobacco Plain Packaging Bill 2011 and the Trade Marks Amendment (Tobacco Plain Packaging) Bill 2011, together with the minutes of proceedings. I ask leave of the House to make a short statement in connection with this report.

Leave granted.

Mr GEORGANAS: The bills were referred to the committee by the selection committee on 7 July 2011. At the outset, I wish to comment briefly on the decision by the House of Representatives Selection Committee to refer these bills to the Health and Ageing Committee. While the referral provided an opportunity to consider the potential health impacts of the legislation in detail, the committee is aware that much of the debate surrounding these bills relates to economic or legal issues and their impact on the tobacco industry. While these issues have been briefly noted in the report, the committee considers them to be beyond its remit. It is for this reason that commentary in this report is largely confined to the health related aspects of the proposed legislation and the impacts on health that this bill would have.

I understand that the Trade Marks Amendment (Tobacco Plain Packaging) Bill 2011 was last week referred to the Senate Legal and Constitutional Affairs Legislation Committee. The Senate committee has been asked to inquire into the constitutionality of the provisions of the bill. This process will provide an avenue for those who wanted more detailed consideration of this aspect of the proposed legislation.

However, I am speaking today in my capacity as Chair of the Health and Ageing Committee. I have been pleased to have the opportunity to consider the health impacts of this legislation with my committee members and, clearly, the main objective of the proposed tobacco plain packaging legislation is to reduce the harmful effects of tobacco by lowering tobacco use through reducing the appeal of tobacco products and increasing the impact of the graphic health warnings on packaging.

The effect of the provisions set out in the Tobacco Plain Packaging Bill 2011 will be to make it an offence to sell, supply, purchase, package or manufacture tobacco products or packaging for retail sale that are not compliant with plain packaging requirements. These offences will apply to manufacturers, packagers, wholesalers, distributors and retailers of tobacco products in Australia who fail to comply with the plain packaging requirements.

The main objectives of the accompanying trademark amendment bill is to ensure that applicants for trademark registration and registered owners of trademarks are not disadvantaged by the practical operation of the Tobacco Plain Packaging Act. With a specific focus on the health related aspects of the proposed legislation, the main issue considered by the Health and Ageing Committee was whether there is sufficient evidence to indicate that tobacco plain packaging will improve health outcomes by reducing tobacco use. Overwhelmingly, public health advocates and preventative health experts expressed the view that the evidence to support plain packaging as an effective tobacco control measure is sufficiently robust to proceed. Although it is not a silver bullet, tobacco plain packaging emerged as one measure with the potential to contribute to a suite of tobacco control measures that are already in place, such as increased excise, indoor and outdoor smoking bans, increased access to nicotine replacement therapies and continued education about the harmful effects of tobacco. Over the last two decades, Australia has made significant progress in reducing tobacco use, and I quote from a recent OECD report which makes the following observation:

Australia provides an example of a country that has achieved remarkable progress in reducing tobacco consumption, cutting by half the percentage of adults who smoke daily …

So already, Australia has shown itself to be a world leader in tobacco control.

However, this is not the time to become complacent. Rather, Australia should continue to innovate, to maintain momentum and to decrease tobacco use further. Reducing tobacco use would not only save many thousands from unnecessary suffering and premature death but would also lessen the social and economic burden of smoking, which is estimated to cost the nation somewhere in the region of $30 billion each year. By supporting passage of the proposed legislation, the committee believes that Australia will once again be in a position to take the lead in the implementation of progressive tobacco control measures—a role it has willingly taken in the past. And it is with a focus on the beneficial health outcomes for Australians that I conclude by providing my complete support for the proposed tobacco plain packaging legislation. I commend the committee's report to the House.