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Monday, 21 June 2004
Page: 30896

Ms GILLARD (2:30 PM) —My question is to the Prime Minister. I refer the Prime Minister to the research conducted by Professor Boyd Swinburn, the author of the government report that concludes that a ban on TV advertising of junk food would be one of the most effective weapons in reducing its consumption. Isn't it also the case that Australian television features more food advertising—an average of 12 ads per hour—than any other country in the world? Why has the government ignored the conclusions of the research it commissioned, and when will the Prime Minister join with Labor in implementing a ban on junk food TV advertising?

Mr HOWARD (Prime Minister) —I thank the member for Lalor for her question. Let me just say again to her, through you, Mr Speaker, why I am against the ban proposed by the Labor Party. My philosophical view is that, if something is legal to sell, then in the absence of an overwhelming public interest case it should not be illegal to advertise it.

Mr HOWARD —I am very happy to try to answer that if I am given the opportunity because I think there is a very important philosophical issue involved in this. I think the case in relation to smoking is quite different from the case in relation to junk food. There is nothing wrong with eating at McDonald's, it is how many you eat at McDonald's that is the problem. If you apply the philosophy of the Labor Party, you would ban altogether advertisements for alcohol, analgesics and Panadol. If you have too many Panadol it is bad, I understand, for your kidneys. If you have far too many Panadol it is bad for you, full stop. Where does it end? Do you put a ban on wine? Do you put a ban on alcohol?

An honourable member—Coffee.

Mr HOWARD —Coffee, too, because that has caffeine in it. And so the list goes on. This is an important issue. This whole idea that, according to the particular whims of the time, you should put a prohibition on advertising a product that is legal to sell establishes an extremely bad precedent. It is something that the government opposes and will continue to oppose. This, of course, does not in any way address the impact, once you start banning things, that the loss of revenue would have on the very effective and high-quality free-to-air television system that we have in this country. I think Australia has one of the best free-to-air television systems in the world. Our free-to-air television, given our population, is far better than the free-to-air television services of many other countries. Once you start going down this path, you can always mount an argument for going further.

The SPEAKER —Order! The member for Gellibrand!

Mr HOWARD —I say again that the banning of tobacco was based upon the proposition that, from a health point of view, there is no such thing as a safe level of smoking. Yet there is such a thing as a safe level of consumption at McDonald's—that is the difference. If you apply the logic of the Leader of the Opposition, you should not have any advertisements for alcohol at all. The truth is that the human consequences that flow from the abuse of alcohol are far greater than the human consequences that flow from obesity, yet nobody is saying that we should ban alcohol nor do I hear the opposition saying we should have a ban on the advertising of alcohol. Heaven help the principle of freedom of expression in a commercial context if the member for Lalor ever gets her hands on the health portfolio.

The SPEAKER —Heaven help the member for Gellibrand if she persists with her interjections!