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Thursday, 26 May 2011
Page: 4841

Tobacco Products


Ms SMYTH (La Trobe) (14:18): My question is to the Minister for Health and Ageing. What is the government's approach to tackling smoking and the activities of tobacco companies? On what advice has the government based its actions, and how have these actions been received?


Ms ROXON (GellibrandMinister for Health and Ageing) (14:18): I thank the member for La Trobe for her question—I know that she has a motion before the House about tobacco company donations, and that debate will be very eagerly anticipated by those on this side of the House. We are leading the world in the measures that we are taking against smoking, including of course the first introduction anywhere in the world of plain packaging for tobacco.

Opposition members interjecting

The SPEAKER: The minister will resume her seat. We will continue when we get some silence—and I have plenty of time, I can tell you!

Mr Robb interjecting

The SPEAKER: The member for Goldstein is warned!

Ms ROXON: It is true that our policies have been influenced by people outside our party. For example, we have been influenced by researchers, by public health advocates and by the AMA. We have taken advice from the Preventative Health Taskforce and we have been strongly influenced by the Cancer Council and the Heart Foundation. None of these organisations give us money. Yet in this place, in a couple of months when we are all asked to vote on plain packaging, there will be other influences at play. The coalition denies it is being influenced by big tobacco, but I have discovered something that seems to throw this into question. It is a policy that comes from big tobacco themselves—British American Tobacco, in fact. I think some of those opposite might particularly like to hear this because, despite their protestations, British American Tobacco makes the statement on its own website that their worldwide policy when it comes to donations is:

Such payments can only be made for the purpose of influencing the debate on issues affecting the company …

The Liberal and National parties deny that these contributions have any influence, but the donors say that is the only reason they can actually make a donation. Those opposite might be interested to know something else that is on this website. According to British American Tobacco's own figures, they made political donations in only three countries around the world in 2010. In Canada they made a donation of £1,000 and in the Solomon Islands they made a donation of £2,000. In Australia, they made a donation—to just two parties in this place—of £111,000. So 97 per cent of British American Tobacco's money is spent here on two parties—the Liberal Party and the National Party. And they are asking us to believe that this has no influence on their decision on whether they are going to support plain packaging or not! We have not taken our lead from big tobacco; it is about time the Leader of the Opposition showed that he was not able to be bought by big tobacco and stood up for those who are fighting cancer. It is time to kick the habit, Mr Abbott.

Mr Pyne: Mr Speaker, on a point of order: these personal imputations of the Minister for Health and Ageing should be withdrawn.

Mr Briggs: Mr Speaker, I seek leave to table the register—

Government members interjecting

The SPEAKER: The member for Mayo will resume his place. The point of order that his good colleague the member for Sturt has raised with me—

Honourable members interjecting

The SPEAKER: I thought he was a close colleague from the state! I am not sure, but I will deal with that first and just indicate to the member for Mayo that I have indicated that I will not allow a member to rise and seek leave to table a document if it is not his question. That may pre-empt what he is trying to do, and I hope he takes that on board. Given the level of noise and that I was trying to get the member for Gippsland under control at the time, I did not hear what was said. I do note that there was a reaction. I am not sure whether that was commensurate with whatever was said, but to assist the conduct of the chamber I ask that the minister withdraw. I want the chamber to settle down or I will give a general warning. The minister has the call. She should be heard in silence.

Ms ROXON: I withdraw, Mr Speaker. The fact is that British American tobacco gives 97 per cent of its donations to those in the parties opposite—the Liberal Party and the National Party. It is time to kick the habit, Mr Abbott.

Mr Champion interjecting

Mr Chester interjecting

The SPEAKER: Order! I am not sure whether the member for Gippsland and the member for Wakefield are drinking from the same glass, but something is in the water. Both of them might get a chance to go and have a cup of tea together.