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Thursday, 4 December 1986
Page: 3369

Senator TATE —My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Communications. It would also probably upset my good friend Senator Elstob. The Minister may be aware of advertisements appearing on television-I have certainly seen them in Hobart-in which three male singers extol the virtues of smoking a brand of cigars-I think a variety of mini-cigar. Will the Government ensure that all necessary steps, whether legislative or administrative, are taken to prevent this type of advertising, which clearly contravenes the intention of the Parliament to prohibit the television advertising of tobacco products so destructive of health?

Senator WALSH —I have not seen the advertisement but I have heard about it. If it is correctly described, it seems to me that there is no question but that it contravenes the intention of the legislation. Whether it contravenes the letter of the legislation may be a different matter. I will attempt to get a view from the Minister for Communications, or his Department, the Attorney-General's Department, or somebody, on whether it contravenes the letter as well as the intention of the law. I am also informed that the Minister for Health is concerned about the advertisement and has written to Mr Duffy asking him to consider extending the legislation to cover tobacco products generally. I will advise Senator Tate of the result of that matter when it becomes available. I also draw to the attention of the Senate the fact that any member of the public can lodge a complaint with the Australian Broadcasting Tribunal in relation to program and/or advertising standards. The Tribunal can then, at its discretion, raise the matter with the licensee.

Senator TATE —Mr President, I ask a supplementary question. As I understood the last part of the answer it was to the effect that the onus was on private individuals or voluntary organisations and at the discretion of the Tribunal to try to remedy this situation. Will the Government itself take steps to ensure that all tobacco product advertising on television is outlawed, if it turns out that there is a defect in the coverage of the present regulations?

Senator WALSH —I do not think I can give a definitive answer on behalf of the Government as to whether action will be taken. The last part of the original answer I gave was not intended to suggest that the Government has no responsibility in this matter, but simply that individuals may do something as individuals if they wish. On the other question as to whether this is breaching the letter of the Act, I shall seek an opinion from Mr Duffy in the first instance. If the answer or belief about that is no, it does not breach the letter of the Act, there is action already under way pursuant to Dr Blewett having written to Mr Duffy asking him to consider extending the legislation.