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Wednesday, 28 February 2018
Page: 2321


Dr LEIGH (Fenner) (17:57): I move:

That all words after "That" be omitted with a view to substituting the following words:

"Whilst not declining to give the bill a second reading, the House notes that the Coalition continues to accept donations from tobacco companies".

The coalition is yet to kick the habit. The coalition continues to accept donations from big tobacco. Australian Electoral Commission returns from 2015-16 show the sum of $14,940 given from big tobacco to the National Party of Australia. The returns from 2016-17 show the sum of $15,700 received by the National Party of Australia. I seek leave to table the Australian Electoral Commission returns showing these tobacco donations to the Nationals.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER ( Mr S Georganas ): Is leaved granted? Leave is not granted.

Dr LEIGH: Well, there you go. That says it all, doesn't it? They're willing to take money from big tobacco, but they're not even willing to allow me to put on the record the electoral returns that show very clearly the amount of money that the coalition received from big tobacco. The Prime Minister needs to explain why he thinks it's acceptable for his coalition partners to fill their coffers with donations from an industry that profits from a product that, if used according to directions, will kill more than half its users.

While these donations continue, Senator McKenzie's position as Minister for Rural Health is completely untenable. Smoking is the single highest preventable cause of ill health and death in Australia, accounting for more than 15,000 deaths each year. The likelihood of being a daily smoker is up to twice as high in rural and remote Australia as it is in metropolitan areas. And yet the National Party continues to accept money from big tobacco, despite the additional harm that smoking-related deaths do in rural and regional Australia. We see by contrast Labor's longstanding policy not to accept donations from tobacco companies—a position that is reflected in our national platform.

We introduced and we fought for world-leading plain-packaging legislation, which, combined with other policies, has seen the adolescent smoking rate drop to a record low. I was here in this place watching how the coalition behaved as that plain-packaging legislation made its way through. You could see early on that they wanted to vote against it. They were doing their level best to square up to vote down plain packaging. In the end they finally did the right thing, but they had to be dragged kicking and screaming to a point of supporting plain-packaging laws, which are now being looked at by countries around the world, who are asking themselves the question, 'How do we reduce smoking rates in our country too?' This is a government that lacks credibility on tackling big tobacco.

These measures today are uncontroversial. The amendments made in the Treasury Laws Amendment (Illicit Tobacco Offences) Bill 2018 create a new tobacco offence regime, providing a comprehensive set of offences that apply to illicit tobacco that has been domestically manufactured or produced or for which the origin of production or manufacturing is unknown or uncertain. They create new offences for possession of equipment for producing or manufacturing illicit tobacco. They set penalties at a level that will deter illegal activity. They confirm that illicit tobacco for which the origin of production or manufacturing is unknown or uncertain can be seized and forfeited. They define 'tobacco' to align the meaning for excise and excise-equivalent customs duty purposes so the amount of duty on dutiable products is determined in a consistent manner. These measures are simply integrity measures that put beyond any doubt that it is possible to crack down on illicit tobacco, whether domestically manufactured, manufactured overseas or for which the origins are unclear.

It is Labor that has been leading on this issue. In the 2016-17 budget the Abbott-Turnbull government accepted Labor's policies to increase excise and excise-equivalent duties on tobacco. We see those measures continue to improve the health of Australians and continue to improve the health of the budget. If the coalition are to show that they are utterly serious on this, they need to stop the donations from big tobacco. They need to be willing to put their hand out and say: 'We're not taking your money anymore. We are serious about cracking down on smoking-related deaths.' The day that the coalition cease to accept money from big tobacco is the day they can come in here with their heads held a little higher and the day on which they can say that they are finally taking a serious stand against a product which, if used as intended, kills more than half of its users. This bill will receive Labor's support, but we urge the coalition to do the right thing and stop accepting tobacco donations.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER ( Mr S Georganas ): Is the amendment seconded?