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Wednesday, 24 August 2011
Page: 9177

Mr NEUMANN (Blair) (11:51): I speak in support of the Tobacco Plain Packaging Bill 2011 and the Trade Marks Amendment (Tobacco Plain Packaging) Bill 2011. The contribution of the member for Dickson was the most innocuous and ineffective I had ever heard since I have been in this place. That goes to show how those opposite are all over the place on this legislation. I want to quote from the Australian Medical Association's submission to the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Health and Ageing which inquired into these two pieces of legislation. They support what we are doing here and in their submission to the inquiry they said:

There is evidence that attractive, decorative and brand-recognisable tobacco packaging is intended by the tobacco industry to sustain smoking and encourage its uptake, and that it does have an effect on these behaviours.

The AMA, in its submission into these two pieces of legislation, makes it critically clear that it supports what we are doing with respect to banning all forms of promotion of tobacco products, including at the point of sale, and increasing the taxation on tobacco products, and it outlines the reason for it. This is important legislation, and I commend the AMA for its submission.

I note also that there is a letter which has been sent to all federal parliamentarians from the Cancer Council and the National Heart Foundation, signed by 260 health and medical professors, again making this point:

There is compelling evidence that plain packaging will make an important contribution to reducing the appeal of smoking, particularly to children and young people. The cigarette pack is the last remaining vehicle through which tobacco companies can legally promote their products in Australia and the move to plain packaging has been recommended by key health authorities such as the World Health Organization, the National Preventative Health Taskforce, the AMA, the Cancer Council, the Heart Foundation and the Public Health Association of Australia.

And why are they all coming out in support of this? Because there are real consequences to the use of tobacco in this country. In my home state alone, each year nearly 21,000 Queenslanders are diagnosed with cancer and over 7,000 Queenslanders die of the disease. This legislation that is here is part of a matrix of measures we are undertaking—a package that includes the 25 per cent increase in tobacco excise which we introduced on 29 April 2010.

The use of tobacco has serious consequences to Australians. In terms of the social cost, it costs Australians $31.5 billion each year, including health costs, and on average people who smoke lose 10 years of life expectancy compared to lifelong non-smokers. Sadly, we still have about three million Australians smoking; that is about 16.6 per cent of the population. Smoking is one of the leading causes of preventable death and disease among Australians, killing about 15,500 Australians a year.

So there are good reasons why we are taking this particular measure. The legislation here regulates the retail packaging and appearance of tobacco products to improve public health and give effect to our obligations under the World Health Organisation Framework Convention on Tobacco Control. It makes it an offence to supply, sell, purchase, package and manufacture tobacco products for retail sale, other than products and packaging that comply with the plain packaging requirements. The effect of these amendments is to remove tobacco branding, logos, symbols and other images which may currently be used in such a way as to appear to glamorise the sale of tobacco. The only feature permitted to distinguish one brand from another will be the product name in a standard colour, position, font size and style. This is a world first and it will make a difference, we believe. It has the support of the peak bodies that I have quoted, and I will listen to them rather than to the tobacco companies, who have undertaken a campaign and organised front organisations to simply protect their profits. Why would we protect what they have to say? These companies have a history of not actually accepting the responsibility that they undertake; also, they cannot be trusted with the facts—from Philip Morris hiding second-hand smoking harm for 20 years to the British American Tobacco website, in 2010, belatedly acknowledging worldwide health concerns about smoke causing harm but arguing that the relative risks were weak and did not reach statistical significance. They argued that non-smokers and smokers could be accommodated.

So the health of Australians should not be left to the whims, wishes and aspects of health policies adopted by tobacco companies who are pursuing profits alone and simply want to get Australians more hooked on their addictive products. The reality is that we need to support our young people. If we are going to be involved in the National Preventative Health Strategy, making sure young people live healthy lives and protecting our future generations, we need to undertake measures such as the measures that are before this particular chamber.

These bills enable the development of regulation to specify plain packaging requirements and the conditions for appearance of products. Of course, there are sanctions. As I said before, they are based on penalties set out in the Competition and Consumer Act, and they are quite significant penalties. When I looked at those penalties and at the legislation, I found that they are very substantial. We hope they will act as a real disincentive to breach the law. There is an infringement notice provision that allows infringement notices to be issued to an individual or a body corporate susceptible of committing a strict liability offence. We are talking about hundreds of thousands of dollars—penalty units of that nature—and I think that is warranted.

The second aspect of this particular strategy we are undertaking deals with trademarks. This is where—despite the platitudes, the barking of banalities by the member for Dickson in relation to this and the soothing words—the true facts are that the coalition are all over the place on this and have been. I do not think they have ever had their heart in this particular reform. The Leader of the Opposition has never really been a believer in plain packaging; I do not think he really has. We know that he made this statement on ABC AM on 2 July 2009:

One cigarette I am told does you damage but it does you so little damage. It is only when you start smoking a lot of cigarettes for a long time that it starts doing very serious damage. So being hard hearted to your kids, not encouraging them to be their best, I think are probably much more serious parental crimes and so I personally would not get hung up on something, in my view, as trivial as smoking while the kids are in the car.

The coalition have been all over the place. We saw the member for Dickson not even addressing the amendments that they are putting or this legislation, because they are playing every side of the street on this. You do not know whether they are Arthur or Martha.

This legislation—particularly the second aspect, in relation to trademarks—makes it clear that if necessary the government will quickly remedy any interaction between the Tobacco Plain Packaging Bill 2011 and the Trade Marks Act 1995 that cannot be dealt with under the Tobacco Plain Packaging Bill 2011. The bill amends the Trade Marks Act to permit regulations to be made in relation to the operation of the Tobacco Plain Packaging Bill 2011, including the power to deem conditions to be met and to make regulations that are inconsistent with the Trade Marks Act 1995. We have heard people opposite talk about this. They have made some comments that this would avoid parliamentary scrutiny, but any regulation made under the legislation could be disallowable by the parliament. It is not as if the coalition government did not do this when John Howard was the Prime Minister. They did this in relation to the Trade Marks Act in 2000. The coalition are just playing politics in relation to this. They claim we are, but in fact they are playing politics in relation to it. They used the same regulatory power when they were in government and now they are just simply showing their true colours by saying one thing to health groups and saying another elsewhere. They have not addressed this front and centre.

These are important amendments because they send a very clear message. Cigarette packs will now only show the death and disease that comes from smoking. Too many people have undertaken smoking, and I am sure all of us have been in rooms and places where smoking has simply diminished the enjoyment of that particular space. The new packs are designed to have the lowest appeal to smokers and to make it blatantly obvious of the impacts and consequences of use of tobacco on your health.

These are tough tobacco advertising laws and we do not resile from that. We were the first signatory, the first country in the world to commit ourselves to making sure that we carry out the recommendations in relation to plain packaging. We do it on good national preventative health grounds. We believe it is appropriate to do this and we believe that the necessary legislative framework ought to be undertaken.

I will end shortly in relation to this issue but I want to say that, whether it is by accepting donations from tobacco companies or it is with this sort of legislation, the coalition cannot be trusted on this. For them is it black or is it white—no. This legislation is important and they should support it. If they are going to be consistent with the Australian public and they are going to be consistent in this place, they should support it. They have no good record on which to stand. They have tried to make out that they do, but this legislation is particularly important—

The DEPUTY SPEAKER ( Ms AE Burke ): I am going to try to be consistent and ask the member for Blair to talk to the bill. If I gave it out to the member for Dickson, I am going to give it out to you as well.

Mr NEUMANN: Mandating packaging in a standard dark brown colour will be good for smokers in my electorate, in Ipswich and the Somerset region, because of the lower appeal. We should make sure that the health of Australians is promoted and that people do not die unnecessarily, contract cancer unnecessarily, get bronchial problems unnecessarily, have pulmonary disease unnecessarily or have heart problems unnecessarily. Anything we can do to improve the health and welfare of Australians should be what this parliament is all about. This legislation does it; this legislation goes in accordance with our target. We have a COAG national health agreement aimed at reducing national smoking rates to 10 per cent of the population by 2018 and halving Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander smoking rates. We should support that legislation, and the coalition should hang their heads in shame by playing every side of the street in relation to these bills.