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Wednesday, 24 August 2011
Page: 9183


Ms ROWLAND (Greenway) (12:18): I am very pleased to rise in support of the Tobacco Plain Packaging Bill 2011 and the Trade Marks Amendment (Tobacco Plain Packaging) Bill 2011. I would especially like to acknowledge the Minister for Health and Ageing for her steadfast commitment to removing one of the last bastions of advertising and promotional opportunities for the tobacco industry, an industry that is responsible for a product which accounts for over 15,000 premature deaths in Australia every year—a product that is accountable for the single largest cause of preventable morbidity and mortality.

We on this side of the House have a proud record of both instigating and supporting anti-smoking, which I would like to reiterate: in April this year, announcing plans to increase tobacco excise by 25 per cent; investing record amounts in anti-smoking social marketing campaigns; the implementation of world-leading graphic health warnings; supporting smoking cessation tools and programs; and prohibiting tobacco advertising online. Smoking rates in Australia have not dropped by magic. It is as a result of such policies.

This bill continues this government's commitment to reducing smoking rates and stopping the very preventable deaths caused by smoking. As outlined in the explanatory memorandum, this bill will prevent tobacco advertising and promotion of tobacco products in order to reduce the attractiveness and appeal of tobacco products to consumers, particularly young people; increase the noticeability of mandated health warnings; reduce the ability of tobacco companies to mislead through advertising; and contribute to efforts to reduce smoking rates.

We all know why we must tackle smoking rates. Smoking is a known killer, despite what some members opposite have espoused in the past and, not so long ago in this place, interjected in some parts of this debate, with cries of 'Where is the evidence?' It costs the economy $31.5 billion per year in social costs, including $5.7 billion per annum attributed to absenteeism and a reduction in the workforce. This government is committed to reaching the COAG National Healthcare Agreement target of reducing the rate of smoking in the Australian population to 10 per cent by 2018. Currently, the rates of daily smoking are at around 15.1 per cent of those aged 14 or older.

This bill will also work towards achieving article 11 of the World Health Organisation Framework Convention on Tobacco Control: 'Packaging and labelling of tobacco products'. For the WHO FCTC to materialise, the drive and commitment which were evident during the negotiations will need to spread to national and local levels, and I am confident this bill will contribute to delivering the WHO FCTC goals in our own local communities.

I would like to turn to some of the main provisions of the bill. This bill will make it an offence to sell, supply, purchase, package or manufacture tobacco products or packaging for retail sale that are not compliant with plain packaging requirements. Chapter 2 of the bill sets out the detailed requirements relating to the packaging of tobacco products and the products themselves. The most notable effects of this bill will be that tobacco company branding, logos, symbols and other images that may have the effect of advertising or promoting the use of the tobacco product will not be able to appear on tobacco products or their packaging. So as to identify the particular brand or variant of the tobacco product, the brand name and variant name will be allowed on packaging in specified locations with a specified plain appearance. Information which is required by other legislation or regulations such as trade description and graphic health warnings will be allowed to appear.

Many years ago as a young smoker, I smoked the glamour brands. I could not afford their jewellery, their clothes or their accessories but I could afford their smokes. So I speak from personal experience about the power of the brand for young people and for young women in particular. I want to talk about one of the main reasons that this is such an important policy area because it will save lives and it will save lives locally. As indicated by the Cancer Council Australia advocacy director, Paul Grogan:

Plain packaging for tobacco products has the potential to be one of the most important policy measures in Australian history for reducing cancer deaths from smoking.

The Cancer Council goes on:

Reforms to how tobacco products are promoted through packaging are essential to reducing the unacceptable level of death and disability caused by smoking in Australia.

I also have a special responsibility to support this bill due to an unfortunate reality that exists in my electorate of Greenway. According to the New South Wales Department of Health, Western Sydney where my electorate lies experiences some of the highest rates of avoidable deaths from causes amenable to health care. This research shows that in every 100,000 males under the age of 75, 77.4 per cent of them will die of avoidable deaths.

A study undertaken by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare in 2007 compared lung cancer mortality rates amongst people living in Western Sydney, Sydney, New South Wales and Australia. This study found that people in Western Sydney experienced the highest lung cancer mortality rate when compared to the aforementioned regions, and that is why, as I said, I have a special responsibility to my electorate to support these bills.

The Blacktown Local Government Area also has the largest urban Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population in New South Wales and one of the highest in Australia with over 7,000 people making up 2.6 per cent of the population. This compares with 1.4 per cent for Greater Western Sydney and only 1.1 per cent for Sydney. Unfortunately, smoking rates among Indigenous Australians are considerably higher than those for the non-Indigenous community in every age group. I am confident this bill will work to reduce smoking rates and work to save lives in my electorate.

This government has listened to the experts in social and health policy and formulated the most effective and efficient way to reduce smoking rates in Australia. In his paper entitled, 'Plain packaging' regulations for tobacco products: the impact of standardizing the color and design of cigarette packs, Dr David Hammond writes:

The evidence indicates three primary benefits of plain packaging: increasing the effectiveness of health warnings, reducing false health beliefs about cigarettes, and reducing brand appeal especially among youth and young adults. Overall, the research to date suggests that 'plain' packaging regulations would be an effective tobacco control measure, particularly in jurisdictions with comprehensive restrictions on other forms of marketing.

Becky Freeman and others writing for the journal Addiction in 2008 note:

Plain packaging of all tobacco products would remove a key remaining means for the industry to promote its products to billions of the world's smokers and future smokers. Governments have required large surface areas of tobacco packs to be used exclusively for health warnings without legal impediment or need to compensate tobacco companies.

This is how successful health policy is formulated; unlike some of those opposite we listen to the medical and health experts and develop policy accordingly.

Recently, big tobacco has been running what I believe is an extremely disingenuous campaign around Australia decrying the government's reforms as an example of the nanny state imposing itself on the free will of the Australian people. Even a select few on the other side of the chamber continue to champion big tobacco's nanny state crusade. We know that they are supporting this bill under duress and I am sure they think they are real heroes, but I would challenge them to watch someone die of cancer and then see how brave they are.

As Professor of Global Health at the University of Melbourne, Rob Moodie, highlights:

Closer to home, governments have been accused of nanny statism in the process of implementing all of our greatest public health reforms.

Government interventions in health have resulted in some of the most outstanding public health successes. Interventions to reduce road trauma with seatbelts and speeding restrictions have saved the lives of hundreds of thousands of Australians. In this debate I have heard arguments of so-called nanny statism going back to complaints about things such as random breath testing, which states introduced so that drunk drivers do not kill innocent people. We have complaints about designated smoking areas in licensed premises. The reason for that is that hospitality workers were dying of passive smoking inhalation.

In the 1950s, 75 per cent of Australian men smoked. Since then Australia has prohibited tobacco advertising, removed sponsorships, restricted point of sale displays, and outlawed smoking in restaurants and bars and many public spaces. As a result smoking levels, as I have mentioned, are now below 16 per cent. But, I am sure the very select few on that side of the House who have spoken out against this plain packaging reform would decry all of these public policy successes as more examples of the hand of the nanny state impinging on our personal liberties.

As well as running a nanny state scare campaign, big tobacco has said, using a curiously illogical argument, that these reforms will not curb the rate of smoking amongst Australians but will still ruin small retailers because they will sell less product. The previous speaker quoted research by the Alliance of Australian Retailers, a body set up by big tobacco. You only need to go to their own website to see that. This is utterly disingenuous and you cannot have it both ways. The writing is on the wall for big tobacco.

This bill continues this government's resolute commitment to improving the health outcomes for all Australians. It is not about impinging on the rights of the individual, but improving the health outcomes of the community. This bill sends a clear message that the glamour is gone—that cigarette packs will now only show the death and disease that can come from smoking.

In closing, I would like to echo the words of the Minister for Health and Ageing regarding this debate:

Big tobacco are fighting to protect their profits, but we are fighting to save lives.

In the words of World Health Organisation's Director General, Dr Jong-wook Lee:

The WHO FCTC negotiations have already unleashed a process that has resulted in visible differences at country level. The success of the WHO FCTC as a tool for public health will depend on the energy and political commitment that we devote to implementing it in countries in the coming years. A successful result will be global public health gains for all.

I think it has been evident to see that this government does have this commitment to achieve the WHO FCTC goals and I am certain we will see public health gains for Australians overall. I am confident in the research. I am confident that this bill will reduce smoking rates in our community, especially amongst our younger people. If we all agree that smoking is undesirable, we need to do everything we can to curb people taking it up and encourage people to quit. That is why I urge all members to support this bill.