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Wednesday, 24 August 2011
Page: 9238

Mr GEORGANAS (Hindmarsh) (15:55): I will pick up where I left off on the Tobacco Plain Packaging Bill 2011 and the Trade Marks Amendment (Tobacco Plain Packaging) Bill 2011 just before the 90-second statements. I was talking about the Selection Committee and its referral of the Tobacco Plain Packaging Bill to the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Health and Ageing. Those on the other side have been very critical of the process and the way that we looked into this particular bill. But the fact is that whoever on the Selection Committee referred this particular bill would have been a member of the opposition, because I know that on this side of the House we are all in agreement that the bill will have positive effects out in the community. So, when those opposite complain that the inquiry did not look into the Trade Practices Act, the economic side of things and the retail side of things, I can only say that they should have thought through a bit more which committee to refer this bill to, instead of just referring it off, to play politics, to one of the committees and then complaining that the inquiry was not extensive enough because it did not look into the economic side or the constitutional and legal side of the bill. Again I say: it is the Standing Committee on Health and Ageing; it was our duty to look at the impacts on health and ageing, and no more.

As I said, I tabled the report in the House of Representatives this week. I am pleased that the report shows that all members of the committee, which was comprised of members of both the government and the opposition, affirmed the harmful effects of tobacco and smoking, and we affirmed the positive effects of decreasing the incidence of smoking in our communities via this bill. When I tabled the report, I made a brief statement that was fit for that particular occasion. What I did not say was that the committee was presented with evidence from people on the health side of the conflict and from people on the tobacco side. It is a conflict, and I am sure we are all aware of it. The argument put forward by health experts and advocates in support of the measure is not really any different from what I and others already said in this place when we were all speaking on the member for Kingston's private motion on this subject, and it is no different from what I have said in this place every year on World No Tobacco Day—that smoking is harmful and we must all do whatever we can to eradicate it. The arguments put forward against the measure by the tobacco lobby and tobacco companies were exactly what any reasonable person would anticipate.

In short, there is ample evidence from empirical studies that prove that the packaging of tobacco products itself affects— (Quorum formed)

The loss of that branding and advertising, and all the psychological responses that are prompted by it, has been proven to decrease people's propensity to smoke and to increase the effectiveness of health warnings displayed on the packaging. There are dozens upon dozens of studies that prove this. Packaging is the last bastion of advertising left to the tobacco companies; the quicker we get rid of it the better. As one might have expected, submissions and evidence received were overwhelmingly in support of the veracity of the studies that have been done on the hypothesis on which this bill is based—that is, the anticipated positive effects of plain packaging.

The tobacco lobby, the tobacco companies and a number of retailers and consumers oppose the measure on the following grounds: that there is insufficient evidence that the health benefits will be achieved, that there will be negative commercial effects and that there are legal issues associated with intellectual property. Those excuses have been exactly the same for every single measure that we have taken in the last 30 to 40 years on tobacco advertising in this country—whether on cigarette ads on TV, tobacco companies sponsoring sporting events, or tobacco advertising in magazines, newspapers or cinemas. We have heard all these excuses before. But we do know one thing—when we look at the history of the excuses given by tobacco companies and then look at the excuses given today—we know that the numbers are down and that every single measure that we and governments of all persuasions took had an effect on the number of people who smoke. To hear once again the excuses that have been used over the last 40 to 50 years by the tobacco companies brings back memories of when we banned tobacco advertising on TV, in newspapers and magazines, at the cinemas et cetera. I have already referred to some of the evidence earlier and before in other speeches.

On the second point, I am yet to hear even the Leader of the Opposition oppose this measure for fear of undermining confidence in the future prosperity of the tobacco industry. I am yet to hear anyone from the Liberal Party or the National Party speak up in defence of consumer confidence and the availability of cancer sticks. We have not had the opposition spreading fear and inciting panic, warning that 1,000 tobacco jobs will be lost, or that the industry will need compensation, a bailout or some other form of government subsidy. With the propensity of the opposition to spread dire warnings of the sky falling upon the— (Quorum formed)

As I said, the arguments of the tobacco companies have not been entirely logical or consistent in this debate. In the past, we have heard contradictory arguments such as the one that the government's measure will force the price of tobacco products up at the same time as counterfeit products swamp the market, forcing prices down. The tobacco industry now state that the measure will be effective and that smoking rates will be decreased while in the same breath they argue that they are going to lose business as a result of the change. Which one of the two is it—an ineffective change, hence no changes to profit, or an effective change, resulting in a decrease in sales? It cannot be both. I wonder why the tobacco lobby would argue to the government that these bills will have negative effects on the tobacco industry. Why would they argue that they are going to sell less cigarettes? They would argue that because the bill will work. If they are opposed to the plan, why would they add weight to the government's rationale for introducing it?

I support this bill and commend it to the House. I hope it cuts down on smoking not by 15 percent or by 20 percent but by 100 percent. (Time expired)

Mr Adams interjecting

The DEPUTY SPEAKER: The honourable Member for Lyons—please.

Mr Adams having left the chamber—

Mr Adams: That's where he made his money.

Mr Dutton: Mr Speaker, I rise on a point of order. The member made an offensive statement. It is not unusual for members on the opposite side to make offensive statements against former police officers—they have done it before. I ask that you ask the member to come back into the chamber and withdraw what was a deeply offensive statement. I think he should make the statement outside of these four walls, and I will take appropriate action.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER: I will reflect on the point made by the honourable member for Dickson.