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Wednesday, 24 August 2011
Page: 9271

Mr WINDSOR (New England) (18:17): I would just like to make a few comments in relation to the Tobacco Plain Packaging Bill 2011 and the Trade Marks Amendment (Tobacco Plain Packaging) Bill 2011. I personally congratulate the government for bringing forward the plain-packaging legislation. I identify with some of the concerns that have been raised in terms of the retailers, and I might get to that in a moment. But I think for people to back two horses on this piece of legislation is quite strange. I know we all have our constituencies to play to, but there is a very real health issue that we are trying to address here.

If I were God, I would ban cigarettes totally. Obviously that is not going to happen. I think most people recognise that that is not going to happen. In terms of the disease factors that are absolutely certain, it is the community that pays that bill. It is all very well for people to say that an adult should have the choice of making their own decisions, but, if we are chronic smokers—and I have been in my lifetime—or we are prone to obesity from overeating, we do not pay. The health system is not a user-pays system. It is not based on what you have done in your life. It is a socialist system that we all pay for. I think we are honour bound as representatives to, where we do see some form of health risk, try and do something about it.

I first smoked when I was at school. I was a bad boy—I am not a bad boy now, but I was a bad boy, I did smoke and I received quite severe punishment on occasions—

Mrs Bronwyn Bishop: This is getting close to being too much information.

Mr WINDSOR: as the member for Mackellar probably did and probably still does! I was at school around the same time as the member for Calare—we are similar ages. I smoked at school and became addicted to cigarettes. At different times I attempted to give up cigarettes and found that very difficult to do. I visited a hypnotist in Manly, as many other people did, from time to time. On three occasions I was able to stop smoking, because I was advised that it was not good for one's health to smoke 40 cigarettes a day—Benson and Hedges they were, beautiful. One time I gave up for three years; another time for 18 months; another time for six months; and a fourth occasion for one day. In the late eighties, I attended a single face-to-face hypnotherapy session which was successful, and I have not had a cigarette since. I still carry a legacy of that addiction to this day. I was warned at the time by my medical practitioner that the pulse in one of my feet was not terribly good—and the possibility of my demise might interest some people in this chamber! However, that was 20-odd years ago, and I can assure everyone that my foot is in magnificent condition now. This shows that if you give up an addiction—whether it be cigarettes, food, alcohol or whatever—you can reverse some of the processes that you put in train during your addiction.

The other and major reason that I sought hypnotherapy on the last occasion was my kids. I heard some discussion before about what we are doing to educate kids. Those people who come from New South Wales would be well aware of the Life Education Australia band that travels around the schools with Harold the Giraffe—I think that is his name.

Mr McCormack: Healthy Harold.

Mr WINDSOR: Healthy Harold—he bears a striking similarity to Andrew Southcott! My children are now aged 29 and 26 respectively. Healthy Harold visited the infants school of one of my children who became very concerned about the message that Healthy Harold had given about cigarettes. It was through badgering from my kids that I sought help once again through hypnotherapy, and to this day I have not had another cigarette. I think that if I had maintained the rate of cigarette intake that I was on in those days I would not be here to make this speech today. The point I am making is that reducing smoking rates is not just about people making decisions in adulthood but also about expenditure in the health system—and there is no doubt that smoking is not good for one's health. So I applaud the government for taking this step. It is not an easy step, but it should be taken.

There are some people in this building who argue that science is not absolute. For instance, some people have argued in the course of the climate change debate that the science is not absolute, and therefore we will not really know who was right and who was wrong until it happens or does not happen. The science is not absolute on smoking and lung cancer either; yet we believe, because the scientists tell us so, that there is a relationship between lung cancer and cigarettes. I have not gone out and proven whether there is a relationship between the two because I am not a medical practitioner or a scientist. There is no absolute proof that massive amounts of alcohol are not good for your liver; yet we believe, on the basis of scientific evidence, that this is the case. There is no absolute proof that being obese is not a healthy way to live—you have some stored bodyweight to go through a drought—but I think most people would understand that there are real issues, particularly in the Western world, with obesity and weight issues. We are, where we can, in our job as representatives of the people of Australia, attempting to encourage people into more healthy lifestyles. This legislation is about trying to remove some of the attraction to a product that is addictive, not to every personality but to many. I think we should applaud this legislation rather than get stuck on the relatively minor differences that we have found here between the opposition and the government.

I congratulate the Life Education Australia movement and am grateful to them for saving my life and sending a positive message to my children, none of whom smoke. I think education is part of the process, along with recognition of the science on cancer and so on, of making sure that the next generation does not make the same mistakes as the past generations did. Presenting warnings on cigarette packets and presenting them in plain packaging, as this legislation provides for, is a step in the right direction and I think we should endorse it.

Like many members in this House, I have had representations from retailers about the management, storage, display and identification of cigarettes. I will be listening very closely, because I know the opposition has an amendment before the parliament that we will be asked to vote on, to what the minister has to say about the amendment and the issues that the retailers, particularly smaller retailers, have. Cigarettes are not an illegal product, but we are sending a message through the plain packaging arrangements in an attempt to make smoking less attractive. Some of the laws that have been made in recent years on the display of cigarettes by retailers have been designed to send that message. However, under the changes proposed in this legislation, retailers have legitimate issues about their ability to identify cigarette brands in the storage area at the point of sale. There have been some indications from the minister, and as recently as last night we had some discussions about this question, but I would like her to clarify. I do understand that there are some state issues here with ticketing and display rules, but the amendment which the opposition is putting up and which we are going to be asked to vote on relates, as I understand it, to allowing retailers to have the two smallest outer surfaces of the cigarette carton exempted from sections 19 and 21 of the bill. As I understand it—and again I ask the minister to put this on the record to clarify the areas I have difficulties with—retailers, even with the legislation, will be able to put a sticker on the shelf so that they can identify the cigarette packet or the brand of the cigarette that is behind the barrier. There are different dispensers of cigarettes, some vertical and some horizontal. The retailers are suggesting that there may be issues around recognition of which packet they are trying to get from the shelf for the purchaser. I understand that the cigarette packets, even in plain packaging, will have the name of the brand on the bottom of the packet—correct me if I am wrong, Minister. I understand that some retailers have the problem that, if their dispenser holds the cigarette packet vertically, the railing on the dispenser may obscure the name of the brand so that the shop assistant cannot see which packet they are getting. I am led to believe that, in those circumstances, it would be legal for the retailer to mark the dispenser with the name of the brand so that the shop assistant can go to the dispenser and look along the row, not at the packet but at the name of the brand behind the barrier—Benson and Hedges, Marlborough or whatever the cigarette brand may be. I would like the minister, if she could, to go through some of that information because I will be listening closely to what the opposition are saying about their amendment as well.

As to whether stickers can be coloured, I understand that New South Wales point of sale regulations go into some detail about the requirements regarding colour, size et cetera for labelling and price tickets at the point of sale. I would like that clarified against the opposition's amendment, which goes to this issue of the storage and identification of a legal product in the shop area.

I am almost out of time, but I said at the start and I say again: I congratulate you, Minister, for doing this. I think it is an important step on our road to better health. But I would ask you to consider the real issues that some retailers have at point of sale. (Time expired)