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Wednesday, 24 August 2011
Page: 9275


Ms ROXON (GellibrandMinister for Health and Ageing) (18:39): I am sure that, for such a young person doing work in an area interested in other countries, witnessing this world first will be a good experience.

I am pleased to be summing up on the Tobacco Plain Packaging Bill 2011 and the Trade Marks Amendment (Tobacco Plain Packaging) Bill 2011. These are very important pieces of legislation. I think over 30 members of the House have spoken in this debate. I want to use this summing up to address a range of issues that have been raised by members in this House, and I hope that we will be able to vote on this important legislation tonight before the House adjourns.

It is of course a landmark day for tobacco control in Australia. Those members who have spoken in favour of this legislation have demonstrated that they are prepared to put the public health of their constituents absolutely at the top of the list of their priorities and certainly above the partisan party politics that we have seen from some speakers. They join with 260 professors of health and medicine, including four former Australians of the Year, who have written to all federal MPs seeking unanimous support for legislation to mandate plain packaging of tobacco products sold in Australia.

When I introduced these bills some six weeks ago, I detailed the toll of death and disease felt by our community each year from tobacco related diseases, and I will not repeat that in the House again today. But of course the purpose of this legislation is to reduce that toll that is felt within our community.

Tobacco is a product not like other products. When it is used as intended it kills people. The pack is not opened and then thrown away; it is carried around by the smoker, continually brought in and out of their pocket, put on their desk, held in the public arena and shown to friends—reinforcing the brand and personal identity and exposing the marketing to many social groups that it may not have been intended for and to children. Plain packaging joins the range of direct actions that we are taking to tackle tobacco, including the 25 per cent tobacco excise introduced in April 2010, record investments in anti-smoking social-marketing campaigns and legislation to prohibit the advertising of cigarette products on the internet.

The first piece of legislation will mandate that packaging can only appear in a standard, drab, dark brown colour and the only thing to distinguish one brand from another will be the brand and variant name in a standard colour, standard position and standard font size and style. Let me assure the member for New England that the name will appear on the top and bottom of the pack to accommodate concerns that have been raised by retailers who pack and sell their products stacked horizontally—and I will come to the other issue in terms of those who might stack vertically. That was a suggested change that came through our consultation process and one that we have taken on board.

I understand that the coalition have made clear that they will support this first piece of legislation that mandates plain packaging. However, they have flagged that they will move an amendment in the consideration in detail stage to allow branding to remain on cigarette cartons. We are very concerned that this will undermine the policy intent of the legislation. The coalition amendment creates a series of loopholes in the legislation that will enable tobacco companies to continue to brand and therefore market their products—the very thing we are trying to restrict. Though cartons are used in some cases to deliver wholesale product to retailers, they can also be sold at the retail level, particularly in duty-free settings but also in shops. There are also cases where individual packets can be bundled together—for example, two small packs of cigarettes bundled together in transparent wrapping—that would fit the definition of 'carton' in the opposition's amendment.

The opposition claim that the amendment is designed to help retailers in the handling of the product, but the legislation already does this because the legislation allows for the brand name and variant to appear prominently and legibly on the front and two small end surfaces of cartons for retail sale. The legislation does not affect wholesale packaging of tobacco products. Under the legislation, it is open to the industry to fully brand cartons delivered to retailers—with colours, logos et cetera—as long as the retailers are not on-selling the branded cartons to consumers. So, for the purposes of handling stock in the back of an office, in a warehouse and elsewhere—legitimate concerns that industry have—this legislation does not affect that.

The amendment, however, would open a loophole which would mean that products that are branded are called 'cartons' and are not only used for wholesale and would be made available to retailers. This amendment could also have the perverse impact that retailers stock and sell more cigarettes in bulk packaging such as cartons rather than in individual packets, potentially increasing the consumption of cigarettes. Clearly this would dramatically undermine the policy intent of the legislation. Let me make clear, if it has not been apparent, that the government will not be supporting that amendment. The opposition have already said that they will also oppose an important part of the legislation package—the second bill, the Trade Marks Amendment (Tobacco Plain Packaging) Bill—and now they are moving this amendment which will water down the legislation and potentially create a loophole for tobacco companies to continue to market their products.

In regard to that second piece of legislation, there has been a lot of debate in this House about the Trade Marks Amendment (Tobacco Plain Packaging) Bill. It will allow the government to act quickly to protect trademarks owners' rights if there are unintended consequences from the practical operations of the plain packaging legislation. Contrary to what the coalition have been spruiking today about the trademarks amendment bill, any regulation made under new section 231A will not have any effect on the operation of the Trade Marks Act in relation to goods or services that are not covered by the plain packaging bill. So suggestions that this can affect broader trademark legislation for products other than tobacco products is simply not correct. It does seem a little strange to us that the opposition is going to oppose this second bill which actually provides additional assurance to tobacco companies that, if someone were seeking to deregister a trademark for lack of use as a result of the plain packaging legislation, we would be able to take action which would protect the existence of that trademark.

The member for New England also raised some concerns about what sort of coloured stickers or promotional or marketing material will be able to be displayed at the point of sale, particularly where cigarettes might be sold and stacked vertically rather than horizontally. I need to advise the House and the member for New England that this is something that is covered by state legislation. I have been able to identify and provide that to the member, but am happy to also put on the record that the New South Wales fact sheets that cover the specific requirements for price tickets make it clear that tobacco retailers can use price tickets. They can use two colours, one for the ticket and one for the price. There are a number of restrictions on how they can be used, how distinctive they can or cannot be, and what sort of lighting and lettering can be used for them. This is consistent with legislation in each state and territory that restricts very tightly the sort of display that is allowed in any retail shop but makes sure that there is identification available for those who sell the product and need to be able to know which brand they are choosing. A number of members on this side of the House have met with retailers, and when they have said to them, 'If you stack your products alphabetically, won't that actually be quite easy for your sales assistants?' that has been received quite enthusiastically. People do have concerns, but we believe that the combined protections of this act and the restrictions will still allow retailers to identify where products are, which brand they are being asked for and which brand they are selling.

I said that today was a watershed day for tobacco control. It is also a day where we have seen the best and, unfortunately, the worst of this parliament. Listening to the speeches by the majority of members of the opposition, it is obvious that they are not voting for this legislation because they believe in doing everything possible to lower the smoking rate. It is clear from the comments made by many opposition members that they were shamed into this position but when they vote it is with every fibre of their being saying they should oppose it. I think it is not an exaggeration to say that today we scratched the skin of the opposition and the extreme right has come oozing out of the wound. The member who— (Quorum formed) I understand why the member for Dawson, who called attention to the state of the House, is sensitive about that, because he gave one of the most appalling speeches, where he told this parliament that smoking was fun. He, as a member of parliament and a leader in the community, was prepared to stand up here and say to his constituents that a product that is going to kill people who use it as intended is fun.

Honourable members interjecting

The DEPUTY SPEAKER ( Hon. Peter Slipper ): I apologise to the minister, but would honourable members on my right please resume their seats or leave the chamber. I cannot hear the minister, and if I cannot hear the minister I suspect others cannot.

Ms ROXON: The member for Dawson I think may have been bettered by the member for Mitchell who, in his speech, made it absolutely clear that he does not support this legislation, and told us that 'life kills'—that we might as well not worry about doing anything on smoking because life kills anyway. What a silly statement to make in this House. It is something that the Liberal Party and the Liberal leadership should be embarrassed about. He also made the claim, which was made by many others opposite, that we enjoyed the revenue that big tobacco raised for the government. Let us correct the record here: the revenue that is raised by the excise on tobacco is five or six times less than the amount that we spend in dealing with the social, health and economic costs of smoking. This financial year it is projected that the revenue raised from tobacco excise will be $5.8 billion. The latest report indicates that the estimated health and social costs of tobacco in Australia a number of years ago was $31.5 billion annually. Therefore, the costs to our system are far greater than any benefit that the coalition says the government or taxpayers receive from this product.

The party room compromise to support plain packaging was obviously that it would oppose the trademarks amendment bill, and we are very sure that the coalition is just playing politics on this issue. In response to those opposite who claim that the trademarks amendment bill would avoid parliamentary scrutiny, I remind them that any regulations made under this act would be able to be disallowed by the parliament and they should stop playing politics on this. I also remind the House that the Howard government introduced a similar regulation making power in 2000 to implement the obligations of the Madrid protocol. The enactment of these bills will give effect to Australia's commitment under the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control. The fact that we will be the first country to introduce these measures is very exciting and I am aware that a number of countries around the globe are supportive of our legislation.

One of the shadow ministers opposite raised the issue of track and trace. There are not any international agreed standards for that yet, but we are happy to continue to work on those and to do ongoing work with those opposite. The passing of this legislation will be another nail in the coffin of tobacco marketing and I commend the legislation to the House. (Time expired)

Question agreed to.

Bill read a second time.