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Monday, 22 June 2009
Page: 6751

Ms ROXON (Minister for Health and Ageing) (6:44 PM) —in reply—I thank all the members who made a contribution to this debate and note that both the member for Hinkler and the member for New England were happy to accommodate the interests of the House to be able to have a chance to debate—and, of course, the member for Blair and the member for Dickson. I am particularly pleased that the member for Blair actually took the time to talk through some of the additional health measures that are being taken in this area, because we believe strongly that this measure in itself has a health impact. We think it is not tenable for people to stand up in this chamber and say it has had no impact when 720,000 standard drinks per week is the difference from when this measure was introduced to now. That reduction in consumption is a good thing.

This measure has been widely backed by health experts, by police and by the community, and it is now being, belatedly—and, I have to say, grudgingly—supported by the Liberal Party, although I understand not by the entire coalition, given the contribution from the member for Hinkler. The member for Dickson was forced into this backdown, and we believe he has made the right decision and the Liberal Party has made the right decision. But, although he might have got 10 out of 10 for the execution of a triple somersault backflip, I think he would get zero out of 10 for the dignity or grace with which he has done it. He is still denying the health impact of this measure, still pretending that other action can be taken and that this does not need to be part of it. He even had the cheek to say in his contributions that he was ‘concerned’ about binge drinking well before this debate—but, it appears, not sufficiently before this debate, for the entire 11 years that he was part of the previous government, to do anything about it.

I think a lot of people in the House—I know the member for Hinkler and the member for New England, along with many on this side of the House and some on the other side of the House—are genuinely concerned about what we do in response to abuse of alcohol in the community. We know it is a problem. We know we have to have a multipronged approach—and this is part of it. This bill being able to pass through this House, hopefully later tonight, and through the Senate hopefully later in the week, will be only part of what needs to be done to tackle this problem. And we are dead serious about making sure that we can pursue other initiatives like those I have already highlighted. But it does not make it easier for the House to have a serious debate about this when we can spend 12 months absolutely arguing against something and then have the shadow minister come in here with his tail between his legs pretending that it is the changed economic circumstances that changes the Liberal Party’s position. I might remind the House that we voted on this first in February. If my sums and grasp of dates are correct we were well and truly already in difficult financial circumstances by that time. It was not as if the Liberal Party suddenly realised between February and now, in June, that there were difficult financial circumstances. So to come in here and pretend that they are now going to support this measure as an economic measure but deny the health impact that this measure can have is really taking it a little bit too far.

I commented to the parliamentary secretary speaking here that the member for Dickson’s speech was very much like the Fonz in Happy Days—absolutely unable to say that he was wrong and that it was now the right thing to come in and support this measure. But, honestly, for whatever reason he wants to support it, I think it is going to be a much better outcome for the community. I hope that he will be able to carry his coalition members in the Senate, because we do believe that this debate now can be put out of the way. The treatment of spirits in a consistent way will be achieved into the future. The money that is going to be provided will help fund our preventative health measures and will open up the opportunity to take further measures into the future, which we very much look forward to considering when the prevention task force provides its final report to us by the end of this month and we consider it in the coming months. I commend this bill to the House and I thank members who have spoken on the date.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER (Dr MJ Washer)—The question is that this bill be now read a second time. There being more than one voice calling for a division, in accordance with standing order 133 the division is deferred, until after 8 pm.

Debate adjourned.