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Friday, 1 June 1984
Page: 2372

Senator CHILDS —I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Health whether he is aware of comments by Senator Baume, as reported in today's Sydney Morning Herald, which state:

. . . the pursuit of profit by cigarette and alcohol companies represented the ''unacceptable face of capitalism''.

The article continues:

. . . the corporations ''stand condemned of the most cynical, reprehensible, irresponsible and blatant disregard for the public interest where this conflicts with their corporate goals of profitable consumption''.

What are the health ramifications of the consumption of tobacco-

Senator Elstob —That's a lot of rubbish.

Senator CHILDS —And alcohol, and what is the Government's response to this major social problem?

Senator GRIMES —Senator Childs is right; I did note the remarks of Senator Baume. There are not many things that Senator Baume, Laurie Carmichael and I would agree on, but this is one. I borrowed that statement from Senator Sibraa. Senator Baume and I, and everyone in this chamber with the exception of Senator Elstob, realise that both tobacco and alcohol are damaging to health, particularly the latter when used in excess. This Government is committed to further action to inhibit the promotion of cigarette smoking and to increase community awareness of safe patterns of alcohol consumption. Certainly I and I am sure the Minister for Health welcome Senator Baume's support in this area. Senator Baume realises, of course, that social reforms of this type are not easy to achieve. For instance, every doctor in the country realises the danger of cigarette smoking and almost every doctor in the country, except Senator Crowley and me, stopped smoking.

Senator Baume and I, in writing some years ago the report 'Drug problems in Australia-an intoxicated society?', recognised the great difficulty involved in overcoming this problem. The latest available estimates are that in 1981 tobacco was responsible for 16,500 deaths and alcohol was responsible for 3,500 deaths. To that figure must be added the substantial proportion of health expenditure which goes on those who suffer from excessive tobacco and alcohol consumption, and the very real social problems which result from alcohol abuse. Following the April 1984 conference in Melbourne of the Australian Health Ministers, draft instructions for legislation to establish a tobacco advertising production code were released for public comment. The proposed legislation covers all tobacco products, not only cigarettes, and provides for tighter controls on tobacco advertising. This was thought necessary because of the failure of the tobacco industry to act to set up a satisfactory voluntary code, demonstrating what Senator Baume quite correctly described as, I think, the ugly face of capitalism . A sub-committee of Liberal and Labor Health Ministers has been formed to consider these submissions. The Committee comprised Mr Mulock from New South Wales, Mr Roper from Victoria, Dr Blewett from the Commonwealth, and Mr Cleary from Tasmania. The Committee will consider submissions, consult with interested groups, and report back to a special conference to be held later this year.

Senator Baume's concern regarding tobacco sponsorship for sport is also shared by the Minister for Health and the Minister for Sport, Recreation and Tourism, and options for alternative avenues of sponsorship which will accommodate health concerns without jeopardising the viability of sporting groups in Australia are being looked at. The Government's concern with alcohol is with its misuse. Accordingly, the Health Department is working with the alcoholic beverage industry to develop a code which promotes awareness of responsible attitudes towards drinking. I am pleased to be able to place on record that at the moment the co-operation of the alcohol production industry has been considerable in this area, something which I think in the long term will be of great benefit to us all.