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Thursday, 13 August 2009
Page: 4871


Senator XENOPHON (1:03 PM) —These bills—the Excise Tariff Amendment (2009 Measures No. 1) Bill 2009 [No. 2] and the Customs Tariff Amendment (2009 Measures No. 1) Bill 2009 [No. 2]—feel a little bit like Groundhog Day. I can indicate that I again support this legislation.

I note the undertaking given by the minister to me, Senator Brown and Senator Siewert, in a letter of 17 March of this year, to provide an additional $50 million worth of funding for further measures to combat binge drinking; a fund to provide sponsorship to local community organisations that provide sporting and cultural activities as an alternative to other forms of sponsorship; community level initiatives designed to tackle binge drinking; enhanced telephone counselling services and alcohol referrals; and a possible expansion of the existing social marketing campaigns. Further, there are a number of measures that the government indicated it would be taking, including, for the first time, the pre-vetting of alcohol advertising. I would be grateful if the minister could provide confirmation of the fact that there will be pre-vetting of advertising by an expert panel for the first time. These are important matters.

I note that the sales of so-called alcopops have rebounded, despite the excise increase, according to an article in the West Australian of 8 August. Could the minister comment on the Nielsen data that indicates that the sector has bounced back to an extent but that it still appears to be significantly reduced from what it was before this increase. The Senate inquiry into this also indicated that there has been an overall reduction—albeit a marginal reduction—in the number of drinks sold, in terms of the total volume of alcohol, even with the issue of substitution. So this is not a magic bullet. I have never said that of this particular tax. For the government to say that it was a health measure in itself is a tad disingenuous, but it is fair to say that providing extra funding for health measures on top of the $50 million that has been agreed to between my colleagues in the Greens, me and the government, in addition to the $53 million that has been specifically set aside for binge drinking, is a good start. These are measures that need to be further evaluated and encouraged so that we can begin effectively tackling the binge drinking culture in this country, particularly amongst young people. I support this bill, I think we need to get on with it and I am looking forward to the additional $50 million that was undertaken by the government to be spent on this in accordance with the agreement between the Greens, me and the government and for those programs to have the effect that I and others believe they will have in winding back the serious problem of binge drinking.