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Thursday, 20 August 2009
Page: 5500

Senator FIELDING (Leader of the Family First Party) (9:36 AM) —I move:

That this bill be now read a second time.

I seek leave to have the second reading speech incorporated in Hansard.

Leave granted.

The speech read as follows—

I make no secret of the fact that I’m against smoking because it kills.

I have no issue declaring my bias against the tobacco industry.

It is an industry whose main objective is to con as many people as possible into buying its deadly products and to make as much money as it can from feeding off their addiction.

It saddens me when I see people with hardly any money spending their few dollars on expensive cigarette packets and needlessly damaging their health for no good reason. It saddens me even more when I see young children embarking along the same path.

We live in a democracy and I support the right of people to smoke if they wish. However, I think as responsible legislators, we need to do our very best to put in place measures that will discourage as many people smoking as possible.

This is not a radical approach which should take anyone in the community by surprise. For many years now, we have witnessed a concerted campaign to reduce smoking levels across the country through the introduction of numerous measures, each with varying degrees of success. This includes strict advertising restrictions and a ban on smoking in places such as bars, restaurants, sporting events and the workplace. These measures have contributed to a fall in smoking rates throughout the country and have been the building blocks of a healthier Australia.

The bill I have put forward today goes one step further towards achieving this.

Under the provisions set out in this Bill, tobacco companies will be banned from advertising their logos or trademarks on their products. Instead, all cigarette and other tobacco packets will have plain labelling, with the only predominant item to feature on the packets to now be the warning labels.

What this legislation will do is take the polish and attractiveness off cigarette branding and the positive images that tobacco giants try to associate with their products. It is a move which has been strongly supported by health groups, including the Public Health Association of Australia, the Heart Foundation and Cancer Council Australia.  Countless parents I have spoken to have also welcomed the initiative.

These new laws take the move by some state governments to ban point of sale advertising a step further by taking away the promotion of tobacco on the product itself.

Forcing tobacco companies to sell their products in unbranded packets will strip cigarettes of their glamorous image and reduce the number of young people taking up the habit.

Smoking related diseases cost the Australian community over $30 billion each year. It is an absolutely staggering amount and an unnecessary waste of taxpayers dollars. It is money that could instead be put into education to help secure our children’s future or money that could go towards easing the plight of pensioners who must get by on the tightest of all budgets. It is money that could go towards struggling families who have difficulties making ends meet or money that could be redirected towards other areas in our already overburdened health care system.

Smoking is also the largest single preventable cause of death and disease in Australia, with over 15,000 deaths each year. That is 15,000 Australians who die needlessly each year. We have a responsibility to do more in order to lower those numbers and plain labelling of cigarette packets will help achieve this.

According to the Public Health Association of Australia, plain packaging is a vital component of a comprehensive tobacco control program.

This has been further confirmed by the CEO of Cancer Council Australia, Professor Ian Olver, who has said that reforms to tobacco product packaging are essential to reducing the unacceptable level of cancer death and disability caused by smoking in Australia.

In an earlier statement on this issue, Professor Olver said:

“Cancer Council Australia supports this move by Senator Fielding to introduce plain packaging of tobacco products, which could eliminate the tobacco industry’s ability to promote smoking and brand personality through the pack, reduce rates of smoking initiation and consumption, enhance the effectiveness of pack warnings and remove the pack’s ability to mislead and deceive consumers”.

These comments were also echoed by the Heart Foundation, with their spokesperson Maurice Swanson saying

“Current cigarette packaging is a potent form of advertising and promotion for smoking. Requiring the plain packaging of cigarettes, and ensuring that tobacco products are not displayed at point-of-sale, will significantly reduce the number of children who take up smoking and help adult smokers to quit.” 

Probably the best indication that the reforms outlined in this Bill are indeed effective can be seen from the reactions within the tobacco industry. The tobacco industry has been up in arms fighting vigorously to prevent a ban on branded cigarette packaging, as was the case in the UK when this idea first came up for discussion there last year. One can always tell whether an anti-smoking initiative is likely to be effective according to the kicking and screaming from the tobacco companies, who are obviously seriously concerned that plain labelling on their packets will significantly hurt their sales.

A fall in sales means fewer people smoking and as far as I am concerned, that is a result we should all be striving for.

There is no case for allowing any glossy brand promotion for a product that is lethal and addictive.

This Bill does not pretend to be the antidote for Australia’s smoking woes, but it certainly does move us closer towards reducing our smoking rates across the country. A healthier Australia is a more productive Australia and this is something we should all be striving for.

I seek leave to continue my remarks later.

Leave granted; debate adjourned.