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Thursday, 30 September 2010
Page: 388


Senator FIELDING (Leader of the Family First Party) (9:48 AM) —I move:

That these bills be now read a second time.

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

Leave granted.

The speeches read as follows—

ALCOHOL TOLL REDUCTION BILL 2010

Family First is not anti-alcohol.  We know alcohol is a part of life and social drinking is fine.  But our culture is one that celebrates alcohol and binge drinking - it is way out of control and we simply must do something about it.

But Australia has a drinking problem.  As a nation, we have a problem with booze, a major problem.

Alcohol kills THREE TIMES more Australians than all illicit drugs combined, yet no one in Government or Opposition is serious about tackling our alcohol toll.

Alcohol robs our society to the tune of $16 billion a year.

That’s right, it has been found that the cost on the community from excessive alcohol consumption is $16 billion per year.

Alcohol also inflicts an enormous emotional cost—splitting families apart and destroying relationships.

You see, as a nation, we celebrate alcohol.  We drink to celebrate success.  We drink to celebrate achievements.  We drink to be sociable and to be part of the crowd.

Just look at how alcohol is promoted and advertised.  David Boon was a great cricketer, but he is as well remembered for knocking off 52 tinnies on a flight to London.

Doesn’t that make him then the ‘logical’ choice to promote booze?  ‘Boonie’ is held up to be a hero - gee a bloke who can down 52 tinnies in one plane trip - so of course  it is attractive to have him flog amber fluid.

The Federal Parliament is not really taking the alcohol toll seriously.  No one is pushing for tough action to tackle Australia’s alarming alcohol toll.

That is why Family First is doing something about it.  Because alcohol is a killer - it is killing young Australians and adult Australians - and we HAVE to take serious action to tackle our alcohol toll just like we have taken serious action to tackle our road toll.

Instead of waiting for the Government to act, Family First is today introducing new laws to reduce Australia’s crippling alcohol toll and change our binge drinking culture.

Family First’s Alcohol Toll Reduction Bill 2010 will:

Limit TV and radio alcohol advertising to after 9pm and before 5am, to stop alcohol being marketed to young people;

Require health information labels on all alcohol products;

Require all alcohol ads to be pre-approved by a government body comprising an expert from the medical profession, alcohol and drug support sector, accident trauma support sector and the alcohol industry;

Ban alcohol ads which are aimed at children or which link drinking to personal, business, social, sporting, sexual or other success.

Family First’s Bill is supported by the Australian Drug Foundation and Arbias, which researches the link between alcohol and brain damage.

Geoff Munro, from the Australian Drug Foundation, has said of Family First’s Bill:

 “Too many hospital beds are occupied by people who have drunk too much alcohol, and too many Australians are damaged and die.  Much of the alcohol toll is preventable…(Family First’s) proposals are moderate and reasonable, and should meet with extensive community support.”

Sonia Berton, the chief executive officer of Arbias, which ran a national campaign to highlight the fact that two million Australians risk alcohol-related brain damage because of their risky drinking behaviour, said:

 “There’s no question that we’re going to see a whole generation of brain damaged Australians emerging based on current drinking levels.  Treatment providers will be literally swamped in the next 10 years because of this massive invisible issue.  There are enough Australians at risk of alcohol-related brain damage right now to fill 4,800 jumbo jets.  We have to get serious about tackling the massive impact alcohol is having on our society.  This bill is a clear step forward.  Alcohol is causing mammoth damage in our community.  Why aren’t we being told?  Where are the ads and messages warning people?”

Family First has met with both sides of Parliament to discuss the alcohol toll and our Bill.

Both sides of Parliament are concerned about the alcohol toll and understand its seriousness, so I’m hoping now they will be willing to take tough action to tackle Australia’s alcohol toll.

Australia’s alcohol toll is a $16 billion national disgrace.

But I acknowledge it is very tough for the government of the day to take tough action on the alcohol toll because of the HUGE amount of revenue the Government raises through alcohol taxes, and when you consider the power of the alcohol lobby.

Family First’s top concern is the health and welfare of Australia’s families and that is why we are taking action to reduce Australia’s alcohol toll.

It is one thing to SAY you are concerned about a serious problem, but it is truly another thing to actually take tough action.

Just look at some of the statistics on Australia’s alcohol toll; they are truly horrifying.

Alcohol causes almost 4,300 deaths each year, is responsible for 40 per cent of police work and is a factor in up to one in five road deaths.

Alcohol kills three times more Australians than all illicit drugs combined.

450,000 Australian children under 12 are at risk of being exposed to binge drinking in their home by a parent or other adult, according to the Australian National Council on Drugs;

35 per cent of Australians drink at levels that risk short-term harm and 10 per cent at levels that risk long-term harm, according to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare; and,

Alcohol is at the top of the list of drugs Australians seek treatment for, according to the Institute.

As a nation, Australia has tackled our road toll, our drug toll and our tobacco toll.  And we should be proud of the fact we have had success.

Surely it is time for Australia to tackle our alcohol toll. 

Advertisers are being allowed to link alcohol with sport and with success and achievement.  TV ads encourage under-age drinking and associate sporting success or success in life with drinking.

Are these the messages we really want to be sending to our children?  That to have a good time, to celebrate their achievements and to have a big night out, they have to get plastered, blind drunk, at the same time.

Another big problem is that the alcohol industry regulates itself, and is responsible for its own TV and radio advertising.  What a joke!

Families are given the impression that the Advertising Standards Bureau - a body that sounds independent and impartial - regulates alcohol advertising.

But if you dig a bit deeper, you find that alcohol advertising is looked after by the Alcoholic Beverages Advertising Code (ABAC) Chief Adjudicator, who is not named.

So who actually administers the scheme?

The answer is found on the website of the Distilled Spirits Industry Council of Australia, which is part of the ABAC management committee.

The ABAC Management Committee also includes other major alcohol groups, the Australian Associated Brewers, the Liquor Merchants Association of Australia and the Winemakers’ Federation of Australia Inc (WFA).

Family First’s new laws will be an important first step in seeking to create a culture of responsible drinking in Australia.

As I stated at the beginning, it is important to stress that Family First is not anti-alcohol.  Alcohol is a part of life and social drinking is fine.  But we must change our culture which celebrates alcohol and accepts binge drinking.

Family First believes we must adopt a policy of zero tolerance to binge drinking and our escalating alcohol toll.

As well as the huge health bill, the massive social cost and damage to family life, there is the enormous drain on police and court and prison resources, as well as problems of crime and violence, child abuse, property damage and other drug use.

Binge drinking among young Australians is a particular concern.  Teenagers go out to get blind and it is considered okay.

This is a worry for all parents.  My wife Sue and I have three teenage children and understand that, as parents, we are responsible for our children and are important role models.  Of course we cannot let adults off the hook.

But, as I mentioned earlier, this is a major social and health issue which, as a community, we must tackle.

There are obviously other measures which could also be adopted to tackle Australia’s alcohol toll, and we should look at them all.  A massive advertising campaign would be among them, as would investigating the boom in liquor licences to pubs and nightclubs.

But the key point is that we have to start somewhere.  And Family First’s new laws set us on the right path to seriously tackle a vital issue that has for too long been ignored - perhaps because our major parties pander to the influential alcohol and sporting lobbies.

Let’s start saving lives ruined by alcohol and seriously tackle Australia’s binge drinking culture and alcohol toll.


DRINK CONTAINER RECYCLING BILL 2010

Family First is once again introducing the Drink Container Recycling Bill 2010 as an important environmental measure to boost the recycling of drink containers across Australia.

Back in 2008, Family First was the first political party to introduce the National Drink Container Recycling legislation into the Australian Parliament.

At the moment, only South Australia operates a container deposit scheme where there is a five cent container deposit that is redeemed when the container is returned for recycling.

Other state governments have been slow to act on this issue and Family First believes federal intervention is still needed.

Ian Kiernan, Chairman and Founder of Clean Up Australia, has said that more than a third of the 7,200 tonnes of rubbish collected on Clean Up Australia Day was recyclable drink cans and bottles made from aluminium, glass, plastic and steel. 

The volume of material collected on Clean Up Australia Day is also increasing.

Obviously what Australia is doing now to recycle drink containers is not working. We need a national system that puts a value on used drink containers so they are recycled.

That’s why Family First decided to introduce legislation for a national container deposit scheme similar to the one operating in South Australia.

South Australia is leading the way with container recycling at 85 per cent while the other states are bogged down in litter with an appalling recycling rate of 35 per cent. A national container deposit scheme makes sense - it’s a big win for the environment and a big win for the community.

A national container deposit scheme is a big win for the environment because we end up with 25 per cent less litter in our streets and waterways and half a million less tonnes of waste every year as we will see container recycling lifted from 38 per cent to 85 per cent.

A national container deposit scheme is a big win for the community because we have a cleaner looking environment and local community groups and kids can earn some extra cash while keeping Australia beautiful. For example, in South Australia the Scouts receive up to $7 million per year from container recycling.

It is ridiculous to think that we don’t have a national deposit recycling scheme in place already. It is shocking to think that if you take a walk along Melbourne’s Yarra River, in under an hour you can collect five shopping bags full of bottles and other containers from the river bank. With a national deposit scheme in place, this rubbish would be recycled rather than end up as rubbish polluting our waterways.

The cost of litter on our community is largely hidden. The cost of visual pollution, rubbish and loss of enjoyment from using public areas is not easily measured.

In our market-driven society, things that do not have a cash price are often not valued.  But these are often the things that have most value to families and communities.  A clean environment, the ability to enjoy a barbeque at the park with the family without unsightly rubbish, as well as active community involvement in keeping public areas clean are all important, but not recognised because they do not have an obvious monetary value.

Putting a cash value on rubbish can turn trash to cash and ensure our environment is better off.

More easily measurable is the value of reducing landfill and cutting greenhouse emissions.

Recycling a plastic bottle saves more than 80 per cent of the energy used to make a bottle from scratch. Similarly, recycling aluminium cans uses just five per cent of the energy used making a can from scratch.

A national container deposit recycling scheme would save 300,000 tonnes of greenhouse gases a year.

That is equal to 40,000 homes running on 100 per cent green power.

A national drink container recycling scheme can save the average family $30 every year on kerbside recycling and create more than 2000 new jobs.

The Drink Container Recycling Bill 2010 provides for a system of drink container stewardship plans, where producers, distributors or industry groups must submit an approved plan to achieve a 75 per cent recycling rate within two years of the commencement of the plan and 80 per cent within five years.  Distributors are included because they may be responsible for imported products not produced in Australia. The plans will be subject to public comment and the performance of the final approved plans tracked against performance requirements.

Producers will have to report annually on the performance of their plan and must complete a review of the approved plan within five years of its commencement.

Importantly, the bill uses a pollution prevention hierarchy to encourage producers to improve the environmental performance of their containers. Producers will have to detail in their plans how they will:

  • reduce the environmental impact of producing beverage containers by eliminating toxic components and increasing energy and resource  efficiency;
  • redesign beverage containers to improve reusability or recyclability;
  • reuse beverage containers;
  • recycle beverage containers;
  • recover material from beverage containers.

In January 2007 the man responsible for introducing South Australia’s container deposit legislation in 1975, former Labor conservation minister Glen Broomhill, died.  His is a lasting legacy that is an example of successful policy we should take up nationally.

A national drink container scheme is practical environmental policy where the effect of the policy can be seen relatively quickly, in cleaner streets, parks and waterways.

Family First is taking this important initiative as the state governments are dragging their feet on litter.


RESPONSIBLE TAKEAWAY ALCOHOL HOURS BILL 2010

Family First is not anti-alcohol.  We know alcohol is a part of life and social drinking is fine.  But our culture is one that celebrates alcohol and binge drinking - it is way out of control and we simply must do something about it.

But Australia has a serious binge drinking problem which is killing Australians, particularly young Australians and is compromising the safety in our community.

Every week we read about another serious incident from alcohol fuelled violence or of another tragic death caused by alcohol.

Our binge drinking culture is a serious social and health issue and Australians are beginning to wake up and now want tough action to tackle our $16 billion alcohol toll.

The extent of this problem goes further than people think and the statistics to back it up are simply horrifying.

Alcohol causes almost 4,300 deaths each year and costs almost 400,000 hospital bed days per year. It accounts for around 40 per cent of police work and is the cause of one in five deaths on our roads.

Binge drinking robs our society to the tune of $16 billion a year, and also inflicts an enormous emotional cost—splitting families apart and destroying relationships.

In a survey released last year, the Alcohol Education and Rehabilitation Foundation revealed that more than 80 per cent of Australians recognise that as a society we have a drinking problem and that 85 per cent of Australians want more done to fix that problem.

In April last year, the Brumby Labor Government was forced to hold an emergency summit because the alcohol-fuelled violence in Melbourne was spiralling out of control.

Since then, things have only gotten worse.

One of the factors which is making this problem worse are the 24 hour takeaway alcohol stores operating around our cities which let younger people load up on cheap alcohol around the clock and then spill out onto the streets.

It’s no wonder there is so much violence on our streets when you don’t have proper regulations controlling these outlets selling packaged liquor.

In my home state of Victoria there are 144 licensees allowed to serve alcohol around the clock and 37 such outlets sell packaged liquor.

This is crazy and should not be allowed to continue - especially given out $16 billion alcohol toll.

The Responsible Takeaway Alcohol Hours Bill is a major piece of legislation and will go a long way to curbing the alcohol fuelled violence which has taken over our streets.

Under this legislation, it will be prohibited to sell takeaway alcohol after midnight and before 7am in the morning.

Any business caught doing this will be up for a fine of $10,000.

Stopping the sale of takeaway alcohol at all hours of the night is long overdue and it’s crazy that it has taken so long to address this issue.

This policy has the support of numerous public health groups and no doubt many parents too.

Geoff Munro from the Community Alcohol Action Network has said previously,

“In the interests of reducing the mayhem on the streets, assaults, the glassings, people suffering brain damage and even dying after being king hit on the street, it doesn’t seem an unreasonable limitation that people should not be able to buy alcohol right through the night”.

There’s no silver bullet solution to our $16 billion alcohol toll, but this bill is certainly a very important step.

Last year we saw the ridiculous situation where the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal gave the green light to the Exford Hotel to continue selling packaged liquor all night.

This was despite the fact that the tribunal was referred to 30 examples of public drunkenness and disorderly and drunken behaviour outside or around the hotel.

Clearly the laws in place at the moment are not strong enough to deal with the problems facing our streets and the Responsible Takeaway Alcohol Hours Bill will help address this issue.

People who are loading themselves up on alcohol at two, three or four in the morning are people who are more likely to get into trouble and cause problems on our streets.

Allowing the sale of takeaway alcohol at all hours of the night only undoes a lot of the hard work done by our brave police force to keep our streets safe and free of violence.

As a father of three children, I know that I worry about their safety when they are out late at night, because of the surging violence on our streets.

Restricting the hours of sale of takeaway alcohol is a move that will bring a sigh of relief to thousands of mums and dads across the country and is a policy that should be supported by both sides of Parliament.


Senator FIELDING —I seek leave to continue my remarks later.

Leave granted; debate adjourned.

Ordered that the bills be listed on the Notice Paper as separate orders of the day.