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Thursday, 10 November 2011
Page: 8905


Senator McLUCAS (QueenslandParliamentary Secretary for Disabilities and Carers) (18:33): I am very pleased to be closing the debate on the Tobacco Plain Packaging Bill 2011 and the Trade Marks Amendment (Tobacco Plain Packaging) Bill 2011. Senators in the chamber recognise that these are very important pieces of legislation. Today is a landmark day for tobacco control in Australia. Senators who have spoken in favour of the legislation have demonstrated that they are prepared to put the public health of their constituents absolutely at the top of the list of their priorities and certainly above the partisan politics that we have unfortunately seen from some speakers. They join with the 260 professors of health and medicine, including four former Australians of the Year, who have written to all federal MPs to seek unanimous support for legislation to mandate the plain packaging of tobacco products sold in Australia.

When the Minister for Health and Ageing introduced the bill in July, the minister detailed the toll of death and disease felt by our community each year from tobacco related diseases. The stark reality is that some 15,000 Australians die every year from this deadly product. The purpose of this legislation is to reduce the toll that is felt within our community. Tobacco is a product not like any other product. It kills half the people who use it regularly and as intended. The pack is not opened and thrown away; it is carried around by the smoker, continually brought out of their pocket or purse, put on their desk, held in the public arena and shown to friends—reinforcing the brand and their personal identity and exposing the marketing to many social groups, including children.

Plain packaging joins the range of direct actions that we are taking to tackle tobacco, including the 25 per cent tobacco excise introduced in April 2010, record investments in anti-smoking social marketing campaigns, and legislation to prohibit the advertising of cigarette products on the internet. The first piece of legislation will mandate that packaging can only appear in a standard drab dark brown colour, and the only thing to distinguish one brand from another on the packaging will be the brand and variant name in a standard colour, standard position and standard font size and style. That legislation is being supported by the chamber, and I take this opportunity to thank all senators for the support—albeit some quite grudgingly—of this historic legislation.

The opposition have already said that they will oppose an important part of the legislation package—the second bill, the Trade Marks Amendment (Tobacco Plain Packaging) Bill. There has been a lot of debate in this chamber about this bill. I take this opportunity to thank the Legal and Constitutional Affairs Committee for their inquiry and report into the legislation. The bill is designed to allow the government to act quickly to protect trademark owners' rights if there are unintended consequences for trademark owners and applicants from the practical operation of the plain packaging legislation. Contrary to what many coalition senators have been saying today about the trade marks amendment bill, any regulation made under the new section 231A will not have any effect on the operation of the Trade Marks Act in relation to goods and services that are not covered by the plain packaging bill. So suggestions that this can affect broader trademark legislation for products other than tobacco products are simply not correct. Some of the contributions given by senators opposite about this bill seemed to show a level of misunderstanding that is somewhat bemusing. I do not know whether that level of misunderstanding is somewhat intentional. It does seem a little strange to us that the opposition is going to oppose the second bill, which actually provides additional assurance to tobacco companies that if the interactions between the plain packaging bill and the Trade Marks Act impinge on their legitimate trademark rights to register, maintain or protect trademarks, we would be able to take urgent action to protect those legitimate trademark rights. The enactment of these bills will give effect to Australia's commitment under the World Health Organisation Framework Convention on Tobacco Control.

A number of senators have made comments about illicit tobacco. The first bill, the plain packaging legislation, allows for tobacco companies to place an origin mark which is an alphanumeric code on the packaging on a voluntary basis to assist the industry in tracking and tracing. It also allows tobacco companies to continue to use other anticounterfeiting measures such as taggart ink and forensic-level differentiation of packaging material. Further, the 2010 National Drug Strategy Household Survey found that the proportion of smokers using unbranded loose tobacco regularly—that is, half the time or more—remained at about 1.5 per cent. That is not a significant change from 2007. I share the concern about chop-chop. I live in Far North Queensland. Mareeba, just west of us, was a tobacco-producing area and chop-chop was around. But this bill actually puts in place some measures which will assist in ensuring that there will not be growth in illicit tobacco use.

The fact that we will be the first country to introduce these measures is very exciting. I am aware that a number of countries around the world are supportive of our legislation. I take this opportunity personally to commend our Minister for Health and Ageing, Minister Nicola Roxon, who has shown great leadership and courage in bringing this legislation forward. She has been recognised both here in Australia and internationally for this leadership. She received the Nigel Grey Award, which is awarded to people who work hard to ensure that tobacco use is diminished in our country. That award is given by tobacco control advocates in our country. But importantly—and we can be enormously proud of this as a nation, and I am not being partisan about this—Minister Roxon was awarded this year, on World Tobacco Day, the Director-General's Special Recognition Award by the World Health Organisation. She should be commended by us all for that leadership.

The passing of this legislation, Senators, will be another nail in the coffin of tobacco marketing. I commend this legislation to the Senate.