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TRANSCRIPT OF INTERVIEW WITH DAVID SPEERS ON PM AGENDA - SKY NEWS AUSTRALIA - 25 MAY 2011

TOPICS: PLAIN PACKAGING OF TOBACCO, OPPOSITION DISUNITY OVER PLAIN PACKAGING OF TOBACCO

DAVID SPEERS: As we discussed earlier, the [inaudible] is trying to introduce plain packaging of
cigarettes. So far the Coalition hasn't adopted a formal position on this but we have heard some in
Coalition ranks saying they support the idea and [inaudible] saying they oppose it.

Well the government says this is going to be a way to reduce smoking rates even further in
Australia. But the tobacco industry is fighting this and fighting it hard.

I'm joined now by the Health Minister, Nicola Roxon.

Minister, thanks for your time. I spoke to one Coalition MP today who said privately that he is
prepared to back this, but only if he knew it was going to work, in particular are smoking rates
going to come down and by how much? Are you able to answer that?

NICOLA ROXON: Well what we are able to answer is all the research and evidence about how people
respond to packaging is very strong, 24 reports. The Cancer Council just released some more of this
material yesterday, showing that these measures will work.

What the Coalition though - I think they're being a little bit cute, they would like us to point to
another country around the world and say look, here's the evidence, where it's happened and how
much it's reduced it by.

DAVID SPEERS: ...[Indistinct] it has happened in another country.

NICOLA ROXON: When we're a world first, there is not that type of evidence for the Coalition. So I
think they're being a bit sneaky here.

DAVID SPEERS: But in those - in those 25 reports you talk about, is there anything that says
smoking rates will therefore come down by one per cent, two per cent, 10 per cent?

NICOLA ROXON: No, we're not making projections about the number and I think if we did we would be
criticised for being too speculative. What we do know...

DAVID SPEERS: ... But you don't ...

NICOLA ROXON: ...what all the research shows you is that particularly young people will decide that a
pack that looks like this with the plain packaging is less attractive.

They'll be less likely to smoke it. They'll think it's less cool. We have a lot of evidence about
what different colours of packaging achieve for people, whether it makes you think it's a luxurious
product, whether it makes you think it's a healthy product.

We're trying to take away every last way that the tobacco industry can entice people to their
products and all the research...

DAVID SPEERS: ...But you've already...

NICOLA ROXON: ...show that will be a very effective way of doing it.

DAVID SPEERS: To buy a packet of cigarettes at the moment, they're behind the counter, they're, you
know, behind a closed door. So you can't actually see the various brands on the packets anyway.

NICOLA ROXON: Yeah but it's interesting you know, I just read a really good quote from a marketing
official, somewhere before, saying what other product do you take out of your packet 20 times a
day, take out of your pocket to smoke? So it is a tool of marketing. People look at it. If you're a
smoker, you take it out, you put it on the table, you're next to your colleagues, you're next to
your family, you're next to your friends. It is used as a way to market their product.

And we know that it's been successful. We know that the tobacco companies think it is a valuable
part of their business because they're fighting so strongly to...

DAVID SPEERS: Well they are...

NICOLA ROXON: ...stop us do this.

DAVID SPEERS: But just to repeat, you don't know with any certainty whether this will reduce
smoking rates.

NICOLA ROXON: We are absolutely certain it will reduce new smokers. I don't believe that plain
packaging will change someone who's been smoking for 20 years.

DAVID SPEERS: Okay.

NICOLA ROXON: I do think it will help them pay more attention to the graphic warnings, because as
you can see from this, there's nothing else to look at on the pack.

DAVID SPEERS: They're not pretty, no.

NICOLA ROXON: And therefore we do have lots of evidence that the warnings do make people consider
quitting.

DAVID SPEERS: One of the concerns raised by the tobacco industry is that you're going to see more
illicit, counterfeit cigarettes, flooding the market, because it will be easier to counterfeit
cigarettes with plain packets. I think the most recent figures show that in 2008, there was
something like 169 tonnes of tobacco leaf and 50 million cigarettes seized by Customs. Do you fear
that this is going to drive an increase even further in counterfeit, illicit tobacco products?

NICOLA ROXON: Look, we've listened very carefully to what has been said through the consultation
process and we are prepared to work with the industry to make sure that the illicit trade is not
increased by this. But we've seen some extraordinary claims from them as well. I mean they claim
threefold what actually customs figures show about the elicit trades. They threaten that criminal
gangs will take over the country. We saw someone out saying today that this is going to increase
terrorism. Really, this sort of alarmist approach is a bit silly.

DAVID SPEERS: The real point they do make, and a valid one, is the attack on intellectual property
rights here. How sure are you legally that you'll be able to defend this through the court system?
And also that it's not in breach of Australia's international trade obligations.

NICOLA ROXON: Yeah, I'm very confident that our advice is good on this. There's always the ability
for governments to take action which is acting in the public interest. It will be an argument about
whether you can stop somebody using their intellectual property because of a public health benefit,
it's very clear that that World Health Organisation has said plain packaging is a measure that
states should consider. So I'm very confident that our legal ground is strong, but when you're
breaking new ground it's going to be challenged. The big tobacco companies will challenge it and
ultimately we're prepared to fight that in the courts if we have to.

DAVID SPEERS: Just finally, Labor doesn't receive donations any longer from tobacco companies. The
Coalition does. The Greens leader Bob Brown flagged legislation today to ban political donations
from tobacco companies. Will Labor support the bill?

NICOLA ROXON: I absolutely expect that we will. We don't take donations from tobacco companies, we
stopped seven years ago. I think that was a good decision. And unfortunately for Mr Abbott there is
a big question mark over why he is sitting on the fence with this measure of plain packaging
because they...

DAVID SPEERS: ...Do you think he's influenced by political donations?

NICOLA ROXON: Well I think that question is there...

DAVID SPEERS: ...So is Labor therefore influenced by its donations from the union movement?

NICOLA ROXON: Well we are a party that works with the union movement. We are a party from the union
movement. That is public...

DAVID SPEERS: ... You also take donations from clubs like the ACT labour clubs where a lot of the
revenue's from gambling. It's a social ill according to the government. Why not ban donations from
gambling?

NICOLA ROXON: I think they're legitimate questions that can be discussed but tobacco is a product -
it is the only known legal product that is such a certain killer.

There's nothing good about it, it's not comparable with other products and we've taken these steps
because we believe that you shouldn't take donations - because Mr Abbott still does there is really
a very big question mark whether that money is influencing his judgement on this policy.

DAVID SPEERS: All right. Health Minister Nicola Roxon, thank you for your time.

NICOLA ROXON: Pleasure.