Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
Disclaimer: The Parliamentary Library does not warrant or accept liability for the accuracy or usefulness of the transcripts. These are copied directly from the broadcaster's website.
Alcopops tax hike on verge of defeat -

View in ParlViewView other Segments

Reporter: Hayden Cooper

ELEANOR HALL: Australia's lone Family First Senator has suddenly found himself under attack from
all sides.

Steve Fielding is trying to extract a better deal from the Commonwealth Government on alcohol
advertising, but this morning the Health Minister told him he won't get his way.

In Canberra, Hayden Cooper reports.

HAYDEN COOPER: The legislative back log is taking its toll, especially on the crossbench senators.

NICK XENOPHON: My office is working around the clock to deal with the alcopops legislation, to deal
with the IR legislation and a whole host of other bills that have been around for some time.

HAYDEN COOPER: Perhaps then a lack of sleep is to blame for the erosion of Senate civilities.
Exasperation and backhanded compliments are creeping in.

BARNABY JOYCE: Good luck to Nick and Steve, they're extremely powerful people and have the whole
sway of every piece of legislation that comes into our nation.

BOB BROWN: We've got good communications in the Senate, except for the guy I sit next to.

STEVE FIELDING: Oh Look, the information flow is there and look, that's a diversionary tactic.

BARNABY JOYCE: Haven't spoken to Steve lately, no, no.

REPORTER: And if you had, what would you be saying to him?

BARNABY JOYCE: Good morning Steve.

(Laughter)

HAYDEN COOPER: Steve Fielding is the lone senator withholding his support for the tax increase on
pre-mixed alcoholic drinks.

His colleagues on the crossbench are already on board and they're urging him to come around.

NICK XENOPHON: My plea to Senator Fielding is 'don't throw the baby out with the bathwater'.

We've made some very significant advances and let's not lose that because those who'll be cracking
open the Passion Pops tonight will be the alcohol industry.

BOB BROWN: Yeah, the Australian public will expect you to pass this legislation and to get, in
particular the alcohol warning program that's been put forward and because there's $50-million
worth of measures here which are going to help the community deal with alcohol. The community's not
going to want that knocked out.

HAYDEN COOPER: Bob Brown thinks Steve Fielding has communication problems and questionable
negotiating skills, but the Family First Senator reckons he's making headway in his demand for
stronger limits on alcohol advertising, and as if to demonstrate his ability to compromise, he's
now offering to give the Government three years before it has to act on this issue.

STEVE FIELDING: Look what I will say is that there are sympathetic, I suppose to the issue. I won't
say and I won't put words in the Minister's mouth or the Government's; they're not saying they're
going to do this at all but we're still talking. Does that make sense?

HAYDEN COOPER: But the Health Minister Nicola Roxon says Senator Fielding should be grateful for
what he's given.

NICOLA ROXON: Two of the three items that he's been pursuing for a number of years we have put on
the table, we are prepared to change. We can't go that third step and we've made quite clear that
we won't.

I hope that Senator Fielding will look at the range of successes he's had in terms of labelling, in
terms of other warnings that are available, in terms of tightening, moving a bit from a
self-regulatory system of advertising to one where public health professionals and the Government
have more of a role.

These are all important and good things to do, which we've been prepared to move on quickly, but
it's now up to Senator Fielding to see and decide if he wants those improvements and doesn't want
to reduce the price of alcopops.

It's pretty hard I think for someone who's the leader of a group called Family First to see how
reducing the price of alcopops is putting families first.

HAYDEN COOPER: The Senate is due to rise tomorrow for a seven-week break, but it still has to pass
the Fair Work Bill and legislation on the new $4-billion investment vehicle to underpin the
commercial property sector.

All of this only adds to the tension and this morning senators lined up to complain about the
apparent rush.

STEVE FIELDING: This is ridiculous. That needs to go through a process, it needs to go through a
proper sort of inquiry and let's have a look at it.

NICK XENOPHON: I believe that we're being unfairly pressured and I hope that this is not a tactic
by the Government to run us ragged in the hope that we'll simply vote bills through without
scrutiny. Let me make this really simple - if you try this tactic, it'll fail. I'll insist on doing
my job properly or I just will refuse to vote.

HAYDEN COOPER: The Opposition is more than happy to witness the Government's frustration.

Its decision to oppose the so-called 'Ruddbank' means that that too will need crossbench
negotiation.

The shadow treasurer Joe Hockey says it's yet another failed response to the global financial
crisis, just like the recent stimulus payments.

JOE HOCKEY: Now we hear that they're giving money to criminals behind bars in order to stimulate
the Australian economy in Kevin Rudd's war against the global financial crisis. And also, I might
add, it's now emerging that dogs and cats may well be in receipt of this money because if a
deceased person's estate was bequeathed to the family pet then they may well receive this money. I
mean this is the absurdity of Rudd Labor.

ELEANOR HALL: That's the shadow treasurer Joe Hockey, ending that report by Hayden Cooper in
Canberra.