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Tuesday, 12 May 2009
Page: 3447

Ms ROXON (Minister for Health and Ageing) (12:12 PM) —I think it is going to be a long morning, with another six items to be introduced. I move:

Excise Tariff Proposal (No. 1) 2009; and

Customs Tariff Proposal (No. 3) 2009.

The excise and customs tariff proposals I have just tabled, which are now being circulated to honourable members, contain alterations to the Excise Tariff Act 1921 and to the Customs Tariff Act 1995. The proposals place before the parliament changes to both acts to increase the rate of excise and customs duty applying to other excisable beverages not exceeding 10 per cent by volume of alcohol to $69.16 per litre of alcohol content, with effect on and from 14 May 2009. This is the same rate that currently applies to full-strength spirits.

The tariff proposals form part of the government’s plan for the alcopops measure that the Treasurer and I announced on 15 April last year and we recommitted to the steps that we intend to take in the House, today and in the future, again in April this year. The government is committed to the original alcopops measure to raise the rate of duty on these products as announced on 26 April 2008. These tariff proposals will ensure that revenue continues to be collected for all spirits at the same rate, whether they are consumed as alcopops or full-strength spirits. In the absence of these proposals the rate of duty on alcopops, and therefore their price, would fall significantly, from $69 per litre of alcohol content to almost $41. The lower price would be expected to reverse the decline in consumption of these drinks. The government remains concerned at the growth in consumption since the tax changes were introduced in 2000, as well as their appeal to young and under-age drinkers and the role they play in encouraging binge drinking.

The impact of the government’s alcopops measures is seen in the 35 per cent fall in the consumption of alcopops and a fall in total spirits consumption between May 2008 and March 2009 compared to the same period in previous years. The measure is working and the fact that the distillers and their dancing marionettes in the Liberal Party are so agitated is really a good indicator of this. Distillers are pulling the strings from just outside the chamber and no doubt the member for Dickson will flail around in mock outrage at this measure.

As part of our response to the Senate’s negativing of the increase in duty on alcopops on 18 March 2009, we are about to introduce bills to validate the collection of duties from 27 April 2008 to 13 May 2009. In that second reading speech, of course, I will outline the government’s approach to tackling binge drinking head-on to again remind the House of steps that have already been taken. The alcopops measure is not a stand-alone measure and never was. It is part of a suite of policy interventions backed by data and backed by the experts. As recently as Sunday, over 50 scientists and health experts signed a letter to the editor of the Medical Journal of Australia applauding the government’s decision to reintroduce the alcopops measure, to validate the revenues collected to date. In fact, I hope we can trust that the opposition will stay true to its word to support that validation legislation in this place and in the other place.

Here is the rub for the Liberal Party: if the effect of the measure is good enough to support up until now, it should be good enough to support into the future. These proposals will start that ball rolling by ensuring the measure does not cease and that revenue will continue to be collected into the future. We will, of course, at a later point have a debate in this House about that ongoing measure. The government will reintroduce the Excise Tariff Amendment (2009 Measures No. 1) Bill 2009 and the Customs Tariff Amendment (2009 Measures No. 1) Bill 2009 later in this sitting to confirm the measure. A summary of the alterations contained in these proposals has been prepared and is being circulated.

Debate (on motion by Mr Dutton) adjourned.