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Tuesday, 12 May 2009
Page: 3464

Ms ROXON (Minister for Health and Ageing) (1:26 PM) —in reply—I thank the members who contributed to this debate on the Excise Tariff Validation Bill 2009 and cognate bill: the member for Dickson, the member for Petrie and the member for Mayo. We do welcome assurances from the member for Dickson that these two validation bills will be supported. I am not entirely sure, on the basis of the contribution from the member for Mayo, whether he is supporting that position or not. It seems that the main thing he would like us to do is to legalise ecstasy so we could tax it. It seemed a strange sort of contribution to the debate, but I do acknowledge that both he and the member for Dickson are raising a legitimate concern about illicit drug use. This bill does not deal with those issues—

Mr Briggs —Madam Deputy Speaker, on a point of order—

The DEPUTY SPEAKER (Ms AE Burke)—The point of order must be on relevance to the bill. If the member is seeking to address something else, there are other forms of the House.

Mr Briggs —The Minister for Health and Ageing knows I did not say that.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER —The member for Mayo may resume his seat. There is no point of order.

Ms ROXON —I point out, although it is not relevant to the debate before us—it is relevant to the very lengthy contributions from previous members—that the government has in recent weeks relaunched a very targeted advertising campaign which was initially run by the previous government. It has been updated because of some changed circumstances. The campaign cost $17.4 million and, of course, there are many hundreds of millions of dollars more for drug treatment programs and a range of interventions in this area. We stand ready and prepared to talk about these issues and to take action on these issues. We remain just as committed as the previous government was to tackling this very real problem. But let us not pretend that this bill will be able to deal with illegal substances. It is a bill that deals with the tax and excise rates for products which are legal but which nevertheless can cause enormous harm in this country.

It seems that those opposite simply cannot accept that a tax measure can have a health impact. That is the fundamental difference between us. We are using the tax system to deliver a health impact which we believe benefits the community. I am very pleased that, as a result of the Liberal Party’s position today in the House and we hope in the Senate, $424 million will not be returned to the pockets of the distillers. It will mean that the money will be available to be used in funding important health initiatives. Of course, there is still a key difference between the government and the Liberal Party on the ongoing issue of this tax rate into the future. That will be a debate for another time. However, I would emphasise that the government remains as committed as it always has to pursuing this into the future. We understand that it will be dealt with by the House and by the other place separately, but I commend this legislation to the House and thank members again for their contribution to the debate.

Question agreed to.

Bill read a second time.