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Monday, 22 June 2009
Page: 6712

Ms RISHWORTH (3:54 PM) —My question is to the Minister for Health and Ageing. Will the minister update the House on the government’s action on alcopops and on recent responses to this action?

Ms ROXON (Minister for Health and Ageing) —I thank the member for Kingston for her question. Of course, on this side of the House we have been arguing for many, many months the importance of this measure that is being introduced into the House again today being passed by the parliament. In addition to the developments that I will come to shortly on the other side of the House, I am very pleased to be able to announce that, as part of our comprehensive strategy in dealing with our binge-drinking culture, we have also today announced an extra $7.1 million which is being allocated across four states for early intervention services to youth with alcohol problems: in the Northern Territory, $2.5 million, particularly targeted to some of our Aboriginal communities; in Tasmania, $700,000; in Victoria, $1.4 million; and, in South Australia, $2.4 million.

This is just another part of our strategy to tackle an increasing problem within our community, but it is something that unfortunately those opposite have persistently sidled up to with the distillers and opposed, month after month after month. For more than 12 months, while were trying to close the loophole on alcopops, we saw the Liberal Party do anything that it could to sidle up to the distilling industry. This is despite 21 health experts, the National Coalition for Action on Alcohol Harm, calling for changes. This is despite the calls from doctors in our emergency departments, from police and from parents across the country. This ignores the fact that this measure, since it has been introduced, has reduced the consumption of alcopops by 35 per cent; there has been an eight per cent fall in overall spirits; and, as the budget papers made clear, there has been a 0.5 per cent fall—or, to put it in language that people can more clearly understand, 720,000 fewer standard drinks per week have been consumed as a result of this measure. That is a success in anybody’s terms.

The member for Dickson and the Leader of the Opposition have been all over the place. Even from, if people remember, the former Leader of the Opposition and the former health spokesperson—we have had more positions than you can possibly imagine from those opposite on this alcopops measure. But today we have seen the triple pike performed, a gold-medal-winning performance from the member for Dickson. He chose the opportunity, if anybody would think about the events today—

Ms Macklin —The timing was great!

Ms ROXON —He chose the timing perfectly to announce this backflip. When Mr Turnbull, the Leader of the Opposition, was on his feet outside the doors, the member for Dickson scurried to do a press conference to announce that the Liberal Party was now, finally, going to support our alcopops measure. We congratulate you for being prepared now, at last, to support his sensible measure. We congratulate you for the very clever timing of this—to detract from this embarrassing humiliation for the member for Dickson.

What was interesting in his press conference announcing this was that the member for Dickson did try to say that the Liberal Party was supporting this measure but, on questioning from journalists, could not actually guarantee that was how all of his coalition members would vote. There is such a mess opposite at the moment that it was impossible, apparently, for the shadow minister to make any commitment about how his colleagues in the Liberal Party and in the National Party were actually going to vote.

But I would like to congratulate the opposition for finally seeing the merit in this measure—720,000 fewer standard drinks per week as a result of this measure is something that is having a positive health impact. It is a shame it took them so long to wake up to this reality, but we will welcome their vote for it when the matter is debated later today.