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Wednesday, 15 June 2011
Page: 6213


Mr SNOWDON (LingiariMinister for Veterans' Affairs, Minister for Defence Science and Personnel and Minister for Indigenous Health) (10:11): You ask me about tobacco initiatives under the budget, which I am happy to respond to. We are expanding in excess of $100 million on tobacco initiatives for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians. We understand, as I am sure you do, that cutting tobacco consumption rates amongst Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people is an absolute must. Around 50 per cent of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people smoke compared to around 16.7 per cent of the general population. If we are to actually close the gap in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander life expectancy, it is imperative that we actually get people off smokes. That requires us doing a range of things. One of those is that we have employed a national Indigenous tobacco coordinator, Tom Calma, to oversee the implementation of our program. We have involved tobacco action workers in 57 regions across Australia and tobacco action coordinators. Their job is to work with the communities to try to, firstly, make people aware of the issues to do with tobacco consumption and its impact upon their health and the health of their communities and, secondly, ensure that they take action to reduce their own smoking rates.

Mr Deputy Speaker, you would be aware that this is no easy task. I know the member opposite is actually interested in this subject, so let me take him to more detail. You know and I know that the diseases associated with tobacco consumption lead to a lot shorter life expectancy amongst Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians through vascular disease, diabetes, heart disease and cancer—the sorts of things that we know kill people. I make no apologies, and I am hoping from the shadow minister's question that he is supporting these initiatives. I assume he is. It is very important, as I say, if we are to close the gap in life expectancy between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians and the rest of the community that we address these sorts of issues.

I know that the member has got a fixation with tobacco companies and I understand that. I am not interested in tobacco companies in this debate. What am I keen on doing is getting consumption rates of tobacco down amongst the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community. We have an objective of halving tobacco consumption rates amongst Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community Australians by the end of the decade. If we can do that, that will make a substantial difference to their life expectancy. If we were to be able to bring down the tobacco consumption rates of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians to what the rest of the population currently is, less than 17 per cent, then it is asserted that we would make a material difference across the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community of increasing life expectancy between four and five years. That would have a material impact upon the health of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians.

Mr Dutton interjecting

Mr SNOWDON: Mr Deputy Speaker, this bloke wants to talk to you.

Mr Dutton: Mr Deputy Speaker, on a point of order on relevance: I asked a specific question of the minister, who either is refusing to answer that part of the question, is embarrassed to do so or does not know the answer to it. Can he please answer that part of the question that related to whether or not he has had contacts with or sort donations from tobacco companies. Why does he refuse to answer?

The DEPUTY SPEAKER: There is no point of order. This is a wide-ranging debate.

Mr SNOWDON: I am responding to budget initiatives in this current budget which go to managing our chronic disease—

Dr Southcott: You are not responding to the question. When did she give it up?

Mr SNOWDON: The relevance of the question is about tobacco and what we are doing for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians. Let me just go to more detail around the general health initiatives for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians. The member should know that we are investing in this budget $1.2 billion in 2011-12 compared to what they did in their last budget in 2006-07, $0.5 billion. This is a substantial growth in investment and we expect to get concrete outcomes from that investment. The government has continued funding of $39.1 million over four years for projects to assist stolen generations. But significantly, going back to the issue that was raised by the shadow minister, we are absolutely focused on bringing down tobacco consumption rates amongst Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians. Do you want to have a discussion about what we are doing to address Aboriginal—through you, Mr Deputy Speaker—

The DEPUTY SPEAKER: Through the chair. I am not wanting to have the discussion with anyone.

Mr SNOWDON: I am assuming that the opposition are genuinely interested in having a discussion about how we close the life expectancy gap between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians and the rest of the community. I am assuming they will want to do that.

Mr Dutton: Stop filibustering.

Mr SNOWDON: And, in the context of this discussion, I am the minister responsible for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health.

Dr Southcott: Where's the minister?

Mr SNOWDON: He asked me a question about Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health. I am endeavouring to answer it. If he is not interested in the answer, he is quite welcome to leave and not even read the Hansard. It will not worry me one little bit. But let us be very clear about it. We are absolutely committed to reducing—

Mr Dutton: Did you receive a donation?

Mr SNOWDON: tobacco consumption rates amongst Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians, and we, through this budget, are going to implement the programs we have announced previously through our chronic disease package. We are investing $805.5 million in that package. Together with the states we are investing $1.6 billion on addressing these issues. We are doing it in partnership with the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community; we are doing it in partnership with state and territory governments. We are having success in doing it. I want to say to the shadow minister: you do more by collaboration, discussion and partnership then you will do by adversarial politics. If you want to have a real discussion about how we improve the life outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, I am pleased to have it. I know the shadow parliamentary secretary is keen on these sorts of issues, had his own experiences working in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities and knows what the priority should be. The person sitting next to him, another medical practitioner, also knows the importance of these measures. I am sure they both share, as I am sure you do—

Mr Dutton: How much did you reduce the rate by? How much?

The DEPUTY SPEAKER: The member for Dickson has had a fairly good opportunity and he may ask another question later.

Mr SNOWDON: He can ask as many questions as he likes. You would know that we have implemented these measures over the last two financial years. Here we have it. We are going to spend $1.6 billion, we have spent in excess of $115 million on tobacco action programs for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people under two different headings and now he wants to know what our results have been now that we are 18 months into it. Give me a break.

Mr Dutton: You're four years into government; give me a break.

Mr SNOWDON: Even you know—

The DEPUTY SPEAKER: Order, please. The member for Dickson will remain silent.

Mr SNOWDON: What I do know is in 2006-07, you invested in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health $0.5 billion. In this year's budget—

The DEPUTY SPEAKER: I think the minister means the former government, not me.