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Wednesday, 4 June 2008
Page: 4445

Mr HOCKEY (2:18 PM) —My question is to the Prime Minister. Will the Prime Minister confirm Treasury advice before estimates in the Senate that the Department of Health and Ageing was not even consulted before the $3.1 billion alcopop tax was introduced? Is this the Prime Minister’s idea of evidence-based health policy? Prime Minister, doesn’t this just prove that the initiative is just a tax grab and the government does not have a plan to address teenage binge drinking?

Mr RUDD (Prime Minister) —I thank very much the member for North Sydney for his question. What we have seen in the period since the measure has been increased, I am advised, is that there has been a 39 per cent decrease in dark spirit based drinks and a 37 per cent decrease in light spirit based drinks. That is one thing. Of course, there have been increases in other categories of drinks.

Opposition members interjecting—

Mr RUDD —That is true. The question, though, is what is happening in this particular category and what the overall impact is.

Opposition members interjecting—

The SPEAKER —Order! The question has been asked and the Prime Minister is answering it.

Mr RUDD —Of course, this is early data. We are talking about a month’s worth of data. That is the first thing. The second thing is that this government is determined to act on binge drinking. Those opposite stand on the side of the distilleries on this question. We believe that the responsible course of action lies in acting in the face of the data that we have received, and the data we have received shows that ready-to-drink products targeted at girls and young women have seen a 23 per cent growth since 2005. On top of that, we have seen a 250 per cent increase in RTD sales since the Howard government created a tax loophole back in 2000. So what you can do is: ignore that data, ignore the social problem and ignore the public statements by the police commissioners of the nation and do as those opposite are doing and simply wave a white flag—or act as this government has decided to act.

Mr Pyne —Mr Speaker. I rise on a point of order. Under standing order 104 the Prime Minister was asked a specific question about whether the advice of the Department of Health and Ageing was sought before the alcopops’ introduction—

The SPEAKER —The honourable member will resume his seat. The question then went on to another two parts, which opens very widely the ability for the Prime Minister to be totally relevant to the question. The Prime Minister has the call. The Prime Minister has finished? The member for Sturt was very lucky to get the call.

Dr Nelson —The Prime Minister was citing data from papers that he was reading. Would he please table those for us?

The SPEAKER —Was the Prime Minister quoting from documents? Are the documents confidential? The documents are confidential.