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Thursday, 1 June 1972
Page: 2433

Senator RAE (Tasmania) - I will be very brief in concluding my remarks on this Bill. I remind honourable senators that the subject matter of the debate is the proposed action to require certain warnings to be given on television and radio broadcasting, in some such form as 'medical authorities warn that smoking is a health hazard', at the same time as advertisements for cigarettes are broadcast. 1 commented yesterday before the debate was adjourned that it appeared to me that the step contemplated was singling out one section of the media to bear the cost of a socially desirable programme. The views of some of this small section of the community which has been singled out to bear the cost have been well expressed in a letter which I received from the manager of a relatively small radio station. The letter says:

As I mentioned to you earlier this month, along with 116 other radio station Managers in Australia, I am extremely alarmed at the government's intention to enact legislation to force radio and television commercials for cigarettes, to carry a health warning.

The main concern is the principle involved, the principle which we believe will seriously damage our right to free speech. We believe it wrong to attack a product which your government believes to be a health hazard, through its advertising, whilst it is still quite legal to manufacture and sell the product without any restriction. We appreciate the reason for your concern for the health of the young people in the community, but even after this legislation comes into effect, it will still be possible to purchase cigarettes in milk bars, supermarkets and school shops, as it has always been. 1 appreciate that the general public will not be greatly concerned about cigarette advertising. Habitual smokers will still be able to buy cigarettes and non-smokers probably would not even notice the withdrawal of the advertising, and if they do they probably would not care too much.

The loss of revenue from advertising, which will result, is not our main concern, though it will turn a number of smaller stations from barely profitable operations into loss operations, and I do not like the thought of losing this revenue, but our main concern is, as I mentioned, the principle involved. If the officers of the Health Department are so convinced that cigarette smoking is dangerous, then why do not they have the courage to ban the manufacture and sale of cigarettes? The announcement was made without any prior consultation with our industry representatives, and our subsequent representations to the minister appear to have been completely ignored.

It is, I believe, a generally held view in our industry that this would be a far fairer, and more effective way of solving the problem. T do not believe that this legislation will achieve anything more than a temporary pacification of a small pressure group. I understand that in the United States where cigarette advertising is completely banned, manufacturers have found other (but more expensive) means of attracting attention to their products, with the result that cigarette sales are reported to be up by 17 per cent.

This is all rather ironical when you consider that this same Health Department has asked the mass media in Australia to help them (voluntarily) with the increasing problems of drug abuse in Australia. I quote the Deputy Director General of Health, Dr L. J. Wienholt- 'We have failed to stop it and we need your help', and 'we plead with you to help us before it is too late'. The result of this plea has been the setting up of various State Media Advisory Committees on Drug Education, representative of all mass media. I have been elected to be the Tasmanian radio representative on this committee, and the principal aim of this committee will be given our complete support. 1 believe a very important principle is at stake, because if this legislation goes through, then the way will be clear for the government to enact similar legislation in respect of any product, any minority group might consider to be a health hazard in some form or other. It may sound ridiculous but it would be possible to present a convincing argument, supporting the banning of electricity as a health hazard in homes. Further to that, if this legislation is passed, then the group who consider that dairy products cause heart disease could ask for similar legislation, and so on for cars, to which many deaths among young people can be attributed, to alcohol, which, with some people, can lead to alcoholism which is a health hazard. The future possibilities can make the mind boggle. . . .

That letter sets out some of the thoughts of the operators in this section of the community which has been singled out to bear the cost, by way of less of revenue, on behalf of the community. I simply make these remarks in order that further consideration can be given by the Government to the operation of this ban so that if it is considered that the ban is not succeeding in its objective perhaps the position can be rectified before too much damage is done to the individuals who have to bear the cost on behalf of the community. I do not support the amendment moved by. the Opposition. The complete banning of all cigarette and tobacco advertising has not been shown to be justified.' If' one is in doubt about whether it is justified to require the health warning to be given in this way, which amounts to a near ban on television and radio advertising, how much greater doubt would one have as to the advisability of a complete ban of all advertising?

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