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Monday, 28 February 2011
Page: 1556

Ms LIVERMORE (12:58 PM) —Like my Labor colleagues, I am very pleased to be able to add my support for the Tobacco Advertising Prohibition Amendment Bill 2010. I am sure they, like me, are very proud to be part of a government that has made tackling smoking rates and tobacco one of the major priorities in our health reform package. A lot of what we are doing to regulate tobacco, including prohibiting advertising and increasing the excise on tobacco products last year, have come out of the recommendations of the National Preventative Health Strategy. This is definitely something that is part of our broader health reform program—where preventative health is seen as a key to not only improving the quality of life of people but also making sure that our health budget in Australia is able to meet the future demands that are going to be placed on it. We really need to make sure that as a government we send clear signals and provide relevant assistance to people right across the community so they can take more responsibility for their health and improve their own health and wellbeing.

The bill before us today is the Tobacco Advertising Prohibition Amendment Bill 2010. This bill takes Australia further down the road that we have been on for some decades now in restricting and regulating the advertising of tobacco products. Australia has had a really good record in bringing down smoking rates over the past few years, and it is common sense that a big part of that reduction in smoking rates could be attributed to the tightening of tobacco advertising that has happened through successive pieces of legislation.

We have heard from previous speakers that this very much goes back to the 1970s when the first national ban was imposed on direct tobacco advertising on radio and television. There were all sorts of loopholes and ways around that particular regulation in those days, and so there have been iterations over the following decades to try to tighten these up. In 1989 the Commonwealth government imposed a ban on print advertising of tobacco products, and in 1992, an attempt was made through the Tobacco Advertising Prohibition Act to close some of those loopholes and to get some uniformity across Australia because different things were appearing in different states and this allowed advertising of tobacco products to happen through the backdoor. So in 1992 the Tobacco Advertising Prohibition Act was introduced, and since then it has become the primary vehicle governing the advertising of tobacco products in Australia. It makes it an offence to give publicity to or to promote tobacco products.

Since then we have seen the explosion of new media technologies. Advertising and communication can now happen in ways that were not even dreamt of in 1992. Of course the use of the internet and social media sites have become very popular ways of communicating, particularly in getting messages across to young people, so that is where the Australian government has seen a need to act and that has brought about this bill. This bill is about clearing up any ambiguity that might still be in place about the legality of people advertising tobacco products on the internet. The amendment we are debating today makes it a specific offence to advertise tobacco products on the internet and all other electronic media and future technologies, unless such advertising complies with state or territory legislation or with Commonwealth regulations.

Section 34 of the act allows:

The Governor-General may make regulations prescribing matters:

(a)   required or permitted by this Act to be prescribed; or

(b)   necessary or convenient to be prescribed for carrying out or giving effect to this Act.

It is proposed that regulations will be made under the act to prescribe specific requirements as to the size, content, format and location of tobacco advertisements; the inclusion of health warnings; warnings about age restrictions on the sale of tobacco products; information about any fees, taxes and charges payable in relation to tobacco products; and age-restricted access systems for access to tobacco advertisements. The maximum penalty for each of those offences is $13,200.

We see this as an important part of our overall strategy in reducing smoking in Australia: 2.9 million Australians smoke each day and smoking continues to be the leading cause of preventable deaths in Australia. Each year smoking kills 15,000 Australians and costs the economy more than $31 billion. The Labor government has made this a priority in our preventative health strategy, and we have already taken the lead in things like the increase in tobacco excise. It was the first increase in tobacco excise, above inflation, in more than a decade—an increase of 25 per cent.

We are really trying to tackle the use of tobacco with everything at our disposal as a government, and we need to make sure that everything is pointing in the same direction, so we are increasing the cost of tobacco products as an incentive for people to give up smoking. We are also, through the legislation that is before the House today, making sure that we strictly regulate the advertising and promotion of tobacco, particularly to young people. As has been well-publicised, we have also foreshadowed that legislation will come before this House later this year to introduce plain packaging of cigarettes and tobacco products—a world first. That is going to be a major step forward in the regulation of tobacco in this country, and another part of the government’s determination to bring smoking rates down below the already internationally low rates that we have here in Australia.

We have also seen the start of a major advertising campaign. We saw the start of the new ads focusing on the health effects of smoking earlier this year. These are all things that have been recommended by the National Preventive Health Taskforce, and we really do remain committed to bringing down the smoking rates and doing everything we need to do as a government to make that happen.

There is one important thing I have neglected to mention which also came into effect earlier this year, and it underscores the fact that this is a very comprehensive policy agenda. At the start of the year we also added nicotine patches to the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme, making sure that people who want to reduce or quit smoking are given every assistance to do so. If they are low-income earners they are able to get those products very affordably, thanks to the subsidy under the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme.

As I have said before, I am very proud to be part of a government that has made this a priority. As the member for Greenway pointed out, it is often the people in our electorates who can least afford tobacco products and the kinds of treatment that would be required if they were diagnosed with cancer or other health effects of daily smoking. We really owe it to them to stand up to tobacco companies and make it as difficult as possible for them to get their message out and recruit new smokers and new consumers for their products. This is what this legislation today is all about. I am really pleased that it is part of a comprehensive package of measures, including the excise increase last year and the addition of nicotine patches to the PBS. I cannot wait to debate the bill later on in the year. That will see Australia take the lead in this area of tobacco regulation, by introducing the plain packaging of cigarettes. In the meantime, I commend this current bill to the House.