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Thursday, 18 May 1972
Page: 2815

Mr SHERRY (Franklin) - I do not intend to take up a great deal of the time of the House tonight with a long and protracted debate on the merits or otherwise of this Bill. I concur with what has been said by my colleague the honourable member for Oxley (Mr Hayden). 1 find myself to a very great degree in agreement with what has been said by the honourable member for Isaacs (Mr Hamer), but he spoiled a very good story. He made out a very cogent argument for the attitude of the Government. He made out an equally devastating statistical medical argument for a total ban on cigarettes and tobacco. At the end of his speech he spoilt the whole essence of his argument because he could not resist the inevitable temptation, which falls upon all the Liberals, to oppose any measure that is put forward by the Opposition. I regret that he used the word sham' when he referred to the Australian Labor Party's policy on this issue. I think it was unworthy of him and completely unjustified.

It has been made quite clear over the years that the Opposition has felt that a measure of this kind - although we do not oppose it, we do not think it goes quite far enough - was more than welcome not only to people in this House but also to the community generally. It has in fact been Labor policy for a great number of years. What is intriguing, however, is the remarkable haste with which this legislation has been introduced. I clearly remember the Treasurer (Mr Snedden) in this very chamber only a short time ago, in answer to a question, disputing the medical evi dence that was submitted in the second reading speech of the Postmaster-General (Sir Alan Hulme). It is in Hansard. I think it is worthy of perusal. The PostmasterGeneral said:

The relationship of cigarette smoking with pulmonary and cardiovascular disease, including lung cancer, heart disease, chronic bronchitis and emphysema, is accepted beyond doubt by major international and Australian medical organise tions and the National Health and Med:c:il Research Council.

That evidence was disputed in this chamber just a few weeks ago by the Treasurer. Let me go further and say that I recall a Press handout from the Minister for Health (Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson) in another place as late as March of this year in which he made it perfectly clear that legislation of the type now being introduced certainly would not be introduced nor had it then been contemplated. That was only a couple of months ago. However, I am delighted to see that the medical and expert research so cogently presented has at last been accepted by the Government.

I do not intend to traverse the ground already covered by the honourable member for Oxley and the honourable member for Isaacs. I think it would be dull to repeat it. They have made a very sound case for the action that has been taken. In his second reading speech the Postmaster-General indicated that one of the proposals of the Government would be that the Commonwealth would provide $500,000 a year for 3 years commencing on 1st July this year for this particular purpose. In my view, $500,000 is not nearly substantial enough. However, I concede that it is certainly a step in the right direction. I would like to quote briefly from the latest statistics I have been able to obtain on the estimated revenue to the media from advertising of tobacco products for the year ended 1969. It tells a very interesting story. In 1969 the total Press revenue from such advertising was $811,936 - almost $lm.

Then we come to the fascinating figure for metropolitan television stations, country television stations and metropolitan radio stations. We find that for metropolitan television stations, or capital city stations, the estimated revenue in 1969 was $6,962,499 - almost $7m. For country television stations - this is causing some concern to my Country Party colleagues and I can see the concern - the estimated revenue was $1,390,658. The total television revenue at the end of 1969 was $8im. I have no doubt that at the end of 1972 it will have exceeded that figure. The grand total of revenue for radio and television at the end of 1969 was almost $llm. This is a very considerable amount of revenue, a great proportion of which television licensees will have to forgo. It is not unreasonable to expect that a degree of responsibility and a degree of flexibility should be shown by the various stations in approaching this problem.

One of the difficulties that I have had in speaking in this debate is that only about 10 days ago the Federation of Commercial Broadcasting Stations, through one of its senior spokesmen, indicated quite clearly and conceded that discussions had taken place between the Government and the Minister. However, the information that I have is that the legislation that has been introduced is not strictly in line with the recommendation made by the Federation. But 1, do not wish to pursue that matter at any great length. I merely suggest that there is a slightly disturbed feeling that these negotiations entered into - I take it, quite freely - were not strictly conducted along the lines that the Federation would have wished. I think it is reasonable to assume from the figures I have quoted that it is logical and human for the television and radio people to feel that in some way they have been discriminated against. It is a point of view that cannot be dismissed idly. That is why the Opposition has taken the view that the advertising of cigarettes and cigarette tobacco should not only be banned from the most influential media, or perhaps the most persuasive of the media - that is, radio and television - but that the ban should also be extended to the newspapers if the Government is going to be consistent in its approach. I do not think that there is a great deal of dispute on this side of the House or on the other side of the House about the necessity for this legislation. I find from looking at the newspapers' share of the revenue that there is no doubt that the small percentage that the Press enjoys at the moment will be increased substantially once the advertising is diverted from radio and television to the newspapers. That is the only mild criticism I have.

The Opposition would like to see a positive campaign in this direction against all of the media. It seems to me somewhat ludicrous to expect to embark on an educational programme, warning people of the very great dangers of cigarette smoking, when you concentrate wholly and solely on one section of the advertising media and you are prepared to neglect the other. There is certainly an inconsistency. As I have said before, it must be conceded that perhaps some of the licensees will take the view that they have been discriminated against. I am obliged to imagine that the figure of revenue for the Press could quadruple after this legislation becomes law. I am wondering whether we are being a little timid or inhibited in our approach to the newspapers and the Press generally in regard to this measure. There may well be some constitutional deterrent that causes this inhibition. However, I dp not know whether this is so. Be that as it may, one can only agree with the general proposition that certainly cigarette and tobacco smoking is a health hazard.

I do not intend to take my full time in this debate because I know that many other honourable members are tremendously keen to put their point of view. I conclude on the note that I agree with the terms of the amendment moved by the honourable member for Oxley. I take the very strong stand that, in face and in view of the overwhelming evidence presented, the advertising of cigarettes and cigarette smoking on radio and television should not be propagated with such a lavish and expensive presentation by the media directly coming within the ambit of this legislation. I merely repeat that I am most disappointed that the Government, to use the phrase of the honourable member for Isaacs, took a middle course. The longer one is in thu chamber the more one gets used to this Government taking the middle course.

Mr Bryant - It is usually in reverse.

Mr SHERRY - As my honourable friend interjects, it is usually in reverse. That may well be. As a matter of fact, I was rather terrified that following the events of the last 36 hours this legislation might well sink ingloriously to the bottom of the sea.

Mr Grassby - Or the notice paper.

Mr SHERRY - Yes. 1 support the amendment moved on behalf of the Opposition. I think that the Government's measure is worth-while and timely. However, the legislation does not go far enough or is wide enough in grappling with the problems of a very terrifying health hazard especially to young people in the community.

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