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Thursday, 18 May 1972
Page: 2819

Mr CORBETT (Maranoa) - The honourable member for Riverina (Mr Grassby) who has just resumed his seat has given a very good example of the general lack of interest or concern of members of the Labor Party for the welfare of people who live in the country areas, including people who operate country radio and television stations and. indeed, the tobacco producers. This example does not surprise me, but I do not know that I have ever heard it explained more fully than it was by the honourable member for Riverina. As my time is somewhat limited, I should like first of all to commend those people who are anxious to improve the health of the Australian community. I strongly support this objective. I commend the Government foi the amendment that the Postmaster-General (Sir Alan Hulme) will move to alter the words of warning which is to be given which, while being just as effective, is more compact and, therefore, more desirable. I propose to support the amendment.

However, I am concerned with some aspects of the Bill. I contend that a mere announcement following an advertisement on radio or television will not have a significant effect on the consumption of cigarette tobacco. This view is supported by evidence, which I shall bring forward in this debate. Furthermore, I cannot agree that there is any real urgency to introduce this legislation. I know that there is a need to take into consideration the health of the nation, but this is not the only aspect of the problem. When we decide to adopt measures in connection with this matter, we must ensure that we adopt the correct ones. We must be sure that what we are doing achieves in the best way the objective for which we are aiming.

I believe that more consultations with the broadcasting industry would have produced beneficial results. That industry has views which are helpful and it has proved its co-operation previously. I am strongly of the opinion that the most effective measure which could be taken to achieve the objective of assisting the health of the people through the reduction of lung cancer is the first measure which was mentioned in the Postmaster-General's second reading speech. He said:

.   . to conduct through the Commonwealth Department of Health in association with the States an education programme aimed at informing the public of the dangers to health of cigarette smoking. The Commonwealth will provide $500,000 a year for 3 years commencing 1st July 1972 for this purpose.

I believe that this is the key to the situation and the method we should adopt because not only will it be effective, if anything will be effective, in achieving this objective, but also we will be able to apply it to any other health hazard that faces this country without infringing on the rights of anybody in any other field. To my way of thinking, that is a very important matter in the approach to a democratic way of life.

Mr Bryant - But you wanted to ban "The Little Red Schoolbook*.

Mr CORBETT - The honourable member for Wills has had a lot to say and it has not been worth listening to. So, if he will allow me to have my 10 minutes I will be happy. I believe that this educational programme should be expanded even further. One means by which this could be done would be through consultation with the Federation of Australian Commercial Broadcasters. This organisation has shown its willingness to act responsibly in this field, as witness its acceptance of a voluntary code for advertising on radio and television. In view of that, surely it would be reasonable to expect that co-operation with the Government in its educational policy would be forthcoming again.

I agree also with another comment made in the Postmaster-General's second reading speech. He said:

.   . this Government's philosophy rates very highly the freedom of individuals to decide for themselves, within the broad framework of our democratic society, matters concerning their own well-being.

This is something that is worthy of note. The Minister continued:

Accordingly it is not recognised as a role of this Government to impose prohibitions on people's freedom of choice except for the most compelling national reasons.

I agree with that. I believe that when one considers the doubts about the efficacy of putting restrictions on radio and television advertisements one can only conclude that this method would perhaps have insufficient effect to justify its use. I have argued that the proposed restriction on all radio and television advertising of cigarettes will be ineffectual in reducing the total amount of cigarette smoking but, as other speakers have mentioned - I give them credit for it - there may be reason for believing that a reduction or elimination of this form of advertising would be preferable to a reduction in other means of advertising which are not subject to this restriction. If that view is accepted - I am concerned that it might be accepted - it will be a bitter blow for broadcasters who are only too well aware that restrictions on radio advertising, particularly if the restrictions are modified in their application to other media, are doomed to be ineffective.

In my own electorate, if I may be permitted to talk parochially at the moment, there are 2 commercial radio stations. If they are forced to close that will be a distinct loss to the local community which would then have no medium for radio advertising. These stations broadcast local news and sporting events and provide one of the few amenities available in this area and are an important factor in the life of people living in my electorate. If we are really interested in decentralisation surely when we are making provision to cope with one problem we will not cause anomalies which will have an adverse effect in other areas.

Mr Les Johnson (HUGHES, NEW SOUTH WALES) - What does the honourable member put first, capital or cancer?

Mr CORBETT - I emphasise that I do not place even the highly desirable service of commercial radio stations above the health of the nation. My argument is that a restriction on radio and television advertisements will not serve in any significant way to improve the national health level. In support of this contention let me say that since the introduction of the ban on radio and television advertising on 1st January 1971 in the United States, the overall consumption in that country has continued to rise - some researchers have put the rate of increase at 3 per cent. Furthermore, the 1972 report of the Royal College of Physicians in the United Kingdom mentions the example of Russia, where no advertising is allowed - and I hope people will take note of that - and Italy, where a ban was introduced some years ago. In both countries there has been a steady rise in cigarette consumption. I know it is pretty hard to measure the effect of this, or what the rate would have been with it or without it, but it does show that there is reason to have grave doubt as to the effect even of a total ban which the Labor Party would introduce. We are tackling just one health hazard per medium of radio and television. There are other health hazards and one wonders where this sort of restriction will end. I should like to quote a letter that appeared in the Australian' on 12th May last, written by Dr A. I. Adams, senior lecturer in the Department of Preventive and Social Medicine at the University of Sydney. The doctor wrote:

I wish to draw your attention to the implications of the findings reported by Dr Gillies and Dr Skyring in the Medical Journal of Australia i.May 6), on the consumption of aspirin in Sydney .

They found that 8 per cent of males and 15 per cent of females ingest aspirin daily and that regular aspirin-takers among women consume 24 powders or tablets each day. These figures support earlier Australian studies that have linked aspirintaking with our high rates of stomach ulcer and kidney disease.

If we are to have an education programme we could include in it not only the danger of cigarette smoking but also other health hazards. I should like to refer in the brief time that I have remaining to the value of the tobacco industry to my home State of Queensland. The total value of market quota of leaf in 1970-71 was approximately $22,500,000. Apart from the value of this industry to the economy of the State it has a real effect on the welfare, progress and development of towns in areas where it is grown. We must consider this big loss against the effect of this method of trying to control this menace. Much more effort could be spent in trying to produce a tobacco plant which has less tar content than that already used. A public health service study in the United States of America has referred to this possibility and said it was obvious that progressive reduction of tar and nicotine content of cigarette smoke would be of great assistance. My speech tonight has been based mainly on education. I conclude with a quotation from Pope, appropriately enough printed on today's leaf of the desk calendar:

Tis education forms the common mind.

Just as the twig is bent, the tree's inclined'.

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