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Transcript of doorstop: 23 June 2009: Alcopops backflip; dental health scheme; fake email scandal.



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THE HON NICOLA ROXON MP MINISTER FOR HEALTH AND AGEING

TRANSCRIPT OF DOORSTOP - 23 JUNE 2009

E & OE - PROOF ONLY

Subjects: Alcopops backflip, dental health scheme, fake email scandal

NICOLA ROXON: Thank you for coming this morning, I just wanted to make a few comments about the alcopops measure, obviously we are very pleased that this measure passed the House of Reps last night, with the support of Mr Turnbull and the Liberal Party, but it is clear to us that Mr Turnbull doesn't, and is not able, to control his Liberal and Coalition colleagues. We saw five people vote against the Bill in the House, and obviously it's due in the Senate in the coming days.

I understand now that the National Party leader, Barnaby Joyce, has said that he won't be voting for this measure, so even though we will be delighted if the Senate passes this Bill, and it is after 12 months, pleasing that Mr Turnbull is

showing some guts in separating themselves from the distillers, we still see the party as a schemozzle, there are divisions in all directions, and I think Mr Turnbull's leadership is clearly under pressure, and this is just another example of him being unable to hold his people to a single position.

Now if the bill gets through, it will be a great benefit to the community, that's why we have persisted to argue so strongly for this measure, but we have one more hurdle to go, and that's to get it through the Senate, and we really don't know whether Mr Turnbull is going to be able to persuade his colleagues in the Senate to vote for this measure.

QUESTION: So there's a real danger this Bill might fail again?

NICOLA ROXON: I am happy to take Mr Turnbull at his word, Mr Dutton of course scurried out to do a press conference while Mr Turnbull was on his feet, announcing this embarrassing back flip for the Bill, but ultimately the back flip, embarrassing as it may be for the Liberal Party, will ultimately be good for the community, and I hope that they will be able to persuade their Senate colleagues to vote for this measure, it will mean that alcopops will not be cheaper for young people to buy, that will be a good thing, it means we will have revenue to spend on a range of preventative health measures.

We intend, if this legislation is passed, to honour the commitments that were made to the Greens, and Senator Xenophon, but this Bill is not yet passed, and we're obviously awaiting the outcome in the Senate.

QUESTION: So would you expect some sort of strong reaction from the

alcohol lobby, they've been fairly vocal so far?

NICOLA ROXON: Well, I think the distilling industry have campaigned very hard for this, and the reason they have campaigned hard against us, is because this measure was working, it was affecting their revenue, and they were putting their profits, and their business interests, ahead of the health of

young people.

I am sure that they will continue to argue strongly against this measure, but I am pleased that Mr Turnbull has seen that that was unsustainable, that protecting young peoples' health, and having this as part of our tackling of alcohol abuse in the community was important, and obviously the distilling industry, like any other, will have to deal with the laws as they exist in this country.

QUESTION: Are you looking for Mr Turnbull to come out again today and reaffirm his commitment to this legislation, or not to oppose this legislation?

NICOLA ROXON: I would hope that having made that decision yesterday, the deliberations appear to take them 12 months, that they've been arguing vehemently against it, I wouldn't expect him to have changed his mind

overnight, and obviously this is something that was hard-fought between him and his shadow minister, who has been very close to the distilling industry throughout this whole debate, but they have now voted in the House, it has passed the House with the support of the Liberal Party, albeit not all of the Liberal Party, and certainly not all of the National Party.

You've got to remember, one of the members who went and voted in the House was the Member for Gippsland, this is a man who won a by-election with an advertising campaign paid for and run by the distillers, opposing this tax, so we know, coming back to your question, that the industry wants to fight

hard on this, but the Government is determined to keep working on its preventative health measures, of which this is just one, to make sure that we can improve the health status of the community.

And that means tackling alcohol and tobacco, obesity, a range of other challenges, and as I say, our focus is on getting this measure through the Senate.

I hope Mr Turnbull will be able to keep his party in line, but I think his mind might have been elsewhere, and if he can put his energies into some of the legislation that is before the Parliament, and before the Senate, that would actually be better for the community.

QUESTION: Minister, one of the budget measures which is yet to go anywhere, is the Dental Health Scheme. Now the election promise that was made, I mean in the budget papers they allow for a 1 July start date, that's only 10 days away, how are you going to introduce the Bill to the House, the Senate, when is it going to start, and why the delay?

NICOLA ROXON: Well, we would like it to start, we wanted it to start on 1 July last year, the Senate has twice voted against our proposed closure of the Chronic Disease Dental Scheme, in order to fund and pay for our election commitments for a Commonwealth Dental Scheme, we don't have any commitments from the Senate that they would not again disallow that, and unfortunately we are caught in a stand-off with them, which I don't believe is benefiting the community.

But the Government has to be able to pursue its measures, as we've done with alcopops, we will continue to look at ways that we might be able to persuade the Senate to change their minds, we have to put in the budget our best projections of what we would like to do and hope we will be able to do, but we do not control the numbers in the Senate, and that is a barrier.

QUESTION: Minister...

NICOLA ROXON: Just a couple more, I've got caucus I've got to get to.

QUESTION: One clarification, when will you be sending this to the Senate, and the other question is, you said it passed Lower House with the support of the Liberals, in the end they abstained, so really, are they cowards, are they running away from the backflip they were forced to do?

NICOLA ROXON: I think Mr Dutton's display of announcing this measure while his leader was on his feet, supposedly debating a very important censure motion in the House, shows that they are embarrassed about this backflip, but ultimately, it's taken them 12 months to execute the backflip, now they have to be prepared to actually stand up and be counted for it. They didn't do that in the House, and they will need to do that in the Senate. And certainly I will be calling on Mr Turnbull and Mr Dutton, to make sure that their colleagues do do that in the Senate.

Now we don't control the timing in the Senate, obviously the CPRS is still being debated, we would hope that this measure can be in the House - in the Senate, as soon as possible, but I can't give you the date, it will be this week.

QUESTION: It will be?

NICOLA ROXON: Yes, it will be this week.

QUESTION: Thanks.

NICOLA ROXON: Okay, last one?

QUESTION: The fact that the email at the centre of this scandal, the OzCar scandal, has - it's fake, has let Kevin Rudd off the hook, but there's a lot of evidence against Wayne Swan, the Opposition's continuing to call for his resignation, why shouldn't the Treasurer resign?

NICOLA ROXON: Well I think it's absolutely clear that Wayne has acted

properly, he has explained in great detail to the media, through question time, in the censure debates, his actions, he's released multiple emails, and I think has made his case clearly that as the Treasurer, he was of course concerned about the situation of financing for car dealers around the country, as the Treasurer interested in the problems that businesses were having, of course he was going to have interactions, I think that's all been well explained.

I think the real question is, is Mr Turnbull, having relied on a fake email, now prepared to let the public, or to let the police, investigate and open up access to their computer system? What involvement has there been of the Liberal Party, if any, in this affair?

They went hard and early using a fake email, and we would like Mr Turnbull to be able to assure the community that he was not involved in any way in the production, or passing on of that email, and I think if they don't make their computer system available for the authorities to examine, that the question mark will be hanging over him, not Mr Swan.

ENDS