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Monday, 16 March 2009
Page: 1652

Senator FIELDING (Leader of the Family First Party) (10:41 PM) —The government got themselves in a bit of a mess because, if you look at these figures, the cost of mopping up after alcohol is $15.3 billion a year. That is what it is costed at. You look at the statistics and see that there are 4,300 alcohol related deaths a year. Forty per cent of police work is alcohol related. One in five road deaths is alcohol related. And the best that you mob can do is a tax grab. That is insulting. It is a con.

Senator Chris Evans interjecting—

Senator FIELDING —Settle down! Back in September 2007 Family First put forward three real measures to start to address the culture of binge drinking and reinforce a responsible drinking culture through the Alcohol Toll Reduction Bill. Frankly, you have been stalling ever since we introduced the bill. To be absolutely clear, I spoke to the current Prime Minister before he was Prime Minister—and I will not divulge what he said, but I did I raise the issue well before the last election—and I was absolutely gobsmacked to think that the best that you folks could do was pull the tax lever on one product.

The measures that Family First put forward were, firstly, health warning labels on alcohol products. It makes sense; you cannot defend not putting those labels in place. The second measure was to address the crazy exemption given to sports programming which allows alcohol ads to appear any time of the day, and the third one was to get alcohol advertising out of the industry’s hands into the hands of a regulatory body independent of the industry. We have a situation in Australia, through inaction by the Rudd government, that has allowed alcohol and sports to continue to be tied so closely together, and we have seen only in the last few weeks some of the issues that sports have with alcohol. You try to apply a brake, but you have your foot down on the accelerator, allowing alcohol advertising to continue any time of the day because it is during a sports program. Why would you allow that tight link between sport and alcohol when you have clearly got a problem?

You are doing Australian families a disservice and hiding behind a tax grab. You should come clean and say it is a tax measure and maybe get the Treasurer to come and do the negotiations on the tax measure rather than Minister Roxon. In good faith, we have been in discussions with them. We are hoping to see some real action rather than hiding behind a tax grab. I was still hoping that you folks would move on all three measures in that area.

We are left with the situation that money has been collected. The last thing that Family First wants to see is for that money to go back to the industry. I do not think there is anyone in this chamber here who would like that money to go back to the alcohol industry. What we have got before us is a request for an amendment to basically authorise that money to be kept by the government for the year. We do not want any furphies getting out there tomorrow that we want to see the money go back to the industry. I am making it quite clear that this is a request for an amendment so that the money collected up until this measure receives royal assent actually stays with the government. We do not want to camouflage, again, the issues about where the money would go.

Senator Chris Evans —That is not what this does. It also reduces the tax rate.

Senator FIELDING —I am hoping that the Leader of the Government in the Senate does know what is in front of the chamber.

Government senators interjecting—

The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN (Senator Moore)—Order! Senator Fielding has the call. If you wish to make a statement in the committee stage, you can seek the call and have the discussion in that way.

Senator FIELDING —It is not my request for an amendment, by the way, but I am happy to talk to it. It is quite clearly to make sure that the revenue that has been collected by the government stays with the government. I will say that Family First will be moving a further request, beyond this one, that will allow the revenue for the last year to be kept by the government and to be collected for the next six months with a sunset clause. That allows the government another six months.

Some people have come to me saying, ‘Why would you allow the government another six months when they have already had a year to put real action in place? Why would you give them another six months?’ You sit there and you think, ‘Well, gee, you are right. Why would you give them another six months?’ In good faith, though, you want to see whether the government really does want to move on these Family First issues and so we will still be moving our request, but we do want to make sure that the money does stay with the government. The last thing we would want is to see this money go back to the industry.

I think that anyone who votes against this amendment is basically saying that they do not want the government to keep it. That is what this request does. It authorises and legitimises the revenue that has been captured to stay with the government. Others may want the money to be spent on certain areas. The main purpose of this requested amendment is to make sure that the money that has been collected does not go back to the industry and that it stays with the government. I think that I will also talk to the Family First request following the subsequent one to this. I will make it quite clear that this is about making sure that the revenue collected does not go back to the industry and I urge all senators in the chamber to support this request.

Question put:

That the requests (Senator Cormann’s) be agreed to.