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Joint Standing Committee on Electoral Matters
08/08/2011
Funding of political parties and election campaigns

DAUBE, Professor Mike, President, Australian Council on Smoking and Health Australia; and Director, McCusker Centre for Action on Alcohol and Youth

GREENLAND, Mr Rohan James, Government Relations Director, National Heart Foundation of Australia

SWANSON, Mr Maurice Gerard, Honorary Secretary, Australian Council on Smoking and Health Australia

Evidence from Professor Daube and Mr Swanson was taken via teleconference—

[11:35]

CHAIR: Thank you for your attendance. Although the committee does not require any of you to give evidence under oath, I advise you that these hearings are legal proceedings of the parliament and therefore have the same standing as proceedings of the respective houses. The committee has received submissions from the National Heart Foundation and the Australian Council on Smoking and Health. I invite you to make an opening statement.

Prof. Daube : I would like to comment briefly. Our specific concern here is with tobacco. We in different capacities may comment on other areas, but we are specifically concerned about tobacco. Tobacco, as you would be aware, is unique. It is the largest preventable cause of death and disease in our community. One in two long-term smokers will die because they smoked. There are some encouraging trends, but it is still a massive health problem.

The tobacco industry is also unique. It is the world's most lethal industry. The Australian tobacco industry is entirely owned and run from outside Australia. We are concerned that, although there are encouraging trends, the intent of the parliament when it banned tobacco advertising was specifically to get rid of tobacco advertising. We believe there was a major loophole there that permitted other forms of promotion. Political donations are another form of promotion. The tobacco industry gives for the purpose of influencing. I refer you to the British American Tobacco website, which in relation to political donations specifically says:

Such payments can only be made for the purpose of influencing the debate on issues affecting the company or Group …

It is noteworthy that for the entire global British American Tobacco network, where they gave £114,000 to political parties in the last reporting year, £111,000 of those went to Australian political parties.

The tobacco industry's influence over the years has been malign in terms of opposing and delaying any measures that might reduce smoking. They have been significant donors over the years—initially to all parties; it is now more limited but still to some parties. The purpose of the donations is very clear. The impacts are not necessarily publicly visible but there is clearly an expectation of access, influence and favourable treatment. Through once confidential tobacco industry documents that are now available on the web there are many examples of how tobacco companies over the years have sought to influence governments in Australia. We can specifically send you a report produced from Western Australia that provides some examples of those.

So in our context this is not only an evil industry that is peddling deadly drugs; it uses any possible means it can to influence. It has been found guilty of racketeering in the US. The dirty tricks campaigns are quite remarkable. There is even evidence: for example, the CEO of the Tobacco Institute testified in the US that the Tobacco Institute in Australia rummaged through the rubbish bins of anti-smoking organisations to try to get useful information. They work through front organisations, and this is a major concern for us. There is evidence revealed in the media recently that tobacco companies are involved in setting up and working through front organisations established purely for the purpose of lobbying for tobacco companies.

In summary, we believe that there is no place for political donations from tobacco companies. There is no justification for permitting tobacco companies to engage in any form of promotion, and that includes lobbying. Voluntary agreements alone are not enough; there should be specific legislation banning all tobacco companies from lobbying and from making political donations. We do not know how much they are giving. There is substantial evidence from the information that is publicly available about how much they have given, but of course some of that inevitably will not be covered because of the caps and because we do not know how much is going through front organisations. Our recommendation to the committee is, in sum, that there should be a ban on all forms of direct and indirect donations by tobacco companies to political parties in Australia.

CHAIR: Thank you, Professor Daube. Mr Swanson, do you have anything additional to add to Professor Daube's comments?

Mr Swanson : I do not have anything in a general nature to add to what Professor Daube said, but I have a very good example of how the industry operates, if you would like me to give that.

CHAIR: How long will that take?

Mr Swanson : It would take a couple of minutes to give it to you.

CHAIR: Okay, if you could do that now.

Mr Swanson : In 1991, the Ministerial Council on Drug Strategy made a decision to introduce new, stronger, word-based health warnings on cigarette packages. I have before me, and I can provide for your committee, a copy of a memorandum faxed from Geoffrey Bible, who was the then CEO of Philip Morris based in New York, to his counterpart, Phil Francis, who was the director of corporate affairs for Philip Morris in Australia at the time. In the memo from Phil Francis to Geoffrey Bible, he is giving a rundown on the progress of the industry in lobbying to defeat the decision of the Ministerial Council on Drug Strategy. I will just read a couple of quotes from that first. He said, 'He met with me in my capacity as director of health promotion services at the time.' He says:

The objective was to firstly "buy time" and to secondly, disrupt the existing regulations by forcing amendments.

Each state was required to draft regulations to put into place the health warnings under their own existing tobacco legislation. One other quote from Phil Francis:

As Western Australia is taking the lead (among all the States) in drafting uniform regulations, yesterday's meeting will slow down other States moving to drafted regulations.

So you can see just from those two quotes the intent of the meetings was to undermine the decisions of all health ministers in Australia to implement new, stronger health warnings. In his reply to Phil Francis, Geoffrey Bible says:

This doesn't sound good at all. Especially "WA taking the lead …". Seems: (1) WA is going ahead with warning label despite Court's assurances—

He is referring there to the then Premier of Western Australia—

(2) They are taking the lead!! This will spread elsewhere. Don't want to sound alarmist BUT I am alarmed. Any ideas what to do next? My sense is an Industry [led] delegation to … Court is our last chance. I'd appreciate your views.

A classic example of the tobacco industry interfering with the decisions of democratically elected health ministers.

CHAIR: Okay. I would appreciate it if you could forward that on to the secretariat.

Prof. Daube : I will do so.

CHAIR: Mr Greenland, do you have a preliminary statement that you wish to make.

Mr Greenland : Yes. I will make it very short. I want to refer to the World Health Organisation Framework Convention on Tobacco Control very briefly. Australia is party to this document, along with 173 other nations. Article 5.3 of the convention includes the following guideline: 'Taking into account national law and constitutional principles, parties should have effective methods to prohibit contributions from the tobacco industry or any entity working to further its interests to political parties, candidates or campaigns or to require full disclosure of such contributions.'

In 2008, the WHO published an important document, Tobacco industry interference with tobacco control to assist member states to implement the guidelines relating to countering tobacco industry interference with tobacco control. In summary, that document states that there is a large body of evidence that demonstrates that tobacco companies use a wide range of tactics to interfere with tobacco control. These include direct and indirect political lobbying and campaign contributions, financing of research, attempting to affect the course of regulatory and policy machinery and engaging in 'social responsibility' initiatives as part of public relations campaigns.

CHAIR: Do you seek to table that as an exhibit?

Mr Greenland : If I may.

CHAIR: Mr Somlyay moves that motion, and it is carried.

Mr Greenland : The document also states that political lobbying and campaign contributions are legal in most democratic countries and are an acknowledged part of the democratic process. But it goes on to make the point that much of the tobacco industry's influence over the legislative agenda has been achieved through donations, which can rarely if ever be matched by the tobacco control community. That is contained in the document that I have just tabled.

CHAIR: Before I pass over to my colleague Darren Chester I have a couple of questions for each of you. Firstly, have either of your organisations taken any legal advice as to the Commonwealth's power to outlaw donations—in particular, tobacco donations? If not, where do we draw this power from? Secondly, if we do have the power to ban donations, what criteria should apply in considerations by the parliament on the banning of donations from particular sources, be it tobacco, pharmaceutical or developer organisations, to name a few?

Prof. Daube : We have not taken specific legal advice on this. We believe that this could be achieved under the current Tobacco Act through the use of that act. But clearly that would be a matter for the committee to consider. There is a considerable difference—a crucial difference—between tobacco and any other product in that tobacco is lethal when used precisely as intended and it is generally recognised and accepted that the objective is to get rid of smoking, not to achieve sensible use and so on. Tobacco is vastly different from other products. We have to be concerned that we catch the indirect contributions from tobacco through other possible industry groups. That should be a very important of the legislation.

Mr CHESTER: My question is to the Heart Foundation. I note in your report that you call for an end to the acceptance of tobacco related donations. I do not speak as an apologist for Big Tobacco in any sense; I abhor cigarette and tobacco related products and have refused their hospitality every time that it has been offered to me—I just wanted to put that on the record. My problem is that we are talking about a legal product. From the Heart Foundation's perspective, what other companies that are selling legal products should also be subject to such bans? Are we also talking about fast-food outlets? Are we talking about alcohol companies or confectionary manufacturers? Is it the Heart Foundation's view that it is only tobacco that should be banned from making any donations or is there a list with this the start of it?

Mr Greenland : No, it is tobacco. The reason is that there is no safe level of consumption. Also, if someone came around today and said, 'We've got this great new product that is going to kill half of its consumers when used in accordance with the directions of the manufacturer,' there is no way on earth that it would ever be legalised by any nation on earth. So it is really a historical issue that we have a tobacco industry. So it is very different and it should be treated differently. It is not a legitimate player in the field. It is only here because smoking started a very long time ago and is endemic in society.

Mr CHESTER: How would a ban on tobacco companies making political donations reduce the rate of smoking in Australia?

Mr Greenland : The point that the WHO documentation makes is that the tobacco industry is politically skilful and has employed a range of tactics to delay tobacco control implementation and to seek to prevent it happening across the globe. They are very upfront and honest about wanting to make a buck by selling their product. We believe that they should not have the ability to influence the political agenda, even though many politicians say that they do not. It may be that by donating money to political parties they think they get influence or open doors. But they would not do it if there was not some benefit to their shareholders from doing so.

Mr CHESTER: I put to our previous witness that recent history—certainly over the last 15 or 20 years—would suggest that state and federal jurisdictions have consistently voted for more and more draconian measures, so their influence is simply not working.

Mr Greenland : It may also be delaying tactics, too.

Mr CHESTER: What will be outcome in the reduction of smoking rates if there is a ban on political donations by tobacco companies? I cannot quite see where you have made the link between a ban on tobacco sponsorship of political parties and a reduction in smoking rates.

Mr Greenland : Political parties have decided not to accept donations, and I think that that is across the board.

Senator RHIANNON: Except for the coalition. The coalition still takes tobacco money.

Mrs BRONWYN BISHOP: The Labor Party says it does not, but its health minister does.

Mr CHESTER: Aside from the political argument, and I am not trying to make a political point here—

Prof. Daube : Can I make two observations? In fairness to all parties, the Liberal Party in Western Australia—the government—has said that it will not accept tobacco donations. Second, there has been a decline in smoking but nothing like fast enough. In the 61 years since we have known about the dangers of smoking, one million Australians have died because they smoked. The decline in smoking has been slow. We still have 15 per cent of the adult population smoking. We still have children starting to smoke. Every step towards action to reduce smoking has been fought bitterly by tobacco companies, even as the current plain packaging legislation is being opposed. Every step has been much slower than it should have been. Tobacco ad bans, measures to protect passive smokers including children, packaging—all those measures—have been bitterly opposed. I believe that it is self-evident that if it were not for the influence of the tobacco industry we would have had these measures much faster and that would have meant that literally hundreds of thousands of lives might have been saved.

Senator RHIANNON: I have a question for the Council on Smoking and Health. In your submission, you indicate support for the Commonwealth Electoral Amendment (Political Donations and Other Measures) Bill 2011. I also read that your organisation covers 39 various organisation, including the Royal Australasian College of Physicians, the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons, the College of General Practitioners and also various organisations that cover both Australia and New Zealand. Does that mean that all of those organisations support this bill being passed?

Prof. Daube : All the organisations involved in our organisation have been involved in this submission and are supportive of it.

Senator RHIANNON: Thank you very much. Also, when you were giving evidence you spoke about front organisations that are used by tobacco companies. Could you elaborate on that please?

Prof. Daube : Yes, indeed. Tobacco companies operate directly but have a long history over the past few decades of establishing and working through organisations that may look as though they are independent of the tobacco industry but are in fact run, established and funded by the tobacco industry. That has happened internationally and in this country. One example would be a group that started running media campaigns during the last federal election. It was called the Alliance of Australian Retailers. They were putting literally millions of dollars into advertisements opposing plain packaging. We did not know who they were, because we had never heard of them before. It then turned out, following a media report on ABC television's Lateline, that this was simply a front organisation. Some confidential documents were leaked from a tobacco industry lobbying that made it clear that this organisation had been established by, was being funded by and was being directed by tobacco companies to appear as an independent group of retailers. That is one example. There are many others here and internationally. The tobacco industry is obviously aware that it is a pariah industry. The Global Reputation Institute recently published a report showing that tobacco is the world's least reputable industry. So they establish front organisations to present their case for them. But they are running them, funding them and even directing their tactics.

Senator RHIANNON: Thank you. When you say 'pariah organisation' you are stating effectively that they believe that they can be more effective by using this front organisation?

Prof. Daube : Exactly. They see that they are an organisation that has no credibility, so they establish other organisations to run their case for them in the hope that people will not realise that they are in fact just the tobacco industry in drag.

Senator RHIANNON: Part of the work of our inquiry is to look at third parties. It sounds like the description that you have given of this front organisation very much fits the description of a third party. Have you looked at this aspect of the work on electoral funding?

Prof. Daube : In this area, no. It is very hard to identify them. We would assume that tobacco companies are using this approach in terms of electoral funding. But, given the limitations in the information that there is—and also the cap, because we do not know where anything under $10,000 or whatever it is is coming from—it is very hard to identify them. My own view—and this is not one that I have taken legal advice on—is that it would be appropriate for there to be some statement which commits a donor to asserting that there has been no tobacco industry involvement in that donation. That would reduce or minimise the need to check back on precisely who the donors are.

Senator RHIANNON: So that is an additional point to your submission. If I understand you correctly, as well as supporting the tobacco industry donations bill, you are saying that we need to go wider and ensure that any donations made have no link to the tobacco industry. Did I understand that correctly?

Prof. Daube : Yes, indeed. We did say that we support an end to all direct and indirect donations, including indirect donations made by third parties acting on behalf of the tobacco industry. That is something that we would be very concerned to see. The tobacco industry, as I am sure that you would be aware, has a long history of getting around restrictions. If you ban advertising, they go into sponsorship. They go on the internet. They find every possible way that they can to get around restrictions. We believe that if there is restriction on donations from tobacco companies, it is important to make sure that it covers both direct and indirect donations.

Senator RYAN: Anyone can answer this question: do you have a view on whether retailers of tobacco products should be restricted from making donations? I am not sure if they are captured by the discussions that I have heard today or in the submissions.

Mr Swanson : They should be required to declare whether they are making the donation on behalf of themselves or whether they are acting on behalf of the tobacco industry, as Professor Daube mentioned.

Senator RYAN: Okay. For example, my local IGA supermarket wants to make a donation. Every supermarket, at least for the time being, is legally allowed to sell tobacco products. You are not proposing a restriction on it using its own resources to do so by virtue of it being a retailer of tobacco products, are you?

Prof. Daube : If we were to do that, we would be capturing Coles, Woolworths and pretty much a very large group of retailers.

Senator RYAN: So you would oppose such a proposal?

Prof. Daube : We would want to be sure that there was no lobbying on behalf of tobacco companies. I do not think it should extend, though, to all retailers who might sell tobacco.

Senator RYAN: I will go to lobbying in a second. I am just trying to get your organisations' positions on the record for what I consider to be the inevitable slippery slope and this comes up again five years. You would oppose a measure that prohibits retailers from using their own resources to make donations by virtue of their retailing tobacco products?

Prof. Daube : We would perhaps want to consider that and come back to you but, at this stage, my thinking would be that we should be restricting our concerns to donations made specifically with the intention of lobbying for tobacco, and to cast the net to include all the retail chains and so on would be casting it too widely.

Senator RYAN: I would appreciate some advice on that, if possible. I will be honest: my point of view is that this is an inevitable slippery slope. I can easily imagine sitting in this same room in three years time and your organisations might be saying, 'We're going to ban retailers because they make money off tobacco.' So I would appreciate some thought being given to that, if possible.

Mr Greenland : There are clearly some grey areas, but I think I will agree with you absolutely in principle.

Senator RYAN: I cannot remember whether it was you, Professor Daube, or Mr Swanson who mentioned a couple of times that you wanted a prohibition on lobbying by tobacco companies. I think I heard those words; is that correct?

Prof. Daube : Yes.

Senator RYAN: Are you actually proposing to ban me as a member of parliament from speaking to a representative of a tobacco company?

Prof. Daube : No. That is a slightly different issue. I am proposing that the registered lobbyists should not be permitted to lobby on behalf of tobacco companies and tobacco companies should not be permitted to initiate lobbying. This is a different issue, but I think what you do as a member of parliament is something that I certainly would not presume to suggest any controls over. What is initiated by tobacco companies is, I think, a different matter.

Senator RYAN: So you would be prohibiting them from asking me for a meeting but I am allowed to ask them?

Prof. Daube : Yes, I think that is fair. I am expressing a personal view here but I think it would be quite inappropriate to suggest any restrictions on what you might do as a member of parliament.

Senator RYAN: Some might consider it inappropriate to suggest restrictions like that on any citizen of Australia. I have a couple of friends who work for tobacco companies. I see them every so often. Are you proposing that, because they work for tobacco companies, I can see them but they cannot talk about work with me if it is at their request, but I can if I send them an invitation? This might seem like an extreme example but this is an incredibly extreme proposal. You are proposing that we prohibit a legal corporation and citizens of Australia, presumably some of them are, from contacting members of parliament by virtue of the industry they work in.

Prof. Daube : I do not think it is extreme at all. We are talking about the tobacco industry.

Senator RYAN: It is all about perspective.

Prof. Daube : We are not talking about social interactions. I am talking about the tobacco industry, which is responsible for 15,000 deaths annually, for five million deaths around—

Senator RYAN: I have to say that I do not need to hear the talking points on how many people have died; they are in the submission. I am sick of the tragedy of the deaths of various people being used as if it is somehow a justification for any action. You are aware that in the lobbyist regulations in place in Australia now, the lobbyist register applies only to those who are third-party lobbyists? By that I mean that, if you work at one of the lobbying firms like Hawker Britton or Kreab Gavin Anderson, you have to have a list of who your clients are. However, when I worked for a pharmaceutical company, although it was before the lobbyist register was introduced, I was not covered by it because it covers only those who are contracted as third-party lobbyists, not those who are employed as lobbyists. Don't you accept that that is a pretty big, shall we say, loophole in the proposal—that you are prohibiting them from contacting someone but presumably they are allowed to have someone speak to an MP at their request if they are employed by them?

Prof. Daube : Let me take three themes here. First of all, I am very much aware of the lobbyist register and that there are third-party companies who do lobby for tobacco companies. Secondly, the register has severe limitations. I believe that is under discussion and consideration by a separate committee. It does not address lobbying directly by companies, such as tobacco companies. What I referred to was lobbying both by third-party lobbyists and by those companies and the initiation of lobbying. I am sorry that you are sick of hearing about the tragedy of the deaths caused by smoking. I do not think there is anything at all inappropriate in raising that as the rationale for action to prevent the tobacco companies from doing anything they can to promote their product—

Senator RYAN: With all due respect, I am asking questions on my behalf here. Those who know me know I have a consistent record of being increasingly concerned at regulations impinging on the role of citizens. This has nothing to do with tobacco. In fact, from my perspective this has much more to do with what is next. We have heard from other witnesses this morning what will be next. I am not dismissing the deaths—members of my family are some of those people—but the ends do not justify the means in every circumstance. I think it is unfair to characterise those who express concerns with control on tobacco companies as somehow being under their influence by implication or otherwise.

Prof. Daube : I am not sure if there was a question there. I reiterate that tobacco is a uniquely harmful product and that is why these measures are being proposed. The industry is a uniquely lethal industry and we are here to discuss it. Some of us may have views in other areas too, but we are here specifically to discuss tobacco and the proposals here are in relation to this industry, whose products are responsible for so much death and disease. I have to keep reiterating the really important issue that was raised. We are making progress but it is nothing like fast enough. The slower the progress is, the more people will die because they smoke.

Senator RYAN: Do you believe tobacco should be made illegal?

Prof. Daube : No.

Senator RYAN: At least in my home state of Victoria smoking rates are probably in the top half dozen in terms of how far it has come down in the world over the last 20 or 30 years. If the goal is to have no-one smoking, which one witness mentioned earlier, why not make it illegal?

Prof. Daube : That is a very legitimate question that is very frequently asked. If, as Mr Greenland has said, tobacco were a new product, there is no way it would be allowed on the market. As it is, it is not a new product. It has been around for a long time. If we simply banned it overnight then we would be in pretty much impossible territory; however, I think we should be looking now—the time is getting closer, as a number of commentators have said—at 10 or 15 years down the track once smoking is at 10 per cent or lower what the next stages are and how cigarettes, if they are sold, should be sold. The suggestion is not that smoking should be made illegal. That just is not a realistic proposal at this stage. If cigarettes were new, we would move pretty fast—

Senator RYAN: I agree with you on that. They would not be allowed to be sold now but, as you pointed out, there is a historical issue.

Mrs BRONWYN BISHOP: Professor Daube, does your organisation receive public funding?

Prof. Daube : We receive a grant from the health promotion foundation in Western Australia, Healthway.

Mrs BRONWYN BISHOP: How much do you receive?

Prof. Daube : I think about $170,000 a year.

Mrs BRONWYN BISHOP: Is that the only grant you get?

Prof. Daube : Yes.

Mrs BRONWYN BISHOP: Do you have tax deductible donations?

Prof. Daube : No, we do not.

Mrs BRONWYN BISHOP: Do you receive any donations?

Prof. Daube : We may receive some minor donations, contributions and in kind support from organisations such as the Cancer Council and the Heart Foundation.

Mrs BRONWYN BISHOP: Do you publish all those?

Prof. Daube : Yes, we do. We can happily make those available to you.

Mrs BRONWYN BISHOP: Thank you. You said that you do not want tobacco to be made illegal. That is your position?

Prof. Daube : That is my position, given that we are in 2011. If cigarette sales declined—

Mrs BRONWYN BISHOP: I heard that.

Prof. Daube : over coming years, then that might be a reconsideration but, at this stage, I do not think it is feasible.

Mrs BRONWYN BISHOP: Do you believe illicit drugs should be made legal?

Prof. Daube : No.

Mrs BRONWYN BISHOP: Can I ask the same questions of the National Heart Foundation. Public funding?

Mr Greenland : We receive a small amount of public funding. Most of our donations come from the public themselves.

Mrs BRONWYN BISHOP: Are they tax deductible?

Mr Greenland : Yes.

Mrs BRONWYN BISHOP: What would your income be?

Mr Greenland : I do not know off the top of my head. I could supply that to you.

Mrs BRONWYN BISHOP: Both in terms of grants and donations. Do you believe that people who donate to you influence the decisions you make?

Mr Greenland : We make our decisions in the interests of public health, and I think people who donate to us want us to make decisions in the interests of public health.

Mrs BRONWYN BISHOP: So if somebody made a donation to you who did not believe in your concept of public health, would that influence you?

Mr Greenland : Probably not, no.

Mrs BRONWYN BISHOP: I think you were previously with the AMA, were you not?

Mr Greenland : I was, indeed, for nine years.

Mrs BRONWYN BISHOP: We might say that they used to lobby pretty heavily?

Mr Greenland : I think they have been rated as one of the most effective lobbyists in Australia.

Mrs BRONWYN BISHOP: Presumably, you do not think lobbyists should be banned from lobbying members of parliament?

Mr Greenland : No.

Mrs BRONWYN BISHOP: Professor Daube, I would just like to read out a very short paragraph and I would like to ask you who you think might have said this:

We've focused—

as an organisation—

quite clearly strategically on the media. We've employed journalists, not to churn out press releases but to get in there as subversives and work with their colleagues in the mainstream press.

…   …   …

And that’s been done through developing, very slowly and very gently a level of trust, a level of credibility. More importantly, the ability to respond, because the press want instant answers and they want instant responses. So we’ve got 24-hour availability of those journalists and what we’re finding now is that in the last eight months over 50 per cent of the mainstream printed and radio and television reporting on alcohol and drug issues has now been generated by the Foundation, or has been filtered through it.

…   …   …

So we’re having a significant impact there I believe and I think that’s an exciting project. So the thrust of the organisation is to move via the media the public perception which we hope will move towards legislative change in those areas that we would see as desirable.

Who do you think said that?

Prof. Daube : I am not familiar with that quote, but I am sure you will tell me who it was.

Mrs BRONWYN BISHOP: It was an extract from Mr Bill Stronach, in Victoria, the CEO of the Australian Drug Foundation, on how to formulate public opinion and basically influence members of parliament. Do you think that is more or less insidious than members of parliament being able to speak with registered lobbyists?

Prof. Daube : We are not just talking about apples and oranges here, Senator Bishop; we are talking about apples, oranges and bananas.

Mrs BRONWYN BISHOP: I am no longer in the Senate!

Prof. Daube : First of all, I think Bill Stronach is no longer there. It is entirely legitimate, in my view, for people working in the public interest, people working on alcohol and illicit drug issues, to seek to influence politicians, media and others. I think anybody who is concerned about the level of alcohol and illicit drug problems, as well as tobacco problems, would support that view.

Mrs BRONWYN BISHOP: You might be interested to know that Mr Stronach is an associate of Dr Wodak, who would like to legalise illicit drugs.

CHAIR: You cannot have guilt by association. Come off it.

Mrs BRONWYN BISHOP: Yes, we can. It has been done today—all day.

CHAIR: I know you are into lobbyists. The mining sector lobbied, to save themselves $60 billion over 10 years. I have not seen you criticise them.

Mrs BRONWYN BISHOP: I just want to go back to your figures of 19,000 people dying each year from cigarette smoking. I took a look at the figures and I asked the Library to write a paper for me that basically shows that the implied deaths occur pretty much in people who are over age 60. Young people do not die of that, where as they do die from the use of illicit drugs. But, just to put things into perspective, I think you said 15,000 die from smoking, whereas I think they said 19,000.

Prof. Daube : Nineteen thousand is an older figure, and that would have dated back to the kind of period during which you were quoted in the Lancet as saying: 'I say to those people who have made out that tobacco is a dreadful product, "Make your case." They have not done so.'

Mrs BRONWYN BISHOP: Thank you for that quote. The Institute of Health and Welfare tells us that hospitals kill 18,000 people a year and maim another 12,000. So, when we are comparing the statistics, I presume you also have a concern about hospitals.

Prof. Daube : I used to be Director General of Health for Western Australia. I have a significant concern, as do my colleagues, about other issues beyond tobacco. We would be very happy to talk with you about those. I would be exceptionally happy to discuss with you the safety and quality programs that have been introduced nationally and in all the states and the action that has been taken by hospitals in what is still one of the world's leading healthcare systems. Yes, we are concerned about other issues as well, but I am not aware that there is anybody out there who is actually lobbying to kill people in hospitals. We are aware that there are people who are lobbying to sell cigarettes, which means that more people will die.

Mrs BRONWYN BISHOP: The point I was going to make is: should we also be precluded from talking to people who run hospitals on the basis that they are killing people?

Prof. Daube : Again, I am just bemused by this approach. The people who run hospitals are desperately concerned to ensure the best possible healthcare for our community. Yes, there are tragedies in hospitals. Yes, of course there are people whose deaths could have been averted. But the very intent of hospitals is to improve your health and to keep you alive. The very intent of tobacco companies is to sell a lethal product.

Mrs BRONWYN BISHOP: You would be all in favour of the campaign to make doctors wash their hands between patients, I presume, because that is one of the means by which disease is spread most rapidly. The reason I put those questions to you is that your statement earlier in answer to questions from Senator Ryan, that you thought it was acceptable to prevent people having conversations on political issues because of the nature of the employment they had, which is legal, I found absolutely reprehensible. I just wanted to make the point that you cannot justify that—

Prof. Daube : I specifically said that I thought it was appropriate not to put any constraints on—

Mrs BRONWYN BISHOP: I heard what you said and I found it reprehensible.

CHAIR: Thanks, Mrs Bishop. It is on the record. I thank everybody for their evidence today. If you have any additional material, please forward it to the secretariat as soon as possible.

Proceedings suspended from 12:18 to 12:48