Transcript - Doorstop – Melbourne; Plain packaging of tobacco - 10 November 2011
View by date:Previous Ministers
PDF printable version of Transcript, Doorstop - Melbourne (PDF 20 KB)
10 November 2011
Topic: Plain Packaging of Tobacco
Nicola Roxon: The Senate is today debating a vital piece of legislation for Australia's public health.
The Government is determined to introduce plain packaging for cigarettes. Cigarette packets at the moment, tobacco products, they're sold in packets that actually have colours and logos and branding so that every time a smoker takes a packet out of their pocket it's a mobile ad for a particular brand.
We want to put a stop to that advertising. Every time a smoker, 20 or 30 times a day, takes a cigarette pack out of their pocket we want to make sure that all that it's showing is the harm that can be caused from tobacco.
This law will be a big win for families who have lost a loved one to tobacco-related illness and in Australia that's 15,000 people each and every year.
We're determined to reduce that number and this law will be a win for those families if the Senate passes it today.
Question: What evidence is there that plain packaging will actually work and stop people taking up smoking?
Nicola Roxon: This will be a world first in Australia. We are going to implement this measure and show how we can help reduce the harm caused by tobacco and the measure is one in a number of tobacco control steps that have been taken for decades in Australia and given us one of the lowest smoking rates in the world but we do believe it can be even lower.
There's more than 20 different studies that show that marketing and the packaging of tobacco products is an effective way to hook people to this very addictive and very lethal product.
Of course we can't look to other countries around the world because we are the first in taking this step but we're very clear that the evidence and the research shows that it will work and we're determined to take away the last method of advertising that exists for tobacco companies here in Australia.
Question: Big tobacco says once it's passed through the Senate it will take action against the Government. Are you prepared for a fight against these big companies?
Nicola Roxon: Big tobacco has been fuming from day one that this is a law that they don't want introduced.
They want to keep selling their deadly product and we want to reduce their market so we're destined to disagree with each other but we're not going to be bullied into not taking this action just because tobacco companies say they might fight us in the courts.
We're ready for that if they take legal action. We hope that they don't. We believe this is a measure that's in the interests of the community and it would be better off for tobacco companies to look at ways they could invest in something that is not so harmful for the community.
Question: Can the Government afford to pay the compensation if that's how it ends?
Nicola Roxon: That's - the tobacco companies allege that there will be billions of dollars of compensation to be paid. We don't accept that argument. They're using that as a way of threatening both the Government and the Senate to try not to proceed with this law but we know this law will be a win for families who've lost someone who has died from tobacco-related illnesses like cancer and we are determined to go ahead with it. We're prepared for legal action. We hope that the tobacco companies don't see it as necessary to be as litigious as they have been elsewhere but we are fully prepared if they do.
Question: So you've got a [indistinct].
Nicola Roxon: Well, it's a concern that the Liberal Party really can't decide whether they're for or against this. They have made clear that they will support the plain packaging legislation. I hope they do that today in the Senate. I call on them to do that.
I don't think that they're really showing their enthusiasm by nit-picking about which part of the bill they'll support and won't but ultimately we're very confident that we have the support of the Government Senators, of course, of the Greens and of some members of the Liberal Party and that will be enough for this legislation to be passed.
Question: Have you done anything [indistinct].
Nicola Roxon: These bills have both been before Senate inquiries. We have made some changes to the implementation timetable. Although I don't agree with tobacco companies on very much, I do agree that they're entitled to sufficient time to implement these new measures and 1 December will now be the kick-in date for these reforms next year.
Question: : They say that it's still not long enough. They need another four years.
Nicola Roxon: I think if the tobacco companies have their way, obviously they'd prefer us not to pass this legislation and they would prefer it to take a very long time if we do. We are prepared to be reasonable but we're not going to listen to unreasonable requests.
This will give the companies nearly 12 months from the time that the legislation is passed. That's ample time to make the changes to their packaging.
They've seen what the plain packs need to look like, they've had most of the specifications for a long time, they'll have those final specifications when the law is passed and the regulations are issued shortly after that.
Question: Will there be anything else done, at the last minute [indistinct].
Nicola Roxon: No, this has been a very public position of the Government. We're determined to pursue it. The only changes that we've made are the ones that relate to implementation. We think that's a reasonable thing to do, given that the laws didn't pass the Senate at the time that we hoped. We call on the senators today to join with us and pass this world-first legislation.
Australians of all political persuasions can be proud of the tobacco control measures that previous governments have passed for decades and this is just the next step that Australia needs to take to try to reduce the harm caused from tobacco.
Question: You say the Government's prepared for the fight. Do you have money set aside in case compensation is needed?
Nicola Roxon: As I've said on many occasions, we don't think it's in our interest or taxpayers' interest to give the tobacco industry information about our legal preparations or our legal tactics or our finances for the legal fight.
I'm very happy to say to the public that we are well prepared. I think we are on very strong legal ground. We won't be bullied by tobacco companies threatening litigation and we are prepared to fight them if they do, in fact, take that step.
Okay, thanks very much for coming.
For further information, please call the Minister’s Office on 02 6277 7220
When accessing large documents (over 500 KB in size), it is recommended that the following procedure be used:
- Click the link with the RIGHT mouse button
- Choose "Save Target As.../Save Link As..." depending on your browser
- Select an appropriate folder on a local drive to place the downloaded file
Attempting to open large documents within the browser window (by left-clicking)
may inhibit your ability to continue browsing while the document is
opening and/or lead to system problems.
To view PDF (Portable Document Format) documents, you will need to have a PDF reader installed on your computer. A number of PDF readers are available through the Australian Government Information Management Office (AGIMO) Web Guide website.