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Transcript 17256

Transcript of joint doorstop Commonwealth Parliamentary Offices Sydney

Photo of Rudd, Kevin

Rudd, Kevin

Period of Service: 03/12/2007 to 24/06/2010

More information about Rudd, Kevin on The National Archive website.

Release Date: 29/04/2010

Release Type: Interview

Transcript ID: 17256

PM: Thank-you for your attendance this morning. The Health Minister and I wish to make some announcements concerning the future treatment of tobacco in Australia.

Everybody knows that smoking kills people. Smoking kills over 15,000 Australians every year. Every year, Australians spend some 750,000 days in hospital beds due to tobacco-related diseases. The costs of smoking, including factors like productivity and health costs, are estimated at some $31.5 billion each year. This is a massive cost for the country.

That is why, together with the Health Minister today, I'm announcing a comprehensive package aimed at cutting smoking that is aimed at saving lives and increasing funding for our health and hospital system. To achieve these two aims, the Government will take the following steps.

First, the Government will introduce the first increase in tobacco excise above inflation in more than a decade, an increase of 25 per cent, with the funding to be dedicated directly to the National Health and Hospitals Fund.

Second, cracking down on one of the last frontiers for tobacco advertising- from 1 July 2012, cigarettes will have to be sold in plain packaging, the most hardline packaging regime anywhere in the world. And when we say hardline regime in terms of packaging for the future, that is what we mean. That is what will be in broad terms on the front, and that is what you have in terms of where you'll indicate the particular brand in small print down the bottom of the actual package. This, as I've said, will be the most hardline regime for cigarette packaging anywhere in the world, for which we make no apology whatsoever.

Third, we will impose restrictions on Australian internet advertising for tobacco products.

And fourth, we'll be injecting an extra $27.8 million into hard-hitting anti-smoking campaigns.

This is a tough decision for the Government. It won't win the Government any popularity. The big tobacco companies will hate what we are doing. The Government, however, makes no apology whatsoever for what it is doing. It is the right decision. It is the right decision for two reasons. It will help people stop smoking. And second, it will raise more money to invest directly into the National Health and Hospitals Fund.

This decision, it is estimated, will raise $5 billion across the forward estimates, every cent of which will be automatically dedicated to the National Health and Hospitals Fund. Every cent of this tobacco excise increase will be spent, therefore, on better health and better hospitals for all Australians. As of today, every cent of tobacco excise will be automatically dedicated to the National Health and Hospitals Fund, both as a result of this increase as well as the revenue which already is raised from the tobacco excise.

This extra $5 billion raised by today's announcements will be invested in reducing elective surgery waiting lists. It will be invested in improving the waiting times which people have in Accident and Emergency. It will be dedicated to investment in more hospital beds, more doctors, more nurses. This, therefore, is an important and major decision. We've indicated already the Government's reform plans for the future of the health and hospital system, effective action when it comes to preventative healthcare is also of fundamental importance. The proper funding for our long-term health and hospital needs is also of fundamental importance.

I'll now turn to the Health Minister to add, and then we'll happily take your questions.

ROXON: Thank you very much Prime Minister. This is an important decision that the Government is announcing today, and a key part of our health reform process, which many of you will know has been focussed on hospitals, on primary care, and on prevention. And this is the most effective action we can take to reduce the harmful effects of tobacco consumption across the entire community. We know that from the evidence that's been collected over the last 20 years, and today the steps we're taking not only will help reduce the number of smokers across the country, but also hopefully make it less attractive for young people to start in the first place.

Remember the Prime Minister's figures that 15,000 Australians die every year from tobacco-related illness. To put that in some perspective, that is 10 times the national road toll. We can take action that will make a difference. It's projected that this action alone will reduce the consumption of tobacco by about six per cent and reduce the number of smokers by two to three per cent. That means 87,000 less smokers are projected as a result of this step that's being taken today.

Now, I don't think we can underestimate as well the announcements that the Prime Minister's made about plain packaging. This is a mock-up that's been prepared by the Cancer Council, which shows that there will be very graphic warnings, there'll be no colourful branding or logos. This is the last vestige of advertising that remains in Australia for tobacco companies, and we make no apologies about trying to close it down. It will be contested, and I have to tell you one thing - the tobacco companies are already out vociferously opposing this. We know that it will have effect on their marketing, and we know that it will have an effect on consumption, and it's absolutely the reason that we are taking this action.

We, as the Prime Minister also mentioned, already have large investments in social marketing. With the announcements today we'll be spending $85 million in total on anti-smoking campaigns. And of course, we have additional campaigns that are particularly targeted at young people and Indigenous Australians, some of the members of our community who are still smoking at higher rates than others.

We make no apologies for doing this.

I have, I must say, a very personal reason for being proud of what is being done today. As a young child, my father died of cancer of the oesophagus. You don't know, given the period of time when that was, 30 years ago, whether it was smoking-related, but he was a smoker. And it is my grave fear that many others have suffered that same situation. If our action today can mean that any other child has their parents with them for a little longer, that'll be a good thing. And we don't make any apologies about taking this action.

PM: Okay, thank you very much Nicola. And over to you folks.

JOURNALIST: How strong is your legal advice, Prime Minister? The tobacco lobby, as the Minister pointed out, is already talking about testing this in the courts.

PM: Robust, and I'll turn to the Minister to add.

ROXON: Look, we're very confident that we can take this action. This action is a recommended step by the World Health Organisation as a sensible public health measure to be taken. Australia used to be the leader in tackling tobacco. And this is the last remaining step. We will again be a world leader, and I'm sure that big tobacco companies will use every bit of legal tactics they can to challenge this, but that won't scare us off from taking action which is needed, and might help save lives in the future.

JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, why has it taken 10 months for the Government to release this after receiving the recommendation?

PM: Together with the Health Minister, we've been examining all the recommendations from the preventative healthcare taskforce. We've also been examining all the recommendations from the Bennett Commission of review on the future of the health and hospital system. It was important that these measures be sequenced in the way in which they have been. We've indicated our future direction for health reform. We've indicated that this needs to be funded. We've also indicated this is necessary for preventative healthcare. We intend to get on with the business of doing it.

JOURNALIST: You've brought this forward by a week. Isn't this just a distraction from the ETS?

PM: The advice we've received from the Australian Taxation Office, given media speculation in recent days about possible changes to tobacco excise was actually bringing about changes in consumption behaviour. Therefore, the strong advice we received was that it was important to act now.

ROXON: Can I just add to that this measure will be in place from midnight tonight. The Tax Office will be taking steps if there is any evidence of hoarding between the announcement being made and the time at which it commences. We obviously want to make sure that these announcements have the effect as intended, which is that from midnight tonight your average packet of 30 cigarettes will cost $2 or so extra as a result of these changes, and we hope and we encourage the community to think again about whether now is the time to quit. This will be an extra impost for smokers and it is an extra impost which is meant to lead people to take this opportunity to quit, and I might take the opportunity, Prime Minister, to remind people that the Quitline number is 131 848. Now is, there'd be no better time to decide to give up your habit, and we certainly encourage people to take that opportunity, use the money you're spending on cigarettes for something that you and your family could do together for a lot longer if you stopped smoking.

JOURNALIST: (inaudible) people's choice to smoke? I mean, $2 is really nothing.

ROXON: Well, it's a large amount of money in the budget, in people's discretionary spending in a family budget, depending, of course, on your income. The Preventative Health Taskforce made recommendations about introducing these changes. Of course, you could make even larger increases. We have to get the balance right and we've taken advice on what is a sufficiently significant increase to actually encourage people to give up, but of course is not so enormous that it will be a terrible burden among some people who may not be able to give up. We are targeting those who want to give up, who need to give up, and with some support will be able to. And of course we're targeting people who have not yet started, and that's the key to this plain packaging announcement - to make sure we make it less attractive for people to experiment with tobacco in the first place.

PM: I think we had a question -

JOURNALIST: The $5 billion figure, is that calculated based on before or after an estimated 10 per cent of people give up smoking?

ROXON: So, it's not an estimated 10 per cent of people. It's an estimated two to three per cent of people who will give up smoking, which is 87,000 people, and the amount takes into effect the changed price and of course the ongoing consumption, so it takes into account those projections.

JOURNALIST: So, if you lose the, if two or three per cent of people give up smoking, you still estimate a, roughly, a $5 billion -

ROXON: That's right.

JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, Penny Wong has been in Fairfax saying that the ETS will cost more to implement in 2013 than it would now. Do you have any projections on how more that would cost?

PM: It's quite plain what the Government's decision is here, and that is to extend the implementation date of the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme. In a perfect world the Liberal Party would not have torpedoed bipartisan consensus at the end of last year and circumstances would be different now. The reality is that they did. The parallel reality is that in other countries around the world global action on climate change has been slower than we would have liked.

Therefore, we've got to deal with both those realities. As I said yesterday, as I said the day before, one, the Government's commitment to greenhouse gas reduction targets remains unchanged. Two, the Government's commitment to an emissions trading scheme as the most effective and least expensive way of giving effect to those targets remains unchanged. What has changed is our pathway to get there for the reasons I've just outlined, and therefore what we'll be doing in the immediate period ahead is accelerating our implementation of the biggest renewable energy plans this country has seen. That's our course of action.

It would have been fantastic had it turned out differently at the end of last year, but guess what? The Liberal Party voted against it. Guess what? The Greens voted against it. Guess what? We've got to deal with those two realities, and we're doing so in a practical way.

JOURNALIST: There's a report in The Australian this morning saying that the Government's put the internet filtering legislation on the backburner until after the election. Is this true?

PM: I have no advice to that effect.

JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, how do you respond to the tobacco companies' announcement that the introduction of plain packaging constitutes an unconstitutional infringement or expropriation, rather, of their intellectual property? And is the Government confident that you won't have to pay compensation to tobacco companies?

PM: One, the Government will not be paying any compensation to any tobacco company anywhere - first point. The second is tobacco companies are going to die in the ditch opposing this sort of packaging, this sort of plain packaging, this sort of packaging which tells you that if you smoke you're likely to have a really big health problem, and you can see it graphically - more graphically, even, than in the past. Now, the big tobacco companies are going to go out there and whinge, whine, complain, consider every form of legal action known to man. That's par for the course.

We, the Government, will not be intimidated by any big tobacco company trying to get in the road of doing the right thing for the health of working families, and the right thing also for long term funding of our health and hospital system, whatever their objections may be to this sort of baseline packaging.

JOURNALIST: Perhaps I have to put to you again, what will you say to your critics who will say this is all about timing because of the bad news in relation to the priority on the ETS?

PM: Well, can I simply refer to you, again, the advice from the Australian Taxation Office that because of media speculation about the excise in recent days that there was real concern about changes in consumer behaviour and the importance of acting now. That's the direct answer to your question.

JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, just in regards to health reforms, what were your reactions to comments by David Pennington who says he no longer supports the reforms because it won't change the way hospitals are run?

PM: Well, first of all I'd say that everyone's entitled to their point of view. It's a democracy and there are stacks of health experts across the country who have expressed support for the Government's new National Health and Hospitals Network, funded nationally, run locally. Every individual's entitled to their point of view and to changing points of view.


ROXON: Yes, look, I think it's probably a little bit mis-quoting David Pennington. I don't think he's ever been a supporter of our reforms and I think he continues not to be. Unfortunately I think he is significantly underestimating the new national changes that come about from the agreement that we've reached at COAG last week. He is underestimating the importance to working families of being able to get their elective surgery provided more quickly. He is underestimating the importance of how we actually can treat people in emergency departments more quickly when you're waiting there in the middle of the night with a child hoping that you can get seen by a doctor or nurse in an appropriate period of time. He is probably underestimating the value of having national clinical standards across the board.

Now, we welcome debate about other things that you can put in to the system. In fact, I'm attending a conference later today which will be with many people who have views about what else could be part of our health reform. But we're very proud of what has been agreed. We welcome debate on how you can take this further, but I think it is underestimating the significance of delivering a national price for health services, national quality standards and better access to health care for working families.

JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, just on the filter again, do you think (inaudible) legislation this year?

PM: Look, can I ask you put that question to the relevant minister. I don't have any other advice to what I put to you earlier in response to your question.

Can I just add to the question that you asked me before about timing and stuff? I've referred to the ATO. It seems to be a, sort of, an assumption in your question that this is somehow a popular announcement that we've made today. It's not. There's a whole lot of smokers out there and I don't think it's going to be greeted with dancing in the streets.

Can I just say it's pretty bottom line and we've been very attentive to the advice that we've received from the ATO. This is an important measure. Therefore, it has to be done properly, consistent with the professional advice, response to the recommendations by the Preventative Health Care Taskforce on the one hand, and on the actual implementation attentive also to what the ATO has to say about distortions in consumer behaviour. That's why we've acted.

Thanks, folks. We've got to zip.

Transcript 17256