Question Without Notice - Tobacco Products

Ms BIRD (Cunningham) (15:11): My question is to the Minister for Mental Health and Ageing. As the minister responsible for medical research, why is evidence based policy-making important, and is the minister aware of any additional evidence to support the government's decision to move forward with the plain packaging of tobacco products?

Mr BUTLER (Port Adelaide—Minister for Mental Health and Ageing) (15:12): I thank the member for Cunningham for her question. I spoke yesterday about 12 different research studies covering the issues of branding, design and the promotion of tobacco packaging. Today I want to bring the attention of the House to a review of the evidence released yesterday by the Cancer Council. The review pulls together the findings from 24 targeted studies over two decades and demonstrates very clearly that the look and the feel of tobacco packaging is a very powerful marketing tool, particularly for the recruitment of new smokers.

Recruiting young Australians to smoking is important to big tobacco. If you want to make a profit in the tobacco business, you need new customers and you need them regularly. The shadow minister said on Sky yesterday: I just don't have the evidence one way or the other. ...

I've asked the Government to produce the evidence.

We've said we've got an open mind.

When the Prime Minister invited me to joint her ministry, she did not inform me that one of my duties to the Australian people was to act as the research assistant to the member for Dickson, but I am very, very happy to do so on this occasion. Professor Ian Olver from the Cancer Council said yesterday: I think anyone who reads the review and understands how public health science works will see that the evidence is compelling and very difficult to refute.

Lyn Roberts from the Heart Foundation said: This is very convincing science, based on the most rigorous study models available.

The evidence is there. The opposition has no more excuse for delay. Any more prevarication on this measure will just confirm suspicions that they are simply doing the bidding of big tobacco. Whether that is a reality or not is not the point; it is fast becoming a perception that is setting in. I was part of the meeting of the national executive of the Labor Party several years ago which decided to refuse tobacco donations. As a long-time member of that august body, I can honestly say that it does not often offer the best moments that the Labor Party has to offer the nation, but that was an exception. I would say to the Leader of the Opposition if he were interested in this debate and was here: take our advice and take the advice of many of your own branches and get this monkey off your back. It may be a rich monkey but it is a monkey nonetheless. Read the research and get behind this world leading reform measure.

For the assistance of the House, I table these documents: Plain packaging of tobacco products: a review of the evidence prepared by Quit Victoria, Cancer Council of Victoria, May 2011; Is your package an effective communicator? A normative framework for increasing the communicative competence of packaging from the Journal of Marketing Communications; Making the pack the hero, tobacco industry response to marketing restrictions in the UK: findings from a long-term audit; Plain packaging: a time for action from the European Journal of Public Health; Plain packaging regulations for tobacco products: t he impact of standardizing the color and design of cigarette packs from Salud Pública de México; Deadly in pink: t he impact of cigarette packaging among young women; Beyond light and mild: c igarette brand descriptors and perceptions of risk in the International Tobacco Control (ITC) Four Country Survey; and the remainder of those 23 journals. I am sure the shadow minister will spend a long night reading them tonight.