Wednesday, 24 August 2011
Tobacco Plain Packaging Bill 2011, Trade Marks Amendment (Tobacco Plain Packaging) Bill 2011; Consideration in Detail
(1) Page 21 (after line 12), after clause 18, insert:
Sections 19 to 21 do not apply in relation to one of the 2 smallest outer surfaces of a cigarette carton to the extent that a trade mark covers the surface.
The purpose of this amendment is to help small retailers. The government's consultation of small business and especially small retailers has been lacklustre at best. We heard from Simon Cotterell, the Assistant Secretary of the Department of Health and Ageing's Tobacco Taskforce, who stated during the health and ageing committee's public hearing:
… we have agreed to meet and discuss this legislation with any retailer or retail organisation that has approached us.
Unfortunately, given the impact on retailers, you would have thought that the department would have been more proactive in engaging them. It is really easy to sit back and say, 'Look, come and see us if you've got a problem.'
But this is an improvement on the government's previous position. Its position before Senate estimates was that the consultation that was done with small business and small retailers had been conducted by the Preventative Health Taskforce. For the first time, what we have heard is that cartons, which are available for wholesale but not retail, will have trademarks and branding on them. That certainly will be helpful for small retailers and it is not something that was obvious from the explanatory memorandum or the legislation. There is a pattern appearing here because when looking at the bill as a whole the Senate Scrutiny of Bills Committee had a lot to say about these two bills. Specifically they sought the minister's advice on clause 27 and questioned whether this was inappropriate delegation. The committee has taken the step of seeking the minister's advice as to why any further requirements cannot be identified in the primary legislation, particularly as offences and civil penalties may apply.
On the issue of track and trace of tobacco I would have welcomed a more considered response from the minister. Track and trace of tobacco products is an issue that features in several articles of the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control. The opposition has been suggesting to the government that it adopt a neutral track and trace scheme for tobacco. They have had all day, they have had their departmental people here and it would have been good to have a more considered response to that. This is international best practice, Minister. Look at what they do in California, in Massachusetts and in Canada: international best practice. Inexplicably, the minister and the Department of Health and Ageing's response to any question that there might be increased amounts of illicit tobacco or counterfeit tobacco has been to consult the tobacco companies, which is the exact opposite of what the World Health Organisation and the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control say.
It is certainly not the intention of the opposition to undermine the public health intent of this bill with this amendment. We supported this bill at the second reading stage. We feel that the consultation by the government of small business and small retailers has not been up to scratch and that is why we will be moving this amendment. We do not see that it will undermine the public health intent of this bill, which we support.