Senate debates

Tuesday, 2 September 2014



6:55 pm

Photo of John FaulknerJohn Faulkner (NSW, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

Yesterday tobacco excise increased by 12.5 per cent. This is a good thing. This is a tax increase that will literally save lives. It is yet another reason for people to kick this dangerous, destructive and increasingly expensive habit. Yesterday's tobacco excise means in most cases a pack-a-day habit will now cost smokers a hefty $7,000 a year—in many cases, $1 a stick. According to Curtin University's professor of health policy Mike Daube: 'There is no measure more effective in reducing smoking than increasing tax. A tax increase is especially effective on the lower income smokers, whom we want to reduce smoking, in preventing children from starting to smoke and on heavier smokers reducing how much they smoke.'

There is no question tobacco takes a huge toll on the Australian community. According to the Department of Health, smoking kills an estimated 15,000 Australians each year. It is widely recognised as the single largest preventable cause of illness and premature death in Australia. According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, tobacco's impact on Australia means more than $30 billion in social and economic costs every year. That includes healthcare costs, subsidies for drugs and days off work. These costs are borne by households, businesses and government.

In June this year, I spoke about my support for the previous government's world-leading plain packaging policy, which I said I thought was a very good Labor policy. Plain packaging is part of a comprehensive suite of policies, including tax increases and public education, which has proven to be one of the most effective public health policy initiatives of our generation. It is something that we should be proud of.

Recent figures released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics, the Department of Health and the Commonwealth Treasury demonstrate the positive impact tobacco plain packaging and other anti-smoking measures are having on reducing the prevalence of smoking in our community. According to figures on the Department of Health website, the proportion of the population smoking decreased from 15.1 per cent in 2010 to 12.8 per cent this year.

I am glad that Senator Nash is in the chamber, because I would be encouraging her to do more. I am disappointed that the National Party of Australia is the last major Australian political party still accepting donations from big tobacco.

According to returns lodged with the Australian Electoral Commission for the period 2012-13, the National Party of Australia received $25,880 from the cigarette manufacturer Philip Morris. Mr Acting Deputy President Marshall, I would implore the National Party—and you have some influence yourself in that party, I understand, very great influence—to join the rest of us here in the 21st century and kick this addiction to the funds provided by big tobacco.

Regardless of that, I for one look forward to the next tax increase on cigarettes on 1 September next year. I look forward to the benefits that tax increase will bring to the Australian community and to the ultimate Holy Grail of Australia being the first country in the world to eliminate smoking completely. (Time expired)