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04 January 2013.

Transcript of the Hon. Peter Dutton MP
Interview with John Scott
4BC Radio – Mornings
JOHN SCOTT: Morning John Scott here with you this morning, next week it’s Ian Maurice.  It’s good to be at your place.  Tobacco companies that try to circumvent the Government’s cigarette plain packaging laws with branded tins or stickers and hide graphic health warnings are going to face legal action, this is according to the Federal Health Minister. We tried to get hold of Tanya Plibersek the Health Minister this morning, we were unable or unsuccessful, she was busy, so we’ve got the Shadow Minister for Health and Ageing on the Line, Peter Dutton MP for Dickson.  Happy New Year Peter.
PETER DUTTON: Same to you, John.
JOHN SCOTT: What’s your take on this in terms of the plain packaging? Are you for it?
PETER DUTTON: Well we want to see a reduction in smoking rates and we do support measures that will reduce smoking rates.  There’s no question about I think our country’s commitment to seeing smoking rates reduced, there’s bipartisan support for sensible measures.  I suppose the Government’s got to try and demonstrate how plain packaging is going to work and whether or not it’s successful, and whether or not it’s the best way in which we can invest taxpayer dollars into reducing smoking rates, so we’ve got a watching brief and hopefully we can see a reduction in smoking rates.  And I’m surprised the Minister’s refusing to comment on it today.
JOHN SCOTT: Oh I don’t, she hasn’t refused us, no we’ve tried to get a hold of her, she’s otherwise detained, as I understand.
JOHN SCOTT: No, no, certainly not refusing to comment.  Just on that plain packaging issue, is this, is it designed to deter the potential smokers or, and, is it designed to, I suppose, those that smoke, is it designed to deter them from smoking any more and, in fact, trying to get them to cut down?
PETER DUTTON: Well, I suppose it’s designed to do a couple of things.  One is to prevent people from taking up smoking or reduce the attractiveness of the package, although I think the real impact of that took place when Tony Abbott was Health Minister and he introduced the graphic health warning that you see on cigarette packages at the moment, I think that was the real innovative step if you like in the way that Tony Abbott was able to get smoking rates down in our country to the lowest really in the Western world, about seventeen percent.  So that was a proven way to reduce smoking rates.  The Government really hasn’t given much detail, and they’re saying there’s only a month into this plain packaging so wait and see what the results will be.  So they’re a little scant on the detail, but where I want to see us do more work is in the Indigenous community, and particularly around young girls, but young boys as well, I think we still have too high a rate of take up and to try and get those particularly teenagers, but indigenous people, to kick the habit all together is proving very difficult.  And I think the next step for the Government should be to really try and target that market as opposed to a broader message, I think people in the broader community understand that there is support to give up smoking through the quit programs, all of that has bipartisan support, I really think we’re at a stage now where we’ve got to try and drill down into some of those demographics where smoking rates really are way too high.
JOHN SCOTT: Ok, well we’ve got plain packaging, we’ve got cigarettes locked up now behind the counter of where they’re sold.  What’s next move, I mean if you win government, what are you going to do, are you going to up the, we’re told that this government is up the cost of cigarettes over the next five years, I think to above $20 a packet, what will your government  do should you win office at the next election?
PETER DUTTON: Well, I think John we have to be guided by the experts, and the experts talk about pricing, you’re right, that increasing the price of a packet of cigarettes is a deterrent for some people.  For some younger people in particular they’re sourcing cheaper perhaps illegal tobacco imports, so I think we need to look at whether we can tighten up customs arrangement and look at that illegal chop chop.
JOHN SCOTT: In customs, I think there was a truck that was pulled up in Victoria the other day bringing up cigarettes to New South Wales.
PETER DUTTON: Sure, well I think we should step up our response to the illegal product because as excise rate goes up of course the illegal tobacco product becomes more attractive for all of those organised crime networks.  If they can pocket essentially part of that which people would otherwise pay in excise, it’s really quite a lucrative product for those criminals to sell.  So I think we’ve got to try and reduce the consumption, or the demand, and the supply of that illegal tobacco product, and as I say, I think a priority for an incoming Coalition Government would be to look at ways we could reduce smoking rates amongst teenage girls in particular, and I’m happy to look at research or ideas or suggestions that people have.  But in Indigenous communities as well where it’s essentially double the rate or better in some communities, even higher, it’s a real tragedy and I think if we can get some micro-messages and ways in which we can reduce smoking in those communities I think that would be a great outcome.
JOHN SCOTT: Ok, um, on that issue of reducing smoking, I guess the government makes a lot of money from tax of cigarettes, and I know you are trying to reduce it, but how are you going to go revenue wise if you get the blokes that blow and girls that like a puff to really reduce this spending, it’s going to hit you guys in the hip pocket isn’t it?
PETER DUTTON: Well I hope it’s a problem that we have to grapple with, if there’s a reduction in smoking and a reduction in excise collection then I think that’s a great thing for our nation.  We obviously have thousands of deaths each year from tobacco related cancers and I think there’s an enormous cost burden on our health system as well, so there’s swings and roundabouts in the financial arguments, but if we can reduce smoking, it is a preventable cancer if you like, if you can stop people smoking or prevent them from taking it up, it’s a terrible, terrible condition for people to be suffering under.
JOHN SCOTT: I’m amazed so many young people are having a puff these days, I really shake my head and think why would they put that thing in their mouth and suck that smoke in.  I know with people that have been smoking for a while it’s difficult for them to give it up, but why ever you’d start in this environment I don’t know.
PETER DUTTON: I think it’s a very different situation John in you know, the fifties, sixties and seventies, where people weren’t given the information that’s available today, but I think if we can look at all the evidence available I don’t think many people need to be made aware of the evils of smoking, we just need to reduce that take up rate, particularly amongst teenagers as well.  As you say, I’m just amazed, it really only takes one visit to a hospital to see a relative who’s dying of cancer and it is just a hideous disease and why people would want to put themselves into that situation, we’ve just got to provide every support we can to prevent it from happening.
JOHN SCOTT: Well said, good point.  Just before you go, quick point on this.  With the pensioners, they’re doing it pretty tough, there’s this, they’re throwing this out there, the government, to maybe to give single recipients of the Dole an extra fifty bucks a week, when we had Minister Macklin coming out saying she could live on thirty-five bucks a day, don’t know how she’s going to do it, but said she could.  What’re your thoughts in terms of this fifty dollars extra to single recipients of the Dole when, you know, supporting mothers, supporting fathers, you know, they’re only getting thirty-five bucks a day to live on and this could really mean the fact that some kids could go hungry in the aged care area, there’s no chance of those people getting a job and they need all the help they can get.  What, how would you view that by the Government?
PETER DUTTON: Well John, I think most people would see the discussion about plain packaging tobacco at the moment as a distraction from Jenny Macklin’s faux pas a couple of days ago.  The Government trotted out plain packaging and this discussion because they wanted to distract from the news cycle all of the Government’s stuff ups, if you like, from the Ministers around the Dole and the Newstart payments.  I think that’s the first point that needs to be made.  The second point is that taxpayers provide assistance, not just through Newstart allowance but obviously through parenting payments or through Family Tax Benefit Part A, Part B, there’s the clean energy support that people receive by payments one off through a year, there’s support that people receive perhaps through rental assistance, through health care card where they can receive bulk billing, so attending a doctor for free in many cases.  People receive support through the PBS system, where people can receive subsidised pharmaceuticals.  So there is a lot of support that tax payers provide, but nobody’s pretending that it would be easy for anybody to live on Newstart or a pensioner’s single allowance.  In particular a lot of self funded retirees who are on very low incomes at the moment because of a drop in their share portfolio price or they’ve got a very small fixed income through interest that they’re earning from the bank, they’re suffering as well, so nobody should underestimate, I think, what a lot of people are going through at the moment.  But, in the end, the Newstart allowance is designed to provide support for people who are unemployed, people move from a Newstart allowance to a pension payment when they achieve a pensionable age, if that’s the scenario they find themselves in.  But the Newstart allowance is designed to get people into work, and if people are able bodied, they’re young enough, we should be providing them with support to get into work, and that’s the aim of any government. 
JOHN SCOTT: Ok look, well time’s beaten us.  Shadow Minister for Health and Ageing Peter Dutton joining us, he’s the MP for Dickson in North Brisbane.  Thanks Peter, have a good New Year.
PETER DUTTON: Thanks John, same to you.
Media contact: Christian Hayes – 0414 197 944 or (07) 3205 9977
Posted in: Media Releases
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