Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2008 Week 7 Hansard (2 July) . . Page.. 2590..
MR MULCAHY: My question is to the Minister for Health and it relates to the Tobacco Amendment Bill. Minister, you introduced the Tobacco Amendment Bill 2008 to the Legislative Assembly on 6 March this year. A number of members have received correspondence today indicating that you have not yet met with key stakeholders such as representatives from British American Tobacco. Minister, notwithstanding your important work in reducing the incidence of smoking, why have you not yet agreed to meet with representatives from all major stakeholders?
MS GALLAGHER: I have taken the view that I do not meet with tobacco lobbyists. I have not met ever with any and I do not intend to. My staff have met with them, at my request. But it is just one of those decisions that I have taken as the Minister for Health that I will not meet with a company that promotes the use of tobacco, and it is one that I stand by. I am just being up-front about that. I have considered the issues but I feel my responsibilities are as Minister for Health. We know the damage that tobacco does to people's health; it is the single biggest killer in Australia and the leading cause of preventable death in Australia and for me to be holding private meetings with companies that seek to promote the use of tobacco—I formed the view that that is not appropriate for me.
In terms of the legislation that is currently before the house, I think the contentious area is around point-of-sale displays. I have met with local stakeholders around that. I have met with tobacconists. I have received correspondence from a number of small supermarkets and newsagents concerned around the potential implications of point-of-sale display. I have asked that health protection services go out and meet with those people, those individuals, individual business in Canberra, rather than the peak lobby groups. Those meetings have occurred and I have got to discuss further with Health how we move forward on that aspect of the bill because I just feel that there are some genuine issues around the viability of people's businesses that we as a government and as a community need to consider.
But that does not make me walk away from my belief that this is where we should end up. I think we should end up with point-of-sale display bans. It is one of the last ways that tobacco advertisements can occur and they do occur at the cash register in highly visible places. But it is about how we move down that journey that we have got to still finalise. Those consultations at a local level are ongoing. I will be taking a position back to cabinet in the near future about how to move forward.
MR MULCAHY: Thank you for the clarification. Can you also advise the Assembly of your planned schedule for implementation of these changes?
MS GALLAGHER: That is still to be finalised. We have put a position out in the bill. It has created quite a lot of response from individual stakeholders. They have put counterarguments and counterproposals to me and I just need to have a look at that, talk with Health about that and how we move forward.
It is interesting that New South Wales have just recently begun a process around consulting about point-of-sale displays. One of the things that always affect us when