The debate on this motion on political donations from tobacco companies is nothing more than a diversion from the main game in Australia at the moment: the carbon tax and asylum seekers. The government has found itself in a downward spiral of polling across the nation, and this is a poor attempt to try to divert attention away from what is a critical situation for this nation.
I will start by stating that the coalition does not encourage smoking. We never have and will not ever. I will elaborate on the coalition's position on smoking over the last couple of years. Statistics show that under the coalition government there was a decline in smoking rates across Australia. Under the coalition government the prevalence of smoking declined from 21.8 per cent in 1998 to 16.6 per cent in 2007, a substantial decrease. These rates were amongst the lowest in the world. The decline was amongst the biggest falls among OECD countries, and the fall in the smoking rate for women was the greatest among OECD countries. It was at that time that Tony Abbott, who was then the Minister for Health and Ageing, introduced the current graphic health warnings that you see on cigarette packages today. It was the coalition that first proposed an increase in tobacco excise in 2009, a measure taken onboard later by subsequent governments. It is very, very difficult for the government to go and take the moral high ground on this debate. We hear figures bandied about along the lines of $3 million that the coalition has accepted—over the last 10 years, mind you, and on a downward trend—from the tobacco companies. But what they omit to say is that, at the very same time, the Labor government have taken over $20 million in donations from the union movement, some of which has been derived from problem gambling. It is worth noting that Australia has the lowest smoking rate per capita in the world and yet it has one of the highest gambling rates in the world.
With reference to the $20 million received over the last period of time from unions, this budget also allocated a $10 million kick-back to the unions for various reasons, including the development of web pages. Ten million dollars? I created a web page in my electorate the other day for $2,300—quite a significant difference in cost-effectiveness, but then that goes to the moral high ground that Labor want to take on the issue of smoking.
I also pick up the point that Labor actually need to stand up to the unions and say, 'No longer will we take money from the unions that has been derived from problem gamblers.' I have some stats here on problem gambling in Australia. First, 40 per cent of all money lost on pokies comes from problem gamblers. In addition, there are probably about 100,000 addicted gamblers, with an additional 200,000 at significant risk. And poker machines can take up to $1,200 an hour out of mums' and dads' and working families' pockets, per machine around the country. The Alfred Hospital cite figures that one in five people who present in emergency rooms for attempted suicide have some type of gambling issue as their primary cause of attempted suicide.
It is farcical that we are even having this debate. All the data is available for public knowledge. We as a coalition did not shrink away from our responsibility, and our proven track record, for the downward spiralling cigarette intake.
In finishing I want to allude to a quote from ex Prime Minister Rudd—potentially, the way things are going, he could be the next leader of the Australian Labor Party—from 2007. He was quoted as saying on gaming:
What I've said before, and I don't back away from it one minute, is I don't like poker machines. I've said that even though I was working in the Queensland government at the time when poker machines were introduced. That was a decision, together with other decisions, to introduce poker machines which I don't think have been helpful for working families.
I encourage this debate to be done, concluded, so we can get back to the task at hand of debating the state of the nation when it comes to the carbon tax, asylum seekers and issues that impact on families.