Mr STEPHEN JONES (Throsby) (10:14): We have seen an extraordinary passage of events in the parliament this morning, where the government clearly do not have the confidence of their own convictions. What we have seen this morning is the minister responsible for this piece of legislation come into the House, read the bill and then have the opportunity to have that bill debated in full—the opposition granted the government the opportunity to have that bill debated in full. The government then tried to move a gag motion on a debate on their own bill. They tried to gag debate on their own piece of legislation. What this shows is that they do not have confidence in their legislation. They do not have confidence in their ability to manage this debate. It shows that the government are struggling to convert their seductive three-word slogans into serious policy, legislation and a legislative agenda to bring before the House.
It is actually a reflection of the haphazard decision-making process that has typified this whole matter. We have seen question time after question time being concentrated on the future of Qantas. There has not been a question time this year where the future of Qantas has not been debated. You would think, given all of that, they would be prepared to come into the House and defend the legislation which we argue is not in the national interest. That has not been the case.
Mr STEPHEN JONES (Throsby) (17:18): Earlier today the Leader of the Opposition advised the House that I have been promoted to the front bench, which is a great honour for anybody who sits on this side of the House and any Labor MP. I was promoted to the health portfolio, and I was very keen to ensure that the first speech I gave after being promoted to the front bench was in this important area. This is essentially a public health measure.
The Excise Tariff Amendment (Tobacco) Bill 2014 and the Customs Tariff Amendment (Tobacco) Bill 2014 amend existing acts. Essentially, they increase the rates of excise and customs duty on tobacco through four staged increases of 12½ per cent, commencing on 1 December 2013, and index the rates of excise and customs duty on tobacco to average weekly ordinary time earnings instead of the consumer price index. I support the legislation. I think it is important. It reflects Labor's commitment to improving preventative health across the board and easing the pressure on our public health system.
I am honoured to be appointed to the role of Shadow Assistant Minister for Health and thank the Caucus and Opposition Leader Bill Shorten for this great opportunity.
It is a privilege to be entrusted with such a broad and dynamic portfolio.
I look forward to working with Shadow Minister for Health Catherine King to protect the things that Labor has spent generations building – Medicare, a universal health system and investment in preventative health.
As Shadow Assistant Minister for Health I will take the fight up to the Abbott Government over their new GP Tax, their cuts to public health bodies and their botched decision to pull down the Health Star Rating website.
Coming from the Illawarra, I understand the difficult health challenges facing regional communities and will make this a particular focus of my work in this role.