Television interview with Minister Butler and James Glenday, ABC News Breakfast – 10 June 2024

Read the transcript from Minister Butler's interview which covered the new vaping and smoking campaigns.

The Hon Mark Butler MP
Minister for Health and Aged Care

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JAMES GLENDAY, HOST: The federal Government has launched a new campaign to help Australians quit vaping and smoking. Let's go straight to the Health Minister, Mark Butler, who is in Adelaide this morning. Minister, good morning.
GLENDAY: Today you're rolling out anti-vape advertisements. Who are you targeting?
BUTLER: There are four different campaigns we're rolling out today. Perhaps the one of most interest, certainly to parents and school leaders watching your show this morning, will be the one targeted at young people vaping. We know this has really exploded as a public health menace. It's the number one behavioural issue reported in our school communities, and we're determined to give young people as much information as possible about the harms of vaping and prompt them really towards the resources and supports that are there to help them quit.
GLENDAY: You've also got legislation before Parliament at the moment to make vapes prescription only. Do you think that those laws can be passed by before the winter break?
BUTLER: I'm very confident that a majority of parliamentarians in the Senate will see that this is a once in a generation opportunity to do something really meaningful and lasting for the health of young Australians. We want this to be debated in the Senate - it's already passed the House of Representatives - when we get back to Parliament in a couple of weeks’ time and get it in place, as I said I wanted to, by the 1st of July. This is a really important measure for the health of young Australians. We know vaping is doing them harm right now, but we also know it's a gateway to smoking, which will cause them even more harm later in their lives.
GLENDAY: Where will you get the votes from in the Senate, though, because the Nationals are opposed to this plan, there are different views in the Liberal Party and the Greens have also raised some concerns. Do you expect it's more likely to be the Greens or the Coalition that helps you pass this?
BUTLER: We're having constructive discussions with all of my parliamentary colleagues, including in the Senate. We're working through some of their issues methodically and listening to them very carefully. So I know the National Party have counted themselves out of this debate. And they did that really even before seeing the legislation. But all other parliamentarians, I have to say, are engaging really constructively in this, and I'm still very hopeful that we'll get a majority in the Senate and see those laws take effect, as so many parents and school communities want to see.
GLENDAY: Doctors are particularly keen on these new laws because they say it will stop a new generation getting hooked on vapes. But there are some smokers, and indeed some pro-vaping groups, who claim your laws will make it harder for people to actually give up cigarettes because they'll need to go to a doctor to get a prescription. What do you make of that argument?
BUTLER: The only groups really mounting a case to see recreational vapes continue as a part of our society are the groups that are making a profit out of it now. I mean, this is so clearly now a cynical campaign by Big Tobacco to recruit a new generation to nicotine addiction. We've got a very broad coalition of groups, from school leaders to parent groups and importantly, public health groups, all saying we need to stamp that out. Now, I'm absolutely determined to stamp out the vaping industry here in Australia, but I'm just as determined to help Australians quit, which is why we're rolling out so many broad information campaigns, as well as support resources through Quitline, through the My QuitBuddy app, and many others as well, targeted at school communities to help young people, but also older adults who are still smoking, help them quit the habit.
GLENDAY: All right, I just want to move on to another topic. You are the former Labor climate change spokesperson, and there's been a lot of discussion over the weekend about the Coalition's commitment to the Paris climate targets. Just on your 2030 target, there have been pretty well documented delays to transmission line construction and also the establishment of some wind and solar farms. Are you confident that the government can hit its 2030 target of a 43% emissions reduction target?
BUTLER: The December projections on emissions, the official projections, showed we were on track to meet our 2030 target. There are new measures outlined in the Budget that have taken effect since those projections were made by the relevant departments, so we are still very confident that we’re on track. And you see investors really coming to the party on this investment now depends upon countries having clear emissions reduction targets, not just the net zero emissions target in 2050, but five yearly targets, to make sure that investors can have confidence that when they shift their dollar to clean energy and the manufacturing and transport that sits behind it, that they can have confidence that their investment will pay off. That's what we see with five yearly targets. And that's what Peter Dutton is putting in jeopardy with his decision to rip up five yearly targets.
GLENDAY: I think it was 42% - just under - those latest projections. But on next year, the 2030 target might be superseded somewhat because you're planning to announce a target for 2035. Some in Labor, some in the union movement, want it to have a seven in front of it. Do you have a figure in your head that you think would be a good target for Australia to hit?
BUTLER: No, I don't, James, I'm the Health Minister. I know Chris Bowen, the Climate and Energy Minister, will be working methodically through that issue. But it just goes to that same point I just made. I mean, Peter Dutton can't have a bob each way and say he's in favour of staying in the Paris process but not going to do five yearly targets. I mean, that is a clear part of the commitment. But perhaps most importantly, it's absolutely critical to securing jobs and the economic prosperity of the future.
GLENDAY: Just on a totally different topic Minister, this is outside of your portfolio, but Coles this morning is limiting the number of eggs people can buy. Do you have any concerns about avian flu in this country, and what sort of impact it might have on our supermarkets?
BUTLER: I am taking regular briefings from the Chief Medical Officer about avian flu. It's a different type of avian or different strain of avian flu to the one we're seeing in some other countries that have led to a cross-over to very rare instances of human infection. So we're watching that very closely. But as for the more agricultural impacts of the avian flu outbreaks we're seeing in some parts of the country, I know Murray Watt is watching that very closely, and I know Australian viewers will want to know that they're going to have access to enough eggs to keep having the hearty Australian breakfast. So we are taking this seriously. This is a significant issue globally: the avian flu that it is sweeping the globe. I'm making sure that our government particularly is across any implications that might have for human health, at the moment. We feel very confident about that. But I know the agricultural industry is worried about this as well.
GLENDAY: All right. Mark Butler, we'll have to leave it there. But thank you so much for speaking to News Breakfast this morning.
BUTLER: Thank you, James.

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