Tobacco Amendment Bill

Mr Hibbins (Prahran) — I rise to speak on the amendments from the Legislative Council in regard to the Tobacco Amendment Bill 2016. Firstly, I will just speak to the Greens amendments in relation to the buffer between adjoining venues and also the amendment in regard to water pipes.

We put forward amendments in relation to venues because the bill in its original form provided for a 2.1-metre wall or a 4-metre buffer between outdoor smoking and non-smoking areas within a venue but did not cover venues that are next to each other. Take the example of Chapel Street in the Prahran electorate, where you have got cafes, bars and restaurants — some venues probably call themselves all three — right up against each other on the street front. They are side by side. You have potentially got some smoking areas next to some non-smoking areas. You have got smoke from one venue drifting off into the other. It seemed quite inconsistent and illogical, really, from a public health perspective, not to have any requirement for a buffer or a wall between individual venues. So in those amendments we provided that venues that are adjacent to each other would have to provide for that particular wall or buffer if there was a smoking and non-smoking area. Of course our position is that it would be a lot simpler if we just had no smoking in outdoor dining or drinking areas, but we think those particular amendments certainly strengthen this bill.

The second amendment is in regard to water pipes and making sure that water pipes — or hookahs or shishas — are restricted and classified like cigarettes and any other tobacco products. Certainly not having that in the first place is highly inconsistent with our current smoking laws. We know that a water pipe delivers a high volume of harmful nicotine and that a user consumes an incredible amount of nicotine in just one session.

This amendment has the support of the Arabic-speaking community. We have received a joint letter signed by the Australian Lebanese Medical Association, the Australian Iraqi Council Victoria, the Afghan Australian Association of Victoria, the Pakistan medical community, Arabic Welfare, the Hellenic Medical Society of Australia and the Iraqi Kaldonian Association of Victoria, all calling for water pipes to have the same restrictions as cigarettes and other tobacco products, because those communities want to see the health benefits that these laws can bring. It is worth pointing out that it is not just the Greens pushing these amendments; it is the community itself.

Finally, we have the opposition amendments in regard to having no e-cigarette vending machines and ensuring that e-cigarettes comply with plain packaging laws. Certainly we welcome these, because there is a concern out there that e-cigarettes will be used to encourage children to smoke. We know that tobacco product packaging is partly designed to do just that, so we welcome these particular amendments.

My understanding is that this bill is not due to come in or be implemented until 1 August 2017. I think there will be plenty of time for businesses to be able to understand what these changes mean for them. I do not think that will be a particular issue.

We have a situation in this Parliament that is common with many parliaments in Australia and in the Westminster system where the government does not have the majority in the upper house. It is more than common for bills to be amended in the upper house and sent back to the lower house. I think the government probably needs to understand that many pieces of legislation are going to be, as they already have been, improved and strengthened by the upper house.

I am glad to see these amendments are now being supported by all parties in this place. I would like to also acknowledge the Greens spokesperson for health, who has taken a longstanding interest in these issues around tobacco and preventing harm from smoking. We will be supporting these amendments.