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Tobacco Amendment Bill 2016

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Sam Hibbins MP
Member for Prahran
24 June 2016

Mr HIBBINS (Prahran) — I rise to speak on the Tobacco Amendment Bill 2016. The Greens will be supporting this bill as it is a step forward in banning smoking in outdoor dining areas and in the regulation of e-cigarettes. But from our perspective it is a big disappointment that this bill does not cover outdoor drinking areas as well as outdoor dining areas. Certainly that is a position that is supported by a number of organisations, including the Australian Medical Association, Quit, the Cancer Council and others I am sure. I feel we could have had Australia's best legislation or legislation comparable to that of other states — anti-smoking legislation equal to the best in regard to outdoor areas. Instead I feel we have a watered-down version. The smoke is the same and the people's health is the same: we do not believe that there should be a difference or that there is a difference between outdoor dining areas and outdoor drinking areas.

I am very glad that the member for Macedon made such a point of talking about lobby groups, talking about political donations and talking about tobacco donations — —

Mr Walsh — You do not talk about where you get your money from.

Mr HIBBINS — Yes, we do. It is on our website.

Let us talk about the Australian Hotels Association. This is essentially the tobacco lobby, the alcohol lobby and the gambling lobby rolled into one. This is a group that is opposed to anti-smoking legislation and is a significant donor to the Labor Party, the Liberal Party and the National Party. Let us talk about who the Australian Hotels Association is. Let us look at its corporate partners. It was very interesting to hear the member for Macedon making a strong point about not accepting tobacco donations. Let us look at the corporate partners of the Australian Hotels Association. We have got Tabcorp, we have got Lion, we have got Carlton & United Breweries and we have got British American Tobacco. We have got British American Tobacco — a corporate sponsor of a lobby group that donates to the Labor Party. Sure enough we have got legislation here brought before us that simply does not go far enough.

Let us look at the donations this association made in the election year: $171 000, including a big one of $100 000 on 27 October. It was certainly looking to back a winner there. Unfortunately before the election the Liberal Party only got $75 000. It is a complete conflict of interest to have the Australian Hotels Association, which is a representative of the alcohol, gambling and tobacco industries, donating such significant amounts to political parties and at the same time to have the government making significant regulations over those industries. If the Labor Party, or any other party, were serious about donations reform and integrity in terms of where donations come from, it certainly would not be accepting funds from the Australian Hotels Association.

I also want to take up the point of the member for Macedon that only the Labor Party has been leading the way. The Victorian Greens introduced legislation to ban — —

Mr Pearson interjected.

Mr HIBBINS — Because the Labor Party voted against it. This is the thing: Labor members can get up and say, 'It's only us', but it is very easy for them to say, 'It's only us' when they vote against other people's legislation. It is incredible. It was the Victorian Greens — —

Ms Hennessy — On a point of order, Acting Speaker, I appreciate that this is a wideranging debate. However, this is a debate that is essentially about tobacco reform, and whilst I always welcome a bit of life, colour and movement from the member for Prahran, I would ask that you bring him back to the provisions of the bill. In relation to the imputations he wishes to make about some so-called connection between electoral donations and this bill, I would suggest that he initiate that by way of a notice of motion, if he chooses to do so, and I suggest that he chooses his words very carefully.

The ACTING SPEAKER (Ms Edwards) — Order! I uphold the point of order. The member for Prahran to return to speaking on the Tobacco Amendment Bill 2016. I also ask that the member for Prahran not respond to interjections from the other side of the house.

Mr HIBBINS — I thought it would be best to go through the time line of tobacco reform, as other members have done. As I said, it was the Victorian Greens who first introduced legislation to ban smoking in outdoor dining areas and outdoor drinking areas for the same reasons I am sure that members are supporting this bill. We know the devastating effects smoking has had in our community. We know the effects of second-hand smoke on diners, on drinkers and on staff. I know that United Voice has called for bans on smoking in outdoor drinking areas.

We know the importance of decoupling the link between smoking and drinking. We know the importance of denormalising smoking and supporting those who have quit. We know that when we have put in reforms of this kind it has actually been good for business, rather than what the naysayers would say, and we know that these sorts of reforms have the overwhelming support of the community. Unfortunately when we moved our private members bill in the last term of government, it was voted down. Then sometime down the track we saw a commitment by the former coalition government. In its last year in office it made an in-principle decision to legislate for smoke-free outdoor dining and stated that bans would be introduced within five years after detailed consultation periods. Five years — that is a decent amount of time. Ours would have been, I think, done within 12 months to two years. Certainly if that bill had been passed, we would already have seen that legislation in place.

It is good to see progress, but as I said, it is disappointing that this bill does not ban smoking in outdoor drinking areas as well. There are a number of issues with that. I will go through what we think would be the best model in terms of what our bill would provide. It would ban smoking in outdoor drinking and dining areas, but it would allow for a designated smoking area in licensed venues. Licensed venues would be able to establish this outdoor smoking area to be no more than 50 per cent of their outside dining and drinking areas. This outdoor smoking area would have a 2.1-metre buffer wall with a single entrance. No food or drink would be able to be served in this area. That is unlike a provision of this bill, which allows venues to have a smoking area and to have drinking and snacks in there. Our legislation had other rules around venues creating smoking management plans.

The problems with this particular legislation in not going down that route of doing both dining and drinking areas is that we have a separation of outdoor dining and drinking areas by a 2.1-metre wall or a 4-metre buffer but there is no restriction in the size of the outdoor drinking area relative to the outdoor dining area. That means that if a pub decides to do so, it could designate an entire area as a drinking area, excluding diners from actually being able to use the outdoors. The same goes for cafes. Certainly there have been experiences in New South Wales where this has actually been the case and eating has not been allowed in outdoor areas.

As I raised, the issue with having bans for just outdoor dining but not for outdoor drinking is that we remove that opportunity to decouple the connection we have between drinking and smoking. We know that, obviously, it is difficult for people who have quit. Drinking can often result in a relapse of taking up smoking again. Of course this does not provide for the effective protection of workers who still have to work in these outdoor drinking areas. For these reasons, it would have just been simpler and more appropriate to have a ban on smoking in dining and drinking areas, with just a small designated smoking area. The Greens also have some technical amendments — concerns with wording and technical aspects of the bill that we will be seeking further clarification on — and we may seek amendments in the upper house.

We have, I think, 11 000 people who die from smoking each year in Victoria. These are all preventable deaths. We have many people who are wanting to go out and enjoy a night out without having to deal with second-hand smoke. We have workers who need protection from second-hand smoke, and it is unfortunate that this legislation is a watered-down version of what needs to happen and what is the best practice, as has been put forward by medical bodies and as is in place in other states. I note that the Queensland model has been put forward as the preferred model. I note that other states and territories — the ACT, the Northern Territory, Queensland and Western Australia — have gone for smoke-free outdoor dining and outdoor drinking, and I think it certainly should be Victoria's ambition or intention to do just that. It is disappointing that unfortunately the government has chosen not to do that at this stage.

Moving on to the provision for e-cigarettes, we understand that there is very limited evidence around the health impacts of e-cigarettes. That makes it difficult to legislate. I see in this instance the government has sought to regulate them in the same way as tobacco products, and certainly we see this as a step up from the existing situation, where there are currently no restrictions on the sale, use or advertising of non-nicotine e-cigarettes. They are being used, and certainly one of our main concerns is that e-cigarettes could be used as a tool or as a way of introducing smoking to young people. Particularly we have seen some that have flavoured products or colourful packaging that could appeal to young people. We certainly think that we need to continue to look very closely at e-cigarettes to make sure that they are not used in this way where they could be a dressed-up product that is used to introduce young people to smoking.

There is another part, something that we feel is missing from the bill, and that is any legislation to do with water pipes, known as hookahs or shishas. We note that currently you are allowed to smoke them indoors. You can use flavoured tobacco, which is completely inconsistent with our smoking laws, and in fact it is in many aspects more harmful than smoking itself. I have been provided with a copy of a letter signed by the Australian Lebanese Medical Association, the Australian Iraqi Council, 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 these bodies in this letter have called for water pipes to be subject to tobacco legislation and be treated in the same way as other tobacco products because these organisations understand the harms that tobacco is causing to their communities. They would like to see this product, which obviously their communities use more than others, regulated in the very same way that other tobacco products are regulated so those communities can also benefit from such legislation.

The Greens will be supporting this bill. It is an improvement in terms of restrictions on smoking and e-cigarettes. However, we are very disappointed that this did not go further and encompass smoking in both outdoor drinking and outdoor dining areas. There is a clear conflict of interest between political donations and lobbying by the Australian Hotels Association, and I think the government would do very well to look very closely at not accepting donations from that particular association. We need to take further action to protect the health and wellbeing of Victorians from smoking, and certainly we need to be introducing bans in outdoor drinking areas as well.

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Sam Hibbins MP
Member for Prahran
24 June 2016




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