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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2005 Week 02 Hansard (Thursday, 17 February 2005 2005) . . Page.. 613 ..


it. What we will do, however, is monitor the effectiveness of the changes and we will be monitoring the way about which the government goes in ensuring that the new legislation, when it is passed, is adhered to. We are certainly aware of discussions that are going on around the country; we are certainly aware of the interest in this legislation of many groups. But at this stage we believe that it is a reasonable path forward.

We will support the bill and will certainly monitor the progress of the act when it comes into being; in particular, the effectiveness of the regulations when they are put in place.

DR FOSKEY (Molonglo) (4.39): The key issue in this debate is almost irrelevant to the legislation. The case has been made fairly clearly that the definition of a public space where it would be acceptable for cigarette smoking to be permitted is better defined more tightly than the present legislation allows. The government has been using a guideline until now to indicate what an unenclosed public space would be. The intent of the legislation, however, was to be able to enforce smoke-free areas and, for those reasons, to be able to define in legal terms such a place.

The government plans to define an unenclosed public space by regulation. While regulations are disallowable in the Assembly, it is facile and deceptive to argue that such a process is as rigorous or as transparent as a bill or a schedule to a bill. As I argued in debating the Government Procurement Bill, there are consequences to this tendency to invest wide-ranging powers in regulation without the level of scrutiny that comes with bills advanced in the Assembly; that, in practice, regulation-making powers, while vested in the minister, rest in fact more with the public servants than does the introduction of bills; that the lines of control and responsibility between ministers and public servants are blurred; and that the democratic mechanisms in the territory are not as robust as we might hope, particularly in situations where ministers are not particularly vigorous in their pursuit of policy or in oversight of their agencies, of course understanding that the ministers in this Assembly are particularly burdened with a number of ministries and therefore unable perhaps to give such vigorous oversight as they might wish.

Of course, it is particularly offensive to introduce a bill, the effect of which hinges entirely on a regulation, without presenting the regulation as a schedule to the act. The debate over this bill is not so urgent that it cannot wait for the matching regulation. I fear that we are slipping quickly down the slope of truth in the Assembly with disregard, if not contempt. I am not sure if this approach is being driven by the officers of the department or by the government itself but, either way, it is unnecessary and in the long term damaging. Ministers in this place need to take a more principled approach.

The real issue underlying this debate on smoking in public places is the understood but invisible definition of an unenclosed public place. I do not want to spend long in this debate talking about the health impacts of passive cigarette smoking; they are well known. Suffice it to say that there is an avalanche of evidence demonstrating links between environmental tobacco smoke and illness and disease; that the Assembly and the community are in accord in wanting to rule out environmental tobacco smoke in enclosed public spaces; and that, having made that shift, any decisions made by government to permit cigarette smoking in public places should be primarily guided by health imperatives rather than commercial imperatives.


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