Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2003 Week 12 Hansard (19 November) . . Page.. 4340 ..
MR SMYTH (continuing):
This is an important issue. The government has been in office for two years. We have had no leadership on this issue, no constant reminder, no working with the community, because we have a minister who ignores this portfolio as he is too busy with planning. It is about time the minister dedicated a bit more time to health. He should have had a look at this bill much earlier and come to a firm position much earlier, instead of the shifting sand that we have encountered over the last week. The opposition is in favour of the bill. It is consistent with our platform. But we do argue about the end date. I think that the community deserves some consistency and some certainty.
MS TUCKER (4.29): There is no doubt that tobacco kills people, and where it does not kill them it often makes them sick. There are, however, still lawyers busy ripping up the evidence which would show that the tobacco businesses knew what they were up to all along. Tobacco is a powerful drug of addiction that is freely available around the country and we have to accept that as a society we need to look for measures to minimise the harm it causes.
The problem with all workplaces in which people smoke is that employees inescapably are poisoned in the ongoing circumstances of their work. It has been very well established, most recently by the ACT government, that there is no safe and effective way to separate smoking and non-smoking areas in any rooms and that the current regime governing air quality in public buildings does not protect hospitality workers.
Given the extraordinary hold that tobacco addiction has on many people in the community, one might imagine that there may be a way one day of setting up smoking rooms in some venues which are hermetically sealed, which do not share air with any other room or space in the building and which do not require workers to access the space in their course of employment. I am not sure. That is potentially something that could be looked at for people who have that sort of serious addiction.
However, the reality is that we do need to truly change the mindset to smoke-free workplaces and smoke-free entertainment spaces. As I said, separate, supervised or unsupervised smoking rooms for addicts to smoke in might come later if necessary. The acknowledged aim of everyone in this place is to ensure that smoke-free workplaces in the ACT become universal as quickly as possible.
The issue has been raised that removing the capacity of clubs and taverns to cater for smokers indoors will send them broke. That seems to be based on the presumption that if you cannot smoke and drink indoors at one club or tavern then you can and will in another, or perhaps that if you cannot smoke and drink inside a club or tavern you will stay at home instead. The experience of places such as New York, which is a much colder city than Canberra and so more biased towards indoor activities, is that people adjust quite quickly. The outcome over time is really more likely to be a return to that great Australian tradition of the beer garden and considerably less passive smoking endured by hospitality employees and the social friends of smokers.
Today the debate has been mainly about when and how this scheme will come in. I do not believe it would be fair to introduce anything other than a blanket ban. If exemptions were allowed to be managed to an indefinite date then the clubs or taverns that continue