Page 770 - Week 03 - Wednesday, 9 March 2005

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and I foreshadow that I will be moving an amendment shortly which I think better reflects the complexities of this issue.

The ACT’s achievements in tobacco control and other public health initiatives are at least partly attributable to a non-partisan approach in which these issues have been prevented from degenerating into political slanging matches. The cooperative approach to health protection and health promotion has all been to the benefit of the ACT community. Therefore, I think that it is quite regrettable that a major public health achievement—and there is no denying that that is clearly what we are talking about—is being used as an opportunity for political point scoring.

Let us look at the facts of this matter. It was the Labor government that conducted a public consultation on the phasing out of the current exemption system, which found strong public support for smoke-free, enclosed—enclosed—public places at the earliest opportunity. It was the government that tested for, and found, environmental tobacco smoke in dozens of hospitality premises, it was the government that gave a commitment to phase out the exemption system and it was the government’s amendments that ensured the exemption system would end at the earliest possible date rather than at a later date, as had been suggested by the opposition and other members of the previous Assembly.

As it was, there were a number of problematic aspects of the legislation that was rushed through in November 2003. Reliance on the problematic phrase “substantially enclosed” was one of them. Had the government been given another few months to develop and introduce its own legislation, completed its regulatory impact statement, it would have been able to better develop a policy response which addressed a range of issues, including the meaning of “enclosed”. It could have been clarified at the outset.

Although exemptions do not end until December 2006, the meaning of “enclosed” is fundamental to the understanding of where smoking will be prohibited and where it will be permitted. ACT Health, therefore, developed a set of interpretative guidelines to provide information on how enforcement officers would interpret “substantially enclosed”, thereby providing clearer guidance. That, at the time, was all that was possible, given the limitations of the definition, which was common to both the Smoke-free Areas (Enclosed Public Places) Act 1994 and the Smoking (Prohibition in Enclosed Public Places) Act 2003.

Mr Speaker, because interpretative guidelines are only an administrative instrument and do not carry the weight of law, a more formal and comprehensive approach was required for the proprietors, customers and enforcement officers. However, not even the regulatory impact statements that the government conducted were able to say with certainty how to define an enclosed area for the purposes of the legislation.

I note that, throughout her speech, Dr Foskey deliberately avoided stating what she believed should be the appropriate definition. She asserts that the government’s definition is inadequate, but she does not assert how she would define it—explicitly, not in general terms, because that is what is needed.

I and other members have received numerous representations from health groups, from hospitality groups and from industrial groups who all hold strong views about what

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