TOBACCO AMENDMENT (SMOKING AT PATROLLED BEACHES) BILL 2012

Ms GRALEY (Narre Warren South) — It is a pleasure to speak on the Tobacco Amendment (Smoking at Patrolled Beaches) Bill 2012. I think the point the member for Yan Yean was trying to make was that the Liberal Party directly takes donations from tobacco companies.

Bill Nighy is one of my favourite actors, and I imagine that he has got other fans in this chamber because of his starring roles in political thrillers.

He said:

One of the greatest regrets of my life is that I smoked. If I could say anything to anybody starting out in life it would be, ‘Whatever you do, don’t smoke’. I have had to recover from that and been lucky that I have been able to stop’.

I stand here as the daughter of a smoker who died of a smoking-related disease, and I wish he had had the courage, the help and the support of other people to stop smoking. It is a sad fact that smoking-related diseases kill over 4000 Victorians every year.

As the member for Yan Yean said, Labor does not oppose the bill; indeed, the Labor Party has a proud record — an extended history — of support for preventive health reform, including tobacco control.

I am pleased to see that at last this government, which just this year was awarded the 2012 Dirty Ashtray Award by the Australian Medical Association for its failure to take action on tobacco control, has got its act together and brought this piece of legislation into the chamber.

The bill amends the Tobacco Act 1987 to ban smoking between the flags at patrolled beaches and within a 50-metre radius of each flag.

I am pleased to note that this includes both ocean beaches and river beaches. I am an avid user of the beach. I like going to the beach and I have very happy memories of good family times at the beach. One of the things that ruins a trip to the beach is smoking by people close by, as well as the hoonish behaviour of jet skiers. I have spoken on that issue before
in this house, and I am pleased to say that the government has taken further action on that matter as well.

I concur with what the Minister for Ports said in his second-reading speech:

Breaking the link between smoking and everyday family activities is vital to changing social norms around smoking.

Our children must understand that smoking is both highly addictive and harmful to health.

Beaches are an important part of summer in Victoria, and I want everyone to experience our unique coastal landscapes at their best.

Through banning smoking on beaches we can protect Victorian families from exposure to second-hand smoke, stop children seeing people smoke and reduce environmental damage from butt littering.

Indeed one of the very poor results of so many people smoking on the beach is the fact that they tend to drop their litter, which is a cause of great concern for the quality of the water in our bay especially. You only have to walk along the beach, even in winter, to see many
cigarette butts lying on the ground and you wonder why smokers cannot not pick them up and take them elsewhere. I hope that by preventing people from smoking, albeit just between the flags, we will send not only a strong preventive health message to families and smokers but also a strong environmental message.

I note that the enforcement of the ban will be the responsibility of local governments and that existing local government environmental officers will fine people breaching the ban with 1 penalty unit or $141. I understand that the Department of Health will be providing local governments with funding for a communication strategy to alert the public to
the new rules. The ban will take effect in only five weeks — on 1 December, the start of summer — which is not very far away. If you have been at the beach lately, you will have seen a lot of people there already. They are already developing habits as to how they will behave on the beach. I am yet to see any signs go up or any evidence of publicity in local newspapers.

Often publicity goes out with the second-reading speech. I am concerned that a lot of people will not know about this new law. Indeed, I am concerned that local government officers and members of lifesaving clubs, which are often heavily populated by adolescents or young adults, will have to take responsibility for enforcing and promoting this law. I do not want to see a whole lot of local law officers being turned into mobile smoke
detectors and young people becoming dibber-dobbers. I think a bit more warning and resourcing for local government would have been appropriate, although we will be glad to see this come into effect on 1 December.

This brings me to the concerns of the City of Frankston — and I must say they mirror my own concerns — that banning people from smoking between the flags is fraught with difficulties.

Does it mean the same thing will happen as you see when you go to some hospitals, where you cannot smoke in certain areas but where you still have to walk through other areas that are thick with smoke and smell quite putrid in order to gain access to the non-smoking areas? I think some of this is problematic, and it is my personal view — I stress that it is my personal view, but I note that the City of Frankston has somewhat confirmed
this — that the legislation would be much easier to enforce and much more robust in its effect if it made entire stretches of beach smoke free. The environmental wins would be exceptional as well.

To finish I want to talk a little more about advertising. I note the comments by Fiona Sharkie from Quit Victoria in an article in the Age around budget time. Under the headline ‘Budget cuts to hit Quit campaign’, the article says:

Fewer people are likely to quit smoking, experts warn, thanks to the state government halving funding for television advertising that urges them to kick the habit.

Quit Victoria’s executive director Fiona Sharkie said her organisation had been notified after last week’s state budget that it would get $1.1 million a year to air antismoking advertisements, down from an average $3.5 million a year since 2006.

She said the reduced funding from July was a crucial blow to efforts to reduce smoking.

Everybody in this chamber agrees that we need to make strong, positive and robust efforts to reduce smoking.

I will take this opportunity to call on the government to adequately resource the antismoking campaigns that are run by organisations like Quit Victoria, VicHealth and the Cancer Council Australia. I recall the words of Mark Twain when he said, ‘Quitting smoking is easy. I have done it 1000 times’.

We, like the Australian Medical Association, do not want Victoria to win another Dirty Ashtray award — and even the government would agree with that. I suggest that the government get more active in this area and commit, as Labor did in its term in office, to a Victorian tobacco control strategy in the coming years, with very clear targets that can be measured about how many people we are going to stop from smoking, because when we stop people from smoking we save lives. We need to get the government to adequately resource that. I see that the Treasurer is in the chamber. We need to make sure that
advertising campaigns are initiated, especially with summer coming on.

Hopefully when this legislation progresses through both houses and we have this
law in effect, the government will get behind it, resource it and make sure that it works well. I commend the bill to the house.