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Tuesday, 18 November 1986
Page: 2401

Senator ELSTOB(4.48) —Where is the truth in this debate? I think that is the important thing to look at. I am not saying that I have smoked for a long time and it has not affected me. I will be 62 at the end of this month and I have smoked since I was 12, but I would not advise anyone to smoke. I do think there is a lot of misinformation spread about and I think we should look at the medical profession. I have nothing against the medical profession at all. I think the majority of doctors do a great job in this country, but there are aspects that we should look at.

If we are to believe all that the medical profession says about smoking and passive smoking, maybe we should go back a little bit and look at other matters. Let me remind Senator Peter Baume that it was in the 1930s that all the research was done on asbestos. At that time not one British insurance company would insure any worker who worked in the asbestos industry in England. Yet the medical profession did not relay to the public at that time how dangerous asbestos was, and workers in this country and in every other country on this earth worked without the proper precautions. Consequently, thousands upon thousands of people have died from asbestosis. Yet the medical profession knew about asbestosis in 1930. Because this debate came on suddenly, I do not have the precise details with me at the moment.

Thalidomide is another thing that the medical profession said was safe. In all honesty it said it was good for morning sickness. So do not tell me that the medical profession is all knowledgeable. It is not. I had never been ill in my life until last year. I had a gall-bladder operation and when the surgeon was to operate on me I asked him to have a good look around. He said: `You're a heavy smoker'. I said: `Yes, I smoke 50 to 60 cigarettes a day and have all my life'. He said: `Goodness gracious me'. However, after he had operated he said that I was in perfect condition. He tested my lungs, my heart and my blood pressure and I am in perfect condition. I said to him: `If I had had cancer you would have put me down as a statistic because I smoked'. He said: `Yes, I certainly would have'. I asked: `What about the other side of the ledger? I am a bad person. I smoke a great deal. You did not list me as one of the people who have not been affected by smoking'. He said: `No, we don't do that'. So where does the honourable senator get his statistics from? I am not saying that smoking is good for people but I believe in many instances people in this country and many other countries think that by going to a medical practitioner they will be given a pill for every ill, and that is not what it is about.

Throughout my life I have taken only very little medicine, but I exercise. At 62 I practise tai kwon do; I am a third dan. I exercise, work and enjoy life, and that is the answer to many problems. Is ill health due to smoking? I could direct the medical profession's attention to people who have been extremely ill from working in petrochemical industries and the coking industry with coke furnaces. They have many things wrong with them. We should not blame it all on tobacco and cigarettes, that is all I am saying. It is totally unfair and unjust for the medical profession or anybody else to come up with statistics and say: `This is the only thing that is causing bad health'. That, to my mind, is totally wrong. I would like the Minister for Community Services (Senator Grimes) to tell me exactly how one gets these statistics. There is much more in this debate than meets the eye. It is not as easy as Senator Baume says it is. It has a lot to do with health, but it is within themselves to influence this. If one believes that one is healthy, if one wants to be healthy and if one uses one's body, that is the way to go.

I have never been obnoxious about smoking. If somebody says to me that he objects to my smoking, I respect his wishes. Today it is unfortunate that there are so many one issue people. There is not enough co-operation and understanding for each other, some give and take. That is the worst thing about our society today. If the issue of these one issue people is not smoking it is that people should not have a drink. I have never been drunk in my life, but I enjoy a smoke. Many of my mates were servicemen and they were very upset, to say the least, when they came back from the war and the doctors said `Come here, you poor chap. We understand you and all the traumas that you have suffered' and gave these men barbiturates. Today those people are drug addicts; they are still on barbiturates.

Senator Walters —Oh!

Senator ELSTOB —I tell the honourable senator truthfully that they are still on barbiturates today. Senator Baume would also truthfully say that that is so. Doctors do not give barbiturates to other people, but all the returned servicemen were given barbiturates, and that is a disgrace. People should have said: `Come on. Get on with living'. They did not need that sort of sympathy. I do not tell untruths. This is not a simple question. There should be a better debate than people simply saying: `This is all wrong and that is all right'. I do not believe that. People are becoming narrow-minded, and that worries me. All people have rights. We should debate this matter more effectively and there should be better understanding within the community if we want a healthier community.

It is not wise to go down one narrow track and to say: `This is how it will be'. What is good for me may not be beneficial to somebody else but I find that to have a cigarette satisfies me. I do not take a lot of drugs or prescriptions; I very seldom have a cold or am ill. In all my life, the occasion I mentioned was the first time that I have been ill. I have been injured. As I said, I have nothing against the medical profession-it does a magnificent job-but it should not tell me that it is all knowing; it is not. That is where the problem arises. People believe that members of the medical profession are all knowing, that they know more than others, but I do not think they really do. I rose to counter some of the claims that have been made. A lot of pure nonsense has been said. As I said, it would be wise to have a more open debate on this issue.