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Wednesday, 24 August 2011
Page: 9270

Mr JOHN COBB (Calare) (18:12): I rise to speak in the debate on the Tobacco Plain Packaging Bill 2011 and the Trade Marks Amendment (Tobacco Plain Packaging) Bill 2011. As the House knows, the coalition is not opposing the Tobacco Plain Packaging Bill, but there are a few things I do need to talk about, and which I could not let go without mentioning in the House.

I probably have more right to speak on this than most people in the House. Until my eldest girl left school, which was quite a long time—well over 20 years—ago, I was, as my children used to say, a heavy user. When there were seven girls, my wife and I in the car they probably had reason to call themselves 'passive smokers' in a big way. They were all very relieved when I did give it up. I am not here to defend smoking. If I had not given up I have no doubt that I would be in a box by now. Smoking definitely contributed to the deaths of both my mother and one of my aunts in their 80s. However, they were both highly intelligent, very tough and very strong-willed women. So I guess that was their decision, and if they had decided to stop that would have been their decision too—as it was mine.

I must mention the fact that it would seem that, as previous speakers have said, there are legal issues surrounding this bill. If the government believes they can deal with those, that is their business. But, obviously, it would seem that there are legal issues.

There is no silver bullet to stop people smoking or to prevent them from doing so in the first place: that is totally correct. I would never stand in the way of any measure which prevented it or which encouraged or coerced a child into not doing it. I guess most of us started as kids in one way or another, but most of us did not go on with it. But I do have enormous issues with totally taking control of people's lives. The conundrum I have in this debate is that, if this is so bad that we are going to risk trademark rights, intellectual rights and treaty rights, and bring all these legal issues up—if smoking is so bad that we are willing to do that—why not just ban it?

If, however, it is not, why are we so concerned with taking away the right or the ability of an adult to make their own decisions?

I am rather stunned that we want to control people's lives to this extent. As I said, when it comes to helping parents and their children in this area—preventing children making bad decisions, denying children access to nicotine, helping parents—I am all for it; you will get no argument from me. But it seems to me that, if I remember correctly—and I probably would be a similar age to the member for New England—back when Whitlam was Prime Minister, he lowered the age of the right to vote and all those things from 21 to 18, so one assumes an 18-year-old is quite capable of making their own decisions. I just come back to that point. I do not want to speak for long about this, but when do we stop? At what point do we say, 'You are an adult; you make your decision'?

I very much wish my mother had not smoked and that it had not contributed to her death. But she was an intelligent woman and a very strong character, and it was her decision what she did, just as it was my decision what I did—it contributed to bad health for me and I had to give it up.

As I said earlier, I just wonder, if it is so bad, why it is not illegal to sell it, let alone to smoke it. Surely it is not just about money. I do not believe it is just about money, even with this government, who certainly have great need of that commodity. I should add at this point in time that they have nobody but themselves to blame. They have run short of it because they are borrowing $135 million or whatever a day to deal with their habit of borrowing money and spending it.

I have to say that, as adults, we make our own decisions. At 18 we are supposed to have the ability to make decisions; otherwise, why in the hell is 18 the age at which you reach seniority and have the rights every adult in the nation has? Yes, let's stop those who are under that age from smoking. For those over that age, either make it illegal or get over it.