|The Non Smokers' Movement of Australia Inc.|
Protecting the rights of the Non-smoking majority
from tobacco smoke and from the tobacco industry's propaganda.
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Issue 25, July-August 1998
PROTEST AGAINST POLLUTED AIR CONDITIONING STANDARD
Members of NSMA braved the cold wet weather on Friday 24 July 1998 to stage a small but effective protest in the street outside the headquarters of this national standards setting body at Homebush NSW. Acting President, Brian McBride, told supporters it was essential to raise our voices in protest at four major unsatisfactory developments:
1. The "Expert Committee" ME62 had been "got at" by the tobacco lobby and had produced a new draft air conditioning standard (1668.2) favourable to their interests. We demanded that the "Draft" be modified and reissued for public not selected private comment.
2. The Chairman of that Committee has a perceived conflict of interest in that he made a living out of designing bigger and more expensive air conditioning of the type used in Canberra to beat the bans on indoor smoking by simply raising the volume of air flow. (That was an interim solution based on the only available standards in ACT and should not be perpetuated in future national standards.)
3. The Committee were acting like a secret society and NSMA were denied information on the names of the members or when their next meeting would be. We were also denied a copy of the contentious "Draft" and had to rely on second hand information.
4. This appeared to be a committee of engineers making health decisions for the community without the qualifications or the mandate to do so. The committee should at least have a representative from the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) and the NSW Dept. of Health.
DEPUTATION GIVEN A HEARING
A limited deputation of three members of NSMA was admitted to the building to see the acting CEO, Mr Peter Walsh, to express our complaints and to seek answers. In this discussion and subsequent correspondence Standards Australia have tried to defend their actions:
1. The "Draft Standard" was issued to those organisations represented on the Committee in October 1996 for their comments which are now being considered. It was not "policy" to issue copies to other third parties like ourselves. The committee wanted to issue the final new Standard in early 1999 and were loath to delay it for modification and further input.
2. The Chairman was Mr Paul Spry. It was admitted that he was a paid consultant who worked on installing the high air flow systems in hotels and restaurants in Canberra to allow smoking in those premises but this did not constitute a "conflict" of interest in their view. It was stated that all members of their committees are considered to have a "vested interest" in the topic because they are actively involved in the particular industry using the standard.
3. Standards Australia policy is not to reveal the names or contact details of actual members of their committee but would give only the names of the organisations they represent. (A list was provided of twenty organisations scattered from Brisbane to Perth for us to do our own detective work on who might actually be on the committee.)
4. Standards Australia had invited the NHMRC to nominate a representative on the Committee but they had declined to do so. Furthermore the Committee does not consider it has a mandate to either ban or allow tobacco smoking in buildings. They simply treat it as an inevitable contaminant like body odour and propose a hierarchy of measures to deal with it including the "dilution" method.
IRRESPONSIBLE HEALTH MINISTERS
Both Federal Health Minister, Michael Wooldridge, and State Health Minister, Andrew Refshauge, are guilty of the most irresponsible neglect of their duties in allowing this mess to develop. Firstly that shameless nicotine addict Refshauge had to be carried kicking and screaming to introduce the NSW Tobacco Regulation Act in May 1997 after he was out-manoeuvred by the Liberal party's amendments to the Fred Nile and Peter Macdonald private member's Bill. Faced with looking reactionary and out of step with public opinion by having to oppose these progressive Bills he chose to re-take the initiative by introducing a matching Government Bill in the lower House where it was passed. This was a gutless and leaderless decision putting all real action on smokefree public areas back FIVE YEARS from when a new air conditioning standard was established for the ventilation of such premises.
If the state labor government was really serious it would have immediately taken steps through its own Dept. of Health to establish this vital new health standard. Instead it has sat on the sidelines and allowed a non-government and unaccountable standards body to drift along to produce a comfort standard which does not satisfactorily address the health issue. We can see, after 15 months of delay, that nothing has been achieved other than back door manipulation of a clean air standard which allows carcinogenic contaminants like tobacco smoke as if it was just as harmless as body odour!
Action Point 1 - Write to state Health Minister, The Hon. A. Refshauge, Parliament House, Macquarie Street, SYDNEY 2000, and demand that a proper health standard banning smoking in air conditioned buildings be immediately proclaimed
NO NHMRC HEALTH EXPERT ON COMMITTEE
As for his part, how can Michael Wooldridge refuse an invitation to put a qualified health representative from the NHMRC on such a vitally important committee which will affect the health of all Australians for generations to come? The answer of course is that both State and Federal Governments are hypocrites with a capital "H" when it comes to tobacco control policy. They are so addicted to the tax revenue from cigarettes that they speak grandly in public about the damage to health and pat themselves on the back for spending a minuscule 0.4% of such revenue on health messages while privately, and behind closed government doors, they quietly agree not to do anything which will have a serious effect on that lovely cash flow from tobacco tax revenue. What hypocrites!. We dedicated anti-tobacco campaigners should never vote for either of the major parties again while they continue to fail in their first duty to get serious in stamping out the tobacco industry in this country.
Action Point 2. - Write to Federal Health minister, The Hon. M. Wooldridge, Parliament House, CANBERRA ACT 2600, and request an explanation as to why he refused Standards Australia's invitation to place a health representative on the special air conditioning committee ME/62.
WHAT A MESS!
What else could you call it when the NSW Government has passed legislation requiring that a new air conditioning standard be established as the foundation stone for future bans on public smoking, and yet the body setting that standard says it does not have a mandate to consider the banning of smoking anymore than it has a mandate to ban body odour! Furthermore Standards Australia say they are only setting a standard based on consensus views of the subscribing member organisations who are interested enough to put forward a volunteer representative for that particular committee (ME62). They have no responsibility to screen the motives or credentials of volunteers who effectively put themselves on this vitally important committee. Hence the system is wide open to corruption and manipulation by vested interests. The subscribing member organisations likewise just leave it to suitably motivated individuals to attend committee meetings and do the right thing for their industry interests. The "volunteer" is nameless and unaccountable to the outside world - it in a closed industry shop.
Is this the way responsible State or Federal Governments think the vital consequences for future public health should be handled? The answer is that they don't really care if there is a lot of dithering and delay because it puts the five year plan, and any hard decisions that are required, further and further away. Of course, if some nameless committee can be relied upon to give them a soft option solution where they don't really have to ban public smoking in five, six or even ten years, that is even better! It would mean no interruption to that wonderful cigarette tax revenue to which they have become so addicted.
Action Point 3. - Write to your local State and Federal representatives and ask them to intervene to sort out this unsatisfactory mess and explain their position re smoke-free air conditioning.
WOULD THEY BE SMART ENOUGH?
Given the looseness of the above standards setting process do we think the tobacco companies would really be smart enough to take the opportunity to manipulate the process for their own ends? We know the tobacco companies in USA have been just slightly opportunistic in throwing a few million dollars here and there amongst scientists, engineers, medicos and the media to serve their own ends but we don't really believe they would do it here - do we? We must be a bit paranoid to think this - after all the recent 60 Minutes program showed us the written reply from Mr. Gary Krelle, Chairman of Rothmans, that he had no knowledge of the deceptions and "revelations overseas to which you refer". On that same program we saw our ex Premier, Nickoteen Greiner, sadly shaking his head and walking away in disbelief that anyone should dare to hold him accountable for the drug addiction and premature death of millions of Australian children. These tobacco company executives are clearly too dumb to get in and manipulate the system here!
INVITATION TO 21st ANNIVERSARY DINNER
All members are invited to attend a fund-raising dinner to mark
the 21st Anniversary of the formation of the Non- Smoker's Movement
NOTICE OF ANNUAL GENERAL MEETING
The 21st AGM of the Non- Smoker's Movement of Australia Inc. will
be held in Room 26, Ground floor of the Trades Hall, 4 Goulburn
on Wednesday 28 October 1998.
WOOLDRIDGE CAVES IN AGAIN
The Liberal Party has again shown its spineless attitude on tobacco control with a new exemption granted by Federal Health Minister, Michael Wooldrige, for tobacco sponsorship of next years Australian Masters Tournament to be held in Queensland. There was plenty of adverse publicity about this years event with buffoon Borbidge strutting around in a tobacco sponsors jacket as if he owed them great gratitude and respect. Add to that the liberal party's acceptance of tobacco sponsorship for its annual conference in Brisbane and it is clear that the liberals are right in the pockets of the tobacco industry. All sections of the health lobby, including Dr David Brand for the AMA, have roundly condemned the exemption to permit tobacco advertising at this prestigious Ladies sporting event saying it was unacceptable especially given that women were increasingly taking up smoking at a young age.
The Trustees and Board of control are to be commended for this decision announced on Thursday 23 July. It follows a similar ban recently introduced at the Melbourne cricket ground and which received a lot of publicity mainly because that champion smoker John Elliott, publicly defied the ban until he was brought into line by pro-health sponsors. The Sydney media showed great interest in the local ban and looked for another champion like Elliott but apparently Sydney smokers have a little more intelligence and no rebel could be found.
The media frenzy resulted in Brian McBride doing 3 radio and one TV interview on the day of the announcement. He pointed out that such bans are long overdue and sporting fans should not have to put their health at risk while watching their favourite events. He also referred to the great deal of harm done in the past by sporting bodies cooperating with the tobacco industry and causing young people to be seduced into smoking. Hence if such sporting bodies now have to bear a little bit of pain to correct the problem they should cop it sweet and stop complaining.
ELECTIONS ARE HERE AGAIN
For the last twenty years we have waited and hoped for a political miracle whereby one of the major parties would take a really strong and effective stand against the tobacco industry. However in spite of increasing rhetoric in recent times nothing much really changes as a direct result of political decisions. The only real progress is made through the courts so the pollies can say "we must act because the court has made a decision". They never lead, they are just dragged along by events precipitated by activists in the field. The improved bans on TV and print advertising were a great leap forward but it would have been much slower happening if we had not successfully prosecuted Channel Ten for their blatant breaches through the "Winfield Rugby League" broadcasts.
This organisation is not affiliated with any political party and we freely criticise all of them depending solely on their policies on clean air and tobacco control programs. We are pleased to see that both the liberal's GST and Labor's dedicated hospitals revenue from cigarettes will result in a price increase of approximately 50 cents on a packet of cigarettes, so they are both progressive measures. It has been consistently proved around the world that raising the price of cigarettes does cause some smokers to quit and, of course, it has the great advantage of making it harder for children to buy them. We have consistently endorsed the Australian Democrat's strong policies on tobacco control and if they can achieve a balance of power situation it will no doubt increase the chances of either major party in government taking stronger measures to stamp out the tobacco menace in this country.
OUR NEWEST MLC AND DAD!
Congratulations to our ex-President Dr. Arthur Chesterfield-Evans on his induction into NSW Parliament on Monday 29 June 1998. Space does not permit the intended tribute to Arthur's invaluable contribution to the anti-tobacco cause over the last 20 years but look for this in the next edition. Further congratulations to Arthur and Kate on the birth of first son Michael on 12 July - it has certainly been a very exciting and rewarding year for them.
|The Non-Smokers' Movement of Australia Inc, Box K860, Haymarket NSW 1240.|
|This page was last updated on 7th August, 2012.|
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