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Smokescreens of hypocrisy

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In Parliament yesterday the Dishonorable Member for the Seat of Bilgebucket made his first policy speech after being elevated to the position of Minister for Health.

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Mr Speaker, I intend today to address two related issues which come within the responsibility of my portfolio.

Firstly the matter of multinational tobacco companies.

As you know, this government is legislating the compulsory
plain-packaging of cigarettes.

Tobacco companies have responded with aggressive advertising campaigns opposing these laws.

It beggars belief that they are suddenly claiming to be worried about the reduced amounts of tobacco excise tax that the Government will receive under the new laws.
They are, I suspect, having great difficulty confronting their own imminent and overdue mortality.

Tobacco companies are surplus to the requirements of Australia in the twenty-first century.

The initiatives that I am about to announce today will permanently remove these companies from Australia’s commercial landscape unless they accept the lifeline that I will throw to them at the end of this address to the House.

I also acknowledge that the Government must cease all pretence of occupying any sort of moral high ground in the light of all the revenue it has previously welcomed from tobacco sales.

All that is going to come to an end.

Today.

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Australia has one of the most generous free health care systems in the world Mr Speaker. It will, however, become financially unsustainable beyond the year 2020 in it’s present format, partially because patients are taking the system for granted and not assuming adequate responsibility for their own health in terms of lifestyle choices.

The following initiatives are in no way intended as a personal attack on those Members in this House or Australians who have made the individual choice to smoke tobacco.
Indeed, part of this new Act will put a smile on their faces, as it supports the right of individuals to smoke within their own airspace at an affordable price.

Effective today, the growing of tobacco plants will be deregulated and decriminalised and the unfettered trade of tobacco products will be permitted free of all excise charges and Government taxes with the exception of the 10% GST.

Unfortunately Mr Speaker, this new freedom will be counter-balanced by new responsibilities.

In order to reduce the unnecessary burden that smoking-related illnesses impose upon Australia’s taxpayer-funded health system, all smokers seeking treatment at public health facilities will be sent to the back of the queue unless they have been paying the appropriate taxation surcharge under the “Schedule of Personal Mischief.”

Inebriates suffering alcohol-induced trauma will also be sent there after being temporarily bandaged-up to staunch the unsightly flow of blood onto emergency room floors, unless they too have been paying the even higher surcharge applicable to them because of the increased likelihood that they will cause physical harm to other people.

Getting a skinfull of booze and drugs on weekends is NOT Australia’s National Sport, Mr Speaker, and being sewn-up and put together again by our overworked and frequently abused ambulance officers, doctors and nurses will no longer be tolerated as an automatic right of citizenship to be paid for by taxpayers.

Emergency treatment “at cost” will continue to be available from Private Hospitals and medical centres, for those who are either unwilling to modify their own behaviour or pre-pay the applicable surcharges.

And finally, a lifeline for tobacco companies.

My Government will give them preferential consideration if they wish to immediately redirect the focus of their commercial activities to building and operating private hospitals and health clinics.

It is forecast that patient demand for these services will rapidly escalate as all the unrestricted freeloading is phased out of public health facilities, thus ensuring lucrative financial returns for investors in private medical facilities.

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At a hastily convened press conference later in the day the Minister was asked about the probability of his now being nominated for several Benevolence and Humanity Awards next Australia Day.  

He emphatically stated that “I have no interest in awards and will of course refuse to accept them on the grounds of humility.”

Later that evening after having been feted for several hours by Ministerial colleagues at the Parliamentary Press Club Bar this statement was amended to;  
I will refhuuuse to accept intercoursh awards on the hulimity grounds.”

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Just over a decade ago multinational tobacco companies decided to increase their profits by choosing to buy imported ingredients instead of Australian-grown leaf.
Mareeba was once the tobacco-growing capital of Australia.
Here are some reminders of an industry which no longer exists.

Tobacco kiln 1932-2002

Tobacco curing barn 1932-2002

International Harvester tobacco planting tractor 1952-2002

About GOF

"Life is like a sewer. What you get out of it, depends upon what you put into it." (Tom Lehrer)

11 responses »

  1. You got my vote, GOF. In fact, I’d be prepared to vote early and often to bring about those changes. I’ve just written a letter to the editor regarding Christian Tony’s reluctance to offend his big tobacco donors.

    Reply
    • Thank you Snowy….in appreciation of your frequent voting I have a list of company directorships and well-paid consultancy jobs that are available should you require one.

      Reply
  2. I’ve done more than my fair share of drinking in my life yet never needed medical services (course, over here, you pay out of pocket) — related at least.

    I was hit head-on by a drugged elder when I was a kid (have 2 fusions of the spine cos of it)…I definitely think asking reckless folk whose choices result in injuries to themselves or others makes sense to “charge” extra. Kind of like those aholes who do backcountry skiing? Don’t get me wrong: let ’em kill themselves and all but they sometimes require emergency services to go to GREAT personal danger to rescue them (the whole point being there’s nobody *to* rescue you–“I’m a real man!”…til I fell down and went “boom”) or cause avalanches that kill others. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Backcountry_skiing

    Reply
    • Thanks for the link, and for reminding me of extreme adventurers who expect the world to stop and rescue them when things go wrong.
      When Australia’s Dick Smith became the first person to fly solo in a helicopter to the North Pole, he stipulated that if he got into trouble it was entirely his own responsibility to get himself out of it. That is the way it should be.

      Reply
  3. I think both our respective countries would benefit from this becoming a reality. Tobacco companies have quite a bit of nerve and they should be knocked down and made to pay for not only sacrificing people’s health (especially from second-hand smoke), but also it’s well established that tobacco crops ruin the soil and the effects of smoking is tested on cats since they have similar respiratory systems as ours.

    Drunk drivers and others who risk people’s lives should definetly get sent to the back of the line.

    I would just add one caveat – smokers may have brought illness onto themselves, but those who quit after a relatively short period of time may get lung diseases no matter what – from what I understand, 50 percent of lung cancer victims have never smoked. Many of them are women, and air pollution or aspestos can cause the same problems. My grandma on my dad’s side died of lung cancer and she never smoked, but may have inhaled second hand smoke. At the very least, people with lung cancer cannot be assumed to have smoked.

    Reply
    • I am sorry that lung cancer unfairly touched your family Emmy, and I take on board your caveat… men of my generation smoked when we were young because there was no information available to us to say that smoking was detrimental to health. It is an entirely different situation today.

      Our free health care system is being abused in many ways. Some lonely older folk have been discovered going to the doctor once a week at taxpayer’s expense….not because they are sick, but because they need a caring ear to listen to them.

      Reply
  4. And I agree with your comment – when people get lost or take extreme risks, they should willingly pay their rescuers for their efforts and especially for taking away time from people who are in trouble after taking fewer risks.

    Reply
  5. The photos are fabulous. The tractor looks very similar to the Nuffields we used to have. My father was a chain-smoker for many years and we all know how well that turned out (massive stroke at 54yo). My daughter peer-pressure smoked as a teenager and would not be put off no matter how many times we pointed at poor old grandad in his wheelchair. She only gave up a year ago when the cost became so high she had to decide between ciggies or petrol.

    Reply
    • I love these old tractors Emjay…in an academic sort of way. They can tell us so many stories about our history.
      It horrifies me to still see young people, and especially the increasing number of girls who smoke. Even when I was young and more stupid, I would never have experimented with smoking if I’d had access to all the information available today.
      So happy your daughter has given up the habit….apparently the body repairs itself quite rapidly after ceasing smoking.

      Reply
  6. Brilliant, GOF.

    “They can pry my empty stubby from my cold, blue, dead hands…”

    Reply

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