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.
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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