Thursday, 25 February 2021
We've just heard Senator Small's contribution to the discussion on this motion on e-cigarettes. Whilst he is obviously a supporter of taking more action on e-cigarettes, what we heard is that the government plans to do stuff at some point in the future. The problem with the Morrison government is that they've turned into a bit of a 'gonna' government—they're always 'gonna' do something at some later date. We've heard a lot about reports that were tabled ages ago and nothing's happened. It seems this e-cigarette debate, because of some wobbliness from their backbench, is also going to take its time. It caused me to reflect on how difficult it seems to be for conservative governments in this country to move on social reform and other health reforms.
I remember when Labor put forward the plain-packaging legislation. Oh, my goodness me, to hear from those opposite, who at that time were in opposition, it was as if the sky was going to fall. I appreciate that the tobacco lobby is very, very powerful. It's very good at the games it plays because it's been playing them for a very, very long time. I know Senator Siewert in her contribution talked about the tobacco lobby. But seriously, this is about the potential take-up rate of smoking. We have led the world with smoking reform in this country and now, for all of us, it's really unusual to have someone amongst us who smokes. And, yes, of course, it's their right to smoke—I am not suggesting that it's not—but we've made it almost impossible to smoke anywhere these days and that's a solid move because there's clearly public health research that tells us it's bad. But that doesn't mean that the tobacco lobby is sitting there with its feet up; it's still snapping at our heels. The most recent debate we've had in this country was plain packaging. Those opposite, who were in opposition at the time, behaved shamelessly because, obviously, the tobacco lobby was in their ears.
Marriage equality, saying sorry to First Nations people—all of these things are so difficult for this government. We should really be seizing the day on e-cigarettes and moving quickly, because the evidence is there already that they are harmful to young children. We already know that there are toxins in some of the e-cigarettes that are available. Last year or—I can't remember now—the year before, I travelled to the UK, whenever it was we were last allowed out. And I commend the government on closing international borders; I'm not wanting them open. The e-cigarettes in the UK and Europe are shocking; they are everywhere. As an Australian, when you're not used to any kind of smoke, they come as a bit of a shock. So we could lead the world here. I urge the government to get on with the job, to stand up to its backbench. If they're being influenced by the tobacco lobby then let's realise that. Let's be a first and not be dragging our heels on this matter. E-cigarettes, we should stomp on them right away, let's get rid of them and make sure that we continue to provide the utmost health opportunities for young people to not create addictions.