Victorian Senate Group M: Sssssssmoking!

You have to give this much to the Australian Smokers’ Rights Party: they know what they want, and their party does what it says on the box.  The unmarked box, of course.  Or perhaps the box with the photos of extremely pathological tarry lungs.

I think that metaphor got away from me…

This is going to be a pretty short post, as the Australian Smokers’ Rights Party are quite straightforward in their vision and their aims, and I don’t think you need my help to figure out what they stand for.  They also don’t have a Group Voting Ticket in the Senate, so it’s difficult to tell who they like, but honestly, their agenda is so very clear, it’s almost unnecessary to go there.

In terms of who is preferencing them, I have to say that they do not have many friends.  Socialist Equality and the DLP both put them on 21-22, proving that there is at least one thing they agree on… though to be fair, the Socialist Equality Party seem to have really anarchic split tickets, so I’m not sure if that tells us anything at all.  The Country Alliance puts them at 29-30 and Palmer United at 36-37, but nobody else put them higher than the 40s, and most put them much lower.  This does not have the look of a party that will go far.

But wait! Hearken to the wisdom of their website:

Over 20% of Australians are smokers, yet less than 10% of the vote is required to elect a senator in each state.

Sometimes, a sarcastically photoshopped internet meme is the only response.

Sometimes, a sarcastically photoshopped internet meme is the only possible response.

20% is a very high number.  I realise that my acquaintance, consisting as it does largely of singers and scientists, isn’t all that representative, but I reckon we’d be lucky to get to 2%. 20% strikes me as highly unlikely.  And some of those 20% might care about other things more than they do about smoking.  Some of them might even be trying to quit, for that matter.

Essentially, I don’t think this party has quite the broad base of support that it seems to think it does.

Their website is interesting.  The first page you find briefly explains their agenda, and then gets right on to telling us how expensive this is.  Their bank details are listed on the front page, so that you can donate if you like.  They also have a page called ‘donate’, and three of the other pages link to it.  This may be naivete, but it strikes me as a little greedy, and very unsubtle.

Here’s where they are coming from:

We believe Australian smokers have been unfairly targeted by all major political parties with excessive taxation, restrictions on smoking, restrictions on cigarette retailing, and plain packaging legislation. No major party, Labor, Liberal or the Greens, has stood up for smokers and none seem likely to in the foreseeable future.

Poor, downtrodden smokers.  OK, that’s not really fair, because I imagine in the current environment,  one probably would get an all-over pariah-like sensation from being a smoker in many contexts, and that probably doesn’t feel very nice.

Then again, I don’t really find breathing in someone else’s second hand smoke very nice, either, and it seems to be a regular feature of waiting at tram stops around here.

By now, you must be positively *itching* for some policies.  Here you go!

Our policies include:

  1. Stopping constant increases in cigarette taxes and, over time, reducing them to more reasonable levels.
  2. Repealing laws imposing smoking bans on private property and restoring the right of private property owners to choose whether to allow smoking on their property.
  3. Allowing retailers to decide whether to sell tobacco products and how to display them.
  4. Abolishing plain packaging legislation.

I suspect the plain packaging legislation is the real purpose of this party, actually.  Elsewhere, they comment that “plain packaging will not reduce smoking as lack of brand recognition will remove any incentive to produce safer cigarettes while encouraging competition based on price.”

I had not noticed any brands attempting to produce safer cigarettes, but I will freely admit, it’s not something I keep an eye on.  They also link plain packaging to organised crime, which is a nice touch.

Look, this website claims to be a grass-roots organisation, but I really can’t help wondering about whether the tobacco lobby is also involved.  While I don’t really understand the appeal of smoking, and therefore can’t tell what, if any, role branding plays, it certainly looks from the outside as though plain packaging would make little difference to consumers and a fairly big one to tobacco manufacturers.  And… the tobacco manufacturers have put so much money into trying to convince everyone that plain packaging doesn’t work that I can’t help feeling suspicious about the whole thing – surely if it didn’t work, they wouldn’t bother?

And that’s about it, really.  The Australian Smokers’ Rights Party really only has one set of policies – they don’t address anything else.  I don’t honestly think they will go far, and that’s a good thing, because I am really not at all sure that they are working in good faith – they are doing a lot of fundraising and they really have a worrying emphasis on blank packaging.  If they are not sponsored by the tobacco lobby, then they are almost certainly being used by them… but then, we sort of knew that already…

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5 thoughts on “Victorian Senate Group M: Sssssssmoking!

  1. According to the ABS 23% of Australian adults were “current smokers” in 2004-5, and 21% of them were regular daily smokers.

    Ooh just found the 2007-8 data – 21% current smokers, 19% smoke daily.

    I think it’s just cos you hang out with scientists and singers – although I’ve known a few scientists to smoke, even when I worked on cancer research.

    • I sit corrected! And very surprised, actually – I remember that as a child so many adults I knew smoked, and I just don’t know anywhere near that number now I am an adult myself. I suppose also because there are fewer public places where one can smoke, I am less aware of how many people outside that circle do so.

      (And of course there is the fact that if the election were to take place among my colleagues and friends, we’d be looking at Green / Labor two party preferred, with the Greens probably winning! It’s really not a representative sample.)

      I know of at least one very eminent cancer scientist who smokes, and indeed, who used to smoke in the lab on a regular basis, though I’m pretty sure that was before my time…

  2. >but I really can’t help wondering about whether the tobacco lobby is also involved
    Exactly my thoughts on this.

    Catherine, loving your posts – I’m excited about Saturday. I’m definitely going to vote below the line.
    The hardest thing is deciding who to put last – there are so many good choices for it 🙂

    • Thanks so much, Sean! I’m glad you are finding my posts helpful, and hooray for voting below the line!

      (I’m trying to make that decision myself right now. My current thinking is that there are mean-spirited people, mean-spirited crazy people, and mean-spirited crazy people who like guns. And it’s the last category that worry me the most…)

  3. Pingback: My personal How to Vote Card… | Cate Speaks

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