Published by mojo on 20 August, 2013.
It’s only been a political party for a few weeks, but the Smokers’ Rights Party says it speaks for anyone who feels victimised by government rules.
By TONI BRIENT
THEY’RE going to huff and puff until they blow Parliament House down. The Smokers’ Rights Party insists it’s not only aiming to appeal to tobacco lovers, but to the broader public who feel they are being attacked by government.
“We’re a protection from victimisation,” says party leader Clinton Mead. “If you look at the broader ‘nanny state’, I think it’s become a ‘bully state’.”
He believes the Government’s weapon of choice is tax.
“It’s quite dangerous because it’s not just going to be smokers. We’ve seen it with food and alcohol. The Government is deciding it knows what’s best for you.”
He says the party is not denying the health risks associated with smoking, but rather the morality of prohibiting free choice.
“Attempting to climb Mt Everest is just as dangerous, but we don’t ban people from it. People are not misinformed or stupid. They want to do something that’s enjoyable to them.”
In fact, the party says the risks associated with smoking – including shorter life spans – could save health spending down the track.
“If you look at age care costs and pensions, (smoking) actually saves the Government money.”
According to Mead, speaking out on smokers’ rights is a gateway to political participation. His party advocates a variety of civil liberties that it believes the major parties are legislating against or taxing.
“There are a large number of people in our party who aren’t smokers. It’s called smokers’ rights, but it’s just like women’s rights: they’re not just for women, they’re just rights women should have.”
As a small party, which was formally registered by the Australian Electoral Commission only on July 16, Mead says a good campaign strategy was essential to gathering public support.
The party decided the issue of smoking would not only appeal to the estimated 15-20 per cent of Australians who regularly smoke tobacco, but lent itself to other breaches of human and civil rights.
“If I call it the Don’t Bully Us Or Tell Us What To Do Party, it wouldn’t get the same attention in the media. So you do need to do it in a pragmatic way.”
The party’s primary form of campaigning is online, using a combination of Google Ads and a Facebook page, which has more than 11,000 likes.
Mead says the party will be contesting Senate seats, because it doesn’t have the funding to run candidates in Lower House seats. The party’s website states that it does not receive funding from the tobacco industry.
The Smokers’ Rights Party is determined not to lose its way, as it believes the major parties have, Mead says.
“Even the Greens used to be seen as the party against victimisation of smokers, but perhaps they were focused on people smoking things other than tobacco. They’ve become like the majors as well. So you’ve got three major parties that are telling you how to live your life.”
Next week in The Minors series: Carers Alliance.