Associate Health Minister calls for smoking to be outlawed; wants clear end date of tobacco sales in New Zealand.
"If I'm being really honest, I don't think that having a substance that kills people should be allowed to be sold."
Turia also calls for a freeze on new pokie machines: "I don't think we should be having more pokie machines anywhere in New Zealand."
On tobacco companies: "It's really clear they threaten? And it is because their profit to them is more important than the lives of people."
Minister hopes the Australian case on plain packaging won't delay New Zealand policy, but, "I'm not sure whether it will affect our plans."
Won't confirm level of cigarette tax increase in the Budget, but says Maori Party has been advocating for another three 10% increases in the excise tax
National's Alcohol Reform Bill doesn't go far enough - Maori Party won't be voting for it.
Maori Party won't support Sky City convention centre deal.
"No way will we support a growth in gambling, a growth in machines, at all. Even though the Government's saying that there's a sinking lid on the machines, the fact is that the more you provide opportunity, the more people will gamble."
"?our party is totally opposed to anything that is a social hazard"
Q+A, 9-10am Sundays on TV ONE. Repeats of Q&A will screen on TVNZ7 at 9pm Sundays and 9am and 1pm on Mondays.
SHANE TAURIMA INTERVIEWS TARIANA TURIA
PAUL Tariana Turia is the co-leader of the Maori Party. She's also the Associate Minister of Health, and she's determined on a few things. She wants to make New Zealand smoke-free by 2025. No more puffing, therefore, for 650,000 Kiwis who free and the 5000 who die each year due to smoking-related illnesses. She's already got the Government to agree in principle to plain packaging for cigarettes, she wants a ban on smoking in cars, and it looks as though cigarettes are about to increase in price again. Tariana Turia is with Shane Taurima.
SHANE Thank you, Paul, and thank you, Minister for your time. Tena koe.
TARIANA TURIA - Maori Party co-leader
SHANE You want a smoke-free New Zealand by 2025. Does that mean a complete ban on tobacco?
TARIANA Well, ideally, it would mean that we wouldn't have cigarette smoking in New Zealand, and I guess that that's an aspirational goal. We should always be aspirational. We should always believe that anything's possible.
SHANE So we currently have about 650,000 smokers. Does that mean zero smokers by 2025?
TARIANA Well, like I said, you know, the hope is that people won't be smoking cigarettes in 2025. The aim, really, is to stop the uptake, and so we've targeted most of our policies in that direction, and I believe that it's beginning to work. We've seen the biggest drop in the numbers of young people taking up cigarette smoking in the last three years.
SHANE Would you make it illegal?
TARIANA Well, I mean, in the end, that's for the government to decide, but my view is that cigarettes would never have been allowed to come into this country had we known at the point that we began allowing them in that so many people would be affected and, in fact, that they would be dying from this substance.
SHANE Dr George Thompson, who was the lead author of a tobacco report back in February, he said and I quote, 'Incremental efforts aren't working quickly to achieve the 2025 smoke-free target.' He also said the government needs to set a clear end date for commercial tobacco sales. Are you working towards that?
TARIANA Well, that's my goal. I mean, I've come in to this position knowing that it's our families - Maori families - who are the most likely to be affected by this - 13 people dying a day, 5000 people dying a year. I only have to go to my <a href="http://www.reotupu.co.nz/wslivewakareo/SearchResult.aspx?ID=33330&S=urupa">urup?</a> at home to look at my cousins, who have all died before they were 55. So, yes, I'm really diligent about trying to address this issue and getting buy-in from my Cabinet colleagues. And I'm pleased to say that we have moved some way along the track in terms of taxing, in terms of removing displays and now in looking at plain packaging.
SHANE So let's just be clear - you want it outlawed?
TARIANA I do. If I'm being really honest, I don't think that having a substance that kills people should be allowed to be sold. I mean, we've already had a child, for instance, die from sniffing a substance which will be investigated. They'll look at the substance, and they'll take it off the shelf. Well, you know, 5000 people dying a year, and we don't want to take this substance off the shelf. I have to ask why. Why not?
SHANE Why not?
TARIANA Well, I think it's because the tobacco companies- you know, this is huge profit-making international companies, and, you know, they've got- they know that their profit is going to be affected. It's really clear they threaten. They take governments to court, as we can see happening in Australia. And it is because their profit to them is more important than the lives of people. We have to focus, here in New Zealand, on public health and the lives of people.
SHANE You mention that the tobacco companies are in court in Australia over plain packaging because they say the law infringes their intellectual-property rights by banning the use and brand of trademarks. They argue that removing logos and company colours will lead to a drastic cut in profits, as you say, and see fake products come into the market. They also say that it's unconstitutional for the government to remove trademarks from packaging without compensation. Do you accept that?
TARIANA No, I don't. I think that what we've got is a free-trade agreement and soon to have a trans-Tasman agreement, which we don't know what's in that. But we do know that we have a right to determine what the laws are in our own countries, and it's not for tobacco companies to be determining the laws of New Zealand and certainly not in Australia either.
SHANE So when Philip Morris says, as an example, and I quote, 'Plain packaging will not reduce smoking rates, will trigger a variety of adverse consequences and violates numerous international laws and trade treaties,' End of quote. Are you ready for a lawsuit?
TARIANA Well, what we are ready for is to have the debate. I mean, here they are saying that it won't lower smoking uptake or smoking and yet here they are at the other end of the scale saying it will affect their profits. You can't have it both ways. Either they agree that this is a way forward for us in New Zealand, the government, and don't take any notice, frankly, of what the tobacco companies are saying. I certainly don't.
SHANE Could the Australian legal case delay or even undermine what you're trying to achieve here?
TARIANA Well, I hope not. I think Australia has been relatively confident that constitutionally the tobacco companies can't interfere in what it is that they're attempting to do, so, I mean, it remains to be seen. You know, it's not for me to determine what will happen in Australia. I think we're on a pathway here in New Zealand and we have to keep to that path.
SHANE So are you sitting back and waiting to see what happens with that case?
TARIANA Well, we aren't, because we've already gone out for public consultation on the tobacco packaging, so it'll depend, really, on what happens out of that. But I feel very confident-
SHANE So it could affect your plans?
TARIANA Well, it remains to be seen. You know, I'm not sure whether it will affect our plans, because we don't have a constitution the same as Australia does, our free-trade agreement doesn't inhibit us from doing plain packaging, and the trans-Tasman agreement we're looking at right now - I am almost certain that that won't impact either.
SHANE Let me put it to you that it will only work if you think it's the packaging that actually gets people smoking, and isn't it the image of the rebellion around smoking and what's actually the addictive stuff in it that actually gets people hooked into smoking? So maybe you're targeting- well, maybe you've got the wrong target?
TARIANA Yeah, well, I don't agree with that, because I think it takes a whole suite of things. We know how addictive this substance is, and so we know that we need to attack it on every platform that we can. So we've gone- we're looking at plain packaging, we've had the displays removed, we've got Quitline, we've got Maori providers and Pacific providers right throughout the country working with their families, so we know that it's going to take a whole range of actions for us to actually beat this scourge.
SHANE And you've also had three 10% increases in excise tax since 2010. Can we expect the same this time around in this year's Budget?
TARIANA Look, I'll be very honest with you. I advocate that taxes should rise on tobacco because we know that that's been the one issue that has really worked. There's been a huge drop in young people's uptake. That's where we're targeting this.
SHANE So can we expect another three 10% increases in the excise tax this time around?
TARIANA Well, that remains to be seen in the Budget, but certainly that has been the Maori Party's advocacy for that.
SHANE Is there an end to the increases? Could we, for example, eventually see a packet of cigarettes costing a hundred bucks?
TARIANA Well, I think we have to do whatever it takes. I mean, that's what the modelling that's being carried out by the Ministry of Health is showing - that we could be on a pathway to $100 a packet. I know that the Prime Minister doesn't think that that's the way forward. Ideally, as I said, it takes the whole suite working together to try and attempt to ameliorate smoking.
SHANE Given your very tough stance on tobacco, what about alcohol? Did the Government's reforms go far enough, in your opinion?
TARIANA No, they don't, and I think that we need to be looking at alcohol. It's not one of my portfolios, but our party is totally opposed to anything that is a social hazard. So if you're talking about alcohol, if you're talking about gambling, we know that we need to work very hard, because again you're talking addictions, you're talking about these particular substances or behaviour that impact on our people and our families, and we have to be forever alert to be prepared to address-
SHANE So if they don't go far enough, will you be supporting the bill?
TARIANA No, I don't think that we will be supporting the legislation. We're really clear that if the changes don't go enough to address the areas that we think are significant, then we won't be supporting it. I mean, on one hand, we raised the age back- I can't remember what year it was - and now we want to lower the age for those who are able to buy. Personally, I don't think that's going to make the difference that we need. We need, again, to raise taxes on alcohol. We need to ensure that the alcopops that have been brought in, that are encouraging young people to drink, making it cheaper for them to drink - we need to look at all of that.
SHANE So you won't be supporting the legislation?
TARIANA No, we won't.
SHANE Gambling - because you mentioned gambling as well as being another social hazard and a big policy area for the Maori Party as well. When we look at, for example, the deal that the Government struck with Sky City - more pokie machines for a convention centre - what do you think of that? Do you support that?
TARIANA No. No, we don't. In fact, Te Ururoa Flavell has had a piece of legislation that's just been- a bill that's been drawn from the bill box, and we'll be attempting to get buy-in from other political parties around it. One of the difficulties around the whole gambling issue is most of those machines are in poor communities. Who benefits from them? Certainly not those communities. You don't see the money going back and being invested into those communities at all. It gets invested mainly in sports clubs and others.
SHANE So can we just go back to your reasons for not supporting the Sky City deal? Can you tell us why you're not supportive?
TARIANA Well, we're not going to support the growing gambling. No way will we support a growth in gambling, a growth in machines at all. Even though the Government's saying that there's a sinking lid on the machines, the fact is that the more you provide opportunity, the more people will gamble.
SHANE Because Steven Joyce has assured you that the economic benefit will outweigh any negative impacts of the deal.
TARIANA Oh, well, we're always being sold that notion about a lot of social hazards - that there is economic benefit. I accept that there may be economic benefit, but we believe that the social hazards outweigh that.
SHANE So you don't accept his assurance?
TARIANA Well, we don't accept, given our experience of these issues, that it's going to make a difference in our poor communities.
SHANE You spoke about the private member's bill that Te Ururoa Flavell has put forward. You're seeking to give more power to local communities to determine where the pokie machines should be and how the proceeds should be distributed.
SHANE Compared to your stance on tobacco and alcohol, it seems quite liberal.
SHANE Why not just call for a moratorium, for example, on new machines?
TARIANA Well, I guess, ideally that would be the pathway forward, and what we're trying to do-
SHANE Do you support that?
TARIANA Do I support-?
SHANE For example, a freeze on new pokie machines.
TARIANA Oh, I don't think we should be having more pokie machines anywhere in New Zealand. I mean, if we think about the huge harm - I know families who have lost everything. They have lost their homes; they have lost their educational money that they've set aside for themselves through gambling because it is such a quick result. You know, you go to a casino, you win a lot of money maybe the first time you go, the excitement - when you're poor that means that you might be able to pay all of your bills in that one event. But what we don't realise is that over a period of time, we lose all our money.
SHANE So when we're talking about smoking, alcohol and we're talking about gambling, what about free choice? What about the person's right to be able to have a cigarette, have a drink, go and have a flutter?
TARIANA And it'd be really great if that's all that was happening. But the fact is that we know that these three areas - that they are all extremely addictive. And so once you become engaged in them- poorer people particularly are more likely to get engaged in a way that is negative. And all we're doing is trying to protect our people.
SHANE And a good place to leave it. Tariana Turia, thank you very much for your time this morning.
TARIANA Kia ora.
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