This is quite an amazing but telling show of ignorance by the O’Farrell Goverment: The health of workers is no concern just as long as wealthy gamblers are happy. This government clealy puts profits above people – they’ve done it with Workers Compensation laws and this just confirms their real agenda.
Date: August 17 2012
On the day when the High Court hands down its decision on plain packaging, we have the state government spinelessly giving in to James Packer and his demand to have the high rollers room a smoking palace (”Health minister’s smoking gamble”, smh.com.au, August 16).
Those ”volunteers” should be asking, if they find themselves with cancer later on in life, will they be entitled to workers compensation? After all, the casino could say they knew the risks. With this cave-in, I take it the six-star hotel is a certainty.
Again we see profit put before people’s lives. By banning smoking the NSW government could be leading the way in protecting workers’ health, not protecting casino profits.
Robert Pallister Punchbowl
The New South Wales Health Minister, Jillian Skinner, has defended the state government’s endorsement of smoking in the high-roller room at Sydney’s Star casino, but left open the door for a ban in the future.
Legislation to ban smoking in outdoor areas such as bus stops and playgrounds passed NSW Parliament last night, but the O’Farrell government refused to support an amendment to ban smoking at the Star’s high-roller room.
Responding to criticism this morning, Mrs Skinner said smoking bans have been “incremental” in NSW.
“I can remember back in the early ’90s when we first started introducing these bans with the banning of smoking in public buildings,” she told ABC local radio.
“We’ve moved gradually, step by step, until this point where we have this groundbreaking legislation. It will keep going.”
Asked if she would eventually like to see smoking bans extended to the high-roller room, Mrs Skinner said: “Who knows what will happen eventually? We’ve got to be consistent across the country in terms of bans on things like high-rollers’ rooms”.
The Star argues that if high rollers, many of whom are visiting from Asia, are prevented from smoking while gambling they will take their business elsewhere, possibly interstate to rivals such as Crown in Victoria.
The Herald has revealed that Labor planned to put forward the amendment, which at the time had the support of the Christian Democratic Party MP Fred Nile, whose party shares the balance of power in the upper house. At the time Reverend Nile stated it was not his job to protect the casino’s revenue.
If the ban was implemented in NSW it would risk scuttling the casino mogul James Packer’s vision for a second casino at Barangaroo, which he has said would solely target high rollers.
NSW Premier Barry O’Farrell has been vocal in his support for Mr Packer’s plans, which rely on gaining control of the Star’s monopoly casino licence.
After lobbying from Crown representatives, Reverend Nile was convinced that supporting the amendment risked the government withdrawing the entire bill, meaning the bans on outdoor areas would be lost.
Mr Packer was seen in NSW Parliament yesterday afternoon before the vote. Reverend Nile voted against the amendment last night.
He told Parliament he had “investigated casino policy” and staff were not pressured to work in the high-roller room.
“I have had it confirmed that no staff members are rostered to work in private gaming rooms; they are volunteers,” he said.
“They do not receive any extra pay and there is a waiting list of employees who want to work in those rooms.”
Reverend Nile also flagged the possibility of a national approach to banning smoking in high-roller rooms.
“Like the government, I would prefer a national policy that covered all casinos in Australia so they were all on the same legislative basis,” he said.
“That would provide fairness and natural justice for all casinos so that one did not have an advantage over another. It might be possible – I am always an optimist – for New South Wales to draft a bill similar to the one suggested by the Labor Party in its amendments. That could become model legislation for Australia and often that is how national policies are developed.”