Senator David Leyonhjelm thanks smokers for keeping up habit, says generosity via taxes ‘truly staggering’…
Senator David Leyonhjelm thanks smokers for keeping up habit, says generosity via taxes ‘truly staggering’
October 1, 2014
By political reporter Anna Henderson
A crossbench senator has thanked Australia’s smokers and attacked successive governments for increasing tobacco taxes in a speech in Federal Parliament.
Liberal Democratic Party Upper House representative David Leyonhjelm voiced his gratitude to smokers for the $8 billion they provide in tobacco taxes each year.
“Your generosity to the nation’s Treasury is truly staggering,” he told the Senate.
Channelling the catchphrase of South Park television show character Mr Mackey, Senator Leyonhjelm told Parliament we can agree that “drugs are bad, mmmkay”, and it is probably also fair to say that “regressive taxes are bad, mmmkay”.
The Liberal Democratic Party is a libertarian party that promotes a smaller role for government and the right for individuals to pursue their activities.
The party has made similar statements about smokers in the past.
In his speech Senator Leyonhjelm argued the tax on tobacco hits the poor hardest and makes the Government’s tax increase “all the more perverse”.
“It means, for example, that social planners who want to redistribute money from the rich to the poor need to increase both welfare payments and income tax rates to achieve their goals,” he said.
Senator Leyonhjelm has bemoaned the likelihood that Labor and Coalition tax hikes will make Australian cigarettes the most expensive in the world.
The former Labor government set in place four increases in tobacco taxes to push up the price by 12.5 per cent each year over four years.
Two of the increases have already been applied, in December last year and earlier this month.
At the time, former Labor prime minister Kevin Rudd argued the increases were necessary because tobacco-related diseases cost more than $31 billion to the national economy annually and cause 15,000 deaths each year.
The Federal Government’s Quit Now website lists the habit as the largest cause of death and disease in the country.
It estimates 50 people die from tobacco-related illnesses each day in Australia.
Watch the video: Senator Leyonhjelm thanks smokers for their ‘truly staggering’ generosity. Liberal Democratic Party Senator David Leyonhjelm has quoted South Park while thanking the “truly staggering” generosity of smokers who, according to his figures, pay 17 times more in tax than they cost in health and bushfire fighting.
Smoking small consolation for prisoners
Senator Leyonhjelm also criticised bans on smoking in public places and institutions, including prison.
“That’s right, people in cages who have lost most or all of their rights are denied even this small thing,” Senator Leyonhjelm said.
“Yes, prison is meant to be punishment. But the widespread tendency to see prisons as comfortable budget hotels bespeaks a fundamental failure to grasp just what gaol means.
“Rehabilitation means not committing further crime, not being trained to live according to somebody else’s values.”
Senator Leyonhjelm also spoke about the incidence of smoking in the Indigenous community, saying restrictions on how some Indigenous Australians spend welfare money shows “racial paternalism lives on”.
“The same people worry and worry about Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander smoking rates, with about half of Australia’s Indigenous population being daily smokers,” he said.
“Aborigines on income management, like prisoners, are also denied this small consolation.”