Australia’s new OH&S fanaticism is imposing restrictions on individual liberty. This obsessive preoccupation with banning things on grounds of ‘health’ is turning us into children and fuelling an industry for policy nannies. The social and mental wellbeing of a free citizenry outweighs the concerns of those who wish to restrict and control non-violent behaviour like smoking a hookah or having a beer outdoors after 11pm.
The Royal Australasian College of Surgeons is incensed with the idea of relaxing Sydney’s recent and highly restrictive alcohol laws. Dr Crozier, on a suggestion for an increase by one hour of the takeaway sale of alcohol across NSW from the 10 pm deadline said; “We know that each hour in trade results in significant increase in domestic violence state-wide.
"That, in the view of the College of Surgeons, is not a justified risk."
The Royal Australasian College of Surgeons, an esteemed bunch, should not be drawing grand social narratives based on their experience of alcohol violence. Doctors can advise and recommend, but policy makers should not be seeking their approval on matters of lifestyle.
Doctors are not always right and there have been periods of history where doctors were very wrong, such as when many health professionals accepted the ‘evidence’ for eugenics in the 1920s and 30s, a view that led to the Holocaust and forced sterilisation programs for gypsies and Jews. As the US National Library of Medicine points out: “Eugenic doctrines were articulated by physicians… Publications were bolstered by the research pouring out of institutes for the study of eugenics or “race biology.””
Bloodied and drunk Aussies in emergency rooms is a problem of our Australian drinking culture, not the social availability of alcohol. In Spain, France, Greece, and Germany, where alcohol laws are some of the less restrictive in the world, I cannot remember ever seeing a Greek, French, German, Italian tourist paralytic and aggressive after a night on the booze. I cannot forget, Aussies and British being hammered, brawling, stripping off and running naked, throwing up and many times being kicked off tourist islands in Greece, or jailed by the local cops.
In Victoria, Colleen Hartland, the Greens member for the Victorian Legislative Council, wants to ban the hookah, or argilee; the water-cooled pipe used to smoke tobacco and hashish in Central Asia, Persia, Turkey and the Middle East. Many of the Greek refugees expelled from Turkey in 1921 brought the habit with them to Greece
In her address to the Upper House of the Victorian Parliament, 1 September, Ms Hartland attacked the Victorian government for not legislating against the hookah.
Yes, there is an argument to restrict the advertising of tobacco, we’ve done that, to ensure there is greater awareness, we’ve done that, to make cigarette packs awful, we’ve done that as well… but the hookah! Really?
Ms Hartland said: “This [smoking a hookah] is highly inconsistent with our smoking laws, especially given that the volume of nicotine and harmful substances consumed in one water pipe session is hundreds of times greater than that of a cigarette.” In her Upper House address and later on Jon Faine’s Conversation Hour, she pointed to “many in the Arabic-speaking community also supporting her call for a ban on water pipes”.
She was provided with a letter signed by the “Australian Lebanese Medical Association, the Australian Iraqi Council Victoria, the Afghan Australian Association of Victoria, the Pakistan medical community, Arabic Welfare, the Hellenic Medical Society of Australia and the Iraqi Caledonian Association of Victoria.”
So what? There are about 20 or so Shisha bars in Melbourne, many located where large communities of Arabic, Turkish and Afghan speakers are. So how is this pass-time not a cultural right, as is a pub?