I believe the Monash Council’s Footpath Trading and Access Policy 2018 draft review will ban all outdoor dining smoking anywhere in the City of Monash. This has the potential to cause enormous detriment to hundreds of local small businesses.
I don’t encourage anyone to take up smoking and am not a smoker myself but it does remain perfectly legal. These moves to attack smokers has the potential to cause more harm than good to anyone.
While smoking is legal, it needs to strike the right balance in how it is regulated in the community. At the moment in Victoria, changes by the state government to the Tobacco Act 1987, the balance is right when it comes to outdoor dining.
Under the changes smoking cannot occur in public areas where food is served. This has worked well. Patrons have the choice of which venues they want to frequent and traders can now choose to not offer food in certain outdoor areas, and smokers can order snacks and drinks when sitting outdoors in the venue.
Freedom of choice in a free market is good. It should be celebrated. It should be encouraged.
The enormous benefits the outdoor dining economy brings to the City of Monash and in many other precincts across Melbourne is evident by the sheer number of people that continue to frequent them. Many Monash traders pay the council tens of thousands of dollars a year to hire outdoor space. Their investment in Monash has so far been good for everyone, including patrons.
Many regular patrons enjoy smoking in outdoor areas. Many non-smokers don’t mind that smokers have that right. Sure, some people don’t like being close to passive smoke and these people now have the option to choose to go to another venue nearby.
Unfortunately many left-wing types who want to push traders to the brink have never had real jobs or owned their own business. They want Monash Council to introduce a permit system that compels traders to serve food, removing outdoor dining smoking.
They don’t understand how this type of reckless regulation can detriment small businesses and cause considerable stress to business operators. Small business is the lifeblood of our economy. The flow on impact targeting them will only be bad for consumers.
Going down a costly legal road of trying to usurp a state law with a council local law or permit regime won’t help anyone but the bank account of the council lawyers. At the expense of hardworking ratepayers no less.
Unless smoking becomes illegal anywhere other than private property, these sorts of logistical matters will always exist. Moving the balance to one extreme like the Monash proposal won’t help managing this issue into the future.
The fact is councils should stick to approving building permits. If Monash perseveres, the possible unintended consequences are huge. Business may go elsewhere. The culture and atmosphere that currently exists locally and has worked well for years to bring thousands of people daily into Monash will diminish. This will be very sad to see. It must be protected.
Going down this path won’t get rid of outdoor smoking, you can’t stop someone working down Eaton Mall Oakleigh while holding a lit cigarette. For that to happen, the government would need to ban smoking altogether. The fact is the current laws have proven to work well. Let’s eat to that.
Theo Zographos is a Monash City councillor and former Liberal Party candidate.
* The Monash Council is seeking community feedback to the Revised Footpath Trading and Access Policy 2018. Read the proposed changes and provide feedback at monash.vic.gov.au/files/assets/public/have-your-say/footpath-trading-and-access-revised-policy-revised.pdf