Thursday, 24 April 2008

Kids used as bait over tobacco laws

Questions have been raised over the use of minors as bait to catch out vendors who are willing to illegally sell them cigarettes.

The Opposition claims the South Australian Government is breaching its own industrial relations laws by rewarding the undercover helpers with department store vouchers, rather than paying them.

Children as young as 14 are regularly sent in to try to catch out cigarette retailers who are selling to minors.

The Health Department offers $50 vouchers for the work.

But Opposition MP David Pisoni says the young people are being short-changed.

"The issue here is that we have the Minister for Health breaking his own State Government's industrial relations laws," he said.

Mr Pisoni says it is illegal to pay the children anything less than the appropriate award rate.

Dr Kevin Buckett of the Health Department disagrees, arguing the children are volunteers who perform a community service and are thanked with vouchers.

"We're consistent with the legal advice that we've had and we've run the program for six or seven years now and it's been a very successful program," he said.

"These are not volunteers, these are kids out there working for the government. Volunteers work for Meals on Wheels, volunteers don't work for government agencies."

The Health Department has ruled out any review of the program.

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