MP David Elliot and Premier Mike Baird.
MP David Elliot and Premier Mike Baird. Photo from Facebook

Big tobacco money linked to NSW prison smoking ban

A FORMER big-wig in a pro-alcohol and tobacco lobby group has become the NSW Corrections Minister and as a result is responsible for the ban on smoking in NSW jails.

Now he has suggested the NSW Opposition's resistance to the move is less about prison officers' safety and more about donations his former employer made to the previous Labor Government.

David Elliott entered parliament in 2011 after a previous stint as the Australian Hotels Association's deputy CEO for NSW.

READ MORE: Prisoners urged to strike over smoking ban and overcrowding

As parliament debated the reasoning behind this week's ban on smoking in jails, the Corrections Minister was quizzed on his former role with the AHA.

"I gave you money. That's what I did at the AHA, mate," he responded.

"Do you want to talk about that? How many of you guys took donations?

"Do not worry, I have kept a record of it all, boys, and I will be able to talk about it later."

Mr Elliott was previously forced to withdraw a statement suggesting Labor "would sell smokes to kids if they had a chance", which he surmised was the status quo due to "all the money you got off big tobacco".

The laws that came into effect on Monday prompted a call from former inmate and current Justice Action coordinator Brett Collins for prisoners to go on strike.

The group was responsible for the 1999 creation of the Australian Prisoners Union and has been active for more than 30 years.

Mr Collins claims to hold the NSW record for remaining on a prison roof for three days at Long Bay Jail where he served 10 years for armed robbery.

Labelling Mr Collins "that self-appointed activist and Labor friend", Mr Elliott said no major disruptions had yet occurred from the supposed strike.

"Mr Collins has acted irresponsibly, calling for a strike and putting the lives of our uniformed officers in unnecessary danger," Mr Elliott said.

"Overall, inmates have accepted the new smoke-free environment, which is encouraging given that an estimated 76% of inmates are regular smokers."

Justice Action has been contacted for comment. -APN NEWSDESK

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