SIGN UP for our newsletter ✉️ :

Get the latest stories delivered straight to you

Carmen's smoke and mirrors

The board of the State Government agency Healthway was given several ways to avoid the controversy over funding the cigarette-friendly opera Carmen - but rejected them.

Healthway's decision was attacked last week by Prime Minister Tony Abbott as "politically correct madness" when it became known it had refused to proceed with a $400,000 grant to the WA Opera if it included Carmen in two coming seasons.

Leaked minutes of Healthway's April meeting show its arts advisory committee put forward three options to handle problems caused by a longstanding ban on funding performances that contained depictions of smoking.

The minutes are directly at odds with versions of the funding row given by both Healthway and the WA Opera. A communique sent by Healthway to its stakeholders after the meeting notes the arts and community events advisory committee discussed the policy after "queries by some arts organisations".

The leaked minutes detail that the committee gave the board three options - the first being to maintain its "non-compromising approach to this issue".

The second option was for Healthway to develop a policy where smoking scenes were tolerated provided they were "non-glamorised and set in an era when smoking was common and not known to cause health risks".

"In this scenario, any smoking would need to be with props only and advertised with a caution in all promotions," the minutes say.

Under the third option, sponsored organisations could do performances containing smoking "provided health message promotions are confined as possible to other performances and programs which do not include smoking scenes".

This would allow Healthway to avoid any conflict of its brand being associated with smoking, while still allowing funding.

But the minutes show the bid to water down the policy was vigorously opposed by anti-smoking campaigner Mike Daube.

"Professor Daube stated there was no pressure for Healthway to change its current position," the minutes say.

"He stated that while some art productions may warrant a smoking component, organisations would need to understand that for the season where smoking appears as part of an arts performance, they would be ineligible for Healthway sponsorship.

"The board provided strong support to maintain Healthway's current position of not sponsoring arts organisations that allow smoking on stage."