All Huff and Puff as Big Tobacco Quietly Runs Away
Minister for Health and Ageing Nicola Roxon has said that tobacco companies have backed off on their attempt to gain access to Government legal advice.
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14 September 2011
Big tobacco have quietly backed off on their attempt to access Government legal advice.
On 15 August 2011 the Administrative Appeals Tribunal reaffirmed the long standing principle that legal advice to the Government remains protected by legal professional privilege. The time for any appeal to be filed by Phillip Morris Tobacco has now expired.
Minister for Health and Ageing Nicola Roxon said this was another sign big tobacco’s position was faltering as new independent evidence was provided to a Senate Committee last night supporting the Gillard Government’s world leading legislation.
“The huff and puff from big tobacco is clearly just all for show and intimidation,” Minister Roxon said.
“Nobody should expect any client to give up their confidential legal advice to their opposition. The hubris from big tobacco in this action has been astounding.
“The Government’s world leading plain packaging legislation is consistent with its obligations under the World Health Organization Framework Convention on Tobacco Control.”
Minister Roxon also expressed her surprise at the line of questioning from Liberal Senators in a committee hearing into the Trademarks Amendment Bill, part of the Government’s plain packaging legislation.
“Some of the questions posed by Liberal Senators last night seemed to come straight out of big tobacco’s play book.
“Uninterested in the bill itself, the Liberal Senators repeatedly asked for the Government’s legal advice—so much so, they sounded like big tobacco’s parrot.
“Unsurprisingly, the independent legal expert witnesses dismissed the Liberal Senators’ big tobacco-friendly questioning and again backed the Government’s plain packaging legislation.”
Dr Matthew Rimmer from the Australian National University said to the Committee that the threatened litigation by big tobacco is “somewhat vexatious” and also said:
- [T]he plain packaging of tobacco products is not a violation of trademark law or policy. Second, the plain packaging of tobacco products is consistent with international law in the fields of health, intellectual property, and trade. Third, the plain packaging of tobacco products does not amount to an ‘acquisition of property‘ under the Australian Constitution.
Similarly, Professor Evans from Melbourne Law School dismissed big tobacco’s claims in his presentation:
- It's not like The Castle where the Commonwealth gets the benefit of the house in order to operate the airport.
On current authority there is very little prospect that the High Court would conclude that the plain-packaging legislation effects an acquisition of those property rights.
The Government’s world leading plain packaging legislation has passed the House of Representatives and is expected to be voted in the Senate next week.
For more information, contact the Minister's Office on (02) 6277 7220
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