Australian parties snub tobacco money

August 22, 2013

Australia's ruling Labor party pledged a ban on tobacco company donations if returned to office Thursday and the conservatives followed suit, ordering an end to campaign funds from cigarette firms.

Prime Minister Kevin Rudd said, if re-elected on September 7, Labor would amend Australia's Electoral Act to ban donations from big tobacco to political parties and candidates.

"Tobacco companies themselves have admitted they only donate to political parties to try to influence policy," said Rudd.

It follows Australia's world-first introduction of plain packaging for last December, following a landmark victory in a High Court legal battle with major cigarette firms.

Labor said it would also move to "end tobacco investments across government", including a ban on public superannuation funds investing in tobacco shares.

The Australian government's pension fund for public servants sold off Aus$222 (US$200 million) in tobacco holdings earlier this year, citing the product's "damaging health effects, and that there is no safe level of consumption".

Centre-left Labor stopped accepting tobacco company donations in 2004, but said the conservative opposition had continued to reap some Aus$2.1 million since that time from Philip Morris and British American Tobacco.

Opposition leader Tony Abbott was quick to follow suit, announcing that he had instructed his Liberal-National coalition "to accept no further donations from ".

"I don't want Mr Rudd's distractions," said Abbott when asked about his change of heart on the issue.

"I don't want furphies like this to distract people's attentions from the main issues of this campaign," he said, using Australian slang for gossip or unimportant topics.

Abbott has been an outspoken critic on Labor's anti-smoking policies, voting against plain packaging on the grounds that there was "no credible argument" that it works.

Health Minister Tanya Plibersek called on Abbott to return the donations received in the past decade, including more than Aus$1 million "shamefully " accepted during his tenure as health minister in the previous conservative government.

Abbott would not commit to returning funds already received from tobacco firms nor to banning state branches of his party from continuing to accept such donations.

Smoking is estimated to cost the Australian economy Aus$31.5 billion a year in health and lost productivity and there are 15,000 deaths nationally each year from -related illnesses.

Explore further: Philip Morris challenges plain packs in Australia

Related Stories

Philip Morris challenges plain packs in Australia

December 20, 2011

Global tobacco giant Philip Morris Tuesday stepped up its legal campaign against an Australian law banning logos and branding from cigarette packs, saying it had taken its case to the High Court.

Australia pension fund reviewing tobacco stake

October 25, 2012

The Australian government's pension fund for public servants said Thursday it was reviewing its investment in tobacco shares following the passage of plain packaging laws in a bid to curb smoking.

N. Zealand to introduce plain packets for tobacco

February 19, 2013

New Zealand announced plans Tuesday to force tobacco companies to sell cigarettes in plain packaging, becoming only the second country in the world after Australia to introduce the measure.

Britain shelves plain cigarette pack plans

July 12, 2013

Britain on Friday announced it had postponed plans to introduce plain packaging on cigarettes, saying it was waiting to see the results of a similar move in Australia.

Australia bumps up tobacco tax

August 1, 2013

Australia will hike tobacco taxes by 12.5 percent per year over the next four years to boost its coffers and build on its plain packaging campaign against smoking, the government said Thursday.

Recommended for you

Big Data can save lives, says leading cancer expert

May 16, 2016

The sharing of genetic information from millions of cancer patients around the world could be key to revolutionising cancer prevention and care, according to a leading cancer expert from Queen's University Belfast.

New soap to ward off malaria carrying mosquitoes

May 13, 2016

(Medical Xpress)—Gérard Niyondiko along with colleagues Frank Langevin and Lisa Barutel has posted a project on the crowd source funding site ulule for a product called Faso Soap. They claim the soap can cut in half the ...

Smartphones uncover how the world sleeps

May 6, 2016

A pioneering study of worldwide sleep patterns combines math modeling, mobile apps and big data to parse the roles society and biology each play in setting sleep schedules.


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.