Wednesday, 12 October 2011

Bad news day for Australian government

The Australian government failed to bring the plain packaging through the Australian Senate (upper house) when the Conservative opposition forced the vote to be postponed. This throws into question the  Government's timetable for implementing the legislation. The vote will now take place in November.

There is, as frequently happens in the world of tobacco control, a sense of shock: how could the opposition 'play into the hands of the tobacco companies': we have international obligations:
Australia says the new laws reflect its obligations under the World Health Organization's 2005 framework against tobacco, which urges states to consider plain packaging laws. 
Voices like this seek to exclude the tobacco industry from national debate, and marginalise people in society who don't subscribe to the WHO's wild guesses about how many people die from tobacco consumption and their ideas about what to do about this.

Concern about the plain packaging is not limited to the Australian opposition. Indeed it is international, reflected both by the US Chamber of Commerce and tobacco growers:
The laws have angered tobacco producers who have threatened a High Court challenge, while the governments of Nicaragua and Ukraine said the new measures breached international trade rules and would be challenged in the World Trade Organization.
Tobacco companies are also threatening legal action against the legislation. Yesterday Sheila Duffy of ASH Scotland expressed her eagerness to see this legislation enacted. She will be sadly disappointed by today's non-result in Australia – but she was over-optimistic in believing that today's vote would  'see the end of a bitter and protracted struggle in Australian politics'.  Not only the tobacco companies will resist this policy fad of tobacco control.

1 comment:

Bill Gibson said...

There is the thorny issue of Intelectual Property Rights to be considered, this has already been pointed out to the European Commission by many of its member states.

Duffy and her gang should be very cautious for what they wish for as it may well backfire by way of legal actions being taken against them in the future.