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Dec 12, 2008

Liberals' lucrative love affair with big tobacco

The NSW Liberal Party continues to accept donations from tobacco companies despite both Malcolm Turnbull and Joe Hockey urging people to quit smoking, writes Bernard Keane.


The NSW Liberal Party continues to accept donations from tobacco companies despite both Malcolm Turnbull and Joe Hockey urging people to quit smoking.

Malcolm Turnbull last week addressed a Millennium Forum Luncheon, at which British American Tobacco purchased a table. Joe Hockey was his warm-up speaker at the event, MCd by 2GB’s Jason Morrison.

This is Malcolm Turnbull in September this year, talking to Ray Hadley about using marijuana:

Well smoking tobacco is a bad thing to do too but you know, all of these things, it’s important to be honest and realistic about these things. There’s no point being mealy mouthed but it’s also important to get across the message that marijuana is a very dangerous drug and indeed so is tobacco. And you know of course one of the key health objectives that we should have is to reduce people smoking tobacco.

And this was Joe Hockey in August, when he was shadow Health minister:

And what’s more, there is ample evidence out there in the scientific literature that if you change your diet and exercise more, quit smoking and drink less alcohol, by the way, that’s less alcohol. Not no alcohol. And that a whole range of health benefits are there for the taking. A major research project by the US Government’s National Guideline Clearinghouse found that four steps; 1. getting more physical activity, 2. eating more fruit and vegetables, 3. drinking alcohol at non-hazardous levels and 4. quitting smoking together add ten years to your life expectancy.

Turnbull and Hockey aren’t the biggest hypocrites in the Liberal Party about accepting tobacco company donations.

“I’ve spent a lot of my life fighting the tobacco industry,” said a prominent Liberal back in July.

In May, the same man had said “I’ve spent a lot of my life, for example working in tobacco control.”

That would be Turnbull’s predecessor, Dr Brendan Nelson.

The ALP hasn’t accepted donations from tobacco companies since 2004, when Mark Latham convinced the ALP National Conference to cease accepting donations from tobacco companies. The Liberal and National Parties had steadfastly refused to follow suit.

According to Australian Electoral Commission records, British American Tobacco contributed $91,500 to the Federal Liberal Party between November 2006 and May 2007 and over $50,000 to the NSW branch of the party between July 2006 and June 2007. Bede Fennell, BAT’s head of corporate affairs, is a former Liberal staffer and NSW Liberal deputy director.

BATA’s former lobbyist Crosby-Textor, who argued the case against cigarette pack warnings, also bought a table at the function.

Not unexpectedly, a number of prominent firms paid up to hear Turnbull bag the Government. PBL. PWC. ANZ. Transurban. Telstra. Deloitte. And some prominent rentseekers like the Pharmacy Guild. But what we might call the middle end of town was also represented. Andrews Meat Industries — hitherto known as a big Labor donor and a provider of “total meat solutions”. Harbord Beach Hotel. C.Inc, owners of the fecally-challenged Coogee Bay Hotel. Thomas Hotels. In fact the hospitality industry was somewhat over-represented, with ClubsNSW and industry peak body Restaurant and Catering Australia in attendance. The latter were enthusiastic supporters of Workchoices, and other advocates of industrial rigour such as Swan Services.

At least the leader of party doesn’t publicly criticise their products.

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10 thoughts on “Liberals’ lucrative love affair with big tobacco

  1. Peter R

    And I suppose the Labor party are going to set a shining example now and refuse the river of filthy lucre flowing from Austraia’s punative tobacco taxes? Pull the other one. Latham’s move was nothing more than a cynical pandering to the popular vote. Hawke and many of his state Labor cronies initiated the steady and relentless savaging of smokers rights by attempting to tax it out of existance (it is a legal product after all), but no one mentions this nor that he preferred cigars, (still does last I heard) and that a number of his ministers smoked. Deafening silence.
    No, the Labor pary hypocrites are in fact intending to persecute smokers even more, by hiking the tobacco tax probably in the next budget and in the process twist the knive into some of the most disadvantaged members of our society, such as the mentally ill, who are already impoverished by this habit or comfort, depending on your perspective and who have absolutely no ability nor desire to quit.
    Meanwhile Australia’s drunkards continue to rejoice and raise their glasses to our Federal and State leaders past and present, who, seamlessly and shamelessly continue the great Australian tradition of myopia in regard to the scourge of alchohol abuse
    Hypoctrites! Mon semblere!

  2. Ev

    Thanks Bernard, that is both interesting and saddening. Aside from the fact that I think political donations are un-democratic, accepting tobacco money is dreadful. Particularly since that Govt made sure tobacco advertising was kept out of sport?

    Interesting that Latham changed ALP policy on the matter. Good work Mark, that’s something you should be proud of.

  3. Cathy

    The team at 2GB is well onside with the NSW Liberals – all geared to pump out their shared political messages to jont constituencies. Jones, Hadley and the GB team smother as batlers’ voices most of whom they know are hooked on heavy drinking, smoking and gambling. The talk-back news and sports format is little more than bolognese for biscuit broadcasting. In the attached article on the hoodwinking of Hollywood stars by the tobacco giants… 2GB has taken out an ad for its on-air line up. They know exactly what they’re doing and they don’t care. Its politics.

  4. Venise Alstergren

    Why am I not surprised by your article? As for Joe Hockey’s bum-deadening, mind-defying quasi-medical little rant: why did he urge one thing whilst giving money to the opposite point of view? I know, it’s something called hypocrisy, duh!

    Please forgive me Bernard, for wasting your valuable space. But I did want to wish Malcolm Turnbull a very happy Christmas, and to give him my heartfelt thanks. 🙁 :(.

    Dear Malcolm,
    Congratulations for taking over the tawdry thugs, bombastic clowns, and misanthropic clods whose belief that their destiny was to be born to rule the land of Oz. I sympathize with the fact that you were lumbered with this mendacious group of people. Also the odious JWH had much to do with the choice of this squalid group. However, they have served to illuminate you haven’t they? This splendid, mentally-inhibited bunch of tedious a-seholes, have, by the incandescence of your light, shown the electorate how you turned a bunch of political has-been’s into creatures of derision.

    Your own leaden performance plus the metronomic precision of you whipping off your reading glasses before putting them on again, in the manner of a ham-actor, makes my eyes glaze over. You turn words into deserts with your droning and your endless syntax.

    Perhaps you took Mungo MacCallum’s advice too much to heart, “How to be a Megalomaniac” (Duffy & Snellgrove 2002) p 47.

    Dear Bernard, I wish you a very Happy Christmas and New Year. Your wonderful articles and your wittily acidic comments make every day a special day for me. 🙂 🙂 🙂

    Multiple cheers


  5. Sad Liberal Lady

    This is a very sad policy of the Liberals. If former head of the AMA Brendan Nelson didn’t change this policy, then what hope do they have? Do they also receive money from other companies dealing in other “legal” products like pornography, prostitution and gambling?

    It would be nice if the Liberals cleaned up their act and showed a bit of leadership on real morals issues. Killing 15,000 plus Australians annually with a toxic poison is clearly a moral issue. Conservatives should be in the front row of campaigning against these issues. Not taking money from the evil doers.

  6. Janet Hiller

    Perhaps this could be an action item for the Preventative Health Taskforce???

  7. Digby

    It is hardly surprising that the NSw Libs are so keen on taking tobacco money – at the last State election ‘born again’ Mike Baird needed to spend over $260,000 to win the seat of Manly – during the campaign and since he has sprouted concern for political donations – whilst at the same time keenly taking the money of developers, the pubs, clubs and tobacco!

  8. Simon Chapman

    The Coalition have always hid behind the apron strings of the “it’s a legal product” argument while counting tobacco moolah. Imagine political leadership in bygone years doing this with “perfectly legal” practices like the slave trade, sending kids down mines, opium running and exhibiting the deformed for entertainment. The University system has mostly got its act together by refusing to have anything to do with tobacco money. A few years back, the University of Sydney Senate voted to disapprove the appointment of former BAT chair Nick Greiner to an advisory position. Harvard University won’t let its staff take tobacco money — the only named category where this applies.

    Malcolm Turnbull’s wife Lucy used to be on the board of the Cancer Council NSW with me for a couple of years. Have a word to him, Lucy.

    BTW… Bede Fennell from BAT wrote recently “For the record BAT does not “promote” its products.” (Crikey 4 Dec) Perhaps he should pull David Quain, his company’s Trade Marketing Development Manager into line. In February, Dave is talking at “In-Store Excellence 2009, Understanding Your Shopper & Creating an Engaging Shopping Experience to Boost Basket Profitability” at Sydney’s Darling Harbour. And Bede, how about you let us all know how much BAT claimed from the ATO last year in tax-deductable advertising and promotion costs, and the names of any advertising and promotion agencies which you pay to not “promote” your products?

  9. Simon Chapman

    Peter R’s rant about tough tobacco control being “hypocritical” is a common but weak argument. Governments of both stripes since Whitlam’s have introduced many policies, including tax rises, which have driven smoking rates down from around 45% in the early 1970s to 17% today. The corollary of this tosh about about tobacco taxes harming the poor is that people like Peter would presumably like governments to reduce the tax. This would cause increased smoking (which is why the tobacco industry has always opposed tax rises) which would harm the very disadvantaged smokers Peter is concerned about. What peversity.
    People with mental illness smoke at much higher rates than the general population, but like that population, they have been reducing their rates too. Saying they have no desire to quit is quite baseless.

  10. Derrick Lee

    Could you tell what fecally -challenged Coogee Bay Hotel means, looked in 2 dictionarys and not found the word, regards Derrick Lee.

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