The Coalition has been exposed this week for its links to Big Tobacco. But Labor party heavyweights are certainly no clean-skins when it comes to accepting cash from the cigarette industry.
On Wednesday ABC’s Lateline program revealed that the Alliance of Australian Retailers’ $5 million campaign against the government’s plain packet legislation is being spun by PR firm the Civic Group. It came amid a storm of criticism from Labor over the Coalition’s malfeasance.
The Libs had received $2.5 million from death stick spruikers over the last 10 years, Labor said. The Alliance’s chief executive Sheryle Moon was appointed to numerous plumb jobs over the life of the Howard government, while Civic Group director Jason Aldworth is a perennial Liberal parliamentary hopeful and former vice president of the party’s Victorian division.
Julia Gillard didn’t hold back, accusing the Coalition of some kind of conspiracy theory: “I think Mr Abbott needs to come clean about what participation the Liberal Party had in the tobacco campaign… I think Australians are pretty worried that Mr Abbott’s health policy is hostage to the influence of tobacco giants.”
But much of the coverage has neglected to mention that Labor also has a bevy of lobbying links to Big Tobacco. A revolving door of advisers and ex-party hacks routinely pop up singing the praises of the puffing fraternity.
Other Civic directors include former right-wing Victorian ALP state secretary Andres Puig and ex-John Pandazopoulos chief of staff Brett Miller, who both worked for Labor-linked lobbyists CPR before a blow-up last November left them out on their own.
CPR, run by Victorian ALP heavyweight Adam Kilgour, has done loads of work with British American Tobacco in select states over public smoking bans and the like.
And then there’s Victorian ALP phone spam favourites Auspoll, which has previously run numerous projects and surveys for British American Tobacco in the past, including this “retailer and community attitude survey” in 2008 (Auspoll says it has since stopped working with the company for “ethical reasons”). Recently resigned board member and director of research and development John Armitage was a former ALP candidate for Flinders and worked on the ACTU’s Your Rights at Work campaign.
Interconsult also opens doors for BAT — a different firm run by Armitage and ex-ALP national organiser Melissa Horne. Ex-Jenny Macklin staffer Jess Sumich is a shareholder in Interconsult.
CPI Strategic — a firm co-directed by dumped ALP state secretary Stephen Newnham and former Liberal staffer Rick Brown — is said to have done work for Philip Morris, although Brown said the firm wasn’t a current client. “If you want to allege that we’ve done work for Philip Morris, you’re okay,” Brown told Crikey.
Or former ALP Senate president Kerry Sibraa, general counsel of Jackson Wells, who does great work for Imperial Tobacco (and also the Exclusive Brethren and the Church of Scientology).
Meanwhile Phil Staindl, the immediate past president of the ALP fundraising arm Progressive Business and Steve Cusworth, a former Labor candidate for the Victorian state seat of Caulfield, works at InsideOut Strategic which works directly for Philip Morris. InsideOut has offices adjacent to Interconsult and also lobbies (circuitously) for it.
And then there’s Ozan Ibrisim, a senior adviser to Victorian Health Minister Daniel Andrews and Socialist Left stalwart, who joined Philip Morris as manager of regulatory affairs in June.
Lobbying sources told Crikey that while the ALP links ran deep, the firms above had only limited involvement in the plain packet campaign and that it was the Civic Group that was really “in the money”.
They said the broader tobacco lobbying industry was for the most part “run by Libs”.
Former Bronwyn Bishop staffer John Galligan went to work to BAT and is now at Microsoft. Bede Fennell, active in the Wentworth Forum cash cow, is a former head of public affairs at BAT Australia and is now with BAT UK.
A former senior adviser in John Howard’s office, Nicole Feely, went to work for tobacco giant Philip Morris in 2001 and is now running hospitals in WA. And Caroline Denyer, a direct BAT employee, was seconded to the WA Liberal Party to work on its 2005 election campaign.