Apr 1, 2014

Crikey Clarifier: will Indonesia sink Australian plain packaging laws?

Indonesia has become the third country to challenge Australia's plain packaging laws for cigarettes. Freelancer writer Sally Whyte talks to experts about the case -- and who is likely to win.

Australia’s cigarette plain packaging laws are back in the news, with a fresh legal challenge coming from Indonesia through the World Trade Organization. Indonesia is the third country to launch a challenge through the WTO, but a result doesn’t look likely in the near future …

So what is the case about?

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8 thoughts on “Crikey Clarifier: will Indonesia sink Australian plain packaging laws?

  1. amy robinsons

    Will CSG companies be able to sue relevant governments where their access to leases has been denied say by protests or public health concerns, local pollution etc under similar laws or via the TPP say?

  2. Dawson Colin

    @amy, I had the same thought. Big energy had been following the play book written by big tobacco, especially criticism of research showing that its product is harmful. With their bottomless war chests, we could be in for decades of vexatious gas/coal cases based on threats to the profits of multinationals.

  3. Harry Holt

    Perhaps the solution will be for Australia to withdraw from these trade agreements. Sovereignty seems to be a great vote winner. Giving it up to an unelected, corporately motivated organisation could be described as Orwellian.

  4. R. Ambrose Raven

    Big Tobacco may be given an extra avenue, courtesy of the Noalition and their “Free” trade agreements (better used for toilet paper).

    Abbott Coalition Trade Minister (and ex-NFF) Andrew Robb indicated in mid-Dec ’13 that Australia would allow an investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) clause – which allows multinational companies an additional means of suing governments – in return for “substantial market access”. Indeed, he later indicated support for it.

    The ISDS Mechanism allows transnationals to sue any signatory government. One such is being used by Philip Morris to sue Australia on plain packaging and graphic warnings for cigarettes, since reducing deaths from smoking requires reducing the effectiveness of advertising and other means of psychological manipulation and exploitation by a Big Tobacco that has spent decades lying about the dangers of smoking.

    Robb omitted to mention that the substantial financial and political connections between the Liberal Party and Big Tobacco.

    In mid-2010, a supposedly grass-roots protest against the plain packaging of tobacco products was in fact run by former Howard government advisers and then current Liberal Party strategists (one being Crosby Textor – infamous for his comparison of the Indonesian President to “a 1970s Pilipino porn star and has ethics to match”), almost entirely financed by the tobacco industry.

    Or that from 2004 – from when the ALP refused Big Tobacco donations, the Liberals and the Nationals continued to jointly receive an average of $280,000 annually from the tobacco industry.

    In Aug ’13 Tony Abbott did announce that the Liberal Party would no longer accept donations from tobacco companies. But which category of Abbott’s promises was that one – “the promise that we made”, “the promise that some people thought we made [and was extensively publicised without Noalition challenge], or a later reversal of position by a leader and party that before the 2013 election promised that, if elected, unlike Julia and the carbon levy, there would be none of those either?

    After all, Abbott has defended his party’s acceptance of tobacco industry donations on the basis that the money does not influence policy. In 2011 Abbott said that he intended to keep on taking those donations for as long as tobacco was legal.

  5. CML

    Plain packaging was a silly idea in the first place. It does/will not stop anyone from smoking, because it is an addiction, not a ‘life-style’.
    Many smokers I have spoken to, say they would continue to smoke no matter how the addictive sticks are packaged.
    You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink!

  6. Chris Hartwell

    CML – it won’t stop current smokers. It may stop potential smokers from starting (and all the attendant health risks and costs starting entails)

  7. R. Ambrose Raven

    Well, CML, if plain packaging doesn’t matter, why is Big Tobacco so hostile to it? An obvious question. Your answer is?

  8. CML

    Simple R A R – they think it lowers their profits. Money is all these people care about. I would have thought that was obvious!

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