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Big Tobacco's Box Fetish: Plain Packaging at the High Court
The Conversation (2012)
  • Matthew Rimmer, Australian National University College of Law
Tobacco, says the World Health Organisation (WHO), is “the only legal consumer product that kills when used exactly as intended by the manufacturer.”
Supporting the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, the Australian Parliament has passed The Tobacco Plain Packaging Act 2011 (Cth). The legislation was supported by all the major parties.
Labor Attorney-General, Nicola Roxon, argued, “Plain packaging means that the glamour is gone from smoking and cigarettes are now exposed for what they are: killer products that destroy thousands of Australian families.”
The leader of the Coalition Opposition, Tony Abbott, acknowledged: “This is an important health measure. It’s important to get smoking rates down further.” The Greens also supported the measure – and called for the Future Fund to end its tobacco investments.
In response, Japan Tobacco International and British American Tobacco brought legal action against the government in the High Court of Australia, claiming that the Act amounts to an acquisition of property on less than just terms under the Australian Constitution. Phillip Morris Ltd and Imperial Tobacco joined the case, and supported their fellow tobacco companies.
In its defence, the Commonwealth was supported by the governments of the Australian Capital Territory, the Northern Territory, and Queensland. The Cancer Council Australia made written submissions, but was not given leave to intervene.
The High Court of Australia heard arguments over three days from the April 17 to 19, 2012. The various parties enlisted battalions of lawyers, the proceedings received intense media attention, and the public galleries were packed. Here’s how it went.
Publication Date
April 20, 2012
Citation Information
Matthew Rimmer. "Big Tobacco's Box Fetish: Plain Packaging at the High Court" The Conversation (2012)
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