Big tobacco buying influence – Roxon

by Jenny Novac on May 31, 2011

NINETY-SEVEN per cent of cigarette maker British American Tobacco’s worldwide donations in 2010 went to the Australian Liberal and National parties, federal parliament has heard.

The figures showed the coalition was “on the drip”, health minister Nicola Roxon said.

Some $170,000 went to Australia, $1,550 was paid to Canada and $3,000 found its way to the Solomon Islands.

Big tobacco buying influence – Roxon

“Ninety-seven per cent of British American Tobacco’s money is spent here on two parties – the Liberal Party and the National Party,” Ms Roxon told parliament.

“And they are asking us to (believe) this has no influence on their decision on whether they are going to support plain packaging or not.”

Labor wants to introduce plain packaging for all cigarettes from mid-2012 but the opposition is yet to declare whether it will support the move.

Health Minister Nicola Roxon today said Tony Abbott and his team were sitting on the fence because they were influenced by donations.

The health minister said the Gillard government was influenced by researchers, public health advocates, doctors groups, the Cancer Council and the Heart Foundation.

But, she insisted, there were other influences at play on the other side of politics.

BAT’s own policy on donations makes clear they “can only be made for the purpose of influencing the debate on issues affecting the company and not to achieve any improper business or other advantage”.

“So the Liberal and National parties deny this has any influence but the donors say that’s the only reason they can actually make a donation,” Ms Roxon said.

Prime Minister Julia Gillard later rammed home the point.

“They don’t care about smoking – they’re too big on the drip from big tobacco,” she said during Question Time.
The Australian Greens want to amend electoral laws to ban donations to political parties by tobacco companies.

Labor and the Greens already have imposed their own bans but the Liberal and Nationals continue to take money from tobacco companies.

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