Body blow to the merchants of doubt: High Court decision upholds plain packaging, helps reverse one part of the neoliberal war on regulation

What’s with the Fifty Shades of Grey advertising campaign big tobacco? New target audience?

While not directly related to the climate change debate, the defeat “big tobacco” suffered in today’s High Court decision has profound ramifications as the Sydney Morning Herald notes:

The federal government has secured a big win over big tobacco with the High Court ruling Labor’s world-first plain packaging laws are constitutionally valid.

The decision is expected to have significant influence globally with both the United Kingdom and New Zealand considering plain packaging

“It is also the global tobacco industry’s worst defeat,” said Professor Daube, who chaired the federal government’s expert committee that recommended plain packaging.

”The global tobacco companies have opposed plain packaging more ferociously than any other measure we have seen.”

The companies knew that plain packaging would have a major impact on smoking in Australia – and that other countries would follow.

Professor Daube said the companies’ own internal documents showed that packaging was a crucial part of their marketing.

”Since we learned about the dangers of smoking, cigarettes have killed one million Australians, in large part because of the activities of the world’s most lethal industry.”

Say, I should go check the share prices of these companies – I believe this legal defeat might prompt some “sell” recommendations from brokers.

It’s worth noting that Institute of Public Affairs has been working hard to undermine public support for these laws indulging in its usual campaign of saturating the media with op-ed pieces and the like. The “meme” they’ve run with is protecting us from “the nanny state”:

In its latest attempt to derail the plain cigarette packaging legislation, Big Tobacco has pulled out one of its favourite pro-tobacco messages: say no to a nanny state.

Having failed so miserably in their attempts to reverse the legislation I wonder if the IPAs funding will take a bit of a hit?

The war on regulatory constraints: mining and carbon taxes

Bear in mind there are several other High Court challenges are either under way or threatened, each of which attack the Government’s ability to regulate, tax and govern:

Considered legal opinion holds neither of these poses a real threat to the legislation. But surely it’s a coincidence that all of the above parties are climate sceptics (or their political parties are hostile to the science)?

Or that the Institute of Public Affairs has worked over time to cast doubt on science, argue against both taxes and arguing against plain packaging?

Surely it is just coincidence

If we look at these three challenges: 

  • to plain packaging of tobacco products
  • the regulation of CO2 emissions
  • the government’s ability to tax on the “super” profits of miners

…we see the neoliberal agenda of limited government, free market fundamentalism and brushing aside “pesky” regulatory constraints.

It’s not just Big Tobacco that suffered a crushing defeat today: by extension the “neoliberal” war to remove important restraints – and desire to reduce government to the play thing of large corporations – equally suffered a setback.


One thought on “Body blow to the merchants of doubt: High Court decision upholds plain packaging, helps reverse one part of the neoliberal war on regulation

  1. It is hard not to see that that social controversies that cut across traditional party lines will either fester or settle down, depending on whether or not they involve profitable industries.

    No one makes money putting down gays – in fact, it costs your company plenty to be seen as anti-gay. So we see Australia moving to accepting gays, despite a large body of socially conservative voters.

    Few social conservatives are willing to defend smoking rights, but not to worry – defending those “rights” is essential to some very big rich companies and so smokers right battles carry on.

    Many will defend their right to drive a car, but few of them will defend releasing smoke into the air – but not to worry .

    “Where there is muck (smoke) there is money” goes the old saying and indeed the richest companies are willing to go down fighting to defend their profits and deny climate change.

    Mike, there IS a reason why deniers always focus on CO2 PPM etc : it is an invisible gas and hence easy to deny —- I prefer to focus on its fellow traveller, smoke particulates, because they are visible and thus impossible to deny…..

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