Tobacco firms 'will prevail' over packaging

Last updated 05:00 16/08/2012

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A tobacco company insists the industry will prevail in a fight against plain packaging after its first attempt at legal action in Australia was dismissed.

The High Court in Australia ruled yesterday that plain-packaging legislation did not contravene the Australian constitution. The tobacco companies that filed the claim were ordered to pay the Australian Government's legal costs.

A consultation document on proposed plain packaging on tobacco in New Zealand was released last month, but the policy is under the cloud of probable legal action. New Zealand does not have a formal constitution so the legal action taken in Australia would not be possible here.

However, tobacco companies are likely to back action against New Zealand through the World Trade Organisation. Australia is already facing objections at the WTO to plain packaging from three countries.

Philip Morris New Zealand spokesman Christopher Bishop said yesterday's ruling was disappointing.

"There still remains a long way to go before all of the legal questions about plain packaging are fully explored and answered . . . We believe that the international legal cases are strong . . . Ultimately we are confident that we will prevail.”

Trade Minister Tim Groser said plain packaging for tobacco had caused concern among some other industries. "I've listened very carefully to their concerns . . . we've got the discussion paper on the table and let's see where it goes."

Associate Health Minister Tariana Turia, who is pushing the proposal, said she was thrilled by the legal win.

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- Fairfax Media

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