Govt defends plain packaging in High Court 18


11.08.2020 @ 09.05

ASHLEY HALL: Government solicitors have told the High Court it would be incongruous to compensate tobacco companies for putting health warnings on cigarette packets.

The full bench of the court is hearing a challenge by several major tobacco companies to the Federal Government's plain packaging laws. They argue that the imposition of drab, standardised packaging amounts to an unjust acquisition of their property.

Bret Walker SC for Imperial Tobacco Australia argued that the Government's decision to encase all cigarettes in the same generic, brown packaging was regulation taken a step too far, and amounted to a form of "anti-advertising".

As representatives for JT International, British American Tobacco and Phillip Morris argued yesterday, Mr Walker told the court that the new laws would lead to an unjust acquisition of their property by the Commonwealth for the purposes of displaying health warnings []Tobacco Store[/url].

He said:

BRET WALKER (voiceover): Commandeering packaging services rather than paying for advertising is what amounts to acquisition []Wholesale Cigarettes[/url].

NAOMI WOODLEY: He said while Imperial Tobacco Australia accepted the need for health warnings, he likened the nature of the messages to the Government telling Ford it had to put a sticker on each of its cars telling motorists to buy a Holden []Newport Cigarettes Website[/url].

But the Government rejects that. The Commonwealth solicitor-general Stephen Gaegler SC told the court that under a proper analysis of the law the Government isn't acquiring any property and that while the value of the tobacco company's trademarks might be diminished, that did not amount to an acquisition, or a benefit to the Commonwealth. He told the court that the plain packaging requirements are simply a new product standard []Carton Of Newport 100S[/url], which:

STEPHEN GAEGLER (voiceover): Differs only in intensity from standards like those imposed on pharmaceuticals []Newport Cigarettes[/url], poisons and other products injurious to public health.

NAOMI WOODLEY: Mr Gaegler argued that the new requirements were simply the latest in a range of state and territory measures, that:

STEPHEN GAEGLER (voiceover):Have prevented the use of trademarks to promote tobacco products because it was seen that promotion was harmful to public health.

NAOMI WOODLEY: The solicitor-general said it was wrong for the tobacco companies to liken cigarette packaging to billboards on which the Government could display any message. He told the court that the legislation made it explicit the space would be used for health warnings.

STEPHEN GAEGLER (voiceover): It is far-fetched in the extreme to treat this as forced benevolence or the requisition of a little billboard for the gratuitous (display) of information by the Government [url=www.cigarettessuperm…]Marlboro Cigarettes[/url].

NAOMI WOODLEY: The solicitor-general added that it would be incongruous to compensate tobacco companies for using their packaging to display health warnings, which are required by law.
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