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Top-tier firms join Big Tobacco fight

Top-tier firms join Big Tobacco fight

Corrs Chambers Westgarth is the firm acting for British American Tobacco Australia (BATA) in the fight against the Federal Government's proposed plain packaging legislation for cigarettes.While…

Corrs Chambers Westgarth is the firm acting for British American Tobacco Australia (BATA) in the fight against the Federal Government's proposed plain packaging legislation for cigarettes.

While confirming with Lawyers Weekly that the firm is acting for the Australian arm of the tobacco company, Corrs was unable to disclose further details regarding its legal advice to BATA.

Also representing an Australian tobacco company in the legal stoush against Labor's reforms is Allens Arthur Robinson, which confirmed its representation of Philip Morris Australia.

If passed, the government's Plain Tobacco Packaging (Removing Branding from Cigarette Packs) Bill will amend product information standards to remove brands, trademarks and logos from tobacco packaging.

In the latest development in the battle against plain packaging, BATA has launched proceedings in the Federal Court of Australia to appeal against the Government's refusal to publicly disclose its legal advice regarding its plain packaging scheme.

On 31 May 2011, Minister for Health and Ageing Nicola Roxon signed the Gillard Government's Plain Packaging Pledge in support of the proposed plain packaging legislation.

"The Gillard Government is leading the world with this legislation. We can see the long-term benefits and have the political will to see this through," said Roxon.

To be heard by a full bench of the Federal Court, BATA is seeking the release of the Government's legal advice under freedom of information (FOI) laws.

"BATA suspects that Minister Roxon hasn't released the legal advice because it's likely to demonstrate her plain packaging laws are flawed," BATA claimed in a statement released on 31 May.

"Documents already obtained through the FOI process show IP Australia advised the Government that plain packaging will impinge on the rights of trademark owners. Another document shows the Government is planning to spend $10 million-plus in legal fees on plain packaging."

BATA spokesperson Scott McIntyre said that as well as having no proof that plain packaging will reduce smoking rates, the Gillard Government has refused to guarantee that billions of taxpayer dollars will not be wasted in compensation to the tobacco industry.

"If the Government is so confident it can push ahead with this untested legislation, even though they've not done a regulatory impact statement or have any proof it will work, why don't they make public their legal advice?" said McIntyre.

Last month the Coalition announced its support for the Government's new laws. Opposition leader Tony Abbott claimed the Coalition would not oppose the legislation but would put forward a number of amendments.

Lawyers Weekly contacted Philip Morris for comment, but had not provided a response at the time of writing.

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Top-tier firms join Big Tobacco fight
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