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Rudd's smokescreen -

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Rudd's smokescreen

Broadcast: 29/04/2010

Reporter: Chris Uhlmann

The Rudd Government is taking the anti-smoking campaign to a new level. In two years cigarettes
will only be sold in plain packets with health warnings and from midnight tonight smokers will be
paying more. But is this a smokescreen for a week of back flips?


KERRY O'BRIEN, PRESENTER: It was another era when the advertising industry used to sell us messages
like the one that cigarettes were the international passport to smoking pleasure.

Pro-tobacco commercials in print and on television are now things of the past and the cigarette
packets themselves have become the last billboard - but not after today's announcement from the
Rudd Government taking the anti-smoking campaign to a new level

In two years, cigarettes will only be sold in plain packets with health warnings, and from midnight
tonight smokers will be paying more.

But the plan has left the more cynical political observers querying the timing of the announcement,
asking whether it's a distraction from a spate of policy back flips?

Political editor Chris Uhlmann

ADD 1: She packed a lunch and did I eat. Now a cigarette would be a treat.

ADD 1 VOICEOVER: Craven filter- the clean cigarette that's kind to your throat.

ADD 2: Smoke Kool, Kool, Kool.

ADD 3: More doctors smoke Camels than any other cigarette.

ADD 4: Peter Stuyvesant the international passport to smoking pleasure.

ADD 5: Anyhow have a Winfield.

CHRIS UHLMANN, REPORTER: The hey-day of cigarette advertising is long gone, the beguiling images
erased by the march of time and regulation.

ADD 6: Come to Marlboro country.

CHRIS UHLMANN: Today's cowboys have smoking in their sites and the message is unembossed.

KEVIN RUDD, PRIME MINISTER: Cigarettes are not cool.

CHRIS UHLMANN: What's cool now is airbrushing the last place big tobacco can legally hawk its
wares: the packets themselves.

KEVIN RUDD: And when we say hard-line regime in terms of packaging for the future that is what we
mean. That is what will be in broad terms on the front and that is what you have in terms of where
you will indicate the particular brand in small print down the bottom of the actual package. This,
as I said, will be the most hardline regime for cigarette packaging anywhere in the world. For
which we make no apology whatsoever.

CHRIS UHLMANN: The packaging changes are slated to come into force in the middle of 2012 but from
midnight the tax on a packet of 30 cigarettes will be hiked from $2.16. That will net a
cash-strapped Government $5 billion over four years and all of it will be put into funding health.
The Government will also try to restrict internet tobacco advertising and it will inject an extra
$7 million a year into anti-smoking advertising. The health-case for more action is compelling.

KEVIN RUDD: Smoking kills over 15 thousand Australians every year.

NICOLA ROXON, HEALTH MINISTER: It is projected that this action alone will reduce the consumption
of tobacco by about six per cent and reduce the number of smokers by two to three percent.

CHRIS UHLMANN: Tobacco companies are expected to vigorously oppose the push for generic packaging.
British-American tobacco says:"We will defend the intellectual property which lies in that
packaging. If that requires us to take legal action, then we would do so. We would consider that to
be an acquisition of our property on unjust terms, so we would pursue compensation from the

KEVIN RUDD: the Government will not be paying any compensation to any tobacco company anywhere.

TIM WILSON, INSTITUTE OF PUBLIC AFFAIRS: Kevin Rudd today has said there is no way his Government
will hand out compensation to tobacco companies but that decision won't be made by him. It will be
made by the High Court. The High Court, you would assume, is going to take a legal position rather
than a moral position because a legal position will have to then be interpreted for future legal
cases where the Government may choose to proceed with plain packaging of other products.

CHRIS UHLMANN: The Government says it has robust legal advice, but property rights are etched in
the Constitution.

TIM WILSON: Australia has under its Constitution obligations that property rights must be
compensated for, and that includes trademarks, if they're removed by Government, or, if they're
significantly devalued and that is also a requirement under our obligations in the World Trade
Organisation and various other international treaties.

CHRIS UHLMANN: Some believe this is a smoke screen to cover the Government's recent spectacular
back flip on emissions trading.

TIM WILSON: The cynic in me says this is an extreme political stunt. They're trading one form of
emissions debate for another type of emissions debate.

CHRIS UHLMANN: But there is no doubt behaviour just changed Smokers are storming the shops.

CUSTOMER: Eight cartons.

INTERVIEWER: How much did that cost you?

CUSTOMER: 450 bucks.

CHRIS UHLMANN: Tim Wilson believes that if the Government wins this intellectual property fight
it's the thin edge of a very large wedge.

TIM WILSON: The precedent if Australia proceeds down this path won't just be for tobacco companies.
There have already been proposals and research completed overseas looking at the potential for
plain packaging of fast food products, of salty and fatty food products and even alcohol. This sort
of trend is only one of a number that we can see over the next few years.

CHRIS UHLMANN: The Prime Minister says this is a tough decision.

KEVIN RUDD: It won't win the Government any popularity.

CHRIS UHLMANN: But there is an enormous cheer squad of health activists who will fall in behind it.
Smokers are less enthused.

SMOKER 1: It's disgraceful I think, you know, they've kicked us out of pubs, everything else. Why
you gotta put up the cigarettes for?

SMOKER 2: Well, I'm quitting today so ... {laughs}

TONY ABBOTT, OPPOSITION LEADER: It's a panic tax by a Government which is as addicted to spending
as some people, sadly, are addicted to nicotine.

CHRIS UHLMANN: In the end this is a move the Coalition will find hard to oppose. Today there are
few who are willing to line up in a fight alongside big tobacco.

KERRY O'BRIEN: Political editor Chris Uhlmann.