British American Tobacco (BAT) has challenged the High Court against the cigarette plain packaging legislation. BAT argues the ban is invalid because the federal government is trying to acquire valuable intellectual property without compensation. BAT lodged the writs launching its challenge in the High Court Sydney registry on Thursday. The date for hearing is likely to be no earlier than the second quarter of next year.
BAT spokesperson Scott McIntyre said it was a legal company selling a legal product. “We have consistently said we will defend our valuable intellectual property on behalf of our shareholders as any other company would… If the same type of legislation was introduced for a beer brewing company or a fast food chain, then they'd be taking the Government to court and we're no different,” he said.
Under the federal government's tobacco plain packaging legislation, all tobacco products will have to be sold in drab olive-brown packs from December 2012. Graphic health warnings will dominate the packages instead of brand names and logos.
“Obviously we'd rather not be in a situation where we're forced to take the Government to court but unfortunately for taxpayers the Government has taken us down the legal path,” McIntyre said.
Health minister Nicola Roxon said big tobacco just couldn't give up their addiction to legal action. “They have fought governments tooth and nail around the world for decades to stop tobacco control,” she said in a statement. “Let there be no mistake, big tobacco is fighting against the government for one very simple reason - because it knows, as we do, that plain packaging will work. While it is fighting to protect its profits, we are fighting to protect lives,” she said.
The executive director of QUIT, Fiona Sharkie, says the challenge has little chance of winning.
“The legal opinion is very clearly on the side of the Government,” she said. “We believe that this is just again a tactic to use up government money, taxpayer funds, in expensive court cases for something that has little chance of success,” she added.