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Cheers - AE

Saturday, 4 June 2011

Those illiberal Liberals again

Triathlon competitor he may be, man of iron he ain't. In the face of accusations that the Liberals still get donations from the tobacco industry - and since both the donations, the industry and its products are all perfectly legal the correct response should be: "Yes, and?" - leader of the federal opposition Tony Abbot hasn't just bent on plain tobacco packaging, he's rusted away to nothing.
TONY Abbott has offered Coalition support for plain packaging of cigarettes, bowing to political pressure from Labor and sections of his own party for the tough new anti-smoking measure.
Sections of his own party, eh? Tells you all you need to know. Once again a brief visit to dictionary corner is in order:


1. Showing or characterized by broad-mindedness; "a broad political stance"; "generous and broad sympathies"; "a liberal newspaper"; "tolerant of his opponent's opinions".
2. Having political or social views favoring reform and progress.
3. Tolerant of change; not bound by authoritarianism, orthodoxy, or tradition.
4. Given or giving freely; "was a big tipper"; "the bounteous goodness of God"; "bountiful compliments"; "a freehanded host"; "a handsome allowance"; "Saturday's child is loving and giving"; "a liberal backer of the arts"; "a munificent gift"; "her fond and openhanded grandfather".
5. Not literal; "a loose interpretation of what she had been told"; "a free translation of the poem".

1. A person who favors a political philosophy of progress and reform and the protection of civil liberties.
2. A person who favors an economic theory of laissez-faire and self-regulating market

And since the Liberal Party fail on most of that, particularly and spectacularly the first three adjectives, it's perhaps necessary to hold the dictionary open at the right page and twat them across the eyes with it until it sinks in.
The Opposition Leader today revealed the shadow cabinet had agreed to back the introduction of drab olive green cigarette packages, depriving tobacco companies of their colourful branding.

"We will seek to amend the legislation to ensure that it really does bring smoking rates down but if our amendments fail we won't be opposing the legislation, because we really are committed in opposition as we were in government to try and bring smoking rates down,” he said.
Which I'm sure is welcome news to the tobacco industry. The illegal tobacco industry that is. The one the governments apparently don't bother trying to police much and instead leave it to the legit tobacco industry to deal with, mainly by way of trademark infringement cases.
SYDNEY is flooded with blackmarket cigarettes selling for as little as half the price of a genuine pack, but peddlers are avoiding punishment because it is tobacco companies who catch them.

The Daily Telegraph was able to purchase Chinese-made counterfeit cigarettes from outlets at Kings Cross and Warwick Farm.

British American Tobacco (BAT) conducts about 1000 undercover purchases each year and has taken legal action against more than 100 retailers in the past three years, effectively suing them for copyright infringements.


Illegal retailers caught by the ATO would have to pay five times the excise they avoided, plus fines and possible jail time.

Sources said it was left to tobacco companies to regulate the industry, serving notices on businesses for copyright infringement. Lawyers for BAT demand restitution for the estimated lost income and the retailers are told not to do it again.
So the illegal baccy trade already has a market advantage in that they can break the law and the people who are most inclined to do anything are their law abiding competition. The Australian Tax Office, incidentally, are too busy chasing millionaires hiding money offshore to really give much of a shit about it.

Now, hands up everyone who thinks that the legal tobacco industry will carry on doing this when they're no longer allowed to use their own branding. Come on, anyone? Anyone at all? Thought not. Not only will they probably be pretty disinclined to bother doing the governments' dirty work for them having just been shat on I'm not sure they'll even be able to do it. I imagine the strategy of the fake cigs makers is to make their products look at a glance as if they are the real McCoy, and they're hardly going to bother carrying on imitating trademarked branding that the tobacco companies themselves have been forced to stop using. And of course that doesn't even include the loose chop-chop being sold by weight anyway.

Identify the brand. Hint: it is not
"Customs & Border Protection"
Good news for the illegal trade, surely. Not only is there now cross party agreement to hamstring their legal and regulated competition yet further but the move will make the real difference between the illegal and legal products even harder to discern with the exception of price, and of course the illegal baccy trade was already winning on price by a country mile. Australia, it seems to me, is soon going to become one of the best places in the world to buy cheap smokes - they just won't be legal ones on which tax has been paid, which means that on top of all the other stupidity the federal and state governments are going to have to find ways of making up however much of the $10 billion or so tax revenue they will lose through this lunacy. Yep, at the moment smokers are paying more than the rest of us, which really ought to win a few more friends than it does. Can we really expect them to continue if the government persist in making consumption of legal tobacco too much of a pain in the arse?

More to the point, even if by some miracle this does actually reduce the number of smokers rather than increase the numbers buying illegal tobacco the government will still lose revenue and the rest of us will be expected to make up the shortfall. Now I don't know about anyone else but smokers paying more tax than non-smokers suits me just fine. I didn't mind too much when I was a smoker and it wasn't a major reason for me giving up - I don't see it as being all that different from someone who drives twice as much as me paying a lot more fuel tax.

So with just a couple of days left to tell the government - not that they'll be remotely interested in anything other than sycophantic agreement or pathetic gratitude - what we think if either of my readers are in Australia I urge them to pop over to I Deserve To Be Heard and make a submission via their web form to the Minister for Health and your federal MP. The Minister's email account seems to be sending rather a lot of automated out of office replies at the moment, which comes as no surprise, but unless you want those smokers that we're all supposed to dislike so much to be encouraged to buy cheaper fags and put taxes up for the rest of us we should really make the effort to let her know what we think.
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