December 28, 2012

2012 September 13 – Future Fund investment in tobacco industry must be stopped

The Heart Foundation, Action on Smoking and Health Australia and the Australian Lung Foundation have called on all parties to end investment of taxpayer’s funds in tobacco companies via the $77b Future Fund.

The health groups want legislation or a ministerial direction to the Fund not to invest Australian money in the tobacco industry.

Legislation on ethical investment of government funds, tabled by Greens Senator Richard Di Natale, is expected to be discussed in the Senate today (September 13).

Heart Foundation tobacco control spokesperson, Maurice Swanson, said: “It is simply wrong that $210m of taxpayers’ money is invested in an industry that promotes addictive, lethal products to adults and children across the globe. Over five million people die each year because they consume the products produced by tobacco companies, including those receiving funds from Australian taxpayers via the Future Fund.”

“We are particularly concerned that funds are invested in an Indonesian tobacco company. Indonesia has not signed up to the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control and smoking among children as young as two is growing by the day. In Indonesia, almost half a million aged between 10 and 14 are smoking – lured by tobacco company marketing strategies targeting children.

“The Australian Government has the best record in the world on tobacco control. They deserve the strongest praise for measures such as plain packaging, tax increases and a crackdown on duty-free sales. It is therefore totally inappropriate for the Future Fund to work against this incredible commitment by investing in the tobacco industry.”

Despite Australia’s leading record in the worldwide fight against tobacco, our government’s $77b Future Fund invests $210m in tobacco companies including BAT (UK, Malaysia), Philip Morris/Altria (US, Czech Republic), Imperial/ITC (UK, India), Japan Tobacco, CIA Souza Cruz (Brazil), Gudang Garam (Indonesia), KT&G (Korean Republic), Lorillard, Reynolds (US) and Swedish Match.

ASH CEO Anne Jones said: “This investment in tobacco companies is contrary to treaty obligations, undermines health policies and all of the good work the government is doing in tobacco control and in overseas aid helping to reduce tobacco deaths and disease.

“Australia’s reputation as a health leader is being dragged through the mud by the continued investment of public money in the tobacco industry.”

William Darbishire, CEO of The Australian Lung Foundation, urged the Future Fund Board of Guardians to follow the precedents set by Canada, Norway and other similar National funds (such as UniSuper and First State Super) and immediately disinvest from the tobacco sector.  He said: “40 Australians die each day from tobacco related disease. The Future Fund should have no part in this.

“The Fund has already done the right thing by divesting its investments in companies manufacturing cluster bombs. We are asking them to do the right thing by divesting tobacco.

“In addition to the Ethical Investments legislation due for discussion in the Senate today, we are looking to the first Board meeting of the Future Fund under David Gonski’s leadership later this month and hoping his leadership and vision will end this investment.”

“We are calling on the Future Fund Board to ensure that investment in tobacco companies is explicitly ruled out,” Mr Swanson added. “Our international and hard won reputation for reform is being compromised by this legacy of investment by the Fund – and all for the sake of a paltry 0.3% of its portfolio investment”.

More on tobacco investment:  www.ashaust.org.au/lv4/Lv4action_investment.htm

Comment:

Anne Jones  OAM,  ASH Australia m.  0417-227-879

Maurice Swanson, Heart Foundation m.  0401-090-915

Media info:

Emma Bourke, Heart Foundation ph. (03) 9090 2046 m.  0411-310-997

Stafford Sanders, ASH Australia ph. (02) 9334-1823 m.  0412-070-194

Heather Allan, Australian Lung Foundation ph. (07) 3251-3634 m. 0421-798-024