Government given 28 days to release costs of Phillip Morris case

8 February, 2018: The Australian Information Commissioner has given the Federal Government 28 days to release the total legal costs in the Philip Morris tobacco plain packaging case against Australia. Outrageously, these costs were blacked out of the final tribunal decision on costs, presumably  at the request of both parties. It has taken a long FOI battle initiated by Senator Rex Patrick (NXT) to achieve this result.

US company Philip Morris shifted some assets to Hong Kong in order to use the ISDS provisions in a Hong Kong Australia investment agreement to claim compensation for the 2011 plain packaging laws. Although Australia eventually won the case, even wins under ISDS can represent significant losses. The case dragged on for over four years, and Australia reportedly spent $50 million in legal costs. The decision on costs ordered Philip Morris to pay a proportion of total costs, but both the proportion and the total costs were blacked out of the decision, and the government has refused to release them.

Philip Morris has consistently used trade treaties to resist laws which restrict and regulate tobacco. Leaked Philip Morris documents for the years 2009-2016 have shed light on the company’s efforts to neutralise the United Nations Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, as well as Australia’s plain packaging law. Philip Morris has strived to keep tobacco within the ambit of international trade deals, so that it can mount legal campaigns against public health regulations. AFTINET has previously written about this here.

We congratulate former Senator Nick Xenophon and Senator Rex Patrick for their ongoing work to expose the total legal costs of the Philip Morris case. This is information which the public deserves to know.