Call for Liberals to kick tobacco money habit

A leading health expert has called on the West Australian Liberal Party to “quit” tobacco company donations after figures revealed they received $70,000 in the past five years.

Donation figures published on the Australian Electoral Commission website show tobacco heavyweights Philip Morris and British American Tobacco Australia contributed $44,000 and $26,017 respectively to the state Liberal Party since 2004.

Other major political parties have not accepted donations from tobacco companies since 2004 and Curtin University Professor of Health Policy Mike Daube said the Liberal Party should follow suit.

“This is a lethal industry, it’s products kill one in two of its users and nobody reputable should be accepting money from them,” Professor Daube said.

“(Health Minister) Kim Hames has been really good on tobacco (policy) but this is an industry that desperately needs friends and it gets them by buying them.”

Professor Daube said the donations were “absolutely at odds” with the message the government sent with its tough anti-tobacco policy.

New WA laws set to come into force from September 22 will make it tougher for smokers to light up in outdoor eating areas, on the beach, in the car or at playgrounds. They will also ban the display of tobacco products in shops, with the exception of specialist tobacco retailers.

“I just think that any political party that takes money from tobacco companies should reconsider, they know exactly why they give them money – it’s to get friends in high places,” he said.

“They should quit tobacco money.”

Opposition Health Minister Roger Cook said the money made a “mockery” of health commitments made by the government.

“It is incredibly hypocritical of the Liberal Party to take money from these organisations that they know kill people and at the same time think they understand the health needs of Western Australians,” Mr Cook said.

“You can’t on the one hand say that you’re standing shoulder to shoulder with other health authorities, but on the other hand accept the blood money for your own political donations from the tobacco lobby.”

The largest single donations over the five years for both companies coincided with the 2005 state election. In February of that year British American Tobacco Australia gave $13,517 on election day while Philip Morris contributed $10,000 three days prior.

The WA division of the Liberal Party has been contacted for comment.


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