Institute of Public Affairs

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The Institute of Public Affairs (IPA) is an Australian think tank which advocates de-regulation and has a history of opposing tobacco control policies.

The IPA has been opaque about its current funding sources, citing concerns over the privacy of its donors.[1]

Relationship with Tobacco Industry

A July 2018 The New Daily exposé on the IPA claimed that Philip Morris International and British American Tobacco (BAT), amongst other multinationals, had donated to the IPA.[1] The newspaper reported that PMI had declined to comment, and that BAT Australia had responded by stating that the company had not been a member of the IPA “for some time”.[1]

However, in June 2013 BAT headquarters in London had confirmed to British health charity Action for Smoking and Health that “British American Tobacco Australia is a corporate member of a number of business organisations in Australia, including the Institute of Public Affairs”.[2] One year earlier, a spokesman for BAT Australia had also confirmed that the company was a member of the IPA.[3]

In an 2002 opinion piece in The Australian, IPA's Don D'Cruz stated that the IPA "receives support from tobacco companies".[4]

Internal industry documents archived in the Truth Tobacco Industry Documents Library demonstrate that BAT Australia (previously known as W.D. & H.O. Wills) has had a long-term relationship with the IPA that goes back decades.[5] For example, a Public Affairs Review document dated 1993, under a paragraph discussing “corporate image”, notes that the Australian arm of the company "contributes financially to prominent think tanks such as the Institute for [sic] Public Affairs and the Sydney Institute".[6]

BAT’s involvement went beyond ‘contributing financially’. BAT appears to have actively shaped the structure of the IPA. In 1994 Wills funded the establishment of IPA’s Regulator Review Unit to be an advocating voice for deregulation.[7] Two years later, Wills’ Company plan mentions the need to “revamp” this unit and “ensure they are more effective in meeting the company’s needs”.[8]

Challenged Tobacco Control Legislation

IPA’s Alan Moran told the Australian Senate Productivity Commission’s Inquiry in 2001 of the IPA:

“We’ve got about 4000 funders...there are occasions when we may take positions which are somewhat different from those of funders. Obviously that doesn’t happen very often, otherwise they’d stop funding us, but it does happen occasionally”.[3]

Second-Hand Smoke: “Dangerous Mix of Science and Propaganda”

IPA used tobacco industry consultant John Luik to create doubt about the science around the causal link between second-hand smoke and cancer, and oppose in IPA’s words, “moralistic party-poopers who want smoke banned from public places”.[9]

In 1996, the year that the Will’s corporate plan called for a revamp of IPA’s Regulation unit to ‘better meet the needs’ of the tobacco company,[8] the IPA commissioned Luik to author a report that criticised the Australian National Health & Medical Research Council’s Draft Report on Passive Smoking.[10] A few months later, IPA flew Luik to Australia for a nationwide “lecture tour” to talk to several media outlets about the campaign against second-hand smoke, which he called “a dangerous mix of science and propaganda”.[9][11]

In an appearance on the Current Affairs show Today Tonight, Luik dismissed scientific consensus on the causal link between second-hand smoke and cancer, arguing that: “What I object to is people claiming that it [second hand smoke] kills people. It’s this use of science to further a politicised end, which I think is really unfortunate”.[12]

Luik continued: “I think if in fact you really look at the science, you would conclude that the risk of getting lung cancer if you share an office with someone who’s a smoker is about the same in Australia of the lifetime risks of dying from drinking chlorinated water, And that risk’s about 1 in 1.5 billion”.[12]

Although most media outlets reported that Luik had been “brought to Australia by the Institute of Public Affairs”,[12] none disclosed IPA’s and Luik’s financial links with the tobacco industry.

Plain Packaging: "Government May Have to Pay Tobacco Companies Compensation"

When the Australian Government announced its intention to introduce plain tobacco packaging in 2010, the IPA’s Tim Wilson took part in several national and local broadcast interviews opposing the plans. He claimed that the new law violated tobacco companies' intellectual property rights, an argument frequently used by the tobacco industry.

Also see:

Wilson further argued that "under the constitution and Australia's international obligation" the government may have to pay "compensation up to $3billion a year to tobacco companies”.[13] Wilson did not clarify how he came to this figure, but it was widely reported in news outlets across the country.[13]

Wilson made similar points about trademarks, intellectual property and compensation in a submission to the Australian Senate Community Affairs Legislation Committee inquiry into plain packaging. He wrote:[14]

"With annual retail sales for... tobacco products at $10 billion per annum it is possible that the removal of trademarks would result in taxpayers being required to contribute hundreds of millions of dollars, and potentially billions".

The submission contained no information about the Institute taking funds from the tobacco industry.

More recently, the tobacco industry has been citing reports from IPA’s Senior Research Fellow Sinclair Davidson to criticise plain packaging legislation and its impact on public health in Australia.[15]

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Notes

  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 C. Barro, Institute of Public Affairs growing but think tank remains tight-lipped about donors, The New Daily, 24 July 2018, accessed July 2018
  2. Letter from British American Tobacco to Action for Smoking and Health dated 18 June 2013, Tweet Simon Chapman (@SimonChapman6) 23 June 2013 11:22PM, accessed July 2018
  3. 3.0 3.1 J. Swan, Institute opposing plain packaging funded by tobacco company, The Sydney Morning Herald, 31 May 2012, accessed July 2018
  4. Don D'Cruz, 'Give smokers some respect', The Australian, 15 April 2002, accessed 7 June 2011
  5. Unknown, Corporate and Regulatory Affairs: Company Plan 1999-2001, 25 September 1998, Truth Tobacco Industry Documents, Bates no: 321324291-321324477, accessed July 2018
  6. Unknown, Public Affairs Review 1993, 5 April 1994, Truth Tobacco Industry Documents, Bates no: 700314274-700314366, accessed July 2018
  7. M. Riordan, Letter from Martin Riordan to J Hyde regarding details of the plans WD & HO Wills, 10 June 1994, Truth Tobacco Industry Documents, Bates no: 502594513-502594514, accessed July 2018
  8. 8.0 8.1 Unknown, Wills Production Company Plan 1966-1998, 1996, Truth Tobacco Industry Documents, Bates no: 503938722-503938814, accessed July 2018
  9. 9.0 9.1 K. Legge, 'Passive aggression: the showdown on smoking in public places', Weekend Australian, 17 August 1996, Truth Tobacco Industry Documents, Bates no: 2065184312-2065184326, accessed July 2018
  10. Peace Pipe, N403; Peace Pipe Volume 1; Issues 3, January 1996, Truth Tobacco Industry Documents, Bates no:2065213785-2065213788, accessed July 2018
  11. Croll Communications, Peter Couchman Dr John Luik on Public Health Policy, 7 October 1996, Truth Tobacco Industry Documents, Bates no: 2065184336-2065184345, accessed July 2018
  12. 12.0 12.1 12.2 Croll Communications, Today Tonight Intv/w: John Luik, U.S. Expert on Workplace Smoking Bans- Claims That Se Don’t Mae Sense, 7 August 1996, Truth Tobacco Industry Documents, Bates no: 2065184330-2065184335, accessed July 2018
  13. 13.0 13.1 Smoking Out The Spin, ABC MediaWatch, 10 May 2010, accessed July 2018
  14. T. Wilson, Governing in ignorance: Australian governments legislating, without understanding, intellectual property. Institute of Public Affairs, May 2010
  15. J. Smith, K. Lee, Protecting the plain packaging consultation from tobacco industry interference, CMAJ, 2016 Oct 4; E340-E341, accessed July 2018