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Govt won’t be bullied by tobacco: Roxon

The federal government will not be bullied by tobacco companies into backing away from tobacco reforms due to be passed by the Senate on Thursday.

Australia will become the first country in the world to pass legislation requiring all cigarettes to be sold in plain packs devoid of branding, when it passes the Senate, as expected, following limited debate.

Big tobacco has vowed to challenge plain packaging in the courts once the legislation passes parliament.

Federal Health Minister Nicola Roxon said the government and big tobacco were destined to disagree.

“But we’re not going to be bullied into not taking this action just because the tobacco companies say they might fight us in the courts,” she told reporters in Melbourne on Thursday.

“We’re ready for that if they take legal action. We hope that they don’t. We believe that this is a measure that’s in the interests of the community and it would be better off for tobacco companies to look at ways they could invest in something that’s not so harmful for the community.”

British American Tobacco Australia insists the Commonwealth will be unlawfully acquiring its intellectual property rights and could have to pay billions of dollars in compensation.

Ms Roxon said the government didn’t accept that argument.

“They’re using that as a way of threatening both the government and the Senate to try not to proceed with this law,” she said.

The coalition supports the main plain packaging legislation but not an associated trademarks bill.

The health minister urged the Liberal senators to support the entirety of the legislation, but said that ultimately the government was confident it had the numbers to pass it.

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