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Greens fume over Future Fund’s tobacco shares

Updated May 23, 2012 19:21:33

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The Future Fund’s shareholding in tobacco companies has soared to almost $250 million, despite Federal Government moves to discourage smoking.

The value of tobacco company shares held by the Future Fund has increased by more than 50 per cent since the start of last year.

Mark Burgess from the Future Fund Management Agency has not been able to tell a Senate estimates hearing what is behind the increase.

He says, however, that all investments are in line with the fund’s policies.

“Our investment managers have typically broad mandates that fit the investment policies of the board,” he said.

“And they therefore have the ability to invest to those mandates.

“We’re very strict about the way they go about that.

“We’re strict about the way we monitor them that they’re in line with the board’s policies.

They may from time to time buy and sell any sector of share.”

But Greens health spokesman Richard Di Natale says the fund should not be investing in any tobacco companies.

“These same companies are now taking legal action against the Australian Government for plain packaging legislation,” Senator Di Natale said.

He says the fund is essentially profiting from smoking-related deaths.

“The Future Fund, which invests in those companies, is helping that to happen. We’re profiteering from people’s deaths and misery” he said.

The Future Fund is also under fire for holding shares in companies involved in producing nuclear weapons.

The International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons has compiled a list of businesses it says are connected to international nuclear weapons programs.

Mr Burgess says the Fund has holdings in some of those companies but the investments are within the organisation’s guidelines.

“We are confident that the fund has invested according to our policy – which means that we must follow the laws and treaties and conventions of Australia,” he said.

First posted May 23, 2012 16:58:05

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