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Future Fund gives tobacco the flick

Judith Ireland
Published: March 1, 2013 – 3:00AM

THE Future Fund will drop tobacco producers from its investment portfolio.

Chairman of the fund’s board, David Gonski, said on Thursday that primary tobacco producers would be excluded after a review of investments by the board’s governance committee.

”The board noted tobacco’s very particular characteristics, including its damaging health effects, addictive properties and that there is no safe level of consumption,” he said in a statement.

”In doing so the board also considered its investment policies and approach to environmental, social and governance issues.”

Tobacco investments – which include companies such as British American Tobacco, Philip Morris International and Japan Tobacco – accounted for 0.3 per cent, or $222 million, of the value of the multibillion-dollar Future Fund as at December 31.

It follows a 2011 decision to stop investing in landmines and cluster munitions, although the fund continues to invest in nuclear weapons.

Federal Health Minister Tanya Plibersek welcomed the fund’s decision on tobacco, saying it was ”great news”.

Last year, the Gillard government won a High Court battle to introduce plain packaging for cigarettes.

Greens senator Richard Di Natale, who campaigned for the fund to drop its tobacco investments, said the decision demonstrated why it was important to have other voices in the Parliament.

”This is a win for public health and I hope that it is an inspiring example to all other investment funds,” he said.

The Future Fund was established in 2006 to provide for unfunded Commonwealth superannuation liabilities for public servants and defence personnel.

The separate nation building funds – set up in 2008 to support infrastructure, health and education – do not hold any securities issued by tobacco companies, but the same restriction will apply.

The National Heart Foundation also welcomed the decision. The foundation’s tobacco control spokesman, Maurice Swanson, said: ”We now urge the federal government, as well as all state and territory governments, to introduce firm policy to ensure that no taxpayer money is invested in tobacco companies moving forward.”


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