JT International SA v Commonwealth of Australia; British American Tobacco Australasia Limited & Ors v Commonwealth of Australia  HCA 30
In a significant win for the Australian Government, a majority of the High Court of Australia has held that the Tobacco Plain Packaging Act 2011 (Cth) (the “Act”) is constitutional.The decision means that plain packaging will proceed as planned in December 2012.
Described by then Health Minister, Nicola Roxon, as “one of the most momentous public health measures in Australia’s history”,  the November 2011 passage of the Gillard Government’s tobacco plain packaging was met with significant opposition by tobacco companies.
Several tobacco companies had challenged the validity of the Act on the basis that some or all of the provisions were invalid because they were an acquisition of the plaintiffs' property otherwise than on just terms.
The High Court has held that the Act is not contrary to section 51(xxxi) of the Australian Constitution which empowers the Australian Parliament to make laws with respect to “the acquisition of property on just terms”.
The High Court will publish its reasons for the decision at a later date.
It should be noted that this case is not the only challenge by the tobacco industry. Official complaints have been lodged by the Dominican Republic, Honduras and Ukraine with the World Trade Organisation. Another tobacco company has also argued that the Act breaches a bilateral trade agreement between Australia and Hong Kong.
Watch this space.
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1. Australian Government Department of Health and Ageing. Media Release dated 21 November 2011, ‘Parliament Passes World First Plain Packaging of Tobacco Legislation’, issued by the office of The Hon Nicola Roxon MP.
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