abfddc9c5ad9a72129a9430bf786a328.jpeg

Philip Morris cigarettes charged millions after losing plain packaging case against Australia

Court of arbitration finds Philip Morris Asia case to be an abuse of rights and says it must pay Australias multi-million dollar legal costs

The tobacco manufacturer Philip Morris will be forced to pay millions of dollars in legal fees to Australia after its failed case against plain packaging laws.

Big tobacco companies have fought vigorously against the Gillard governments plain packaging laws since they were introduced in 2011.

By banning logos and distinctive-coloured cigarette packaging, Australias laws went further than the advertising bans and graphic health warnings introduced in many other countries.

Philip Morris, Imperial Tobacco and Japan Tobacco quickly attempted to have the laws overturned through a constitutional challenge in the high court, which they lost in 2012.

Philip Morris Asia then took a case to the permanent court of arbitration in 2012. It tried to use the conditions of a 1993 trade agreement between Australia and Hong Kong to argue a ban on trademarks breached foreign investment provisions.

The corporate giant not only lost but was criticised by the court, which found the case to be an abuse of rights.

The court published a decision on the payment of costs at the weekend, which it made in March. The decision, which brought five years of proceedings to a close, found Philip Morris Asia liable to pay Australias multimillion-dollar claim for legal costs.

The final costs figure was kept secret but Fairfax Media reported it as being up to $50m.

Australia successfully argued Philip Morris must pay its court fees and expenses, the cost of expert witnesses, travel, and solicitors and counsel. It also claimed interest. Australia had told the court its claim was modest and was a small proportion of what the tobacco giant had sought in damages.

It said Philip Morris had sought to challenge a public health measure of critical importance to Australia, making it important to mount a robust and comprehensive response to all aspects of the claim.

Philip Morris had tried to argue the governments costs were unreasonable for a legal team that consisted primarily of public servants.

The company argued that two similar countries, Canada and the US, had never claimed more than US$4.5m and US$3m respectively in costs and fees.

Australias claim was much more than that.

The claimant emphasizes that, even excluding the fees of four outside counsel, the respondents government lawyers claim over [redacted] in fees, even though Australia itself pays them very modest government salaries, the courts decision read.

But the court found Australias claim was reasonable, rejecting Philip Morriss arguments.

Taking into account the complexity of issues of domestic and international law relevant in this procedure, particularly for a government team usually not engaged in such disputes, the Tribunal does not consider that any of these costs claimed by the Respondent were unreasonable and should not have been incurred, it found.

In making this assessment, the Tribunal also takes into consideration the significant stakes involved in this dispute in respect of Australias economic, legal and political framework, and in particular the relevance of the outcome in respect of Australias policies in matters of public health.

Earlier this year big tobacco failed in a separate bid to have the laws overturned by the World Trade Organisation. The decision was widely seen as a green light for more countries to follow Australias lead.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/business/2017/jul/10/philip-morris-cigarettes-charged-millions-after-losing-plain-packaging-case-against-australia

00a8d9b1b45de4c94788660e982276b6.jpeg

Feminism, politics and death: my mum died the night Hillary Clinton lost

They may seem like unrelated events but the end of Clintons campaign and my mothers life made me reflect differently on my own political career

My mother died the night Hillary Clinton lost. These might seem like two very unrelated events and youd be right about that. But for me, and my somewhat particular circumstances, Ive found a plethora of meaning about life and death, feminism and politics.

See, it was also the night I was due to be sworn in as a councillor for my local city council. It was my first political foray and Ive reflected on the start of my own political journey while on the other side of the world a smart and skilled female politician saw the end of hers, with our whole gender brutalised by a despicable Trump. And though Mum doesnt know it, all my political guts I got from her.

Mum was diagnosed with breast cancer 10 days before the 2016 Australian federal election. Dad called me from Canberra to say he had taken Mum to hospital and she had acute pneumonia. I was going through the processes of my Labor nomination for council elections. With days to the federal election, every spare moment I wasnt working I was door-knocking and pre-polling.

I dont remember that first conversation with Dad. I do remember the call the next day when Dad told me Mum had terminal cancer (as well as acute pneumonia) and the cancer had spread through her ribs, spine and pelvis. I was at my desk so I booked a flight home and, as I headed out the door, asked a colleague to cancel me out of every election activity I was signed up for.

Breast cancer is a disease that inflicts itself predominantly on women. Its also one of the most misdiagnosed cancers around. Mum had her last mammogram only months earlier and it hadnt appeared. I grew bitter quickly.

At the same time this was a federal election where it was one bloke versus another bloke versus another bloke, and women barely seemed to get a mention. I had volunteered the bulk of my time on campaigns to support female candidates in tough Victorian seats, none who won. I sat bedside my mother who taught me everything and watched women largely erased out of public life.

On Sunday 3 July, a day after the federal election Mum was only in the second week of a disastrous five week stint in hospital my journal shows compassion draining out of me:

I suspect I will grow rough and battle hardened and unforgiving from this. A part of me hopes I will. Perhaps I will grow ruthless and mean and brutal like life and that might make me powerful like men. I dont think Mum will like the new me. Ill have an excuse to be mean now, finally.

I thought at length about quitting the council race. We didnt know the timeline Mums cancer was working to, although wed been told up to 24 months for stage four breast cancer. I was enjoying caring for her and all her needs. But quality of life for Mum was also about quality of life for her daughters and, honestly, I just always thought shed make it a little longer.

So I ran my council campaign in between working full time and flying back home to care for Mum, alternating every second weekend with my sister. Offering a parallel world to my campaigning life, my life with Mum gave me such relief. I loved the quiet nights I shared with her. From the carers bed in her room, I would lie facing her and would listen for her breathing as her lungs drew in air from her oxygen tank.

In late October, I won the third and final spot at the council ward elections; Mum went back into hospital and I flew home again.

While nothing can prepare you for the death of a parent I did everything I could to prepare myself. I read memoir and non-fiction (by women) and I talked with women who had experience, both personal and professional.

In the final days, as Mum slept sedated, I read A Very Easy Death by Simone de Beauvoir. It was the 50th anniversary of the translation of the French feminists account of her mothers death. The months of that death also mirrored my mothers own: a few long weeks over October and November.

De Beauvoirs mothers death was frightening to me because it was everything her maman didnt want. She wasnt ready for death and her medical wishes were not respected: the doctors operated on her even though she had begged de Beauvoir that she wouldnt let them touch her body. Her final moments were full of pain and distress. De Beauvoir wasnt even there as she had slept through the panicked phone calls from her sister.

I was not watching the US election results that afternoon and evening in November. Mum was at Canberras public hospice set amongst beautiful gardens and overlooking Lake Burley Griffin. For the last few days she had been heavily sedated. Mums breathing changed late in the afternoon and we knew, not long now.

In academia, philosopher Michel Foucault called it a heterotopia, but most of us might think of it as a bit of a headfuck, a space or place in time that has more meaning or relationship to another space than it might first appear. As my mum lay dying, I was in a room full of strong women with her. My cousin brought in the bad news from the US and I slumped in my chair beside Mum, overwhelmed by yet more insurmountable grief. I thought if I was back in Melbourne, if my mum wasnt dying, Id be at my council ceremony right now and Hillary might even have been winning but here I was in this awful parallel universe that happened to be real.

Mum died that night. A little after midnight, I woke from a light doze and Mum was turned slightly in her bed, facing me and she had stopped breathing. I leaned in close and checked for a pulse on her wrist. Her skin was so perfectly warm. The family all woke and we said our goodbyes.

I stayed with Mums body till morning. I picked out clothes for her as the nurses cleaned and dressed her. Then finally watched on as they are you ready for this? put Mums body into the transport bag. I followed the nurses as they pushed her bed down the hallway to the cold room, where I thanked them and having already said my goodbyes, left for my car and for my first day without my mum in a bleak, bleak new world.

In the months after, it was through the company of women, and particularly women who have lost their mothers, that I have found my feet again. I havent turned bitter and mean as I once thought or hoped I would. My feminism is softer with new compassion but also bolder with new militancy.

Im still finding my political feet, but Ive been elected to a council with majority women membership plus we have a female mayor and CEO too. At every council meeting I reflect deeply on the values, learnt from my mother, that drive my decision-making even if at times they wont make me popular.

I dont see much of Hillary in the news these days, which Im thankful for. It reminds me of Mum each time and when I do, bystanders watch me dab at my eyes and think she must really have liked Hillary. Little do they know that was the night my mum died.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2017/jun/18/feminism-politics-and-death-my-mum-died-the-night-hillary-clinton-lost

e782e57d3a21f4449c4883f8ce344cb3.jpeg

Great Barrier Reef: Australia must act urgently on water quality, says Unesco

Draft decision says Australia would not, at this rate, meet interim or long-term targets in the Reef 2050 report

Unesco has expressed serious concern about the impact of coral bleaching on the Great Barrier Reef and warned Australia it will not meet the targets of the Reef 2050 report without considerable work to improve water quality.

The criticism was contained in a draft decision published as part of the agenda for the upcoming world heritage committee meeting (pdf), which will take place in Krakow, Poland, in the first two weeks of July.

It suggested the Great Barrier Reef should remain off the danger list, despite back-to-back coral bleaching events affecting about two-thirds of the reef and the latest data showing a sharp decline in coral cover in the north.

The draft decision also praised the Australian and Queensland governments for initial work done to implement the Reef 2050 plan that included establishing a $1.28bn investment strategy, most of which will be spent on improving water quality.

However, the report said progress on reducing the number of agricultural pollutants flowing into the reef had been slow and Australia would not, at this rate, meet either its interim or long-term targets to improve water quality.

It strongly encouraged Australia to accelerate efforts to ensure meeting the immediate and long-term targets of the plan, which are essential to the overall resilience of the property, in particularly regarding water quality.

It also said climate change remained the most significant overall threat to the future of the reef, and recommended that the committee express its serious concern at the coral bleaching and mortality that occurred in 2016 and at the second event underway in early 2017.

While the long-term effects of these events cannot be fully evaluated yet, their scale serves to underline the severity of the threat to the property from climate change, Unesco said. At the site level, there is a need to consider how these mass bleaching events influence the effectiveness of the [Reef 2050 Long-Term Sustainability Plan] in its current form, notably in relation to the most urgently needed measures and improvements that contribute to the propertys resilience.

Meeting those water quality targets would require a ten-fold increase in investment to $10bn over the next 10 years, the leading expert on water quality for the reef, Jon Brodie, said.

It would also involve transitioning farmland in the Great Barrier Reef catchment from sugar cane plantations, which use fertilisers that cause much of the water pollution in the reef, to a less high-intensity form of agriculture, such as grazing.

Theres things that could be done for the water quality part but its hard to see this government doing them, Brodie told Guardian Australia. The federal government is unfortunately just writing the Great Barrier Reef off. Other things are more important to them, like the support of farmers in Queensland, and the coal industry.

Brodie said improving water quality would not be enough by itself to save the reef, which faces its most direct threat from climate change.

But unlike climate change, Brodie said, the quality of water flowing into the reef is directly under the control of existing Australian legislation. Improving water quality cannot prevent future bleaching events, but it can improve the capacity of the reef to recover.

The environment minister, Josh Frydenberg, welcomed the Unesco draft decision on Saturday, which he said confirms the Reef 2050 plan has been effective.

The draft decision points to the importance of the reefs resilience despite the challenges faced from coral bleaching, he said.

Frydenberg acknowledged the committees push for accelerated action on water quality and said international efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions was critical for reefs worldwide, including the Great Barrier Reef. He cited Australias continued commitment to the Paris agreement, which the US president, Donald Trump, abandoned on Friday, as evidence of Australias efforts.

Unesco is expected to release a second report on the impact of climate change on the health of all world heritage listed reefs before the July meeting.

Richard Leck, oceans campaigner for the World Wildlife Fund, said that while the impacts of water quality and land clearing on the health of the reef were significant, climate change remained the major threat.

If the global climate warmed by 1.5 degrees, Leck said, the Great Barrier Reef would not survive. We need to have climate policies that will actually protect the reef and currently our climate policies are nowhere near sufficient to get the action required to save the reef, he said.

The Australian Marine Conservation Society seconded that concern, and called on the Queensland government to immediately introduce land clearing laws, scrapped under the Newman government, to reduce the amount of runoff flowing into the reefs catchment.

The Palaszczuk government tried to reintroduce land-clearing laws in 2016 but failed to get them past parliament.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2017/jun/03/great-barrier-reef-australia-must-act-urgently-on-water-quality-says-unesco