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Main parties snub Big Tobacco money

AFP-JIJI

Australia’s ruling Labor Party pledged Thursday to ban tobacco firm donations if returned to office and the opposition followed suit, ordering an end to campaign funds from the industry.

Prime Minister Kevin Rudd said that, if re-elected Sept. 7, Labor would amend the Electoral Act to ban donations from Big Tobacco to political parties and candidates. “Tobacco companies themselves have admitted they only donate to political parties to try to influence policy,” said Rudd.

The move follows Australia’s world-first introduction of plain packaging for tobacco products last December, after a landmark victory in a High Court legal battle with major cigarette firms.

Labor said it would also seek to “end tobacco investments across government,” including a ban on public superannuation funds investing in tobacco shares.

Opposition leader Tony Abbott was quick to follow suit, announcing that he had instructed his Liberal-National coalition “to accept no further donations from tobacco companies,” as “I don’t want ‘furphies’ (unimportant topics) like this to distract people’s attentions from the main issues of this campaign.”