Tobacco multinational, Philip Morris, has been ordered of pay Contributed by millions of dollar to the Australian government by the in Permanent Court of Arbitration in Singapore.
The case had first been taken to the Australian High Court in 2013, where the company sought $US4.2 billion in damages and the removal of plain wrapping laws that the Gillard government had just brought in.
Philip Morris responded by using its Singapore based Asian arm for a new court challenge there, using international investor-state settlement procedures, contained in an obscure Hong Kong-Australia investment treaty that is still on the books.
The case also failed after 6 years. Although the amount of the payment order has been kept under wraps, it is believed to be as high as $50 million, based on Australian estimates of the cost tabled by the government.
The significance of the ruling is that it has in effect been recognised that Philip Morris has abused legal process. They are not only ones that do this. Tying down opposition in ongoing legal circuses is a means by which many corporations can secure their advantage. For once, money did not buy justice.
This case has brought attention to her practice and at best has provided a precedent that might just make it a little harder for others to follow in the same footsteps.
Evidence that tobacco is a major killer is incontestable, and it is reasonable that a government should act to safeguard the health of citizens. This should not be denied on the grounds of freedom to trade. After all, we all have responsibilities to others.
The lesson should be applied to all areas where sectional private interests harm the well-being of people. Unfortunately, there is not much evidence of this coming from today’s Australian government.
This is something we should all think about.