Philip Morris, the tobacco giant, are trying to insert "investor state" provisions in the upcoming Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement.
The background of this is that Australia and the United States signed off on a Free Trade Agreement in 2005. As is normal with our puppy dog desire to be a good mate to our immensely more powerful friend, we rolled over and had our balls scratched on some of that deal.
So, for example, if it should be found that certain building materials are found to be bad for bushfire prone areas, and those materials are excluded from new safe-building codes, the producer of those materials, who could be a foreign company, cannot sue our government.
In effect Philip Morris, dedicated as they are to getting my children addicted to their carcinogenic filth, want to take my taxes as recompense for being frustrated in the attempt.
"Negotiations relating to the trade agreement - between the US, Australia, New Zealand and six South American and south-east Asian countries - intensified last year and are expected to be completed in September.
In a submission on the proposed trade agreement last year to the Office of the US Trade Representative, Philip Morris cited Australia's plain packaging laws among ''initiatives of concern''. The company said it supported laws to reduce the harm caused by tobacco (yeah sure...), but opposed, ''extreme and disproportionate regulation … which has the effect of violating international law and expropriating intellectual property rights''.
Simon Chapman, a professor of public health at the University of Sydney, said the company's stance was consistent with the tobacco industry's history of attempting to use trade agreements to defeat individual countries' health laws.
''It's yet another sign of the degree to which the industry will go to defeat and delay any measure that will actually work to cut smoking rates,'' he said.
He said the World Trade Organisation's Uruguay Round had established the right of countries to put health considerations above international trade considerations.
The laws that Philip Morris are getting stroppy about related to packaging regulations.
"Craig Emerson, the federal Minister for Trade, would not commit to insisting investor state provisions be excluded from the regional trade pact, saying he was not prepared to make policy on the run. But he said Philip Morris would be ''whistling in the wind'' if it tried to undermine national anti-tobacco laws.
''I will not be recommending the empowering of Philip Morris or any other tobacco company to overturn Australian government policy on plain packaging of cigarettes.'' "
Not exactly stone-cold determination.