Plans hidden in smoke
Iron ore magnate plans tobacco industry assault
ONE of Australia’s richest people is secretly preparing legal action to sue “big tobacco” for potentially billions of dollars on behalf of smokers as part of an unprecedented “assault” on the industry.
Philanthropist and iron ore magnate Andrew Forrest, through his charity organis- ation Minderoo Foundation, is privately seeking legal advice from some of Australia’s most expensive QCs.
It is understood the court action would be based on a landmark Canadian suit, in which a judge ordered three tobacco companies to pay $15.6 billion in damages to more than one million smokers. The plan was alluded to in a COAG presentation by Mr Forrest to Australia’s health ministers. It is understood feared lawyer Allan Myers QC has already been engaged. However, Minderoo would not confirm this yesterday.
Mr Myers represented Brit- ish American Tobacco in its fight against the Federal Government’s plain packaging laws. Mr Forrest, the sixth richest Australian, valued at $6.84 billion, has put aside $75 million as part of Minderoo’s Eliminate Cancer Initiative. The scheme, which is run with his wife Nicola, vows to create “huge financial risk for tobacco businesses and accelerate an end to their unsustainable business model”.
“To tackle cancer, we must also tackle what is behind the single greatest cause of preventable death and is the basis for 30 per cent of all cancers: tobacco. Thus, any effort to re- duce the burden of cancer must include tobacco prevention and cessation,” Mr Forrest said.
“This society-critical initiative is still in its infancy but the end game is to reduce this dreaded disease to an illness not a death sentence.
“We want to prove it works in Australia first and then immediately spread it globally,” Mr Forrest said.