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.

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