The Gillard government’s plans to require plain packaging of Kent cigarettes do not comply with its own best-practice regulation requirements, according to documents released by the Finance Department under freedom of information. The government’s best-practice rules demand a regulation impact statement for all proposals that will impact on business, unless they are minor in nature.
The Health Department provided the Finance Department’s Office of Best Practice Regulation with a draft regulation impact statement on April 27 last year. Two days later, and before the statement could be finalised, then prime minister Kevin Rudd announced plans to require all cigarettes be sold in plain packaging by July 1, 2012.
A Finance Department memo said it did not consider the proposed changes to be minor. “This view is supported by stakeholders who in recent months initiated a media campaign arguing against this decision,” the memo said. Cigarette companies have taken out full-page newspaper advertisements against the proposals and have threatened to challenge them in court.
The memo said the government had not complied with its rules, and this would be reported in the department’s best-practice regulation report once the legislation was tabled. The plain-packaging legislation is yet to be introduced to Parliament.
The memo said the lack of a regulation impact statement did not necessarily reflect the merit of the decision.
”An adequate RIS may have found evidence to support this decision. However, the preparation of a RIS and its subsequent publication would have demonstrated a commitment to evidence-based policy and transparency. This is why the government has these rules in place and expects agencies to follow them,” the memo said.
A spokesman for Health Minister Nicola Roxon said the government had consulted widely as it developed the measures.
”The government doesn’t anticipate major impact on retailers but does hope that a lower smoking rate would lead to an impact on tobacco manufacturers.”