Tobacco isn’t evil when you want to pay civil servants

Seriously, how else can you see it when the same government that drones incessantly about the evils of tobacco has a fund set up to make investments for paying the pensions of people working for the federal government which keeps investing in tobacco.

THE Future Fund’s stake in the tobacco industry has swelled by $78 million, an increase of more than 50 per cent, sparking criticism of the fund for investing in companies that are suing the government.

The taxpayer-owned fund, which also holds shares in nuclear arms companies, yesterday revealed its tobacco shares were worth $225 million in February, up from $147 million at the end of 2010.

Senate estimates also heard that a controversial report written by the fund’s new chairman, David Gonski, last year named himself as a possible next chairman before the government had even considered him. The $77 billion fund was set up by the Howard government to help pay federal public servants’ pensions, but is now under fire for its ”unethical” investments.

Cue teh outrages. Oh, the humanity!

Victorian Greens senator Richard Di Natale accused the government of profiteering from ”the death and misery of people dying with lung cancer”.

In a way that, say, forcing people to pay taxes for medical care and threatening to withhold treatment if their lifestyles meet with finger wagging disapproval from some bunch of wowsers or other would not be profiteering? Just asking, because I know that’s been suggested in Britain and while we don’t fund medicine at gunpoint to quite the same extent I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s been mooted here too. Anyway, it’s not profiteering when it’s needed to pay for something the government is committed to, i.e. the pensions of public servants. If you want to argue that they should be making their own individual arrangements that’s something else, but right now the government seems to have a commitment and the ugly truth is that the fund’s management reckons baccy, even with all the legislation aimed at hamstringing the trade, is a better investment than… well, I was going to say unicorn tears and fairy wishes but since the Greens aren’t reported as actually suggesting an alternative (how uncharacteristic of them!) let’s just say better than nothing. Not that that’s going to stop them.

“This undermines all of the good work we’ve done in tobacco control with measures such as plain packaging. It’s particularly galling when you consider they are the same companies taking legal action against the government,” Dr Di Natale said.

The good work? For fucks’ sake, that doesn’t come into effect for months. How the fuck can you know yet whether the effect will be good? Or if it is good in some way, for whom? If the chop-chop trade increases at the expense of the legit, regulated trade would that be good, Di Natale? Is the object only to fuck up that part of the industry that is prepared to be regulated and play by the ever shifting set of rules imposed on it? No interest at all in the tobacco trade that’s controlled by criminal enterprise? You know, I’m prepared to believe that’s the case.

And before I forget, what’s the problem with companies suing the government? So the small investors who feel they got screwed on the Facebook float can’t sue because they invested in the company? In the spirit of caveat emptor I could buy that argument, though not if there was any misleading going on, but I very much doubt we’ll ever hear you saying so. Bottom line, that the baccy trade have finally had enough and are trying to fight back is neither here nor there. It does not change the government’s commitment to those pensions and it apparently doesn’t change the potential value of tobacco as an investment.

And that should speak volumes about the whole concept of plain packaging. If it was really going to achieve what the nannies, finger waggers, theatrical coughers and various other wowsers desired then surely buying tobacco shares would be even riskier than a investing in a mixed portfolio of Facebook and Greek bank stocks while standing on a bloody beam over a shark tank on a windy day. The fund’s MD is very carefully not saying whether the increase in stock owned is as a result of them buying more or the value of shares already owned going up, but either case suggests that it’s far from all being doom and gloom despite the plain packs being just months away. I’m no expert but to me it looks like either investors don’t really expect this anti-tobacco legislation to hurt the industry after all or they expect the industry to still do pretty well despite it.

And fair dos, really. Because playing it the right-on way as the Greens, and probably Labor and maybe even the Coalition would prefer to do, is effectively saying “Fuck you and your pension, your life in retirement is far less important than us appearing ‘ethical’ right now” to a large number of public servants.


Declaration of interest to possible new visitors: though I did once, I am not a smoker. My body is now a cathedral, which is kind of like a temple but bigger. I speak up for smokers and drinker out of self interest – not because I am one but because the nannies will surely come after the rest of us for something once they’ve finished with the current ubermenschen of choice, those who like a smoke and/or a drink. While they’re being fought the rest of us remain (relatively) free, so I’m for supporting the smokers and drinkers and prolonging the stupid fight against adults being free to put stuff of their choice into their bodies for quite a while. The heat death of the universe wouldn’t be too long.

Posted on May 24, 2012, in Uncategorized and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. I always think it’s quite funny when they pull the ‘invest in tobacco so you’re evil’ line. Buying stock is just that, stock. Not a penny goes to any tobacco company, in fact you’re taking money away from them if they pay a dividend (which they are so successful that they usually do).

    What would be more evil is to reduce your investors’ returns by NOT investing in the biggest yield.

    If they pulled their money out tomorrow, nothing would happen, someone else would take up the opportunity and say thank you very much. It’s the ultimate nose off spiting face scenario and gesture stuff of the most idiotic calibre. There are so many innumerate morons in the world like this, it’s hilarious and good for my bank balance 🙂

    Funnily enough, if they keep shares in tobacco they can exert pressure on the industry from within. Rather like ASH do with their shares in companies which make nicotine patches. What a lost opportunity if they ditch them, eh? Oh well, one born every minute.

    • Yeah, the Future Fund guy said something similar, but of course we all know what kind of pressure the most vocal antis would really like to exert and examples of it are all over your Cataloguing Psychosis post.

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