Will the federal government recover the funding?

We have been following the plain packaging saga quite closely here at the Cat. To remind ourselves, the former Gillard government introduced plain packaging for tobacco products in 2012 and had declared it to be a glorious success. It then funded research into whether the policy was a glorious success, and unsurprisingly found that the policy was a glorious success.

As we have previously reported nobody is quite sure what exactly the purpose of the funded research was;  at least, there are conflicting responses to that question when posed in the parliament.

The mystery deepens. Late last year the Health Department was forced to publish the research contract between itself and Cancer Council Victoria (see specifically Document 2 (pdf)).

There I found this gem:

That is very, very interesting. Ashton de Silva and I wrote a paper investigating the analysis that the Cancer Council Victoria produced, and the government funded, and has been quoted all around the world as the policy having been successful, saying that the analysis did not demonstrate that the policy had been successful. Quite the contrary.

In response to our paper, the Cancer Council Victoria put out a very long press release that made an important concession (emphasis original):

The NTPPS was quite explicitly not designed to assess quitting success or change in smoking prevalence but rather focussed on the immediate impact of the legislation on perceptions of the pack, effects of health warnings and understanding of product harmfulness.

What? The research was specifically not designed to answer the very question (d) that the government was asking to be answered?

Then how about investigating the “independent and combined combined influences of plain packaging, health warnings, mass media campaign exposure and any tobacco pricing and product changes”? In the Post-Implementation Review we read (emphasis added):

Given the timing of these changes, it is not possible to separately identify the effects of tobacco plain packaging from those of updated and enlarged graphic health warnings without making restrictive assumptions.

So here we have the actual researchers claiming in the first instance that they deliberately did not fulfil one of the major research requirements on their brief, and another government document suggesting that the second major research requirement is “not possible” to test (by implication then has not been tested).

So the $3 million question is this:

  • Did the Cancer Council Victoria disclose to the government that it had not (indeed perhaps could not) fulfil the requirements of the research contract?

Then there are subsidiary questions:

  • If yes – why has that not been disclosed to the public?
  • If no – will the Commonwealth government move to recover the $3 084 112.60 (inclusive of GST) that it paid for those questions to be answered?

So the very questions that the government (the Gillard government) thought needed answering are, as yet, unanswered. Yet the government has paid out $3 084 112.60 (inclusive of GST) for the research and declared the policy to be a success. Now I understand that pay-for-performance isn’t the done thing in Canberra, but surely this cries out for some explanation.

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14 Responses to Will the federal government recover the funding?

  1. Empire GTHO Phase III

    Keep digging Sinc, you’re getting close.

  2. RobK

    Will the government get a refund?

  3. candy

    If a government is going to allow the selling of a product that causes long term suffering and death, the least they can do is put the hideous pictures on the packet, giving fair warning to people.

  4. BrettW

    I agree with Candy comment.

  5. Bruce of Newcastle

    Will the federal government recover the funding?

    They sure won’t recover the vast amount of excise they are failing to collect from the chop-chop and smuggling industries. Which are going like the clappers. Odd, that.

  6. Shy Ted

    I always thought they should have put a photo of Nicola Roxon on each pack.

  7. Tim Neilson

    #2290092, posted on February 8, 2017 at 9:13 pm
    It hasn’t worked.
    It’s backfired.
    Tobacco consumption is increasing. (Not legal, scary packet tobacco, but illegal tobacco as BoN has pointed out.)
    All they’ve done is successfully re-brand tobacco as a sanctions-busting cool kid item.
    And they’re desperately trying to cover it up. The government is supposed to produce “tax gap” analyses to estimate the gap between how much tax is collected and how much should be. The tobacco gap analysis has been shelved, because (it’s said) the methods for calculating that gap weren’t reliable enough. I think we all know what “reliable” means in this context.

  8. Some History

    So the $3 million question is this….
    Then there are subsidiary questions…

    Sinc, there are no provisions in the “contract” for questions post research. No questions. All that’s required in Tobacco Control (prohibitionism) is the appearance of research. It doesn’t matter if said “research” doesn’t address basic questions or whether it adheres to the protocols of coherent enquiry. All that matters is that the “right” conclusion is arrived at, as is typically the case.

    So the very questions that the government (the Gillard government) thought needed answering are, as yet, unanswered.

    Sinc, this is where you, or any sane person, depart from the “official line”…. from the “program”. It’s well understood in TC circles that all that needs answering has been answered. Capeesh? As far as TC and the gubment are concerned, plain packaging has been a roaring, resounding success. It couldn’t be successfuller.

    … will the Commonwealth government move to recover the $3 084 112.60 (inclusive of GST)….

    HAAA!! The flow of money is always uni-directional…. from the gubment (taxpayer) to TC. It’s inconceivable that it could go the other way for any reason. Melanie Fakefield has probably already spent her cut on a 5-star Caribbean cruise, updating the Merc, and a splurge on some more acting classes.

  9. Senile Old Guy

    If a government is going to allow the selling of a product that causes long term suffering and death, the least they can do is put the hideous pictures on the packet, giving fair warning to people.

    Any ‘product’ consumed in excess can cause ‘long time suffering and death’. Some, consumed in excess (e.g. water), will cause short term suffering and quick death. Should every tap have a label on it: ‘Excess consumption may be fatal’.

  10. .

    #2290092, posted on February 8, 2017 at 9:13 pm
    If a government is going to allow the selling of a product that causes long term suffering and death, the least they can do is put the hideous pictures on the packet, giving fair warning to people.
    #2290101, posted on February 8, 2017 at 9:21 pm
    I agree with Candy comment.

    Disgusting fascists. Mild smoking (less than 1.5 cigarettes per week) doesn’t cause harm.

    It is an acute relief from stress and improves mental acuity.

    Some of us can indulge with moderation.

    I also bought non-plain packaged stuff the other day. #winning

  11. Mundi

    It’s very similar to global warming. Artic ice shrinking = warming. Antartic ice increasing = “incomplete and competing scientific explanations / “No confidence in estimates due to variability”.

    And so it is with smoking. Notice how they have slowly shifted from gauging smoking based on sales rather than based on sampling. That why all the black market stuff won’t make them look bad.

  12. Simon/other

    So the more you dig the more it looks like it like commonplace fraud. It sounds a lot like failed research and
    “but we’ve already spent the money”.

  13. Boambee John

    Tobacco is becoming the new marihuana, with consumption giving the frisson that goes with defying society, while enjoying a pseudo illegal product.

    And keeping marihuana illegal has been such a great success, hasn’t it?

  14. Another old bloke

    Every development in tobacco control in Australia stems from Australia’s ratification of the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, of 1993, which set out a series of proposed legislative impositions intended to reduce tobacco use.

    On the surface, some of it worked, since official statistics have shown a steady decline in tobacco use.

    But those figures do not take into account that tobacco usage is increasing, not of the plain packaged varieties, but the chop chop, counterfeit and smuggled varieties.

    Much of the increase can be directly blamed on the influence of anti-tobacco activists within the state and federal bureaucracies. These are the people who agreed that legal tobacco products should be taxed out of the reach of ordinary people.

    Those very same bureaucrats were warned years in advance that use of chop chop would increase, that use of counterfeit and smuggled tobacco products would increase and that locally grown black market tobacco use would increase if tobacco use became too expensive or too inconvenient. They were told this by every level of industry, who, of course, were correct but ignored.

    Instead, bureaucrats relied on highly dubious “psychological marketing” claims about the effects of packaging colour and design. None of this was genuinely “evidence based”. Logically, of course, putting all tobacco brands and varieties into plain packaging should have the same effect.

    Of course, tobacco control enforcement is rarely mentioned as a cost. One Sydney GP reported stake outs of country roads near Myrtleford, Victoria, by armed AFP officers in Kevlar vests, supported by ATO enforcement officers. And that sort of activity was not one off.

    Finally, what quality of report would a government expect to get in relation to the efficacy of plain packaging when the commissioned researchers are from an organisation which exists to campaign against tobacco usage (and related matters)? Were the bureaucrats not game to risk their reputations by appointing genuinely independent researchers?

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