Future Fund nicotine fix draws fire
PRESSURE is growing on the Future Fund to ditch $225 million of tobacco shares, with anti-smoking groups supporting calls for tougher rules on the assets it can hold.
The taxpayer-owned fund, which has also invested in nuclear arms companies, revealed in May that the value of its tobacco shares had swollen by more than 50 per cent between late 2010 and February.
With tobacco companies fighting to overturn Canberra's cigarette plain-packaging laws, Greens senator Richard Di Natale has introduced a bill that would ban the fund from investing in cigarette producers.
State government-supported Quit Victoria, the Australian Council on Smoking and Health, and Action on Smoking and Health Australia have all backed the bill.
Quit Victoria executive director Fiona Sharkie said there was an ''incongruity between health and financial policies'' that needed to be tackled.
''Quit Victoria is concerned that while Australia is expending considerable sums of money to defend plain packaging laws designed to reduce tobacco consumption, we are also investing hundreds of millions of dollars in tobacco companies who are fighting to have these laws overturned,'' she said in a submission.
The criticism comes after First State Super last week ditched its investments in tobacco after feedback from members - many of whom work in healthcare.
The $77 billion Future Fund was set up by the Howard government to pay for the future pension liabilities of public servants, with investment decisions to be made independently from the government.
A spokeswoman for Finance Minister Penny Wong said the fund board's policy included consideration of environment and social issues and ''the board is continuing to develop its approach in that regard''.