Reporting this heart-warming news, the Croaky blog gives us the bonus of reproducing the text of a speech Chappers recently gave about the Australian plain packaging campaign. It's a tedious and self-aggrandising read, but it does include one or two gems, such as this Mills and Boon encounter between Chapman and (then) health minister Nicola Roxon.
I had never met Nicola Roxon before she became Health Minister. When we first met at a conference, I noted this and she said “I feel I have known you most of my life”.
Aside from this special moment, there is one interesting quote from Roxon, but to appreciate it we first need to get some context. When the Aussie parliament passed the plain packaging law, Roxon said...
"This is the first very courageous step that our parliament has taken to introduce plain packaging."
When the Australian court upheld the plan, Roxon continued to toot her own horn.
"The message to the rest of the world is big tobacco can be taken on and beaten," Attorney General Nicola Roxon said in a statement. "Without brave governments willing to take the fight up to big tobacco, they'd still have us believing that tobacco is neither harmful nor addictive."
Roxon was later awarded a prize by the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, who said...
"We decided to honour Nicola Roxon because she has shown truly extraordinary courage"
This theme of valour has been propagated by the media ever since.
It was a brave and controversial risk to adopt this plain packaging policy to strike at the heart of the way a pack of cigarettes looks.
However, Chapman lets slip that there was noting brave about picking a fight with the tobacco industry and Roxon knew it.
Next, she emphasized the contempt in which the tobacco industry was held across the community. She told me: “this was a no-brainer, being really bold, taking on big tobacco. How do you lose, even if you lose? Big tobacco … everyone hates them … so really, having a fight with them can’t hurt.”
And the truth shall set you free. The idea that government would ever tremble at the prospect of taking on an industry, let alone one that "everybody hates", is so much self-serving humbug. Private businesses, their employees and their customers live under constant threat of what the government's going to do to them next. It is, as Roxon says, a fight that the government—with its mighty apparatus of law, propaganda, surveillance and violence—cannot lose.
Campaigners attach the prefix "big" to threatened industries (Big Tobacco, Big Alcohol, Big Food) in order to feed the David and Goliath myth. The fact is that government can do pretty much anything it wants to any business for any reason, and frequently does so. It requires no courage whatsoever. On the contrary, it is often the result of them cravenly capitulating to special interest groups.
Roxon is no longer in politics, having bravely retired, aged 46, just before her party were annihilated in this year's federal election. Such courage!