Australia’s peak lung health body has called on the Liberals’ star candidate for Swan, Kristy McSweeney, to divulge to voters the extent of her consultancy work with big tobacco organisations.
Last week, state Labor MP Klara Andric used parliamentary privilege to reveal McSweeney worked for big tobacco companies developing public relations campaigns for vaping and helping them with messaging around attempts to ease poison classifications on liquid nicotine through the Therapeutic Goods Administration.
Swan candidate Kristy McSweeney.Credit:James Brickwood
McSweeney is a media commentator and runs her own public relations firm, the PR Counsel, and first publicly advocated for relaxed vaping and e-cigarette laws during a March 2018 interview on Sky News.
She has so far refused to respond to Andric’s remarks but Lung Foundation Australia chief executive Mark Brooke said McSweeney needed to be honest about her work with the tobacco industry.
“The foundation’s position is that no political party should be influenced by tobacco, or a subgroup of tobacco working through pro-vaping lobby groups,” he said.
“We would encourage her to declare if she has any particular interests or positions or has been commissioned by any vaping organisation or any tobacco company.”
Brooke said tobacco companies including Phillip Morris were backing vaping technologies and had been pushing for vaping laws and regulations to be relaxed.
He said given the industry’s past efforts to stop cigarette plain packaging and attempts to stop bans on indoor smoking in the 1990s and 2000s, transparency around decision-making on vaping rules was gravely important.
“Australia is a signatory to the convention for tobacco control, which ensures that politicians and policymakers adhere to that framework and that means that they should not be unduly influenced by tobacco groups or their subsidiaries,” he said.
“All parties should declare, who is providing them with their evidence, who is providing them with their policy advice and also who’s providing them, if necessary, with any financial means to conduct a particular advocacy agenda.
“[All members of parliament] need to declare that they have a relationship, whether that’s financial, direct or indirect.”
It has not been suggested that McSweeney’s campaign has been funded by big tobacco.
A spokesman for the WA Liberal Party said client details from Kristy’s former business were subject to commercial in confidence arrangements.
“Kristy is an advocate of a healthy lifestyle and minimising harm from tobacco,” he said.
“If elected to the federal parliament her one focus will be working in the best interest of her constituents.”
It is illegal to use or sell nicotine for e-cigarettes in Australia without a prescription but vapes and non-nicotine liquid can be purchased over the counter in all states.
However, authorities have struggled to stop vaping liquid containing nicotine from entering the country and falling into the hands of children.
The federal health department’s draft National Tobacco Strategy recommended new restrictions on marketing, availability and use of vaping components in Australia.
A number of Coalition backbench MPs support relaxed vaping laws but retiring Health Minister Greg Hunt has expressed his concern about retailers contravening state laws.
McSweeney was selected by the Liberals for the seat of Swan after the retirement of party stalwart Steve Irons.
It is the Liberals’ most marginal seat in WA at 3.2 per cent and is one of Labor’s three target seats, alongside Hasluck and Pearce.
Phillip Morris was contacted for comment.
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