Another political blow for big tobacco

Tony Abbott announced the Coalition’s health policy, in Malcolm Turnbull’s seat of Wentworth. AAP/Alan Porritt

Tony Abbott has banned the Liberal Party from accepting tobacco company donations.

Abbott acted after Kevin Rudd told Fairfax Media that if re-elected he would amend the Electoral Act to ban donations from tobacco companies to Australian political parties and candidates.

Abbott, launching the opposition health policy, said he did not want Rudd’s “distractions. Mr Rudd is going to run a distraction a day”.

The Labor Party banned accepting donations from tobacco companies in 2004. Labor says that since then the Coalition has taken more than A$2 million from these companies. It also says the Coalition accepted A$1 million while Tony Abbott was health minister in the Howard government.

Rudd is quoted in Fairfax Media saying: “Tobacco companies themselves have admitted they only donate to political parties to try to influence policy.”

The Labor Government passed legislation for the plain packaging of cigarettes, which was unsuccessfully fought in the High Court by the industry.

Its recent economic statement contained a big hike in tobacco excise.

Abbott pledged today that under a Coalition government “overall health and education funding will be maintained.” He said talk by Rudd of the Coalition having a A$70 billion funding black hole was “simply a lie.”

He said the Coalition’s health policy was one for “significant incremental change. It’s not a policy for shaking up a system which in broad terms works well.”

He said our health system was always “a work in progress. But by the standards of other countries Australia does have an outstandingly good health system.

"It’s relatively well funded, we get good value for money … and we have truly outstanding health professionals at every level,” said Abbott, campaigning in Sydney.

Rudd, in the marginal Labor seat of Corangamite, continued his attack on Abbott’s paid parental leave scheme.

He said when he was speaking to groups of workers, their reaction “is just to scratch their heads and then become very angry.

"This paid parental leave scheme of his- which gives $75,000 to millionaires - he equated that with the aged pension as a social reform. How out of touch can you get?”

Rudd brushed off Facebook criticism of him from the woman who applied his make up for last night’s debate. Lily Fontana described Abbott as, “lovely, engaged in genuine conversation” but said Rudd had treated her badly.

Rudd suggested he had been “in the zone” before the debate and: “I think misunderstandings occur.”