THE NSW government is considering abandoning tobacco investments after a backlash from health experts and anti-smoking campaigners.
It has for the first time admitted to having nearly $30 million invested in tobacco companies. The figures were provided in an answer to a budget estimates question asked by the Greens NSW MP John Kaye.
The NSW Treasury Corporation, known as TCorp, has at least $28.7 million invested through two trusts, the NSW Treasurer, Mike Baird, revealed.
For months, the government has refused to answer questions about its tobacco investments, which are managed by independent fund managers.
Mr Baird, and the NSW Minister for Health, Jillian Skinner, both said on Tuesday the government would review its investment in tobacco companies, and give a decision by the end of the year.
The chief executive of Action on Smoking and Health Australia, Anne Jones, said it was hypocritical for the government to allow tobacco investments when they could be easily screened out.
The director of the Public Health Advocacy Institute, Mike Daube, said he was appalled government money was invested in tobacco companies, particularly as tobacco control programs had had their funding cut in recent years.
“It is unacceptable. Sixty years after we learnt of the dangers of smoking, one million Australians have died because they smoke, and the state government shouldn’t be profiting from that,” he said. “They should take their investment out of tobacco and put it into tobacco control.”
Dr Kaye said the government could no longer hide behind the excuse of fund managers controlling investments.
He said Mr Baird had only provided him with data for two of 12 trusts.