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Australian government pension fund dumps tobacco

28 february 2013, 14:22
0
©REUTERS
©REUTERS
The Australian government's pension fund for public servants Thursday announced it would sell off its Aus$222 (US$228) million holdings in tobacco companies following the nation's move towards plain packaging, AFP reports.

The Future Fund, which manages some Aus$80 billion in retirement savings for government workers, said it had decided to "exclude primary tobacco producers from its investment portfolio" after a review of its holdings.

"The board noted tobacco's very particular characteristics including its damaging health effects, addictive properties and that there is no safe level of consumption," said fund chairman David Gonski.

"In doing so the board also considered its investment policies and approach to environmental, social and governance issues."

It relates to shares worth Aus$222 million in 14 companies engaged in tobacco production -- 0.3 percent of the fund's total holdings -- including the four giants that took legal action against Australia's plain packets plan.

Health groups and Australia's left-wing Greens party had questioned the fund's investment in tobacco as inconsistent with public values following the shift in December to plain packaging for tobacco in a bid to curb smoking.

The fund has previously jettisoned holdings on ethical grounds, selling off its stock in 10 defence companies that manufactured cluster munitions and land-mines in 2011.

Similar moves against tobacco firms were taken by the Norwegian government's pension fund in 2010.

Australia estimates there are 15,000 deaths nationally each year from tobacco-related illnesses and that smoking costs more than Aus$30 billion a year in healthcare and lost productivity.

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