Alliance of Australian Retailers
The Alliance of Australian Retailers (AAR) is a tobacco industry front group, paid for by Philip Morris, Imperial Tobacco and British American Tobacco (BAT). It was set up to oppose the Government’s introduction of plain packaging in Australia, and operated by the Melbourne based public relations firm The Civic Group (TCG).
When it was launched, the AAR did not reveal its industry connections. It presented itself as a grassroots campaign created by small businesses against plain packaging. Leaked internal emails exposing the group’s links to the tobacco industry showed that the director of Philip Morris’ Corporate Affairs, Chris Argent, was instrumental in its establishment and day-to-day running.   Other people mentioned in the files in connection with the campaign are John Scruggs and James Blakelock from BAT, and Jacqueline Burrows and Rob Koreneef from Imperial Tobacco. This is an example of Astroturfing.
The AAR claims to represent “the owners of your local corner stores, milk bars, newsagents and service stations” and wants to “make the voices of small retailers heard, and to oppose plain packaging until it is overturned”. Its website says it is made up of three industry bodies:
- the Australian Newsagents' Federation, an industry body representing Australian newsagents
- the National Independent Retailers Association, which represents independent retailers such as convenience stores
The website now discloses that the AAR is supported by BAT Australia, Philip Morris Limited and Imperial Tobacco Limited.
Industry Responsible for the Conception and Day to Day Running of the AAR
Internal tobacco industry and AAR documents, leaked to the media, revealed:
- The tobacco industry is not only funding the campaign being run by the AAR to stop plain packaging being introduced, it is employing the public relations firm to run the campaign, approving who will do media interviews and managing the strategy for lobbying government.
The TGC’s campaign objective was to:
- seek a change in policy such that there is no introduction of ‘generic packaging’ into the Australian market… 
The documents included the contract between Philip Morris and TCG, and several emails exchanged between the two. They show the funding from the tobacco companies was:
- Imperial Tobacco Australia: $1,080,860
- British American Tobacco: $2,200,000
- Philip Morris Limited: $2,161,720.
The leaked documents illustrate that the creation of the industry front group was to ensure political change – TCG said the campaign needed to:
- Build concern among the targeted decision makers that the campaign will not cease, is likely to increase and that it will extract a political cost… the campaign will keep going and keep damaging their political standing unless they change their position.
Therefore, in addition to representing the voice of retailers and rallying support, part of TCG’s remit was to outline how the AAR would effectively convey its messages to the Government. For example, in response to TCG’s initial campaign proposal, Chris Argent requested more detail on how the campaign could influence government:
- Please note that contrary to the proposal the Coalition’s resolve is not strong. It is at best neutral. Please provide representative examples of the messages that might be delivered to Labour and the Coalition through the Government relations component of the campaign. Who will deliver these messages?
TCG outlined a detailed plan on how messages should be delivered and who should deliver them. In correspondence with TCG, Argent asked What messages will PML communicate in its own voice versus using third-party’s?
TCG was explicit that as part of the campaign they ought to target and discredit the then Australian Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd:
- The campaign needs to repeatedly take Rudd off message and reinforce prejudices about him being superficial, making-policy-on-the-go, and ‘saying whatever he thinks people want to hear’.
Not surprisingly, the “campaign arguments” suggested by TCG were, and still are, identical to those put forward by the industry, including:
- there is no evidence that this radical policy will work
- it will lead to an increase in illegal imports
- it raises the potential for compensation for the companies from loss of (intellectual property) rights
- it risks breaching Australia's international treaty obligations.
The TCG were clear that to have an impact their campaign needed to be edgier and stronger than any considered by tobacco companies in recent times. They also suggested that the use of legal tactics should be considered "if there is an attempt to put limits on the campaign’s advertising…arguing the constitutional implied right of freedom of communication on political matters" (See image excerpt from TCG’s proposal to Philip Morris)
The AAR produced two anti-plain-packaging television advertisements:
- It won't work so why do it? (view on YouTube)
- Good policy requires more than good intentions (view on YouTube)
Health Groups’ Response
Once the true nature of the ARR was made clear, health campaigners launched a counter-campaign under the banner ‘Guess who’s pulling the strings?’ 
The campaign split retailers, with major supermarkets Coles and Woolworths repudiating the campaign and the Australian Association of Convenience Stores withdrawing from it.
In August 2010, the ARR website was reportedly hacked. Its home page displayed a message saying that the campaign had ended and conceding that "colourful packaging does indeed promote smoking".
In June 2011, the Sydney Morning Herald reported that Tony Barry, the former press secretary of leading Australian Liberal MP Malcolm Turnbull, was working for the ARR, lobbying Liberal MPs and crossbenchers against the tobacco reforms. He was reportedly earning more than $20,000 a month. 
Relevant TobaccoTactics Resources
There is also a series of pages in the Category: Plain Packaging in Australia:
- Australia: Economic threats
- Australia: Campaigning websites
- Australia: International lobbying
- Australia: Trademark claims and other legal threats
- Australia: Smuggling and illicit trade threats
- Australia: Funding Think Tanks and Hiring Independent Experts
- Australia: Freedom of Information Requests
- Australia: Challenging Legislation
- Alliance of Australian Retailers’ website
- Peter Lloyd, 'The tobacco files', ABC Lateline, September 10, 2010
- ↑ The Tobacco Files -A definitive conclusion to the debate over plain-packaging,
- ↑ 2.0 2.1 Anne Davies, 'Big Tobacco hired public relations firm to lobby government', Sydney Morning Herald, 11 September 2010, accessed 8 June 2011
- ↑ Alliance of Australian Retailers, Homepage, accessed June 2011
- ↑ Alliance of Australian Retailers, About the Alliance of Australian Retailers, Website, undated, accessed 8 June 2011
- ↑ 5.0 5.1 5.2 The Civic Group, Extracts from The Civic Group’s Proposal to PMI on generic packaging, Accessed February 2012
- ↑ Ballyhoo, Alliance of Australian Retailers Media Investment Reconciliation, 30 August 2010, Accessed February 2013
- ↑ 7.0 7.1 Chris Argent, Email from Chris Argent to Jason Aldworth regarding submission of a proposal, 27 May 2010, Accessed February 2013
- ↑ Anne Jones and Stafford Sanders, Countering Tobacco Tactics, Action on Smoking and Health Australia, 2010, accessed 7 June 2011
- ↑ Jason Whittaker, Smoking kills, says big tobacco on hacked plain packaging campaign site, www.crikey.com.au, 30 August 2010, accessed 8 June 2011
- ↑ Melissa Fyfe, 'Former Turnbull adviser heads tobacco laws fight', Sydney Morning Herald, 5 June 2011, accessed 8 June 2011