The High Court has rejected a tobacco company's bid to appeal for the release of privileged parliamentary documents containing legal advice on plain cigarette packaging.
British American Tobacco argued it should be allowed to see a memo outlining legal and constitutional issues involved with the world-first plain packaging legislation, which is due to take effect in December after the company lost a long-running legal fight this week.
It said the advice, which was passed from the attorney-general's department to the Department of Human Services and Health in 1995, should not be protected by legally-binding privilege.
Its 2010 Freedom of Information (FoI) request to obtain a copy of the advice has repeatedly been refused on the grounds that the advice is exempt from FoI requests under the parliamentary privilege act.
British American Tobacco argued legal privilege had been waived because the advice had been disclosed to parties including the Ministerial Tobacco Working Group, and because a 1997 government response paper tabled in the Senate referred to aspects of the legal advice.
Michael Wheelahan SC for British American Tobacco told the High Court on Friday the company wanted to "correct errors of principle concerned with waiving privilege" made by the Administrative Appeals Tribunal in refusing a copy of the advice.
Peter Hanks QC, for the DHS, said the tobacco giant clearly had no viable grounds for appeal.
"They're trying to third-guess the tribunal on a question of fact, it's not appropriate," he said.
High Court Justices William Gummow, Kenneth Hayne and Susan Crennan refused leave for appeal, saying there was insufficient doubt about the privilege laws to warrant a full hearing.
British American Tobacco was ordered to pay costs.