Diageo has countered an attack by Australia's Health Minister on the company's Smirnoff Platinum RTD brand.

The drinks giant launched the malt-based RTD in Australia earlier this month, thereby circumventing the higher rate of duty imposed on spirits-based RTDs in the country last April.

In Australia today (19 January), Health Minister Nicola Roxon was cited by the AAP news agency as saying that producers would not "get away with" dodging the tax. She called attempts to do so "shameful". 

When contacted by just-drinks today, however, a spokesperson for Diageo defended the lauch of the RTD in the country.

"Smirnoff Platinum is a fully legitimate product which meets all Australian regulatory requirements," the spokesperson said. "It is a flavoured, malt beverage, targeted at males above the legal drinking age, and priced at a premium to other malt beverage products with a similar alcohol content.

"This product is not new for Diageo - it has been available in the US for the past ten years."

Last year, the Australian government decided to increase duties on spirits-based RTDs by 70% in a bid to curb teenage binge drinking in the country.