The Australasian Association of Convenience Stores today welcomed the announcement by the Federal Government of tougher penalties for illegal tobacco farms, saying it was a great step.
“Taxpayers lose $1.6 billion in excise each year as a result of organised tobacco crime, and that money is literally diverted from hospitals and schools to criminals,” said the Association’s CEO, Jeff Rogut.
“This legislation today is a very welcome step towards addressing this issue.”
Almost 120 tonnes of illicit tobacco was reportedly seized and destroyed by the Australian Taxation Office in the last 18 months, with an excise value worth around $91 million.
“Illicit tobacco is illegally grown, illegally imported or illegally obtained, and while this legislative package is a great start, even more can be done to apply to other elements,” Rogut said.
“We need a more comprehensive approach to attack this scourge if illegal tobacco, which stretches beyond even this great legislative package.
“It is not a criticism, it’s a fact when I say the excise on tobacco has made it extremely expensive, and therefore extremely valuable, and is stimulating a growing illegal trade.
“In practice that means people are growing it illegally, they are selling it illegally, they are importing it illegally, and it encourages often terrifying break ins at shops belonging to my members and other legitimate retailers.
“Further, policing of illicit tobacco spans multiple agencies across all three levels of government, presenting a significant challenge in enforcing penalties.
“So while I think that this legislation is a really decent and commendable effort, we need to start moving towards a national, coordinated effort to stamp out organised tobacco crime.
“Everyone from the shop owners who can’t compete with illegal tobacco, the shopkeepers who are robbed, and the taxpayers who are missing out on the revenue, are affected.
“I would welcome the opportunity to meet with the Minister to further detail these concerns, which are shared by retailers across Australia.”