Retail and Trade Brands Advocacy (RTBA) welcomed the long-awaited release of the report by the Joint Parliamentary Committee on Law Enforcement into illicit tobacco in Australia. “RTBA has been waiting for this report for some time. Looking at the recommendations today, it’s clear the wait has been worth it. The recommendations are smart and workable,” said Mr Heath Michael, Managing Director of the RTBA.

Mr Rohan Pike, RTBA’s illicit trade advisor and former AFP and Border Force Office said illicit tobacco is a law enforcement issue, because of who is behind it and who profits. “Illegal tobacco has strong links to sophisticated organised criminal enterprises and terrorist groups. That makes tackling illicit tobacco a law enforcement issue. “Foreign criminal syndicates typically smuggle illegal tobacco into Australia from China or Indonesia, to fund both their extravagant lifestyles, as well as other criminal activity like drug and human trafficking and child exploitation.

“That’s why it makes sense to shift enforcement from the Department of Health to the Department of Home Affairs.” RTBA is highly supportive of the move of illegal tobacco enforcement out of the Department of Health, as well as the committee’s recommendation to use proceeds of crime money to fund enforcement activities and has previously been supportive of nationally consistent licensing schemes.

“There is a clear need for a nationally consistent approach to tobacco licensing. You need a myriad of licenses to operate a coffee cart, let alone sell food or alcohol. But in some states, you don’t even need a license to sell tobacco. That leaves the system open to be rorted and it ultimately forces legitimate retailers to compete with organised criminal syndicates,” said Mr Michael.

“The reality is tobacco is a legal and highly regulated product, irrespective of what you think of it. When everyone is doing it tough, legitimate retailers should not be losing out to foreign organised criminal syndicates.”  Cracking down on the illicit tobacco market will not only cut off a key funding source for organised crime, but it will bring excise revenue back, and businesses – who employ locals and pay tax – won’t be competing with crooks. “The committee has provided sensible and workable recommendations to help tackle the illegal tobacco market in Australia. Now is the time for the Government to pay attention and act. We can’t allow this report to collect dust in the bottom drawer,” said Mr Michael.

RTBA is a coalition of businesses, retailers and trademark holders working to minimise the impact of criminal conduct on the Asia-Pacific trading environment. We unite, mobilise and advocate for effective change with regard to regulatory, financial and taxation issues affecting the supply chain.