My question is to the Minister for Local Government, Minister Leane.

The many problems associated with illicit tobacco retailing are rapidly becoming even more significant in Victoria, particularly for many law abiding small businesses.

Unfortunately, Section 36 of the Tobacco Act places the responsibility for search and seizure of illegal tobacco with local councils.  However, councils rarely have sufficient resources (let alone the specialist surveillance, evidence gathering and law enforcement expertise or personnel) to undertake this work.

Minister, in that context, could you tell me what actions the Government is currently taking to improve the capacities of local government to deal with these serious problems – or, alternatively, if anything will be done to re-assign these significant responsibilities to dedicated law enforcement agencies that are better resourced and funded to undertake this work?

SUPPLEMENTARY

In the previous question, I mentioned that the problems around illegal tobacco are rapidly escalating.

KPMG found recently, for example, that 20 per cent of all tobacco consumed in Australia is now illicit and Channel Nine’s ‘A Current Affair’ calculated last week that smuggling tobacco is now up to 10 times more profitable than smuggling cocaine.

Minister, could you therefore please outline what actions, if any, the Government is currently taking to increase the penalties associated with illegal tobacco retailing?

I ask that given that the current powers in Victoria to close down illegal tobacco retailers seem to only have practical impact for about 24 hours in most cases, and the other sanctions currently available to the Government do not seem to be providing a sufficient deterrent effect, either.