Illicit tobacco review terms of reference published

Statement

November 4, 2021

The Victorian government today published on-line terms of reference for a review of illicit tobacco by Better Regulation Commissioner Anna Cronin.

The review follows a motion that Tania Maxwell put to Parliament on September 8, 2021, calling on the government to rein in a trade that funds organised crime and costs Australia more than $820 million a year in lost excise – revenue that should be funding health and education services.

Comments by Tania Maxwell MP, Derryn Hinch’s Justice Party Member for Northern Victoria:

I welcome the Victorian government’s decision to request a review by the Commissioner for Better Regulation of the state’s regulatory framework for the sale of tobacco products.

The retail sale of illegal tobacco trade is widespread. Organised crime profits from it, not only funding illicit farming and distribution, but funnelling proceeds into other serious criminal activities, including child sexual exploitation, terrorism, drug, firearm and human trafficking, cyber-crime and violence.

On September 8, I put a motion to Parliament that called on the government to stamp out this insidious trade. I briefed Minister for Business Regulation Danny Pearson MP ahead of the motion, which passed unopposed, and I’ve since met with him and Commissioner Anna Cronin to shape terms of reference for this regulatory review.

The Minister recognises that Victoria needs a robust regulatory and compliance framework to limit, contain and eliminate the importation, production and sale of illegal tobacco. Too much of it funds crime. It’s sale also effectively steals from our communities – because illegal resellers don’t pay millions in excise that Australia uses to fund health and education services, and because they compete with retailers who sell tobacco lawfully.

As I’ve made clear to the government, Victoria and Queensland are the only jurisdictions in Australia without a regulated licencing scheme for the sale of tobacco. Yet Victoria regulates gaming and the sale of alcohol and firearms to enable the state to decide who are fit and proper people to conduct these activities, the conditions by which they must operate and the penalties for breaching these.

When the Commissioner’s review is complete, I’ll be pressing the government to make retail tobacco licencing mandatory. Only when the state equips law enforcement with strong investigation and compliance powers will Victoria begin to butt out this illegal trade.

Government’s statement on the Illicit Tobacco Review

November 4, 2021

The Minister for Regulatory Reform, the Hon Danny Pearson MP, has requested that the Commissioner for Better Regulation, Anna Cronin, undertake a review of Victoria’s approach to illicit tobacco regulation.

Illicit tobacco works against collective efforts to reduce smoking and tobacco-related harm because it undermines tobacco control measures such as price increases and plain packaging. It also targets the most disadvantaged communities, which already have higher smoking rates. A recent report by the Australian Parliamentary Joint Committee on Law and Enforcement found that more could be done to control illicit tobacco.

The Commissioner’s report will consider:

  • the current regulatory framework for tobacco in Victoria, with a focus on regulation of illicit tobacco
  • the regulatory frameworks applying in other relevant jurisdictions
  • recommendations for improvement, having regard to the nature of illicit tobacco sales and the parties involved
  • possible pathways to implement these recommendations, including whether new legislation and/or regulation is required
  • the costs and benefits of the preferred approach, and
  • funding considerations including possible sources of funds that may be available to assist regulation of tobacco production and sales.

As per the Terms of Reference, the report will focus on Victoria’s regulatory system surrounding illicit tobacco, rather than enforcement matters. The Commissioner has been asked to report to the Minister for Regulatory Reform and the Minister for Health by the end of April 2022.

Better Regulation Victoria is currently preparing a consultation plan and will provide further advice shortly on this web page about the ways in which we consult with key stakeholders and interested parties on these issues. For more information, please email contact@betterregulation.vic.gov.au.