Move to stamp out illegal tobacco

October 27, 2021

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 production and distribution, but funnelling proceeds into other serious criminal pursuits, including child sexual exploitation, terrorism, drug, firearm and human trafficking, cyber-crime and violence.

On September 9, I put a motion to Parliament that called on the government to rein in 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 stamp out 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.