Albanese Government cracks down on illegal tobacco imports

The Albanese Government has committed $188.5 million to crackdown on the importation of illegal tobacco.

The Hon Mark Butler MP
Minister for Health and Aged Care

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The Albanese Government has today announced a major border force crackdown on the importation of illegal tobacco.

$188.5 million has been committed over four years to the Australian Border Force (ABF) to deliver a new compliance model in partnership with States and Territories.

The Australian Border Force will lead Commonwealth, state and territory partners in a coordinated effort to tackle all aspects of illicit tobacco.

The model has three prongs:

  1. Stem the flow of illicit tobacco to Australia. The ABF, with its international partners, will work to target and disrupt illicit tobacco in source and transit countries before it reaches the Australian border.
  2. Boost to ABF capacity to combat illicit tobacco trade at the border. This includes intelligence gathering, targeting criminal syndicates, conducting investigations, and identifying, seizing and destroying illicit tobacco. The ABF will introduce technological improvements including the use of AI for illicit tobacco threat detection to enhance detection and disruption. Commonwealth agencies, together with state and territory law enforcement partners, will have the ability to proactively target domestic illicit tobacco syndicates that attempt to bring tobacco to Australia.
  1.  Bring together stakeholders to deliver a coordinated multi-agency, multi-jurisdictional response, across States and Territories.

The Government’s new, strengthened approach will further bolster disruption and deterrence of illicit tobacco in Australia, building on the significant outcomes achieved with state and territory partners since the creation of the Illicit Tobacco Taskforce in July 2018.

We continue to send a clear message to individuals and organisations involved in illicit tobacco - involvement in the Illicit tobacco trade is a serious offence.

Tobacco is a significant source of income that organised criminals use to fund their other illegal activities.

There are well-documented links between the distribution and sale of illicit tobacco products in Australia and serious and organised crime. Buying and selling illicit tobacco is a serious tax crime.

Organised crime syndicates are known to target tobacco retailers across Australia to buy and sell illicit tobacco. Retailers choosing to become involved in the illicit tobacco trade are committing a crime.

Quotes attributable to the Treasurer Jim Chalmers:

“This is all about deterring illegal tobacco use and distribution in Australia, and sending a clear message to the crooks and syndicates that dealing in illegal tobacco is a serious tax crime.

“Illegal tobacco is more than a problem for the Budget, it's a health challenge and it's a challenge to our border security.

“This new model strengthens our existing efforts by working in partnership with the states and territories and building on the Albanese Government’s tobacco excise package.”

Quotes attributable to Health Minister Mark Butler:

“An estimated 50 people every day die in Australia of a smoking related illness.

“Along with our updated tobacco packaging and our world leading vaping reforms, the Government is acting to target the scourge of illicit tobacco by appointing Australia’s first illegal tobacco and vape commissioner.

“We cannot stand by and allow another generation of people to be lured into addiction and suffer the enormous health, economic and social consequences.

“Reducing availability of illicit tobacco is critical to tobacco control. We know that the main driver that reduces illicit is the same one that reduces licit tobacco – declining consumption.”

Quotes attributable to Acting Minister for Home Affairs Andrew Giles:

“As our first line of defence, the Australian Border Force is critical to combatting the illicit tobacco trade.

“This increased investment will enhance ABF capacity and sends a strong message to organised criminal syndicates attempting to import illicit tobacco into Australia.”

Quotes attributable to Australian Border Force Commissioner Michael Outram:

“The ABF is committed to maintaining our hard-line stance on illicit tobacco.

“This funding will enhance and modernise our ability to stop illicit tobacco at the border and before it ever reaches our shores, air or seaports.

“We know illicit tobacco trade is systematically tied to serious and organised criminal groups, and we will work hand in hand with domestic and international partners to disrupt their activities.”



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