THE Australian Retailers Association (ARA) has teamed up with various retail associations including the Australian Lottery and Newsagents’ Association (ALNA), Master Grocers Australia (MGA Independent Retailers) and the Australasian Association of Convenience Stores (AACS) to identify the growing problem of tobacco-related organised crime across Australia.
Russell Zimmerman, executive director of the ARA, said KPMG LLP’s Illicit Tobacco in Australia 2017 Full Year Report has shown a significant increase in the proportion of illicit tobacco consumption in the last year.
“According to the recent report, total illicit tobacco consumption rose from 14.3 percent in 2016 to 15 percent in 2017, costing the government $1.91 billion in excise,” Mr Zimmerman said.
“This rise in illicit tobacco consumption means almost $2 billion a year goes to criminals and gangs, instead of the vital government services which could improve our community and overall economy.”
The ARA, ALNA, MGA Independent Retailers and AACS have teamed up to support their workers in the industry and reduce the effects illicit tobacco is having on retailers across the country and the community as a whole.
“KPMG LLP’s report is further evidence that organised tobacco crime is at crisis point in Australia and the government must intervene,” Mr Zimmerman said.
“The increase in illicit tobacco consumption means there are more and more crime gangs in the tobacco market and it is becoming a growing and dangerous trade in Australia.”
With the retail industry employing over 1.2 million retail workers in Australia, Mr Zimmerman said frontline workers face the most danger as they are often left most vulnerable to crime and abuse.
“This is an enormous problem for businesses, and a serious issue for retail workers as we are seeing more and more break-ins from criminals who want to get their hands on tobacco products and sell them on the Black Market.”
Some gangs are also importing illicit tobacco from overseas, which can be more harmful than the actual product, and selling them on the streets to anyone who wants them, including young people,” Mr Zimmerman said.
Jos de Bruin, chief executive officer of MGA Independent Retailers agrees with the ARA, stating this new report highlights the significant impact illicit tobacco is having on independent retail.
“We estimate the growing crime epidemic is causing independent retailers across Australia a loss in sales of $200 million plus,” Mr de Bruin said.
Therefore, the ARA iscalling on governments across Australia to step up their efforts in countering organised tobacco crime.
“Although the Federal Government has recently introduced a series of legislation to tackle his issue before Parliament, we believe Australia needs a coordinated national strategy, so all arms of governments are working together.
“All sides of government must take preventative measures and pass this legislation to ensure harsh penalties and eliminate this plague on the community once and for all,” Mr Zimmerman said.
About the Australian Retailers Association
Founded in 1903, the Australian Retailers Association (ARA) is Australia’s largest retail association, representing the country’s $310 billion sector, which employs more than 1.2 million people. As Australia’s leading retail peak industry body, the ARA is a strong pro-active advocate for Australian retail and works to ensure retail success by informing, protecting, advocating, educating and saving money for its 7,500 independent and national retail members throughout Australia. For more information, visit www.retail.org.au or call 1300 368 041.