MGA Independent Retailers has urged the federal Standing Committee on Tax and Revenue to recommend new powers to fight the illegal-tobacco market in Australia.
Appearing before the committee last week, the employer organisation’s CEO, Jos de Bruin, detailed the crime’s devastating impact on the nation’s retailers.
“In the past 12 months, this crime has spiralled out of control and grocery and liquor stores across the country are struggling to make ends meet,” he said.
“We’re talking about thousands of stores across the country, which are major employers. When they’re under threat, that means jobs are under threat – that is a completely unacceptable situation.”
Mr de Bruin says the thriving illegal market has created an additional blow to retailers by making legal tobacco the key target for criminals, who steal it and sell it onto the black market.
“The break-ins and robberies at grocery and liquor stores across the country are at a level that’s never been seen before,” he said.
“This is happening at a time when there’s less and less cash in retail stores because everything is moving to tap and go. Criminals are after one thing: tobacco.
“Insurance companies can’t believe the spike in this crime, either. In fact, some are now unwilling to insure businesses for tobacco.
“I’ve urged the committee to recommend that the federal government comes up with a strategy to stop the major tax and revenue losses caused by illegal tobacco.”
MGA Independent Retailers is calling for a coordinated national strategy, led by law enforcement, to go after illegal tobacco from the border to the street.
“Combating illegal tobacco is in the nation’s interest,” Mr de Bruin said. “It will prevent billions going to crime syndicates, stop the huge economic losses being experienced by major employers across the country and will drive down crime.”