House of Representatives

Treasury Laws Amendment (Illicit Tobacco Offences) Bill 2018

Second Reading Speech

Ms O'DWYER (Higgins-Minister for Revenue and Financial Services, Minister for Women and Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for the Public Service)

I move:

That this bill be now read a second time.

The Treasury Laws Amendment (Illicit Tobacco Offences) Bill 2018 reforms the penalty and offence framework in the Excise Act 1901 (Excise Act) to more effectively combat the illicit tobacco market. With this bill the government is delivering on its 2016-17 budget commitment to address the growing risk of illicit tobacco and criminal activity.

Through effective tobacco control policy, Australia has become a world leader in reducing smoking rates. This has improved the health and wellbeing of Australians and reduced the social costs associated with smoking.

To continue reducing the prevalence of smoking and to ensure tobacco products are taxed correctly, it is important to support these tobacco control policies with effective tobacco offences that combat the illicit tobacco market.

This bill improves the enforcement of illicit tobacco offences by providing officers with access to tiered offences and strengthened penalties. Introducing tiered offences will give prosecutors more flexibility to bring charges against persons who have committed an illicit tobacco offence.

The bill also confirms that tobacco offences apply when the origin of the illicit tobacco cannot be established. This addresses an issue where uncertainty about whether illicit tobacco had been produced domestically or imported, has created a barrier to effective enforcement due to the requirement to determine which of the Excise Act or Customs Act was applicable.

By providing enforcement agencies appropriate powers and the threat of significant penalties, the government will be able to more effectively stamp out the illicit tobacco market. This will improve the health of Australians by reducing their exposure to tobacco products. It will ensure that tobacco products consumed domestically are fully taxed and comply with Australian regulations, including safety standards.

Full details of the measure are contained in the explanatory memorandum.

Debate adjourned.