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Thursday, 4 July 2019
Page: 321

Mr WOOD (La TrobeAssistant Minister for Customs, Community Safety and Multicultural Affairs) (12:27): I move:

That this bill be now read a second time.

The government is committed to combating the illicit tobacco black market. In particular, a range of complementary measures were introduced in 'Black Economy Package—combating illicit tobacco'as part of the 2018-19 budget.

The black economy package seeks to disrupt illicit tobacco supply chains and deny criminal groups access to illicit profits that fund their other criminal and black economy activities. As part of this package, from 1 July 2019, tobacco products will be a prohibited imports and will only be allowed into Australia with a valid import permit, with limited exceptions such as individual travellers. Any tobacco that is detected at the border without a valid permit will be seized.

The Customs Act 1901 currently requires seized prohibited imports to be stored for a minimum of 30 days before destruction. This storage requirement, together with legislative and administrative requirements for prohibited imports, impacts upon the border operations of the Australian Border Force and limits the ability of the government to regulate and manage illicit tobacco effectively.

The bill will amend the Customs Act to empower the Comptroller-General of Customs, who is the commissioner of the Australian Border Force, to deal with the seized tobacco products in the manner he or she considers appropriate, including immediate destruction of goods. Similar controls already exist for other prohibited imports, including seized psychoactive substances and prohibited serious drug alternatives.

The bill will ensure the ABF is able to respond in a dynamic and timely manner to destroy the ever-increasing volumes of tobacco and tobacco related seizures. These amendments will improve the handling of seized illicit tobacco, resulting in the effective regulation of tobacco permit conditions and enabling greater focus on targeting of illicit tobacco. This bill will improve financial outcomes for the government and enhance implementation of new tobacco measures.

On a personal note, I'd like to thank the ABF personnel for their great work on illicit tobacco seizures. I had the great pleasure recently of touring the Australian Border Operations Centre at the ABF headquarters in Canberra, which houses representatives from various local and international law enforcement agencies and further improves operational planning, coordination and information-sharing within the law enforcement and security community. Thank you.

Debate adjourned.