OPINION: The making of a criminal class

For some one day is golden, for others the next day is bright prison garb orange.

You may well recall the cigarette company Benson and Hedges. The company matched this grand name with impressive gold cardboard packaging.  The grandiosity extended with the employment of one  rather upper-cut, handsome gentleman by the name of Stuart Wagstaff. His  congenial, stylish manner seemed to pass as the human version of a Benson and Hedges. He wasn't alone, Paul Hogan was the Winfield man.

Who would have thought that five years after starting business in London, Benson & Hedges would be issued with a Royal Warrant for supply to  the Royal Family, or that that by 1999 a cited 'lack of demand in the Royal Households" would see the warrant revoked.

Who would have thought that one day, such company and all others of its ilk, that proudly paraded their names as sponsors around the greatest of world sporting events would be considered nothing less than drug dealers.

Thankfully, once the  killer truth emerged, the government went all out to name and shame, including taxing the lowly ciggie, into a very expensive item.

And has that worked, one way or another it has.  Australia has the lowest population of smokers in the world.  But the stoic few remain and government intends to see they pay their share of taxation revenue.

Last October The Australian Border Force established the Tobacco Strike Team tasked with reducing illicit tobacco trade.  Goodness me, with my limited information my first reaction was to wonder if our nation had enough active smokers for these tobacco smugglers to make their fortune.

Yet, our free economy declares that demand dictates supply and it seems  there was demand for the 13 million smuggled cigarettes, more than eight tonnes of loose leaf tobacco and $1.7 million in cash which was uncovered by our  Tobacco Strike Team just last week. You could say the Royal Warrant has been replaced  with a Warrant for Arrest.

Now it sees  the tobacco mafia, puffed up with capitalist ingenuity and outlaw spirit have seen a market for cheap durries  and set up in competition to   the legal tax-paying companies. But the Government is on to them, after all in an all too-human way, through increased taxes on legal products, they created the opportunity for this activity. We have a whole new criminal class.  Life's a cycle, we seem to go round and round. Which makes me wonder if the cost of the Tobacco Strike Force equals the potential revenue.

Just asking  - What do you think?

Could it be possible the makers of disposable nappies - the mostly indisposable, but much loved, 21st century environmental scourge will one day form a nappie smuggling network - a sort of nappie mafia.

- Gail Forrer, Editor Seniors Newspaper


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