Cost of crime to Australia put at $36 billion a year

Cost of crime to Australia put at $36 billion a year

The Australian Crime Commission says serious and organised crime is costing each Australian more than $1,500 a year.

The Australian Crime Commission says serious and organised crime is costing each Australian more than $1,500 a year.

A new report from the commission puts the total cost at $36 billion.

It has also found a direct link between organised crime and terrorism, but those costs are yet to be evaluated.

Whether it is illegal drugs, stolen goods or gangs, organised and serious crime is costing Australians -- big.

The Australian Crime Commission has released a new report showing the figure is double previous estimates.

Justice Minister Michael Keenan says it is an ongoing battle to keep the cost to the community down.

"Every dollar that serious and organised crime costs the Australian economy is one dollar too many. I think that everyone will agree that $36 billion, which is an incredible cost to the community, drives home the serious threat that organised criminality is to our country."

Australian Crime Commission chief executive Chris Dawson says that represents $1,561 for each person in Australia.

"That also equates to 24 per cent of Australia's total social-security and welfare budget. Another way of measuring this, it's equivalent to 217 million baskets of groceries. Or, indeed, it could be measured as the equivalent of three weeks' pay. That is, average for the entire workforce."

Mr Dawson says the figures are incomplete and the report does not attempt to explore costs associated with terrorism and its links to organised crime.

But he says that will be the subject of future research.

"Costing a black market is inherently difficult, and this work has been quite detailed and complicated, and we do intend to replicate this work in the future."

Michael Keenan says terrorism financing and recruiting are particular problems.

Just this week, a Sydney man, Omarjan Azari, pleaded guilty to attempting to send thousands of dollars overseas to support the self-proclaimed Islamic State.

He was using a legitimate money-transfer business in the city's west.

The commission, with extraordinary powers to hold secret hearings and compel witnesses to answer questions, has been closely investigating terrorism for only 15 months.

Mr Keenan says that dates back to when the commission first received dedicated funding from the federal government.

"Whilst we cannot eliminate the risk of terrorism, by focusing on it as we have done so extensively, we can mitigate the risks that it poses to the Australian community."

The illegal drug trade is also fuelling organised-crime costs.

The much-publicised ice epidemic is part of that.

About 70 per cent of the drug reportedly comes to Australia through China, and the Minister says Australia is working with Chinese counterparts to try to combat the trade.

"Because we pay such a high price for drugs, then that has this honeypot effect of bringing in organised criminals from all over the world."

70 per cent of Australia's most serious and organised criminals are either offshore or have links offshore.

Mr Dawson says the key is to keep Australia a hard target.

"Where crime is hit and hit hard. And displacement doesn't necessarily mean it comes back the same way, because, if we harden our communities -- and we're very effective in that, and we're seeing ever-increasing collaboration and benefits from Australian law enforcement working together, it's never been better, and we're also working very closely with our international partners -- it does make Australia a much harder target for international criminals to also target Australia."




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