Australia
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    Profile

    Australia

    Capital

    Canberra

    Gross domestic product (GDP)

    USD 1,396,567.01 million

    Income group

    High income

    Population

    25,365,745

    Area

    7,741,220 km²

    Geography type

    Island

    4.00

    Criminality score

    145th of 193 countries

    3rd of 14 countries in Oceania

    1st of 2 countries in Australia and New Zealand

    Criminal market

    3.75

    Human trafficking

    3.50

    Human smuggling

    3.00

    Arms trafficking

    3.50

    Flora crimes

    3.00

    Fauna crimes

    3.50

    Non-renewable resource crimes

    2.00

    Heroin trade

    3.50

    Cocaine trade

    5.00

    Cannabis trade

    3.50

    Synthetic drug trade

    7.00

    Criminal actors

    4.25

    Mafia-style groups

    5.00

    Criminal networks

    6.00

    State-embedded actors

    2.00

    Foreign actors

    4.00

    7.96

    Resilience score

    6th of 193 countries

    2nd of 14 countries in Oceania

    2nd of 2 countries in Australia and New Zealand

    Political leadership and governance

    8.00

    Government transparency and accountability

    8.50

    International cooperation

    9.00

    National policies and laws

    8.00

    Judicial system and detention

    8.00

    Law enforcement

    8.00

    Territorial integrity

    9.00

    Anti-money laundering

    7.00

    Economic regulatory capacity

    7.00

    Victim and witness support

    7.50

    Prevention

    7.50

    Non-state actors

    8.00

    7.96 4.25 3.75 7.96 4.25 3.75

    7.96

    Resilience score

    6th of 193 countries

    2nd of 14 countries in Oceania

    2nd of 2 countries in Australia and New Zealand

    Political leadership and governance

    8.00

    Government transparency and accountability

    8.50

    International cooperation

    9.00

    National policies and laws

    8.00

    Judicial system and detention

    8.00

    Law enforcement

    8.00

    Territorial integrity

    9.00

    Anti-money laundering

    7.00

    Economic regulatory capacity

    7.00

    Victim and witness support

    7.50

    Prevention

    7.50

    Non-state actors

    8.00

    Analysis

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    People

    Over the past five years Australia has remained a destination country for various forms of human trafficking, primarily sexual exploitation and forced labour. The trafficking of children for sexual exploitation has also been recorded, but to a lesser extent. The forms of sexual exploitation pervasive in Australia are diverse, but forced prostitution in brothels as well as in massage parlours and in personal residences are the most prevalent. With regard to forced labour, the sectors predominantly affected are the construction, agriculture, hospital and domestic service industries, often employing foreign nationals from Asia and other Pacific Island states who have been lured to Australia by employment agencies with false promises of legitimate employment.

    Australia is also a growing destination country for the human smuggling market. However, due in large part to the country’s natural characteristics as an island state, the smuggling of migrants into Australia is particularly difficult, and arrivals of smuggled individuals are at among the lowest levels seen in the past 10 years. Furthermore, the human smuggling market, limited though it is, is dominated by foreign diasporas acting as facilitators for various human smuggling ventures, rather than by highly organized criminal groups operating from within Australia.

    Trade

    As an island state, Australia maintains a robust border-security framework that limits the extent of arms trafficking into the country. Nevertheless, the increasing misuse of imported firearms in organized criminal activity and domestic violence is a cause for concern. Arms trafficking in Australia involves primarily the diversion of firearms from licensed and unlicensed dealers into the black market, which is partly driven by outlaw motorcycle gangs (OMCGs) and foreign actors. Nevertheless, most illegal imports of firearms in Australia are facilitated by opportunistic citizens with no prior links to organized crime, as opposed to organized-crime groups. Overall, the level of firearms and ammunition smuggling into Australia is considered to be low.

    Environment

    Overall, Australia plays a limited role in transnational environmental crimes such as those pertaining to flora, fauna and non-renewable resources. Nevertheless, a substantial proportion of the timber imported to Australia is either from countries where illegal logging is endemic or travels through countries that systematically turn a blind eye to illegal timber. Furthermore, the illegal export of exotic animals from Australia, primarily destined for Asian markets where demand is highest, is a growing issue, and seizures of trafficked wildlife species have increased in recent years. Finally, while there exists some artisanal and small-scale gold mining in Australia, the country’s mining sector is well regulated and dominated by large mines and major companies, and there is little evidence to suggest that any illegal mining activity takes place. However, corrupt practices in the mining sector are featuring increasingly in the national debate in the country, fuelled by lack of transparency in the sector.

    Drugs

    The drugs markets are by far the most pervasive criminal markets in Australia today. The market for synthetic drugs, specifically methamphetamine, is significant and growing considerably in many of the country’s major cities, in particular crystal methamphetamine, known as ‘ice’. Criminal groups in Australia are heavily involved in all stages of the methylamphetamine supply chain, namely the manufacturing, trafficking and distribution of the drug. These groups include OMCGs, who have expanded their reach into the Asia Pacific region believed to be for the purpose of sourcing both precursors and/or methylamphetamines. Indeed, most synthetic drugs in the Australian market originate from the Golden Triangle – Myanmar, Thailand and Laos – and southern China.

    Use of cannabis, the most widely consumed drug in the country, is also on the increase in Australia. The overwhelming bulk of cannabis consumed in Australia is cultivated domestically, either in traditional farm environments or in more modern grow houses. While cocaine use is also increasing, it does so from a much lower base level, due in large part to the high cost of the drug compared to other drugs in Australia. Nevertheless, the cocaine market is likely to remain an attractive investment for organized-crime groups, primarily those from Latin America, due to the high profits that can be attained in Australia. Finally, heroin is thought to be one of the few drugs that is experiencing a decline in consumption. This notwithstanding, heroin trafficking is present, and the drug is sourced primarily from the Golden Triangle countries.

    Criminal Actors

    Among the most recognizable forms of organized criminal actor in Australia are OMCGs, displaying many of the characteristics of the fully fledged transnational crime syndicates that have a growing presence in South-eastern Asia, the Middle East and Europe. These groups reflect a strict hierarchy and use their transnational presence to launder the proceeds of crime, and source firearms, narcotics and chemical precursors for importation into Australia. Furthermore, the criminal group often referred to as the Australian ‘Ndrangheta is a prominent feature in the organized-crime landscape in the country. Although the group has clear foreign origins, a considerable proportion of its members are naturalized Australian citizens. Despite the prominence of these mafia-style groups, there has been a trend whereby organized crime groups evolve from community-based groups with strong hierarchies and recognized ethnic ties towards more flexible, loosely associated entrepreneurial criminal networks. Evidence suggests that such criminal networks have diversified their activities, engaging in the illicit trade of various commodities across regions and shifting business alliances, as needed. For these groups, the traditional notions of brotherhood, loyalty and honour have given way to more competitive business practices. Criminal networks have developed strong links with criminal actors abroad to facilitate the illicit trade in numerous commodities, particularly in the transnational drugs trade.

    Foreign criminal actors are known to operate in Australia, most prominently the ‘Ndrangheta and criminal groups of Middle Eastern origin, who operate primarily in New South Wales and Western Australia. The latter have developed increasingly strong ties to OMCGs, and the major criminal activities carried out by these groups are drug trafficking and commodity smuggling. Overall, the importance of foreign criminal actors in the organized crime landscape in Australia is evident, and indeed the majority of the country’s serious organized-crime threats are either based abroad or have links abroad. While there is some evidence to suggest that organized-crime groups such as the ‘Ndrangheta have embedded members in the state apparatus, including law-enforcement agencies, levels of corruption in Australia are low and there is little evidence of state official involvement in organized-crime activities.

    Leadership and governance

    The Australian government has for many years placed the fight against organized crime high on the agenda, implementing a national organized crime response plan, with a particular focus on illicit drug markets. This notwithstanding, Australia’s high turnover of government administrations presents somewhat of an obstacle to the development of long-term government strategies. Although levels of corruption in government are low in Australia, there is no federal anti-corruption body, despite a government pledge to establish one, and questions have been raised with regard to the extent of transparency in government.

    Strong systems for international cooperation on the issue of organized crime are in place, including the ratification of all major UN treaties. Australia maintains a strong international network of liaison officers to facilitate the exchange of criminal intelligence and participates in multilateral organizations such as INTERPOL, Europol and the UNODC. In addition, Australia holds a central position in the regional cooperation on matters related to countering organized crime, being an important member to a number of regional security initiatives, and providing considerable assistance to Pacific Island states in their effort to curb transnational organized crime. Moreover, it has a robust system to deal with legal mutual assistance requests in criminal matters and extradition. Australia’s domestic legal framework is similarly resilient, with specific legislation on organized crime, including on drug trafficking and corruption.

    Criminal justice and security

    As a well-functioning democracy, Australia’s judiciary is fully independent, and while there are no judicial units that specifically target organized crime, some form of judicial control over investigations that relate to organized crime exists. The COVID-19 pandemic, however, has made access to the justice system difficult, with courts and magistrates suffering severe backlogs and workloads respectively. The Australian Federal Police Force has a proven capacity to collaborate and promote partnerships with public and private organizations across national borders. The Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission is a key agency in the fight against organized crime. The commission conducts special investigations, shares intelligence, carries out data collection, conducts multi-agency joint task forces, supports information systems and produces intelligence reports. Furthermore, the Australian Border Force has embraced the digital evolution, furthering the success of the country’s intelligence-led border security. However, the strong stance taken by the government and border agencies on border control has been criticized, most notably with regard to Australia’s strategy to counter irregular migration and to the issue of offshore processing centres for asylum seekers. Moreover, the abolition of the position of the Transnational and Serious Crime Coordinator, established in 2018, appears to be a retrograde step in terms of the country's commitment to a coordinated organized-crime strategy.

    Economic and financial environment

    The economic regulatory environment in Australia is extremely well developed, and highly conducive to the operation of legitimate business. In 2017, the Royal Commission was established to investigate misconduct of banks and other financial entities. Australia has a strong institutional framework for combating money laundering, terrorism financing and proliferation financing. There is a specialized financial intelligence unit that is tasked with anti-money laundering/terrorist financing, the Australian Transaction Reports and Analysis Centre. In response to growing concerns surrounding encryption technology and use of cryptocurrencies, the government introduced legislation that brought Bitcoin providers under the supervision of the financial intelligence unit. Australia’s relative resilience to money-laundering offences is due in large part to the increasingly robust enforcement of anti-money-laundering compliance measures, which has resulted in several high-profile prosecutions of banking institutions in recent years. As well as a strong response to combating money laundering domestically, Australia is also a vocal advocate of international cooperation on the issue, playing a key role regionally and internationally in various forums dedicated to anti-money laundering.

    Civil society and social protection

    The Australian government has put in place fairly robust systems for victim protection, largely focusing on victims of human trafficking, although identification and protection measures are far less accessible among offshore migrants and individuals employed in sectors where the line between migration and trafficking is blurred. The strict border-security rhetoric emanating from the government is an important factor in the reluctance of many victims of trafficking to report their situations to the authorities due to fear of arrest and deportation. With regard to support for drug users, the government has increased funding for treatment and support for alcohol and drug abuse, and residential rehabilitation services. Australia’s National Witness Protection Program is largely inclusive and efficient at providing the conditions necessary to facilitate witnesses to testify in trials that prosecute serious crime. Furthermore, the media environment in Australia is free, and civil society is robust.

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    The criminal markets score is represented by the pyramid base size and the criminal actors score is represented by the pyramid height, on a scale ranging from 1 to 10. The resilience score is represented by the panel height, which can be identified by the side of the panel.

    This report was funded in part by a grant from the United States Department of State.

    ENACT is funded by the European Union and implemented by the Institute for Security Studies and INTERPOL, in affiliation with the Global Initiative Against Transnational Organized Crime.

    The opinions, findings and conclusions stated herein are those of the Global Initiative Against Transnational Organized Crime and do not necessarily reflect those of the United States Department of State.