Payday Loans

Are payday loans becoming the biggest social problem on the Coast? Pratsiri Setthapong investigates:

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Donna Langley moved from Adelaide to Gold Coast three years ago hoping to work her way towards a wealthy and successful life.  She was not aware that she was now living in one of most expensive cities of the country, where the majority of her hard earned money would go to rent; car insurance and registration; gas, electricity, water, phone, internet bills and day-to-day essentials. Her casual job in a local club helps her get by but it does not allow her much of a lifestyle.

It only needed a simple unexpected incident to trigger financial hardship so when her partner lost his job two years ago Donna was worried. He found a job a month later but four weeks lost income had a massive impact on their lives. Before she knew it she was getting far behind all the bills. A couple hundred dollars short turned into a thousand. The only option she had as a person without a full-time job or the credit for a bank loan, was a quick cash shop in the neighborhood. It was quick and easy. She thought she had found a save haven.

Many average to low income earners who live in our fast paced society, where money easily comes and goes, are now either struggling to survive, let alone aspire to a better lifestyle.

The Payday business seized this opportunity to encourage people with the financial problem to see Payday loans as the way out. The industry took off despite, or because of, the economic downturn.

Payday loan is a personal loan service offering  small loans from $300 to $2,000 to low income earners. The catch is the significant interest rate. Loan repayments are direct debited from customers’ bank accounts weekly, fortnightly or monthly. The business has been around for more than a decade but the glorious era started in 2008. The global economic crisis wobbled Australia’s financial well being causing  job losses and major banks tightened their loan policies. According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, along with the country’s economic downtrend, the unemployment rate in Gold Coast rose up to 4.02% in 2008 from 3.38% in the last quarter of 2007. The recession continued and saw the unemployment rate rise to 5.69% in 2013. People in default, bankruptcy or with bad credit desperately looked for a financial solution in short term.

Cash Converter, the global pawn broking company, originally focused its business on retail secondhand goods.  By 2007 it had shifted its focus to payday lending and became the biggest payday lender chain in Australia. The company’s worldwide revenue growth rocketed 16.4% to $272.7 million in 2013. The growth of its online personal loan service in Australia increased 89% to $26.9 million from $14.2 million in 2012. Out of 148 stores in Australia including franchise-operated premises, 44 branches are located in Queensland – more than any other state. Four of them are located in the Gold Coast area.

The booming market encouraged many other players to enter the market. Money3 offers personal loan up to $20,000 for 30 days to 36 months repayment period. Thorn Group, the company behind Radio Rental has now expanded their service to join the quick cash frenzy under the name of CashFirst. Additionally, there are approximately 30 quick cash stores under the smaller names in the Gold Coast area; the number outstripped the short-term loan shops in many major cities in Australia. 12 stores are located in Southport.

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Created with Datawrapper Source: Yellow Pages the Local Business Directory 2014

Young people aged of 18 to their late 20s are the main market of the payday loan business. Research conducted in 2011 by Gold Coast City Council reported that 58.3% of young people earn less than $400 a week. Tourism and hospitality industry is the key driver of Gold Coast economy and generates the high rate of part-time and casual job. The unstable employment status exposes young people to the payday loan business.

Donna took out her first loan for $250 after her partner lost his job.

“My family and friends told me to stay away from it, but at that moment I was the only one who working and everything was expensive. You didn’t really have any choice. I tried my luck at the bank but without a full time job, they wouldn’t give me a loan.”

The immediacy is the key feature of this product. Lenders can grant the fund instantly within half an hour. The recent emerged online service makes it’s confidential and easy to access and this attracts more people to use the payday loan. “Last month I moved and needed the money for the truck and to fix up some bills. I just went there and got back out with the $250 cash in my hands”

Donna and many customers are not aware of the actual figures of the loan cost. The Annual Percentage Rate (APR) most payday lenders offer is 300% annually. In the longer repayment period agreement, the cost goes up to 1000% per annum. While the standard credit card APR offered by majors banks in Australia range from 13.49% to 10.99% per annum.

“I didn’t really pay attention to those numbers, I just worried about $53 that I have to pay every week, for about six weeks”.

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Payday loan borrowers are not only low income earners either in full-time or part-time employment, businesses also focus on unemployed people who receive benefits from Centrelink. According to Consumer Action survey in 2008, “Although difficult to confirm, between 20% and 30% of borrowers are likely to receive some form of Centrelink benefits. It is possible the figure is much higher.”

Based on Cash Converter figures, the survey also stated that there are approximately 379,000 customers nationwide who take out around 674,000 loans in 2010. This figures suggested that most customers are repeat customers. This back-to back loan leads to ‘debt cycle’

Donna said that in two years, she has taken out loans more than ten times.

Customers continue borrowing new loans and problems occur when they could not stick to the repayment plan.

Veena, a 25 year old mother of two from Coomera, started using  payday loans two years ago when she became pregnant with her second child.

“I was on the benefits as well as my husband but it was not enough to get by. I found this ad in the papers and decided to check them out. I  sighed up with them and took out the first $300. The last time I took out $500, which meant I had to pay back $120 every fortnight. After two payment I realized that I couldn’t afford it anymore. With all the bills and foods and other things for my kids, I fell behind.”

“I was in default and the debt collector company contacted me. Told me that the money would fold up if I couldn’t pay them back in full. I didn’t know what to do and there was no way that I could pay them back, then they took me to court. By that time I owed them $1,500.”

Veena ended up with the settlement of $30 every fortnight. She paid it off after nine months. She never took any loan again.

Payday loan has been the Government’s concern and in the media attention for many years. Social service organizations across the country have launched legal aid and financial counselling services including the No Interest Loan Scheme (NILS) which offers loan up to $1200 to low income earners and people in financial crisis and aims to protect them from being exploited by the short term and payday loan business. In 2013, The Age National reported the statement of Salvation Army regarding the poverty problem. “There is a link between homelessness and the debt spiral caused by payday loans.”

When Donna was asked about the No Interest Loan Scheme, she understood that the campaign would provide her more option but she also concerned about its processing timeframe.

“I’m pretty sure that there are many people have been struggling like me and also need help. The service I’ve been using give me cash within ten minutes. Most of the time we just can’t wait because.”

Unlike Veena, many low income earners including Donna will continue to use the payday loan service; even it has been known that its system can push many people into the worse financial situation.

“As long as I can manage to pay back my loan, I think I will keep using it. Nobody wants to be in debt but things always happen. It is not easy knowing that I could lose my job any day and those bills will never stop coming.”

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Is a wave of poverty sinking Gold Coasters?

Scott Kovacevic investigates a wave of poverty threatening to sink Gold Coasters

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Alan Eastwood

The view from Alan Eastwood’s apartment, overlooking a disused bowling club, isn’t a dream vista. Overgrown grass lies sterile in the sun, bleached of colour, forgotten. But, to Alan, his apartment and its view are his most prized and wonderful possession. On a disability pension after a vicious assault left him unable to work, he pours every cent he receives into maintaining his home. But with no other source of income and faced with rising costs, Alan is struggling to keep a roof over his head. And he’s not alone, because on the Gold Coast an increasing number of residents are on the verge of homelessness.

Recent reports show one in seven people are living below the poverty line across Australia. It’s a sobering statistic, one that’s hitting the Gold Coast even harder with an increasing number of people seeking help from crisis services. Over the April-June financial quarter requests for assistance from Blair Athol’s HATS, (providing help to people at risk of homelessness), have nearly doubled. A perfect storm of Government service funding cuts, coupled with a sky-rocketing service costs and a stagnant local economy, is sending more residents spiralling into poverty. For many Gold Coast residents, the reality is that you don’t need to be homeless to need help.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Alan’s disability pension ensures he has a roof over his head. But once the rates, utilities and mortgage have been paid, there’s not much left for things like food. “Water here in this little tiny unit is now $100 a month,” he says. “It really is quite ridiculous… money is one of the things we just don’t have much of.” It’s left him relying on charity organisations for meals and he’s not alone. Rosies outreach services say that 50% of patrons at some of their Gold Coast venues have some form of safe accommodation. Blair Athol Accommodation and Support agrees, saying there is clearly a growing trend. Liz Fritz, Blair Athol’s Co-ordinator, is seeing it first hand that for people on Gold Coast, having a home or job is no longer enough to survive.

“What we’re finding is that more of our people that do come for our services have some form of work,” she says. “For example, we have a family – Mom, Dad, two kids – where his take home pay after tax for the week was $622. Now, these people are paying $480 a week in rent and you can see that even with another $150 a week from the Family Tax Benefit there’s not much money left. The mom used to work full-time, but now she’s got two young children to take care of.” She says that overall, the Gold Coast’s homeless network is running at capacity. More and more people are struggling to stay afloat.

Statistically, house rental cost on the Gold Coast sits beneath only Darwin and Sydney. Renting a unit is cheaper than other major cities, but will still set you back $370 per week, numbers compounded by the Gold Coast having a higher rental ratio than both Queensland and Australia. But it’s not just the rent that’s causing stress. Costs for services like electricity and childcare have risen, and the Gold Coast’s stalled job market only adds to the pressure. According to Government estimates the number of local jobs has barely changed over the last five years, despite a steady increase in the population. In fact, Gaven MP Dr. Alex Douglas believes that the official rates of unemployment are worse than reported. “I’d follow the Roy Morgan numbers,” he says “and they show that true unemployment is closer to 10%, and the underemployment level- which we thought was 14%- could be as high as 20-25% in regional places.” He believes underemployment is the biggest concern, with more people forced to cobble multiple jobs together- and it still may not be enough.

Gaven Electorate

Gaven Electorate

Sitting in the heart of Nerang, the electoral office lives cheek to cheek with the economic downturn. The shop next door is vacant, a ‘For Lease’ sign hanging in the window with no indication when it will be shelved. There are several others lingering in windows less than two blocks away. It’s a sign of the times, and Dr. Douglas believes that both Council and Government have contributed to it. “They have done absolutely nothing… in fact, they’ve cut bus services. [In Nerang], you can’t get a bus after 4:30 in the afternoon or on a Saturday or Sunday.”

Alan Eastwood sees it every day. He relies on the Gold Coast’s public transport service to get around, and he says the system isn’t as convenient as it used to be. “We do see a lot of dead bus stops around, where they’ve cut back the bus services tremendously.” As well as it being harder to get to charity and meal support, he says, concession services aren’t always helpful either. “We do get a little sticker on our Go-Card which gives us free travel between 8:30am and 3:30pm from Monday to Friday- but on buses only. If you go on the new tram you must pay.”

Bus fares are just a small part of the problem, though. Gold Coast residents are struggling with larger financial commitments, too. Through June 2014, the northern end of the Gold Coast had the second highest number of debtors in Queensland, and there are claims that Gaven has one of the highest bankruptcy rates in the state. But Dr. Douglas says people’s financial troubles aren’t stopping Governments from trying to collect on their debts at all costs.

“A fellow come to me saying that SPER (State Penalties Enforcement Registry) told him he needs to eat less food. They said he’s got to cut back on his food consumption by $3-$5 a week to meet his commitments. This is a guy who had to retire early, he lives on a pension and he’s a volunteer. They said at one stage they’ll let him work it off, but then said that he can’t because he’s not fit enough… I mean, why do people think SPER isn’t being paid back? Because people don’t have any money. And people might say these are just the one’s and two’s, but it’s not. There are a lot of people affected in the same way.” The intense push by Government to ‘balance the budget’, he says, is stretching people’s incomes beyond breaking point.

Liz Fritz says this belt tightening is causing nervousness within the homeless assistance network, too. “We do know that National Government policy is really wanting to save money, and crisis services are very expensive to run… We’re not certain of the future of emergency relief funding. The Federal Government hasn’t announced the grants for the future yet. We’re still waiting.” Until then all funding is only confirmed until September 30, 2015, while the Government reviews policy with a look at realigning available funding and services. What the final outcome could be is anyone’s guess, leaving charity organisations to secure funding from other sources. Rosies media liaison Cat Milton is quick to point out a problem there, though: there’s only so far money can spread if everyone’s asking for it. And she says private funding can be affected by an increase in poverty, too. “Organisations like Rosies are very much reliant on public generosity, and obviously the harder people are doing it the less they give to us.” And at what point do the existing charity services overload?

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Lee Walsh and Alan Eastwood

For Lee Walsh, retirement hasn’t been as financially secure as he’d hoped. He and his wife own two apartments between them, the fruit of their working years, but what should be a good deal is becoming a monetary nightmare. A recipient of the pension, Lee collects $500 a fortnight. His wife is still ineligible but collects rent from one of their apartments. “It produces $320 a week,” he says. “The Government says that $320 is income, but in reality there’s at least $120 going out in body corporate, and there’s also rates and electricity and water, so it’s really more like $150; but social security says we’re getting $320. So out of that we’re really getting $800 a fortnight that has to cover the two bedroom unit’s rates, body corporate, electricity, water and a car registration. And to sell the property now would entail a $55,000 dollar loss.” Managing their finances is big challenge for a lot of people, and finding help is getting harder.

Over the last 12 months the Queensland Tenancy Advice and Assistance Service has closed its doors, and the Federal Government has discontinued the National Rent Affordability Scheme. Local options have been cut, too: Queensland is the only state in Australia with no dedicated financial counselling program, and several financial counsellor positions on the Gold Coast have reportedly been axed. As a result, charities are finding accessing them is taking longer than ever. Smaller staffs are forced to deal with larger workloads, forcing people to wait longer. But, often, waiting is a luxury they cannot afford. Liz Fritz says that it’s the difference between having a home and living on the street.

“It’s easy for people to try to pay their electricity bills, and then they fall behind on their rent and then they become at risk of homelessness.” Even the old argument of simply working harder backfires in unexpected ways. “You only have to 50 cents over the margin of eligibility to lose a Government concession card, which gets them access to cheaper bus fares and prescriptions. We see people that have gone out and gotten themselves a few extra hours work and it’s pushed them over the threshold.” Having an extra job or extra hours brings added costs, and one step ahead quickly becomes three steps behind.

Once people do become homeless, Cat Milton says, they quickly find themselves caught in a snowball effect. “To get a Centrelink payment you need an address, so that’s a pretty big stumbling point right there. They process payments online now, which helps, but that requires access to an internet connection. Quite a number of our patrons have mobile phones- which allows them on the internet- but then they’ve got to charge it. If you have a phone that is charged then you are contactable, which means you can access your payments and be available for job interviews, but then being presentable for a job interview is quite tricky.

In a black and white world identifying and helping people before they become homeless is the ideal solution. It’s one the State Government has identified, recently providing new funding for Blair Athol’s HATS program. But reality is grey, and homeless assistance is plagued by a problem familiar to other social assistance groups. “People are embarrassed,” Liz says. “They never expected to be in these sorts of situations and find it very difficult to look for handouts.” Away from charities, people can be left asking their families for help; but even if they do, there’s no guarantee that their families aren’t struggling too, or even that their family lives on the coast. Some people then find only options left are to cheat the system or find work ‘under the table’.

Dr. Douglas believes we’re at risk of creating an underclass on the Gold Coast; that people that can’t afford help will be turned away by an overburdened system, which will result in more problems for generations to come with no ability to help them. Liz Fritz echoes this fear. “We can only do what we can do. So people will either be required to wait for services, or they just won’t be able to get them.” And if charities can no longer help, where will Gold Coast residents like Alan and Lee turn then?

Behind the Gold Coast’s Crystal Meth Scene

Amanda Wust investigates crystal meth on the Gold Coast.

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A half dressed man is dragged into the bright Hospital ward by two uniformed police officers. In a flash the man snaps out of his previously calm state. Rage boils as he struggles to free himself from the police. He throws one elbow into the police officer on his right, knocking him to the ground and within seconds he throws a punch at the male nurse who has come to restrain him. Over the next few minutes the man frees himself from the grasp of the police and hospital workers. He picks up a metal bin and throws it through the nearest glass window. Seconds later the man is screaming, as police and security officers pin him to the ground.

This is a scene from the Australian Government’s 2007 drug awareness ad on Ice illustrating one of the many side effects of Crystal Meth use.

In 2013, the National Drug Strategy Household Survey report revealed that around 8 million (42%) of the Australian population over 14 years of age admit to having used drugs illicitly at some point in their lives.

Although the report showed no significant increase in the use of Methamphetamines, there was a dramatic increase in “Ice” as the preferred form of Methamphetamines and the frequency of its use since 2010.

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Figure 2: Shows data collected from the 2013 National Drug Strategy Household Survey Report

Methamphetamine hydrochloride also known as “Crystal Meth” or “ICE” is one of Australia’s biggest drug problems due to the availability, purity level, health and social issues, and links with criminal activity.

Crystal Meth (Ice) is the most dangerous form of Methamphetamine as it has a higher purity level and its methods of use are considered faster acting and more ‘intense’.

Crystal Meth has been making headlines around Australia in recent years, in fear of an “Ice epidemic”.

Local police and drug organisations say that Crystal Meth has always been prominent here in Queensland and that although there has been a rise in use and arrests, it is not in ‘epidemic’ proportions here on the Gold Coast.

These fears of an “ice age” arise from the government-run Australian Crime Commission’s Illicit Drug Data Report 2012/2013, which reveals a surge in the production, distribution and use of Crystal Meth, throughout Australia.

The report suggests that while Cannabis remains the number one drug in the illicit drug market in Australia, Amphetamine-type stimulants (ATS) (including Crystal Meth) are increasing in prominence, with ATS accounting for 24.2% of all illicit drug seizures.

According to the report, both the number and weight of ATS detections (excluding MDMA) at the Australian border increased to the highest on record in 2013, with the detections being predominately Crystal Meth and methylamphetamine liquid.

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Figure 3: Data collected from the ACC Illicit Drug Data Report 2012/13

The Australian Crime Commission (ACC) reports that within the drug user population surveyed in the yearly Illicit Drug Data Report, the number of users that have recently used Crystal Meth, has steadily increased from 45% in 2011 to 55% in early 2013 findings.

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Figure 4: Data Collected from the ACC Illicit Drug Data Report 2012/13

Australian Crime Commission’s Illicit Drug Data Report 2012/2013 reveals Queensland as Australia’s number one location for clandestine lab recoveries.

Since July 1st 2013, the State Drug Squad have seized $36.9million worth of drugs and 340 drug laboratories, with approximately $2million of drugs and equipment seized here on the Gold Coast since October 2011 by the Major and Organised Crime Squad

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Figure 4: Detective Inspector Scott Knowles

Detective Inspector Scott Knowles of the Major and Organised Crime Squad on the Gold Coast says that approximately 25 illicit drug laboratories have be dismantled by police on the Gold Coast in 2014 to date.

Detective Inspector Knowles has spent the past 3 years working as part of the Major and Organised Crime Squad which investigates serious criminal syndicates on the Gold Coast that present a significant risk to the local community.

He says that the majority of his investigative work into criminal syndicates leads back to the local and national drug scene.

“We focus on extortion syndicates, but ultimately it always leads back to drugs. I’d say about 95% of the investigations we do have a drug connection,” he says.

Although Detective Inspector Knowles says that Cannabis is the “top” drug on the Gold Coast (due to it’s label as a ‘soft drug’), it’s closely followed by one of the most dangerous drugs – Crystal Meth, also known as ‘Ice’.

He suggests that Queensland has a particular appetite for amphetamines due to its party and tourism atmospheres.

“Amphetamines doesn’t just cover crack, it covers ecstasy, MDMA, all those party drugs. As a result, of the environment  here on the Gold Coast and in Queensland, there is a particular appetite for that type of drug,” he says.

Detective Inspector Knowles says that there is no Ice epidemic; instead he suggests that it’s only being portrayed that way because the media reports are focused on what police are recovering.

He says that due to the increased funding, there are now approximately one thousand extra police tackling the drug issue in South East Queensland, leading to more arrests.

Despite this point of view from local police, a report aired on ABC AM radio station revealed that new data released by the Pennington Institute in Melbourne, shows that hospitalisations from Ice have doubled around Australia.

Dr Rebecca McKetin from the Australian National University, interviewed in the report, says that the number of people seeking treatment for methamphetamine use is rising, driven by the increase in people using Crystal Meth now looking for help.

“And we have seen that across most of the jurisdictions. We’ve seen it predominantly in Victoria, but we’re starting to see the same trends emerging in New South Wales, in Western Australia, in South Australia and also to some extent in Queensland,” she says.

While an influx of Crystal Meth use may be present in Victoria, Dr Fairlie McIlwraith a Queensland Coordinator for drug research from the Queensland Alcohol and Drug Research and Education Centre (QADREC), says that from her research of 300 regular Metropolitan South East Queensland drug users, there has been no significant peak in Crystal Meth use in Queensland.

“The use of Crystal Meth has increased… but this is not an upward trend this year,” she says.

According to Dr McIlwraith’s research from the Ecstasy and Related Drugs Reporting System 2013 report, in 2012-2013 approximately 282 out of the 9,616 people recorded by Queensland Ambulance Service as being treated for an over dose, were related to Amphetamine use.

Dr McIlwraith and her colleague Dr Andrew Smirnov both state that their research does not give a significant indication for what may or may not be happening in rural areas.

Recent news reports from rural Queensland have increased fears of Crystal Meth taking its hold in small Queensland communities, such as the Darling Downs where a local rehabilitation center said they’ve seen a large spike in the use of ‘Ice’ amongst patients.

But local rehabilitation centers here on the coast say that they haven’t seen a dramatic increase.

Suzi Morris, the Community Services Manager at Lives Lived Well, has a similar view to Detective Inspector Knowles, saying that she wouldn’t say that there’s an ‘Ice epidemic’, but instead just a steady increase here on the coast.

“There’s a lot of media around meth labs, but we haven’t seen a spike in use. What we’ve seen is that it is consistently the drug of choice and concern. I wouldn’t call it an epidemic; it is on the increase but not in that sort of proportions,” she says.

Lives Lived Well is the new brand that combines three of Queensland’s top drug and alcohol foundations: the Gold Coast Drug Council, the Alcohol and Drug Foundation in Queensland and the Queensland Drug and Alcohol Foundation in Far North Queensland.

The organisation provides a variety of drug and alcohol services to the Gold Coast ranging from the Mirikai residential program to around 9 or 10 outreach programs dealing with family therapy, family support groups, youth groups, health promotion and more.

Suzi Morris believes that Meth is dominate on the Gold Coast particularly with the younger age group of 17 to 25 year olds due to its price, accessibility and ‘party label’, which goes hand in hand with their impulse/risk taking behaviour.

“It’s a drug that gives young people a really fully sense of themselves, they see themselves as invincible, like nothing’s going to harm them,” she says.

She suggests that this is the reason that it is such a danger to the local community.

“You have very distorted view of yourself when you are using. You do things that you would not normally do … A young person who would never even think about running into a service station and holding up that servo, will do it if they are on meth cause they don’t have any control over their impulse,” she says.

When asked to comment on this issue a Queensland Health media spokesperson responded by saying that Queensland Health recorded 64,832 occasions of service in 2013 relating to ‘all’ amphetamine use.

Of these 64,832 occasions, 46% (approximately 29,823) occasions of service were recorded as specific amphetamine types, and 50% of recorded amphetamines types were recorded as Crystal Meth, much higher than any other amphetamine recorded.

Queensland Health revealed that an increase in the reported use of Crystal Methamphetamine has been recorded in 2013

Queensland Health also stated that while there was no significant increase in the recorded use of amphetamines in 2013 nationally, there was a dramatic increase in the number of uses now using Crystal Meth.

The Australian Crime Commission’s, acting Chief Executive Officer Paul Jevtovic, expressed his concern of Methylamphetamine appearance in Australia, suggesting that it is the highest risk illicit drug in the Australian market.

“Crystal Methylamphetamine is emerging as a pandemic akin to the issue of ‘Crack’ cocaine in the United States, ” he says.

In another press release by the Australian Crime Commission on Mexican Cartels, Chief Executive Officer Chris Dawson suggested a link between the Australian illicit drug market and Mexican cartels.

“Transnational crime groups, including those based in Mexico, consider Australia an option for importation and distribution of illicit drugs and precursor chemicals, because the price they can obtain is significantly higher than that on Mexican and US streets,” he says.

A few months ago in an interview with The Courier-Mail, Taskforce Maxima Commander Detective Superintendent Mick Niland revealed that links between gangs and drugs are common.

“The links between gangs and illegal drug distribution is clearly evident. This is why we are targeting them as their criminal activities are far reaching and impact on everyday Queenslanders,” he says.

For years here in Australia, there have been links between bikie gangs and the distribution of drugs in Australia, with multiple bikie arrests leading to drug charges in Queensland and other states.

A recent feature by the ABC’s Four Corners revealed that drug cartels are moving their business out into small country towns where there’s a lack of treatment facilities and police are severely under resourced.

Detective Inspector Knowles says that enhanced investigative methodologies and increased resources are the reason for the increasing numbers of arrests being made by Gold Coast Police. good

“The dominant increase in the amphetamine recovery is because of the increase in police officers. What you are seeing, if you actually look at the figures is not the high end dealers and produces, but a lot of the users are being arrested because we’ve got extra police in uniform out on the streets intercepting these people,” he says. good

While Detective Inspector Knowles suggests that the Queensland Government and Queensland Police are doing their best to tackle drugs in Queensland, he says the community plays a significant role in the arrests of drug users and dealers.

“If the community is going to be blinded to this sort of thing than the effectiveness of the police is degraded. It’s only through their observations that our effectiveness increases. Without a doubt the majority of investigations we’ve conducted here at the Major Organized Crime Squad are founded on information from the public,” he says.

Detective Inspector Knowles describes how community members don’t always report suspicious behaviour, even after something major has occurred.

“About a month ago we had the explosion down here in the garage, without a doubt that was amphetamine production. Again neighbours report detecting smells and unusual activities occurring, but didn’t report it. They didn’t even report it to police once the explosion happened,” he says.

Gold Coast: The next fashion capital?

By Gabby Ruiz

It’s no secret the fashion business in Australia is growing at a fast pace. Big cities, such as Sydney and Melbourne, are leading the industry with shops, designers and fashion weeks. However, they aren’t alone. Small cities want their share of the market and they also have a lot to offer to this creative industry.

The Gold Coast is one of these rising fashion cities. This sunny coast represents summer and fun. This style can be seen in its sense of fashion and in the local shops and boutiques present in the different suburbs.IMG_1656 This sunny coast represents summer and fun. This style can be seen in its sense of fashion and in the local shops and boutiques present in the different suburbs. From Main Beach to Burleigh Heads and passing through Surfers Paradise and Broadbeach, you can find some of the finest and most unique shopping options in Australia. Each suburb has its particular style and taste, but all of them are trying, one way or another, to sell the local talent of Australian labels.

The local government even has support program for the creative arts such as film, fashion and music. The Business Gold Coast’s creative program provides support that’s estimated at more than $190 million annually. With more than thirty shopping centres it is not a surprise that the Gold Coast is a prime shopping destination. The retail industry on the Gold Coast takes strength from the region being a tourism target.

Recently, the Manufacturing Excellence Taskforce of Australia, better known as META, announced the creation of the Australian Made Clothing Hub in collaboration with the Council of Textile & Fashion Industries of Australia (TFIA) with the aim of increasing the amount of locally made clothing sold within the country. The managing director, Zoran Angelkovski, said to Manufacturers Monthly that clothing sales in Australian totalled $13 billion annually, and the hub would aim to increase the local manufacturers’ contribution by another three per cent, or $390 million.

The fashion locations

IMG_1665One of the prime shopping destinations of the Gold Coast is Marina Mirage in Main Beach. The beautiful waterfront shopping centre is located in one of the most iconic suburbs of the Gold Coast. It lies directly opposite the five star Sheraton Mirage Resort and Spa and just by crossing a little bridge you can be in the spectacular and exclusive Palazzo Versace Hotel. One of the most iconic boutiques in Marina Mirage is Adrenalin. Established for more than sixteen years, Adrenalin is a buzzing designer boutique stocking an amazing collection of women’s brands from the most wanted Australian labels.Screen Shot 2014-11-04 at 8.17.07 amDean McCauley, Managing Director, considers that the fashion scene in Gold Coast is evolving. “We are finding more and more people are interested in fashion as well as people moving to Queensland who follows fashion especially Australian designers that’s what we specialise in.” In this scenic shop, we can find the designs of talented Australian Designers such as Camila and Marc, Sass & Bide, Cameo and Ellery, among others. For McCauley, the prime input of the Gold Coast to the fashion business in Australia is the new emerging designers. “As long as the talent keeps coming through the Gold Coast, the spotlight on our talent will shine and get the attention from the other states.”

Walking through James St. in Burleigh Heads, is typical of the new “street shopping” scene on the coast. The shops, the delicious coffee and the feeling of being locally made create a relaxed vibe.  Stores offer the best Australian designs. Emte is one of them. Two entrepreneurial girls who wanted to showcase the Australian talent and inspire with creativity funded this boutique. Nowadays, just Emma Owens, one of the original founders, runs the boutique and Emte is a reflection of her personality and taste. “We have the amazing jewellery of local Gold Coaster Samantha Wills, who started at a market and now is internationally renowned. We also have Violet Gray that is designed by a local woman and has this down to earth vibe. The amazing watches of the Australian brand Status Anxiety are also in.” For Emma, it is important to support local business and brands. She feels the Gold Coaster shoppers are really interested and appreciative of local talent.

IMG_1658Another example of the new type of boutique you can find in James St. is Bikini and Me. Tanya Alexiou, the owner, is not a stranger to the clothing business. She created the boutique four years ago and the aim was to show the Australian design and create a sublime shopping experience. She believes the Internet has played a valuable role in the spreading the talent of local designers. “Up to five years ago we were a little behind compared with other cities, but now, with the Internet, I think we have a more global access and visibility. Consequently, the local talent can now show their creations and become known. We have now much more to offer than just swimwear fashion.” However, for Tanya, the most difficult part of the fashion businesses on Gold Coast is the existence of numerous shopping centres and she believes the city deserves more street shopping. “That is why James St. is so appealing and attractive.”IMG_1663

Big names in a small city

The big chains of fashion retailers have also targeted the Gold Coast. Zara was one of the first blockbuster international retailers to push into the Australian market a few years ago. This year, the Spanish retailer decided to open the first Queensland store and, instead of choosing Brisbane, they chose Robina Town Centre on the Gold Coast as their first location in the sunshine state.

So, how has this big and international chain of fast-fashion affected the local fashion business? For McCauley, the presence of these big stores, such as Zara, has cemented the fashion scene to grow on the Gold Coast. This way more and more customers can see the emerging trends coming through from overseas. “The only thing I hope is that people continue to support small business and Australian designers and high-quality products, otherwise our fashion industry will disappear which would be a disaster.” His main concern is that these overseas companies are not investing into the future of Australian businesses. For Owens, the presence of these big chains doesn’t mean a threat to her local boutique. She believes its´ just another good option for the customers but they will still shop for local designs.

The Robina Town Centre is one of the biggest shopping centres in Gold Coast and features the Gold Coast’s only David Jones department store as well as Myer, Australia’s largest Big W, Target, Kmart and over 350 specialty stores. Among these stores are most of the big names in Australia fashion industry such as Country Road, Cue, Kookai, Oroton, Portmans, Saba, Veronika Maine and many others. The latest trends and styles are displayed throughout the centre and one of the main focuses of the Shopping Centre is to become known as a fashion destination.

Another iconic shopping centre on the Gold Coast is Pacific Fair. It was one of the first shopping centres in Queensland and is now refreshing it its look in order to become a world-class shopping destination. The inversion is more than $670 million, which commenced in January 2014. With this renovation, Pacific Fair will be the largest shopping centre in Queensland and the fourth largest in Australia. Also, they announced a new David Jones on the Gold Coast.

Of course, the Gold Coast is not exempt of the luxury of the fashion world. For example, walking through Elkhorn Avenue, in Surfers Paradise, you can find a line-up of very prestigious boutiques. Louis Vuitton opened in this boutique in 2008 because for the brand, this was the best location in the city to consolidate the brand presence. As Oceania CEO, Philip Corne, commented to Gold Coast Business News, “Elkorn Avenue is starting to be the Rodeo Drive of Surfers Paradise.” Hermes, Gucci and Cartier are also showing their luxury creations in beautiful vitrines. In Main Beach, the Palazzo Versace Hotel contained the boutique Versace that showcase the last creations of the Italian brand.IMG_1664

Producing culture

But it is not all about business. There is also a rise in creative talent on the Gold Coast that goes hand by hand with the fashion business growth. Initiatives such as Rabbit & Cocoon and Sold Coast Project are exposing the talent and creativity of Goldcoasters. A fashion designer, a festival director and an art administrator  founded Rabbit & Cocoon with the aim of showcasing local talent. Nowadays, they have fourteen vibrant and distinctive warehouses where creative people build art practices, launch enterprises and stage public events. For the Sold Coast Project the aim is to amplify the cultural identity and work towards a vibrant, creative future for the Gold Coast.

For Shanene Ditton, member of the Centre for Cultural Research of the School of Humanities in Griffith University, the fashion business has emerged from the Gold Coast’s laid-back, sunny beach culture. “In contrast to metropolitan areas, many designers and artists on the Gold Coast are noticeably more relaxed with their style and artistic practice, reflecting the pace of their lifestyle and their natural surroundings.” Ditton believes the Gold Coast is now a thriving cultural hub, drawing artists and entrepreneurs alike. The Gold Coast presents a clean, open slate for artists and entrepreneurs to mould and transform as they wish. “The art scene on the Gold Coast is also particularly resilient, having emerged in resistance to the dominant representation of ‘sun, sand, surf and sex’.”

So what is the input of the Gold Coast to the Australian culture and fashion scene? Ditton agrees in that the beach spirit of the city is a fundamental part of the Australian culture and the creative talents of the Gold Coast can represent this national feeling of wishing sunny days and sandy airs. “In this way, Gold Coast fashion brings much to Australian culture—you just have to look at Paula Stafford’s bikini to see how much impact Gold Coast fashion can have on the Australian industry, and indeed the nation’s psyche.”

The Gold Coast has much more to offer than just bright sun and beaches to surf. The Gold Coast can be a fashion destination with its unique personality of relaxed vibe and the strength of street shopping. These uniqueness characteristics can attract fashion shoppers from all over the world and also within Australia. The talent shown and the presence of big and international fashion retailers can also mean that the city can stand strong next to the big cities such as Brisbane, Melbourne and Sydney. Who knows, with this fast growing pace someday the Gold Coast can be name as a fashion capital.