Sex, drugs and rock and roll: Australia's other boom
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Forget Australia's mining boom. The nation's strong economy, high currency and wages have made it a magnet for sex, drugs and rock and roll.
Foreign sex workers, drug smugglers and global rock acts are all targeting Australia to cash in on an economy growing at 3.1 percent when other developed nations are struggling to expand at all.
The alternative boom has emerged as Australian average full-time wages hit $72,500 a year, and with the Australian dollar trading stubbornly above parity with the US dollar for the past two years.
That has made Australia even more profitable for fly-in and fly-out rock acts and prostitutes, and especially for drug traffickers who are taking bigger risks with the hope of windfall profits.
"Offshore organised crime syndicates perceive Australia to have a robust economy and to have been less affected by the global financial crisis than other jurisdictions," said Paul Jevtovic, the Australian Crime Commission's executive director of intervention and prevention.
Australian police made 69,500 illicit drug busts in the year to June 30, 2012, the highest in a decade, and have made record arrests in the first six months of this financial year.
In recent months, police have intercepted drugs hidden in a 20-tonne steamroller and heavy machinery, in a large wooden altar, and they have broken up a drug ring involving smugglers in Australia, Japan and Vietnam.
One of the biggest smuggling operations was a failed bid to bring in more than 200 kg (440 lb) of cocaine across the Pacific Ocean from Ecuador on a 13-metre (40-foot) yacht, found grounded on a small atoll in Tonga with a dead crewman aboard. Australian police, who work closely with the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration and authorities throughout Asia and the South Pacific, said the high prices paid in Australia and the strong dollar all helped make the country attractive for