Cashed-up tradies blow pay bump on cocaine

Jarrod Brown
By Jarrod Brown
4 Min Read

New research has exposed Aussie tradies as the latest cash cows for cocaine dealers who used to target highly paid white collar professions.

Data recently released by Flinders University revealed that the number of blue collar trade workers, like plumbers, carpenters and electricians, dabbling in the ‘booger sugar’ has doubled in recent years. 

According to researchers Alice McEntee, Ann Roche, and Susan Kim, male tradies aged 18 to 24 have become the largest market for cocaine in the country, with one in eight having admitted to using the drug.

Publishing their academic findings based on the National Drug Strategy Household Survey (NDSHS), which collects information about illicit drug use as well as alcohol and tobacco consumption among Aussies, the group found that the number of tradies who were using cocaine was almost one in ten. 

The research also found that the number of people consuming cocaine in Australia is now four times as high as the number of people who used the drug in 2004. 

Herald Sun journalist Steven Drill, who conducted a worldwide investigation into the 180 billion dollar cocaine industry, said the worrying statistics are thanks to a rise in tradie wages affording workers the choice to buy up the drug, which has a street value of $300 a gram.

“The trades now are the richest people in town,” Drill told radio show 3AW earlier this week. 

“You’re being paid 206 thousand dollars a year to work on the Big Build jobs just to do a stop-and-go sign, and if you are actually a skilled tradie, 300, even 350 (thousand) is not out of the realms. Cocaine and drug dealers go where the money is.”

Massive pay deals brokered by unions have recently bolstered weekly earnings for workers on construction sites across the country, with sites in Queensland, Victoria and New South Whales in particular awarding workers record-high wages.

According to Drill, builders in the industry say they’ve seen cocaine replace marijuana as the leading drug responsible for tradies failing random drug tests on the job site. 

“Even though cocaine doesn’t stay in your system for as long as marijuana does, it’s being picked up now,” he added. 

“The CFMEU say there’s no safety issues… But there’s a question of how often are these drug tests done and are they done effectively.”

In response to the findings, CFMEU National Secretary Zach Smith said the health and safety of workers in the industry will always be the main priority, and the construction sector should not be singled out. 

“Demonising workers in one of Australia’s most dangerous industries is completely unfair given cocaine use is obviously not isolated to any industry,” Mr Smith told Newscorp. 

The latest NDSHS survey found that almost 2.9 million Aussies aged over 14 have used cocaine, with one million people reportedly using it in the past 12 months – making it the second most used illicit drug behind marijuana.

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Jarrod Brown combines his background in journalism, copywriting and digital marketing with a lifelong passion for storytelling. He has a strong passion for new and emerging consumer technology within the building sector. He lives on the Sunshine Coast - usually found glued to the deck of a surfboard.