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Wednesday, 4 June 2008
Page: 4626


Ms SAFFIN (6:55 PM) —I speak in favour of the Customs Legislation Amendment (Modernising) Bill 2008. It does what its long title suggests: modernises customs legislation in a few key areas. This bill will, when law, give effect to the recommendations of the first ministerial review, in July 2004, of the Singapore-Australia Free Trade Agreement. Importers will be relieved of some cumbersome and unnecessary documentation that is required to be presented to Customs when exporters claim preferential rates and duty on imported goods. It gives recognition to modern employment practices in the customs broker industry by removing outdated requirements in the Customs Act that prohibit single customs brokers from being employed by more than one brokerage at the same time. It limits the period of recovery of customs duty to four years in all cases except those of fraud or evasion where, correctly, no time limit applies. This brings it into line with the existing regime for the recovery of indirect taxes. It also clarifies the process for making a payment of customs duty under protest. So it makes it clear, puts it beyond some doubt and spells out the requirements quite clearly.

The legislation will amend the Customs Act to ensure that any false or misleading information provided using the newly introduced SmartGate solution is covered by the existing offence provisions related to making false or misleading statements to an officer of Customs. I take it that the existing offence provisions are still able to be invoked but that this puts the matter beyond doubt. I also take it that the minister would be able to clarify that for me.

In summary, the bill reflects the new certificate of origin requirements for the Singapore-Australia Free Trade Agreement. It updates the broker licensing provisions, modernises the provisions relating to duty recovery and payment under protest and makes it an offence to make false or misleading declarations in using the new SmartGate automated passenger processing system. It does what its long title says: modernises customs law.