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Wednesday, 17 August 2011
Page: 8385

Mr HARTSUYKER (Cowper) (17:16): I welcome the opportunity to speak on the Customs Amendment (Anti-dumping Improvements) Bill 2011 because it is a particularly important industry reform. It is vitally important that we protect our manufacturing industries from unfair competition. This legislation makes some meaningful improvements to our antidumping regime. We should be aiming towards a regime that allows our manufacturers to access good protections without undue cost or undue delays. Under the present regime, where it is very cumbersome and very untimely to counter the effects of dumping, our manufacturers are being greatly disadvantaged.

In my electorate, our many manufacturers are concerned with the issue of dumping—and I do welcome the reforms in this legislation. On 8 August, I welcomed the member for Indi, the shadow minister for innovation, industry and science, to my electorate. We met with a range of manufacturers and discussed a range of issues of importance to them. That visit was held at the premises of WE Smith Hudson, an innovative manufacturer of pressure vessels in my electorate. They employ some 90 employees. They have reduced staff fairly recently due to a downturn in orders, but they still maintain a staff of around 90. They produce world-class equipment, particularly in the area of heat exchangers, and they raised a number of important issues with the shadow minister and me.

One of the main issues that they raised was the ineffectiveness of our current local content laws, where a range of projects are required to have a certain set percentage of local content, but unfortunately it is possible for those laws to be circumvented by certain operators, who incorporate parts of the structure which are groundworks and are actually considered to be part of the local content. They raised with us the very important issue that, where you had local content requirements, they had to relate to the equipment itself and not to the preparatory work and groundworks that might be a necessary accompaniment to the equipment but really could not be imported anyway. If you have a local content requirement, it is vitally important that it is effective, and WE Smith Hudson raised the very important point that the current local content rules certainly did not pass that effectiveness test because purchases of equipment were able to incorporate the groundworks as part of the local content. Clearly that was not the intent of the legislation, but it has been the practical effect.

Another issue that WE Smith Hudson raised with us during that visit was the fact that many overseas countries are subsidising their manufacturers in competing with Australian manufacturers. Countries in Europe, for instance, are subsidising the cost of transport of their equipment to Australia for the purposes of incorporation in resource projects. I think that is a very important issue; it is not a level playing field for our local manufacturers. We are losing manufacturing jobs at the rate of around 620 every week and we need to look to ensure that our world-class manufacturing industry is not being disadvantaged by unfair competition, either through the failure of the effectiveness of the local content laws or through our industries having to compete with unfair subsidies being provided by countries in Asia and Europe.

Also the issue was raised with us of the fact that many countries preclude our manufacturers from competing in their markets. It is a source of great concern and it is costing us jobs. A firm like WE Smith Hudson has incredible skills—the match of anywhere in the world and better than most countries in the world—and incredible intellectual property, but in many cases it is disadvantaged in the markets that it wishes to compete in.

During that visit by the shadow minister, we spoke to a range of other manufacturers and the story was the same. Dealing with unfair competition, rising costs and government induced overheads was making it more difficult for them to compete in markets where imports are benefiting from a strong Australian dollar and cheaper labour costs. It is making it very difficult for those manufacturers to compete and to continue to employ people. I commend the shadow minister on coming to my electorate and sharing her time and discussing with my local manufacturers their concerns.

I commend the work that she did in discussing with WE Smith Hudson their specific concerns in relation to the very specialised pressure vessel markets and the challenges they faced with regard to the ineffectiveness of the local content laws and dealing with subsidised overseas competitors. They also raised the issue of infrastructure. The pressure vessels which they produce are massive in size and in many cases they are limited in transporting them on the current road infrastructure because of load limits on bridges. Another important factor that we need to incorporate in our transport policy is measures in relation to load limits so that we can transport large objects that are manufactured locally along our roads and get those goods to market.

I commend this legislation for the improvements that it makes to the antidumping regime. I know that much more needs to be done in this area. I commend the bill to the House.