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Wednesday, 24 March 1999
Page: 4167


Mrs GASH (9:53 AM) —These two legislative proposals, the Customs (Anti-Dumping Amendments) Bill 1998 and the Customs Tariff (Anti-Dumping) Amendment Bill (No. 2) 1998 , are designed to clarify the ability of personnel to investigate and analyse claims of dumping with a sound standardised methodology whilst making determinations on a case by case basis. They also ensure that moneys collected in the interim, once the likelihood of dumping is established, without reference to magnitude, can be collected and retained while the investigation is completed and the report is prepared, presented and action recommended.

Interim duties have been collected since 1 January 1993 and now total approximately $12 million. Recent legal opinion has denied personnel the authority they previously took from certain sections of various acts involved in determining normal value, dumping, causal links and government ownership by remaining with the narrowest limits of the legislation. This severely restricted the ability of depart mental officers to perform the tasks required of them.

It is important that the personnel authorised to carry out investigations be allowed to do so quickly and with agreed and standardised procedures so their inquiries take the shortest possible time to determine that a case does exist and that interim measures can be applied immediately. To this end, the Customs Tariff (Anti-Dumping) Amendment Bill (No. 2) 1998 seeks to clarify the manner in which the interim dumping and countervailing duties are collected. The major point to consider is that the interim duties can be collected pending final assessment even though normal value and export price may not have been determined.

This bill is important for two main reasons. Firstly, there has been some $12 million collected in interim dumping and countervailing duties, as I said, since 1 January 1993, and that requires protection from legal challenge. Secondly, affected businesses such as the Shoalhaven Paper Mill—one of the major employers in the region—in my electorate of Gilmore, need fast protection in the form of interim duties to ensure they remain viable and do not suffer more harm whilst the investigation is proceeding.

Currently, the Shoalhaven Paper Mill is about to shut down for another two weeks, forcing its employees, once again, to take holidays—holidays that are fast running out as shutdowns have been happening for about the past four years. These shutdowns allow the market to take up the oversupply of fine quality paper that is produced in Gilmore. My point is that one of those major industries whose viability is closely tied to fluctuations and demand in the marketplace will quickly be adversely affected by the dumping of competing goods, as has happened in past years. As such, it needs the protection of duties applied to suspected dumped goods in the interim between initial investigations, the completion of the report and the adoption of the report's recommendations. Without this amending legislation, Shoalhaven Paper Mill could close for much longer than a fortnight.

As mentioned earlier, these interim measures were introduced in 1993. That is why the proposed amendments are to be taken as having commenced on 1 January 1993. Importers who were operating at that time will not be required to pay more dumping duty than was demanded during the period since 1 January 1993.

The other related piece of legislation, the Customs (Anti-Dumping Amendments) Bill 1998, is needed to amend the Customs Act 1901. These amendments will allow an investigation to distinguish and treat differently goods exported from a country whose economy is in transition. The transition mentioned relates to the movement from a command economy to a market economy. During this transition many circumstances are changing, including the relationship of the government of the day with the goods produced in that country.

In a command economy the government controls what is produced at what cost, and also determines the final selling prices. In a market economy the marketplace determines the selling price which drives the viability of the cost price. Producers create the types of goods they believe will sell on the market and succeed or fail according to the realism of that belief. To change the economic structure from command to market obviously entails a cultural shift of some magnitude, regardless of the machinery involved. Until the culture of that country has changed sufficiently and the mechanisms for the transition are appropriately designed and introduced, many opportunities for the retention of partial government control exist.

While this may be necessary to ease the pain that is often associated with large-scale change, it poses difficulties for those trying to identify normal values or actual export prices. This is important to Australian industry because dumping occurs when products from one country are exported to another country at prices less than their normal value. Normal values that are being artificially generated through government control of pricing or raw materials used are of no use for the determination of dumping activity. Analysis of government influence over normal value was exercised under section 269TAC of the Customs Act 1901. However, recent legal advice has indicated that the provisions of that section of the act are limited to countries whose trade is almost totally controlled by government and whose prices are almost totally controlled by government as well.

Countries in a state of transition usually have some industries and individual companies privatised and others still under government control. Prices vary from market driven to government controlled according to the status of the industry or specific businesses. The strict limitations of that section preclude officers of the department from attempting to determine normal values or actual export prices of goods from a country in a state of transition by utilising the selling prices in a third or surrogate country under section 269TAC of the Customs Act 1901, hence the proposed amendments.

These amendments provide a standardised methodology for the treatment of countries in transition to market economies to determine the normal value of goods allegedly being dumped in Australia, firstly, where the selling price is subject to government control; and, secondly, where a raw material input into the goods accounts for more than 10 per cent of the cost of producing the goods. These amendments allow for a case by case approach to the investigation of claims of alleged dumping of goods. If the minister is satisfied that the exporter's domestic selling prices of the product under investigation are subject to government control, normal values may be ascertained by reference to other relevant information, which may include the selling price of like goods in a surrogate country.

If the minister could only treat an economy in transition as a market economy, because its status does not fall within the narrow confines of section 269TAC of the Customs Act 1901, it would prove a great disadvantage to Australian industries and businesses. This is because under that treatment the playing field, in terms of determination of `normal value', would be grossly tilted in favour of the country allegedly dumping goods on the Australian market. With the passage of this amendment bill, an economy in transition whose government in all probability will exercise control over some prices, some industries and some raw materials—all of which can affect the determination of a realistic normal value—will have its status recognised and will be treated accordingly.

That Gilmore has a paper mill, the Shoalhaven Paper Mill, has alerted the local community to the process and impact of imported goods being dumped on the Australian market at prices lower than the retail price on their own domestic market. As mentioned earlier, the mill is a major employer in Nowra and surrounding districts. The employees have experienced several shutdowns through fluctuations in demand for fine paper. The staff and management of the mill are an innovative and enthusiastic group of people who work extremely hard to keep the mill improving its market share. To say that every employee is a sales agent for the Shoalhaven Paper Mill would be an understatement.

For instance, for the second time there is an exhibition of the diverse quantity and quality of Australian made paper right here in Parliament House. The exhibition's theme is `Imagine a World Without Print'. The Shoalhaven Paper Mill is the sole producer of specialty papers in this country. Fine quality stationery papers, embossed papers and cards are made there. My constituents at the mill have also produced a special stationery paper with a Parliament House watermark for the exclusive use of members and senators, and this can also be viewed at the exhibition. They have even recruited me to the sales staff, as you can see. So do yourselves a favour and have a look at the special quality paper produced by the Shoalhaven Paper Mill and buy some of the Parliament House watermark paper, some cards ready for all occasions and plenty of specialty paper. Please, keep my people in business.

I urge you at all times to think before you order and to ask for Australian made paper; resist and report any cheap import. The government's record of assisting business under threat of possible dumping action is already well documented. Last year the federal coalition cut the maximum time for investigation and report to 155 days, with interim measures to be applied after 60 days. This government has acted.

The new provisions for this timetable have already been successfully applied, twice that I know of, in the paper industry. This government's solutions are working. Business is becoming confident that the government is working with them to establish sound and timely management practice in relation to allegedly dumped imports. Again, I can use the Shoalhaven Paper Mill as an example. The staff and management have joined forces to form a group called PACT, which is a lobby group for the mill. Its role is to educate people, wherever they are, on the paper making industry, its particular requirements, its difficulties and the need for a united approach in business.

Along with introducing the measures contained in these bills, the federal coalition is committed to providing a united approach to difficulties experienced in the business sector through the dumping of goods on the Australian market. However, there is no point in protecting Australian industry from unfair advantages enjoyed by importers if Australians will not support their own industries.

To lead the way, I urge the Australian government, members and senators and their staff, federal departments and their staff, reporters in the press gallery and their supply managers back at the office or printery to buy Australian made paper only, preferably from the Shoalhaven Paper Mill. Do practise asking for Australian paper. I commend the legislation to the House.

The Customs (Anti-Dumping Amendments) Bill 1998 is needed to amendment the Customs Act of 1901. These amendments will allow an investigation to distinguish and treat differently goods exported from a country whose economy is in transition. The transition mentioned relates to the movement from a command economy to a market economy. During this transition many circumstances are changing, including the relationship of the government of the day with the goods produced in that country.

These amendments will provide certainty to industry through a standardised methodology for the treatment of countries in transition to market economies to determine the normal value of goods allegedly being dumped in Australia, firstly, where the selling price is subject to government control; and, secondly, where a raw material input into the goods accounts for more than 10 per cent of the cost of producing the goods. These amendments allow for a case by case approach to the investigation of claims of alleged dumping of goods. This ensures that individual requirements of industries or specific companies can be met. The amendments also ensure that Australian industries receive fair treatment and that influences on economies in transition are identified and weighted accordingly.

The Customs Tariff (Anti-Dumping) Amendment Bill (No. 2) 1998 seeks to clarify the manner in which interim dumping and countervailing duties are collected. The major point to consider is that interim duties can be collected pending final assessment, even though normal value and export price may not have been determined. This protects Australian jobs.