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Wednesday, 13 February 2013
Page: 1243


Mr ZAPPIA (Makin) (18:20): I rise to speak in support of the Customs Amendment (Anti-Dumping Commission) Bill 2013, and I welcome its introduction into the House. Dumping is becoming a major problem for Australian manufacturing industries and for Australian farmers and food producers. It will continue to be a problem, and become a more serious problem in the future, because of a changing global economy. The global economic downturn, and the widening gap between the cost of labour in Australia when compared with labour costs in many other countries, is going to continue to cause problems for industries within Australia. The global economic downturn has also led to two serious affects for Australian manufacturing and food-growers.

Firstly, the value of the Australian dollar has risen in response to Australia's more stable and stronger economy. Secondly, consumption has fallen across many countries, resulting in an overproduction of products and little demand for them from their previous markets. Australia is seen as a secure country in which to off-load goods when previous markets have dried up. It is also seen as a country to dump goods by industries who—because of the global financial downturn—are in financial difficulty and having a fire sale of their products.

In response to those threats, in June 2011 the government announced a series of reforms to protect Australian industries and Australian jobs. These were the most significant Customs reforms in more than a decade. The reforms will result in better access to the anti-dumping system, faster remedies and faster decisions, improved quality of decision making, greater consistency with other countries and stronger compliance with anti-dumping measures. Under the reforms a new anti-dumping commission will be established to investigate dumping complaints, improving the effectiveness and efficiency of our anti-dumping system. The anti-dumping system will be made easier for small- and medium-sized businesses to use; including by providing further funding for the International Trade Remedies Adviser to provide information, advice and support to small- and medium-sized enterprises.

Funding to Customs will be increased by $24.4 million so that it has the resources to deal with cases speedily and fairly, include almost doubling the number of investigators. Higher dumping duties can be imposed in cases where significant numbers of Australian small- or medium-sized enterprises are being injured by dumped goods. There will be speedier reviews, stronger remedies and higher penalties in cases where overseas producers or importers do not comply with, or deliberately circumvent, Australia's anti-dumping rules.

This bill implements three specific reforms. Firstly, the bill amends the definition of subsidy to more accurately reflect the language of article 1 of the Agreement on Subsidies and Countervailing Measures and to clarify that a subsidy is a financial contribution, income or price support that confers a benefit—whether directly or indirectly—in relation to the goods exported to Australia. The bill introduces a new section to provide that, where a countervailable subsidy has been received in respect of goods, the amount of the countervailable subsidy is determined by the minister in writing and should be worked out by reference to the units of those goods.

Secondly, the bill has amendments to deal with circumvention activities. Circumvention is a trade strategy used by the exporters and importers of products to avoid the full payment of dumping and countervailing duties. Circumvention behaviours take various forms, but they all aim to ensure that goods do not attract the intended dumping or countervailing duty. This bill will allow the minister to amend the original notice imposing the dumping or countervailing duty, including by extending the notice so that it applies to different goods, exporters and countries which were not specified in the original notice.

Thirdly, the bill deals with noncooperation in relation to dumping investigations, reviews or continuation inquiries. Schedule 3 also clarifies the provisions that deal with sampling in relation to dumping and countervailable subsidy inquiries and consolidates them into one provision. Sampling is currently undertaken for dumping and subsidy investigations. Sampling is also undertaken where the number of exporters who provide information is so large as to make a determination for each individual exporter impracticable. The minister may limit his or her examination to a selected number of exporters who are a statistically valid sample or who are responsible for the largest percentage of the volume of exports from the country in question that can reasonably be investigated.

Dumping is destroying Australian businesses and Australian jobs. Often when those jobs and industries are lost, they are lost forever. Competing on a level playing field is one thing, but competing with products that are sold below cost is another. That is what is happening. That is why this legislation is timely and why it will be welcomed by Australian industry and Australian workers.

I have had several representations about this matter from industries and residents within my electorate. One of the manufacturing industries that is currently being directly affected by alleged dumping is Tindo Solar, located in Mawson Lakes in the Makin electorate. I understand that Tindo is Australia's sole manufacturer of solar panels. The company began production in November 2011 and was officially opened by Prime Minister Julia Gillard on 26 October last year. At the time, Prime Minister Gillard, the Premier of South Australia, the Hon. Jay Weatherill, the Minister for Industry and Innovation, the Hon. Tom Koutsantonis, and I attended the official opening and were given a tour of the facilities. It is indeed an impressive manufacturing plant that I have no doubt can compete with plants around the world.

Tindo manufactures what the company refers to as 'technologically advanced, high-performing solar panels' and claims that it can compete with the real cost of solar panels that are being manufactured in China and other places. However, because of the glut of panels across the world—particularly in China—that are being dumped below cost on the Australian market, Tindo believes they are no longer competing on a fair and level playing field. They are confident of competing against real costs of manufacture but not when products are then sold below cost. That appears to be happening with respect to solar panels and, not surprisingly, we have seen the cost of panels come down in Australia. I suspect that part of the reason for that is because the allegations made by Tindo Solar are in fact true and that panels are being dumped on the Australian market at below cost. Proving that products are sold below cost is extremely difficult, particularly when those products are manufactured offshore in a country where we have no ability to carry out investigations.

Last year BlueScope Steel made similar claims about cheap imported steel coming in from Taiwan, South Korea, Japan and Malaysia, affecting production at the BlueScope Port Kembla plant and resulting in job losses. The member for Throsby referred to this matter in his own comments about this bill. Similar claims were made about paper imports from Indonesia and China and the effects they were having on the timber and pulp industries in the south-east of South Australia. I am well aware of the campaign that was raised at the time to try to prevent those cheap imports from coming in, because it was directly affecting output from the plants in the south-east of South Australia and in turn having a direct effect on South Australian jobs.

Concerns are also affecting our nation's food producers, and the member for Murray quite rightly referred to this concern. I have had several discussions with food producers who are not only competing at times with food produced overseas and being sold, in Australia or overseas, below cost but competing with food grown in countries where growers are provided with government tax breaks or government subsidies that do not apply here in Australia. Only last Sunday I spoke to a well-known South Australian winemaker, who raised with me his concerns about the unfair competition Australian winemakers are now facing from overseas produced wine.

The unfairness relates not only to the Australian market but to overseas markets that Australian winemakers were previously exporting to. Trying to stamp out dumping of products in Australia is one thing; competing with them when they are being dumped in a market in another country, but a market that our own producers have relied on in the past, is another—and perhaps a much more difficult matter to deal with. Nevertheless, it is happening. And it is happening because right now, as a result of the global financial crisis, there are companies around the world that are seeking to offload their products—products that in many cases they have in storage and are holding on to at below cost in order to recoup some money on them.

Additionally, our growers are continually having to compete with an oversupply of products resulting from good seasons in other countries. That is another concern that is very difficult to control but that nevertheless sees products being dumped both here in Australia and overseas in markets where growers are competing to have their products sold. In fact, I have also spoken with several fresh food growers and vegetable growers who are telling me that they equally are now facing serious difficulty as a result of fresh food coming into this country. There is no question in their minds that these products are being sold in Australia below cost.

This legislation will not resolve all the problems I have eluded to, but it is indeed a step in the right direction. It is a step that, as I said at the outset, industries and workers in this country will welcome. It is a step that closes some of the gaps, some of the holes, and enables Australia to better control products that are coming into the country and being sold at below cost. It is a step that does a great deal to protect the jobs of Australian people and the businesses that employ those people. In my own electorate there are about 8,000 people who work in manufacturing. Manufacturing is one of the industry sectors that is most at risk as a result of products being dumped into this country. If this legislation can act in any way to safeguard any of the industries or the jobs of those 8,000 people I refer to—or in fact the one million around the country who are also employed in manufacturing—then it will be worthwhile. I commend the legislation to the House.