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Wednesday, 9 May 2012
Page: 4406

Mrs MIRABELLA (Indi) (10:02): I rise to speak on the Customs Tariff (Anti-Dumping) Amendment Bill (No.1) 2012 and the Customs Amendment (Anti-dumping Improvements) Bill (No.2) 2012. I note that these bills represent the third tranche of changes introduced by the government to give effect to the antidumping announcements it made in the middle of last year. So, appreciating that it may drag out this debate for far longer than is necessary, I do not intend to restate many of the points and arguments that I have made on each of the recent previous occasions that antidumping has been the subject of debate in the House and the Federation Chamber.

Suffice it to say that the coalition does, again, intend to give its support to the government on each of these two bills. In fact, we have been pushing for revisions to the antidumping regime since before the 2010 election—in other words, from long before the government finally announced its own changes. We have consistently said that we support changes to the current antidumping regime wherever those changes are sensible and practical. And we are happy to accept that this tranche of legislation meets those tests.

We are glad, in particular, to support the changes that give the minister a wider ambit and range of options in applying duties to goods that are considered to have been dumped in Australia. If the removal of limitations upon the calculation of the so-called 'normal value' of the relevant good or goods works as I think the government intends, that is also a positive step. We also have no problem with altering the minister's powers in such a way as to provide more scope and flexibility for antidumping duties to be extended beyond their originally nominated termination date. That said, we need to be very careful that that particular amendment is not ultimately used as an excuse for procrastinating and delay, because it is critically important for all of us to recognise that some of the current processes are simply too slow and cumbersome and undermine the very purpose of an antidumping regime in the first place. Anything that potentially adds to that problem of the slow and cumbersome culture is obviously a step backwards. On that note and at the risk of repeating myself again from earlier debates, I also want to make the point that the coalition believes it is critical that those administering Australia's antidumping dumping system be provided with new resources, not money shifted into the branch from other areas of Customs and especially not at a time when large cuts have already been made to other areas of the agency, including some of the deepest cuts in its history in last night's budget.

The important thing that a government can do in the first instance in the area of effective antidumping policy is provide an appropriate level of administrative support because it is that step more than any other which will help to bring cases to a speedy resolution, including by increasing the opportunity to use preliminary affirmative determinations. Just in passing, I also want to quickly note that clause 9 of the explanatory memorandum for the Customs Tariff (Anti-Dumping) Amendment Bill says:

The purpose of this Bill is to amend the Dumping Duty Act to make it easier to understand and less complex.

With that in mind, I would suggest in good faith to the government and to the relevant officers from Customs that they may want to have a look at the wording of some of the clauses and references in the explanatory memorandum—in particular, I think they may want to revisit clause 7.1 of the explanatory memorandum for the Customs Amendment (Anti-dumping Improvements) Bill No. 2. I may well have overlooked or misunderstood or misinterpreted something but, on the face of it, I think some words may be missing from that sentence or, at the very least, some words may need to be changed in order to clarify the precise meaning of that clause for most people who come to read and try and understand what it means. As it stands, at least to my eyes, the first part of the sentence does not make sense and that is in addition to a small problem with pluralisation in the last part of the sentence as well.

On the first page of that same explanatory memorandum there is also a reference to where the regulation impact statement for the bill can supposedly be found. But if I am reading that wording exactly, it says that statement can be found in the explanatory memorandum for yet another bill. And then to complicate matters it gives what I think is the wrong title of that other bill. On top of that, the explanatory memorandum for the bill to which, I can only presume, it is referring does not seem to contain a regulation impact statement anyway. So when we are dealing with quite complex legislation and when one of the clearly stated aims of these changes is to make things easier to understand, confused drafting like this does not help.

Not delving all that far back into history, there were many examples of poor drafting and poorly chosen wording in explanatory memoranda. For example, the infamous recent bills in the innovation portfolio that the government used to erroneously change the R&D tax concession into a R&D tax credit. Given the horrible confusion and severely botched processes to which all of that has ultimately contributed—and I might add to which there is still no clarity in many areas—I would urge the minister and Customs in the strongest possible terms to steer violently away from that type of drafting.

I would like to restate the coalition support for each of these bills and to say that we will happily stand ready to continue to make a range of very practical, very sensible improvements to Australia's antidumping arrangements to ensure that they are accessible and that they are effective in preventing goods being dumped in Australia. That is the very least that industry expects—just a system that actually works and that is not too expensive or too complicated to access. Indeed, if we are privileged enough to be elected to government at the next election we look forward very much to the potential opportunity as a coalition to implement the antidumping policy we announced publicly in November of last year, which has received widespread industry acclaim.