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Wednesday, 9 May 2012
Page: 4420

Mr KEENAN (Stirling) (11:04): I rise to talk on the Customs Tariff Amendment (Schedule 4) Bill 2012. The purpose of this bill is to make amendments to the Customs Tariff Act 1995, which will repeal and replace schedule 4 of that act. Schedule 4 currently lists 100 concessional items. Under the changes they will be reduced and consolidated to approximately 55. The aim is to improve clarity and usability, particularly for industry and business.

Despite yesterday's budget, demonstrating no plan to build a stronger economy, repay debt or create secure jobs, we are glad that the government has seen the sense of picking up the coalition's plans to cut red tape and this bill looks like one of the few ways in which Labor will make any progress on reducing red tape for small business and industry.

As the bill will help reduce complexity and red tape for small business and industry, it does have the support of the coalition. The list of concessions within the legislation has grown over many years, becoming increasingly complex to administer and difficult for users to understand. The required changes which have been made relate to concessions which have been in place for many decades; many items which were introduced when general tariff rates were much higher than current rates; and 14 government agencies with policy responsibility for various items.

Clearly, greater complexity places greater compliance burdens on business and that, in turn, leads to increased costs and generally those costs will be passed on to consumers. When moves are made to reduce complexity, such as within this bill, they will always get the support of the opposition. Of course, complexity can also create the ability for mistakes to be made. The more complex we make regulations, the more likely businesses are to make mistakes in interpreting those regulations. This change is obviously a step in the right direction to help business have a greater understanding of concessional rates that are available on tariffs.

The amendments are the result of a review which focused on removing unnecessary complexity from the existing schedule by simplifying existing arrangements and removing obsolete items.

Recommendations put forward by the review are sensible and are supported by the coalition. They include removing items which are either redundant or rarely used; consolidating, where possible, those items that have similar coverage and explaining them more clearly; reviewing and removing obsolete by-laws that list goods under certain items in schedule 4; and placing similar items together in the structure of a revised schedule 4. These recommendations will make that schedule more user friendly and, as I said, reduce unnecessary complexity.

Red tape and, increasingly, green tape are strangling the prosperity of small and larger businesses in Australia. Their impact is increasingly significant and any moves that this parliament takes to deal with it in a sensible way should certainly be welcomed. The coalition always supports measures—and wholeheartedly—which make it easier for people to do business. That enables them to therefore grow stronger, create more jobs and contribute to our national economy.

I believe that the issue of red tape and green tape must be seriously addressed by this parliament. This bill is welcome because it does do that. The work that this parliament needs to do in tackling what, quite frankly, is the monster of red tape is far from having begun. We in the coalition are very serious about doing something about it. If you are going to do something about it, then you actually need to make drastic cuts to red and green tape. We will make those cuts and it will be part of our policy going forward. I commend this bill. It takes a small step along that road. But of course there is so much more for this parliament to do to take that enormous burden, which we have created legislatively over decades, away from business and industry.