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Thursday, 14 February 2013
Page: 1393


Mr McCORMACK (Riverina) (09:34): One thing which really strikes at the heart of this Customs Amendment (Anti-Dumping Commission) Bill 2013 is this morning's front-page news of the discussions being had by the coalition's Dams Water Management Task Group. We need to build more dams and develop better water infrastructure. It is one thing having an Anti-Dumping Commission as this bill allows, but we also need, as a nation, to be able to grow more produce to deter international competitors from dumping their unwanted fruit and vegetables here. By constructing more water storage we would be able to have water when we need it, not just when it rains, to ensure supply lines are maintained.

Australia presently uses just six per cent of its available water resources, three per cent less than the world average. If we increased our use to match the world average, similar to that of North America, Australia could double its food production to feed more than 100 million people. Imagine that. The need for an Anti-Dumping Commission would still be there, obviously, but our growers, especially those wonderful, hardworking yet often underrated ones in the Riverina, would not have the absolute necessity to be constantly looking over their shoulders wondering how to compete against cheap imports flooding our domestic markets. There would be regular demand for our products and the awful practice of ripping out citrus trees or churning fresh fruit into the ground would not be necessary. Our reliability would improve, even during drought, and more people would be less hungry in many of the nations around us. Surely that would be a desirable thing. The Nationals have long championed the need for more dams, not just for increased food production and drought-proofing but also for flood mitigation, given Australia's contrasting climate.

Under this anti-dumping legislation before the House, the government will empower the new commission to investigate breaches and to address some of the many stakeholder concerns with the impracticality of current provisions and the significant complexities and costs associated with accessing the system. Such concerns are broadly shared by the coalition. We have long been concerned that the present system is widely considered too costly to access and is unworkable in its present form.

Disgracefully, its processes also demand a greater burden of proof on local industries than their foreign competitors, and that is an absolute shame.

The bill's intention is to establish a commission to inherit, from the International Trade Remedies Branch of Customs, the responsibility for investigating and pursuing antidumping cases. Assuming the bill is passed, the government will also direct additional funding of $24.4 million to antidumping administration, although, probably not surprisingly, it is not yet clear from where this money is coming. Nothing unusual, I guess, about that, given this Labor government's history in that respect.

The commission's establishment, and to inject new funding into the system, has generally received solid support from Australian manufacturers. This is principally because they believe that the move will help to enhance the quality of antidumping investigations and increase the focus on an issue which is increasingly hurting a range of Australian businesses, including as I said those good fruit growers and citrus producers of the Riverina. However, it should be noted Labor is essentially playing catch up with the coalition. As part of our policy—

Mr Laurie Ferguson: Very neat that, very neat.

Mr McCORMACK: Yes, you are once again playing catch-up. Yes, I can hear the interjection, and indeed you are.

As part of our policy announcement of 7 November 2011, we said that the provision of extra resourcing for antidumping administration was a critical step in enabling improvements to the system. More resourcing will surely lead to the use of stronger interpretations and evidence in prosecuting dumping cases. In short, we believe what it is most urgently needed is a substantial improvement in the quality of the economic and legal analysis which underpins Australia's antidumping investigations to protect our to protect our own. Therefore, I urge that this bill be passed. (Time expired)