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Tuesday, 16 October 1984
Page: 1784


Senator PETER RAE(8.47) —I hope it will be realised by all of those who are interested in the welfare of Australia that we have just seen a situation in which, with a combination of the Australian Labor Party and the Australian Democrats, there has been a vote for more taxation or continued taxation of the coal industry in Australia as opposed to the Liberal Party of Australia and National Party of Australia coalition policy for the removal of the export duty which has been holding back the development of Australia's coal industry. I do not want it to be misunderstood by those who may have been confused by the variety of amendments that were moved that the effect was that the Democrats and the Australian Labor Party wanted to get together to ensure that there was a continuation of a form of taxation on the export of coal from Australia, which we believe should now be removed because of the deleterious effect it is having upon employment and Australia's competitive position--


Senator Gietzelt —This sounds like an election speech.


Senator PETER RAE —I thank Senator Gietzelt. I am glad to know that he is still alive. I had begun to wonder. It was a good interjection and it showed great perspicacity. We have been subjected to election speeches in almost every answer that has been given by almost every Minister, except Senator Gietzelt, who does not get any questions other than dorothy dixers, which he organises and reads. Let me say that the Opposition believes that the time has come when we need to do a number of things in Australia, including making more effective and competitive our coal export industry and making more effective and efficient our Australian Customs Service. One of the things referred to in so many parts of the three Bills with which we are dealing is the Australian Customs Service. We believe there needs to be a determination to take all such measures as are necessary to protect Australia from the damaging effects of dumping, of improper transfer pricing and other unfair destabilising trading actions by other nations . This will involve a further upgrading of the role of the Australian Customs Service. We see that as necessary and highly desirable. We believe that not only is it necessary to take steps to ensure the maintenance of an efficient and professional Customs Service with an effective liaison with the police and other investigative and enforcement agencies but also that we need further to continue our review of the Service in the context of the Mahoney report on the Review of Customs Administration and Procedures to endeavour to improve the interrelationship for standards and quality testing purposes of government and authorised private sector laboratories to streamline and expedite Customs clearance of imported goods. Further reference to this aspect needs to be considered in relation to the whole question of Customs standards in Australia. We need the development of a more streamlined system of standards. We need to undertake a modernisation of the whole Customs Act to bring it more into line with current international and Australian commercial and trading practices, legal concepts and judicial systems.

Concern has been expressed by sections of the community in relation to the claim that there is a significant incidence of misclassification of imported goods which has the effect of lowering the rate of duty. We believe that it is necessary to take steps to improve the checking procedures and policing of those requirements which are in force. We believe that it is necessary to continue to pay particular attention to the role of the Customs Service in relation to the prevention of the trafficking of drugs in Australia. That is becoming very significant in our community, making it very important to upgrade our Australian Customs Service in that regard.

We also believe that the coastal surveillance role which has been downgraded by the present Government needs to be upgraded and made more efficient. We believe that a number of steps are necessary to assist Customs and the remainder of the enforcement agencies to ensure that drug trafficking and other breaches of laws relating to our coastal areas cannot take place with the impunity which appears to be the case. I relate that to the explanation given by the Foreign Minister ( Mr Hayden) that there was not a spy flight over East Timor but probably somebody just making an unlawful drug flight at the time. No further action appears to have been taken by the Government in relation to that. The Government appears to have had no interest in that matter. We do not believe that this is a tolerable situation.

We believe that action has to be taken to make sure that this country is protected from unlawful flights into Australia and unlawful fishing expeditions which haul up large quantities of heroin and other drugs. I can only say that the Australian Customs Service is fighting a battle with an inadequate armoury at the moment. We would propose to make sure that its armoury is upgraded to enable it to better carry out the tasks it has to do. I say that appropriate to the variety of matters contained in the Customs Tariff Bills with which we are dealing. I thank the Senate for the opportunity of making those few comments. I complete my remarks by saying that I trust that people did note that it was the Australian Democrats who wanted to consider further taxing the coal industry.