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Thursday, 19 October 2017
Page: 8046


Senator XENOPHON (South Australia) (12:52): I too, on behalf of my colleagues, support the Customs Amendment (Anti-Dumping Measures) Bill 2017. This bill will improve our antidumping regime, but for too long our antidumping regime has been too weak in this country. We have not ensured that Australian industry can compete on a level playing field with those countries that dump goods on our shores. The dumping and, in effect, foreign government subsidisation of goods exported to Australia hurt Australian manufacturers, producers and jobs, and we must do everything we can to stop it.

There are opportunistic and predatory exporters who dump such goods and who look for weak international targets that don't enforce their WTO rights. For too long, Australia has been seen as a soft target for those who want to dump goods on our shores. We've been seen as a soft touch for predatory practices and, in effect, an easy dumping ground for those who seek to bend and break WTO rules. So I support this bill.

The administrative measures that Senator Collins referred to are welcome. The government is doing the right thing in terms of these measures, but there are other things that need to be done, and I want to put that on the public record. Initiating and prosecuting an antidumping claim can be arduous and expensive. That's why there ought to be an independent advocacy and advisory service, similar to the previous International Trade Remedies Advisory Service, to assist those small and medium enterprises to determine whether a prima facie case of dumping and countervailing subsidies or duty circumvention exists and to help them prepare those applications.

There was a case I was involved in some time ago, advocating for a small Australian business with about 30 employees. They were quoted a million dollars in legal fees to run an antidumping case. That's why we need to have that service to help those small manufacturers and those small and medium enterprises to prepare these complex applications.

The current application process to complain about dumping has been criticised as extremely complex, expensive and bureaucratic by those in industry that I have spoken to. We need to adopt a simplified application process for SMEs. That is essential. The European Commission's approach would still satisfy the need to be WTO compliant but would reduce the burden on the Australian industry applicant to ensure that we don't have extraneous and irrelevant information, that we get to the core of the issues in terms of a dumping claim.

The shift to a European Commission inquisitorial style process would see the commissioner drawing out the relevant merits of the case without placing a blanket burden on Australian businesses. That is why we need to do that. We need to make is simpler for Australian businesses because they're up against these companies that dump these goods. Sometimes it costs them an absolute fortune in terms of legal fees. But what it costs them in terms of the impact it has on their businesses can be disastrous. We need to have an increased focus on countervailable subsidy investigations, and the Anti-Dumping Commission needs the resources to do that. As Australia has become more effective in investigating the dumping of imported goods causing material injury to Australian producers, the role of countervailable subsidies has continued to grow; and that's one way of circumventing the antidumping regimes.

Consistent with the recommendations of the 2012 Brumby review into antidumping arrangements, the Anti-Dumping Commissioner needs to further address the shortage of staff with appropriate skill sets to execute his functions. The increased use of independent non-government experts, especially during exporter verification visits, needs to be implemented as a matter of urgency; and the power to collect any shortfall in duty payable needs to be addressed immediately. The current optional duty assessment process encourages exporters and importers to continue to trade in dumped goods—in some cases, by a greater magnitude of dumping—with no risk of back-capture of underpaid duties. These are the issues we need to deal with. This bill is welcome but we need to go much further. We can be WTO compliant but ensure Australian industry has a fighting chance—and, with that, save many thousands of Australian jobs.