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Thursday, 14 March 2013
Page: 1722

Senator COLBECK (Tasmania) (12:44): At the outset I indicate that the coalition will be supporting this Customs Amendment (Anti-Dumping Commission) Bill 2013. But there are a couple points to make along the way in relation to how this broader process has been managed by the government.

I think this must be the fourth piece of legislation that we have passed to deal with the issue of antidumping in the last couple of years and it shows quite clearly how the government has been playing catch-up with the opposition in its approach to this particular area of the portfolio. More interestingly—after the quite hysterical response of the government when the opposition released its comprehensive policy—it indicates how some of the suggestions by the opposition are actually now being implemented by the government.

So this particular piece of legislation puts into place a new organisation called the Australian Anti-Dumping Commission, specifically to deal with issues of antidumping. I think we all accept that the system has not been as efficient as it could have been. The opposition acknowledges the changes that have previously been made by the government to the scheme to try and make it more efficient, but there are some fairly glaring recent examples of where there have been decisions made in favour of Australian business that have been overturned by the government, and decisions which come on the end of significant expense to industry in Australia in putting together an antidumping case.

For example, in 2009 Kimberly-Clark spent $100,000 in relation to the importation of cheap toilet paper being dumped into the market. It was unsuccessful and the end result of that, of course, is that, quite sadly, Kimberly-Clark shut down two of its paper machines at the Millicent tissue mill at the expense of 170 of its workers.

SPC Ardmona spent $300,000 in two years fighting for an investigation into the importation of tinned Italian tomatoes, and finally SPC just gave up. I think we all know the sad result of that case and particularly of the issues around tomatoes, where even though our farmers are 50 per cent more efficient in respect of the yields they are achieving on their farms we still cannot compete in the market for those particular products that are coming in at a cost of as little as 25 cents per can.

Of course, we have just recently heard about issues in the glass sector, where CSR Viridian glass spent over $300,000 pursuing investigations in relation to goods from Indonesia and China coming in at a cost 25 per cent lower than the value in the Chinese market. We are now seeing redundancies in that industry as well.

So when we suggested that there should be transfer of the antidumping responsibilities from their existing home in the International Trade Remedies Branch in Customs to the department of industry, the then home affairs minister, Brendan O'Connor, said:

Moving responsibility for anti-dumping decisions from Customs to another department is just bureaucratic reshuffling and will take away the responsibility for making decisions from the staff who actually monitor what is being imported into Australia.

And yet here we are with a piece of legislation supporting the proposal that we put into place, setting up the Australian Anti-Dumping Commission.

One thing we do not know is how the $24.4 million antidumping funding will be used or, more importantly, where the money is going to come from. That has not yet been explained. We have seen claims of additional funding being put into elements of Customs only to find that it was a reshuffling within the budget and the additional funds that were going to that area of Customs were coming at the expense of another part of Customs. I think there are some legitimate questions that we can continue to ask the government in relation to this matter, particularly where the funding is coming from.

While the coalition obviously welcome this because it does reflect our policy and it does continue to catch up with the policy that the coalition released some considerable time ago—in fact, in November 2011—there are questions that remain around this matter, not least the source of the funding, how it will be managed and how that might impact on other areas of the Customs portfolio. I indicate, as I said at the outset, that the coalition gives its support to the Customs Amendment (Anti-Dumping Commission) Bill 2013.