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Wednesday, 4 November 1992
Page: 2578


Mr BEDDALL (Minister for Small Business, Construction and Customs) (4.36 p.m.) —I move:

  That the Bill be now read a second time.

The Customs Legislation Amendment Bill is an omnibus measure proposing amendments to the Customs Act 1901 and the Customs Administration Act 1985. The main proposals contained in the Bill relate to:

1)amendments to the Customs Act 1901 and the Customs Administration Act 1985 to provide the legislative framework for the electronic transmission to Customs of information relating to the reporting, screening and clearance of cargo, and to permit limited on-line computer access to such information by other specified agencies;

2)amendments to the Customs Act 1901 to improve waterfront security in accordance with recommendations of the Joint Review Committee which examined the 1989 report of the National Crime Authority;

3)amendments to the Customs Act 1901 to extend eligibility for the diesel fuel rebate scheme to vessels servicing oil and gas operations in the North West Shelf and Timor Gap exploration areas when those vessels travel to and from Australian ship repair yards for repairs or refits; and

4)amendments to the Customs Act 1901 to effect minor technical changes consequential on the introduction of the electronic lodgement reforms to the import entry regime in Act No. 34 of 1992.

I will now refer briefly to each of those proposals.

1) Cargo Automation

The proposed amendments in clauses 6, 7 and 10 of the Bill are a response to the increasing role that electronic data interchange plays in international trade. The Australian Customs Service is continuing to play an important role in the development of electronic initiatives to keep pace with EDI changes in international trade communications. The proposed cargo automation scheme introduced by this Bill is the third leg of the improvement and updating of Customs entry facilities for imports and exports and is modelled on the two earlier initiatives passed unanimously by this Parliament in Act No. 111 of 1990 for exported goods, and in Act No. 34 of 1992 for imported goods.

  Similar to the two previous electronic schemes, the cargo automation system will operate on the basis of legislative amendments and contractual arrangements between Customs and users of the system. The proposed amendments in this Bill introduce an electronic computer option for the communication to Customs of information concerning cargo, to complement the current documentary manual cargo reporting facilities.

  The cargo automation system will allow airlines, shipping companies and freight forwarders to give Customs reports of the cargo intended to be discharged at Australian ports in advance of the arrival of that cargo. Those details will enable the cargo to be effectively screened against various profiles; for example, those relating to prohibited imports. The profiles can be altered by Customs at any time to target specific types of goods or destinations and can be further refined on the basis of intelligence and data relating to import practices.

  The advantage of an automated system is of course the speed with which it reacts to changing information so that effective risk assessment and risk management is maintained. With the amendments proposed in clause 27 of the Bill, port authorities will be provided with access to these cargo report details to facilitate the gathering of statistics and the calculation of wharfage charges, whilst the Australian Quarantine and Inspection Service will be provided with access to the cargo reports for the purposes of facilitating the detection of possible breaches of the Quarantine Act 1908.

  The new cargo automation system proposed in this Bill introduces considerable benefits for all parties involved in the entry and clearance of cargo, not the least of which are the significant reductions in paperwork and the more speedy access to information, on the one hand; on the other, it will provide a major enhancement of Customs ability to speedily screen reports for correct details against various risk profiles and provide a more effective control over landed cargo and its subsequent movement under Customs control.

2. Waterfront Security

  The amendments contained in clauses 5 and 23 of the Bill are intended to improve waterfront security by obliging persons in `Customs areas' to produce satisfactory identification upon request by a Customs officer and by strengthening the powers of Customs officers to stop and search vehicles in certain circumstances.

  The proposed amendments are designed to overcome weaknesses in the present system which were highlighted by the National Crime Authority in its 1989 report on port security; in particular, problems faced by law enforcement agencies in their attempts to inhibit the flow of illegal drugs.

  The Joint Review Committee established to examine the National Crime Authority recommendations had noted that the inability to control or identify wharf visitors and waterfront workers was hindering barrier enforcement. The present amendments squarely address that issue, and are discussed in greater detail in the explanatory memorandum accompanying the Bill.

3. Diesel Fuel Rebate

  The amendments relating to the diesel fuel rebate scheme contained in clause 21 of the Bill extend the eligibility criteria of the scheme, with effect from the Government's 18 August 1992 Budget decision, to allow certain ships to claim a rebate on diesel fuel used while travelling to and from Australian ports for repairs or refits. The ships concerned are those engaged in the servicing of the oil and gas operations off the Western Australian coast, including the North West Shelf and Timor Gap areas. Currently these servicing ships have an option to have repairs or refits undertaken either in Australian or Singaporean ship repair yards. Diesel fuel taken on by the ships in Singapore is at the international price, which does not include Australian excise. This has resulted in Australian ship repair yards being placed at a competitive disadvantage, especially those in Western Australia which are almost equidistant from the repair yards in Singapore.

  The proposed amendments will effectively remove this disadvantage by reducing the cost of the Australian diesel fuel for those ships travelling to Australian ports for the necessary repairs or refits.

4. Other Amendments

  In addition to the amendments outlined above, the Bill proposes a number of minor amendments to the electronic lodgment provisions of the Customs Act 1901, which were introduced last sittings by Act No. 34 of 1992. These amendments are explained in greater detail in the explanatory memorandum's clause notes for clauses 11, 12, 19, 20 and 22.

Financial Impact Statement

  The measures contained in this Bill relating to the proposed cargo automation reforms, and the extension of the diesel fuel rebate scheme, are expected to result in additional costs, as follows:

(i)  Cargo automation—the cost of implementation, including development, maintenance and operational costs, has been estimated in present dollar values, as:

  $2.404m for financial year 1992-93,

  $2.229m for financial year 1993-94,

  $2.680m for financial year 1994-95, and

  $2.146m for financial year 1995-96;

(ii)  Diesel fuel rebate—the cost of the proposed mining operation extension of the rebate scheme for the next four years has been estimated in present dollar values, as $0.25m for each full year.

  The other proposed amendments in this Bill have no direct financial implications. I commend the Bill to the House and present the explanatory memorandum to the Bill.

  Debate (on motion by Mr Prosser) adjourned.