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Wednesday, 4 November 1992
Page: 2580

Mr BEDDALL (Minister for Small Business, Construction and Customs) (4.45 p.m.) —I move:

  That the Bill be now read a second time.

This Bill proposes to amend the Customs Act 1901 and the Anti-Dumping Authority Act 1988 as part of the legislative package announced by the Government in December 1991 to introduce a new system for the imposition and collection of dumping and countervailing duties. This Bill provides the mechanism for the determination of interim and final duties, as well as introducing the two means by which subsequent adjustments of duty liability can be effected. The other Bill in the package, the Customs Tariff (Anti-Dumping) Bill, introduces the new taxing regime for the imposition and collection of both interim and final dumping and countervailing duties.

  The proposed amendments contained in this package represent the final change to Australia's anti-dumping and countervailing provisions which were announced by the Government on 5 December 1991 following a review of anti-dumping policy and administrative arrangements.

  Last sittings, as part of Act No. 89 of 1992 this Parliament passed legislation which: reduced the total time allowed for the processing of anti-dumping and countervailing applications to the preliminary finding stage to a maximum of 125 days, or for more complex cases, a maximum of 145 days; extended, to five years, the period for which anti-dumping and countervailing measures remain in place; made provision for a review to be undertaken by the Anti-Dumping Authority following a request by an interested party as to whether measures should continue after the five-year expiry date; extended the life of the Anti-Dumping Authority to August 2001; and introduced a number of technical changes to facilitate the processing of applications.

  Goods are said to be dumped if the export price of the product is less than the `normal value', that is, the comparable price for the like product in the domestic market of the exporting country. Anti-dumping action is taken only if it is established as a result of inquiries undertaken by Customs and the Anti-Dumping Authority that goods have been dumped and that the dumping is causing or threatening material injury to an Australian industry.

  The Government strongly believes that effective and timely anti-dumping and countervailing measures are necessary to protect Australian industry from material injury caused by dumped or subsidised imports. At the same time, the Government is determined not to allow the anti-dumping and countervailing system to be used as a de facto means of industry protection. Australia's anti-dumping system is now one of the fastest and fairest in the world. There is scope, however, to improve its effectiveness by altering the manner in which duties are imposed and collected.

  In broad terms, the present legislation imposes a dumping duty which represents the difference between the export price and the normal value of the goods or, where the Minister so directs, a lesser amount sufficient to remove the injury.

  Under the present regime, duty is not payable where the dumping margin is purportedly eliminated by raising the actual export price to the level of the normal value determined at the inquiry. The Government considers that a more effective way to apply duties and strengthen the overall operation of the anti-dumping and countervailing system can be achieved with an approach similar to that used by the United States and the European Community. The proposals put forward in this package provide a mechanism whereby an interim duty will be imposed on each importation of goods subject to anti-dumping or countervailing measures.

  The other Bill in this package, the Customs Tariff (Anti-Dumping) Bill, provides that interim dumping duty will be based initially on the difference between the normal value and the export price as determined by the inquiries. Important additional features of that Bill are that the Minister will be able to determine the duty on an ad valorem or specific rate basis, and, where the export price falls below the export price ascertained by the inquiry, the difference between these prices will also be collected. That Bill also provides that the interim countervailing duty will be determined on the basis of the amount of the subsidy identified by the inquiries.

  In either case, and consistent with both our current law and Australia's obligations as a signatory to the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade, the new taxing regime will continue to require the Minister to consider the desirability of imposing a lesser rate of duty where this is sufficient to remove injury.

  With the introduction of an interim duty system in the Customs Tariff (Anti-Dumping) Bill, this Bill proposes two means by which subsequent adjustments of duty liability can be effected.  The first such mechanism is a repayment or reimbursement facility whereby interim duty collected in excess of the actual dumping margin, in the case of dumping duties, or the actual subsidy, in the case of countervailing duties, can be repaid. To reduce the possibility of applications being lodged on a selective basis, for those consignments where it is known that a repayment is likely, this Bill requires that any application cover all consignments during a six-month period. Duty will not be repaid unless the total interim duty paid exceeds the total actual duty liability for the period.

  If no application has been received within six months of the end of the relevant importation period, the interim duty paid will be taken to be the final duty payable. The second mechanism to enable subsequent adjustments of the duty liability on goods the subject of a dumping or countervailing notice is introduced in the Bill via a review facility under which interested parties may seek a review of the interim duty to be paid on future shipments. The Bill proposes that a request for such a review may be made only 12 months after the interim duty has been imposed or 12 months after the last review of the rate. However, the Minister may, where it is considered appropriate, request at any other time that a review of the duty rate be undertaken.

  The Bill details the type of information required in support of a request for a review together with provisions allowing interested parties to make submissions. It also places strict time limits on the review consistent with the other time limits applying throughout the dumping process. The Government is confident that the proposed new system strikes an equitable balance between the interests of importers and local industry, while conforming with Australia's obligations under the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade—GATT.

Financial Impact Statement

  The proposed amendments contained in this Bill are expected to result in additional salary and administrative costs totalling $0.4m in 1992-93 and $0.75m in 1993-94 and 1994-95, in present dollar values. I commend the Bill to the House and present its explanatory memorandum.

  Debate (on motion by Mr Prosser) adjourned.