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Thursday, 5 December 2013
Page: 1727

Mr BALDWIN (PatersonParliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Industry) (09:47): I rise to provide the summing up of the bill that has been introduced to the House. The Customs Amendment (Anti-Dumping Commission Transfer) Bill 2013 amends the Custom Act 1901 and other legislation to give effect to the government's commitment to transfer the administration of Australia's antidumping and countervailing systems from the Australian Customs and Border Protection Service to the Department of Industry. Through this legislation, this government is signalling that it intends to provide the strongest possible platform for Australian manufacturers to boost their competitiveness. Moving the Anti-Dumping Commission to the Department of Industry will benefit Australian manufacturers, as decisions in antidumping matters will be made in a portfolio that recognises the pressures and the demands the industry faces. The industry portfolio is also better placed to consider future reforms and what improvements will provide the greatest benefit to business.

As we have heard from the other speakers, Australia is a great trading nation. This government is committed to ensuring that Australian manufacturers are competitive in global markets and benefit from our commitment to free trade. This includes making sure that Australian industries can lower their costs through access to imports that can be produced more efficiently in other countries. However, this trade must also be fair. We do not accept that it is appropriate for other countries to dump goods into Australia that are unfairly injuring Australian manufacturers. We cannot expect Australian manufacturers to thrive, let alone survive, while they are being injured by goods that are being sold into Australia at unfairly low prices or that are unfairly subsidised by foreign governments.

The World Trade Organization recognises the damage that these actions can have and allows governments to take antidumping action to remedy the injury to their industries. The government will ensure that Australian manufacturers being unfairly injured by dumped or subsidised imports have recourse to the strongest possible remedies permissible under our obligations to the World Trade Organization.

This bill fulfils the first step in the coalition government's plan to improve Australia's antidumping system. We will be implementing a range of further improvements to strengthen the system. We are committed to ensuring that Australian manufacturers and producers who are injured by dumped and subsidised goods have access to the most effective relief possible.

We ask ourselves: what will this bill do? The Customs Amendment (Anti-Dumping Commission Transfer) Bill 2013 will continue the commission within the department responsible for antidumping matters—currently the Department of Industry. The commission will continue to be responsible for administering the antidumping powers and all other functions associated with the Customs Act 1901. This includes the receipt and screening of applications for antidumping measures and conducting investigations and inquiries. The bill replicates, to the greatest extent possible, the current delegation powers of the commissioner and minister associated with antidumping matters.

The bill also ensures that the commission can disclose information to Customs for relevant purposes, such as ensuring compliance with measures imposed under antidumping legislation. The bill ensures that all applications and submissions made before the commencement in relation to matters yet to be decided will remain valid from that time on. On commencement of this bill, the Minister for Industry will become responsible for any future appointments to the commission's role.

This bill will not just simply move the commission from one administration to another. It is important to look at a snapshot of the manufacturing industry in Australia. This move is important to the manufacturing industry in Australia as Australian manufacturers rely on antidumping legislation, and this government realises the importance of that.

Apart from protecting Australian manufacturing from dumping, this government wants to boost the competitiveness of Australian manufacturing. According to the September 2013 Department of Industry manufacturing update, using the latest statistics from the ABS, the contribution to Australia's gross domestic product of manufacturing as an industry declined from 9.7 per cent to 7.1 per cent between 2002-03 and 2012-13. There were 117,000 fewer people employed in manufacturing in September 2013 compared with September 2003. There were 1,038,500 people employed in manufacturing in September 2003 and only 921,400 in September 2013. In fact, the manufacturing share of total employment went from 11 per cent to eight per cent in that period. Australian manufacturing is in a period of transition away from the more traditional, capital-intensive heavy industries to niche sectors centred on intellectual capital and innovation, sectors with the potential to provide long-term returns to our local communities.

This government's aim is to encourage the development of high-value-added, competitive manufacturing industries to ensure a future manufacturing industry. We want to promote investment and jobs growth and, in particular, reduce red tape to make our industries globally competitive. That is why the coalition government is committed to an effective antidumping system to help keep our economy growing and provide greater certainty for businesses. Those considering antidumping action, including on steel, aluminium, chemical and paper products, processed food, machinery and machinery components, amongst others, will now have access to the extensive knowledge and expertise held within the portfolio in relation to these industries. The strength of the domestic and global economy at any point in time will influence domestic manufacturers' need to access the antidumping system.

We know that Australian manufacturers are currently doing it tough. This is indicated by the sharp increase in investigations undertaken by the commission. Over the period 2011-12 to 2012-13 the total number of investigations undertaken by the commission increased by around 34 per cent. This comes on top of sharp increases in the previous financial years. Where imported products are dumped or subsidised they are not necessarily the most efficiently produced, and where dumped or subsidised imports materially injure our businesses we need to have an antidumping and countervailing provision to level the playing field. Allowing overseas companies to dump goods into Australia at prices below their normal value undermines the strength and competitiveness of Australia's businesses and, therefore, our employment and our economy. Australian manufacturers are under pressure and are seeking improvements to the antidumping system. Australian businesses that are injured by dumped and subsidised imports will benefit from the government's reforms to strengthen Australia's antidumping system.

The establishment, on 1 July this year, of the Anti-Dumping Commission was recognition of the importance and the priority of antidumping functions to Australian industry. The commission will ensure a high level focus on antidumping and countervailing activities into the future. Victoria has the largest manufacturing employment base in the country, which is why the commission has its head office in Melbourne, an important hub for Australian manufacturing industry and business. This will facilitate closer links with industry partners. The commission also retains an office in Canberra.

We have seen already a number of benefits flow to Australian industry from the establishment of the commission, including an enhanced engagement service to provide guidance on dumping and countervailing measures to all parties involved in the antidumping system and help businesses, whether large or small, access the system; a stronger focus on further enhancing the capability and expert skills of the commission's investigators, which will be built upon by access to the expertise within the industry department; an improved electronic public record to promote transparency of the commission's investigative processes and access to critical information by all parties to an investigation; and, finally, dedicated resources to conduct anticircumvention inquiries in cases where the effectiveness of antidumping and countervailing measures are undermined by the non-payment or avoidance of duties.

The commission has been working hard to increase the level of awareness about antidumping systems and is working more closely with Australian businesses to enable them to access the system. As a result, we know that there are many potential cases out there and expect that we will continue to investigate dumping to continue in the short to medium term. Moving responsibility for antidumping matters to the Industry portfolio sends a clear message that we are focused on combating dumping and is part of a broader plan to boost Australia's manufacturing sector. An effective trade remedy system is an integral part of a robust international trading system and is essential to the government's broader plan to boost the competitiveness of Australian businesses. However, we intend to ensure that Australia's antidumping system remains robust, transparent and evidence based and that we continue to comply with our obligations under World Trade Organization agreements.

The coalition government firmly believes that the Industry portfolio is also better placed to consider future reforms which will improve benefits to businesses and industries. They also support the move to the Industry portfolio. This government intends to go further. We have already announced that we will reverse the onus of proof in antidumping investigations, in line with international practices. We will have more rigorous enforcement deadline for submissions in antidumping and countervailing investigations. We will crack down on non-cooperative overseas exporters and we will strengthen the enforcement of the World Trade Organization Agreement on Subsidies and Countervailing Measures. Where legislation is required to implement these reforms this government will introduce it at its earliest opportunity. As a first and important step, moving the Anti-Dumping Commission to the Department of Industry will benefit manufacturers as decisions on antidumping matters will be made in a portfolio that recognises the pressures and demands they face.

I feel confident that the Anti-Dumping Commission is on the right track. I know this because I have met with our commissioner, Dale Seymour. I have met with a number of affected industry groups and businesses, and it appears that everyone is working together towards ensuring an even playing field for Australian manufacturing and businesses selling products to Australia. They know that we, the coalition government, will act in Australia's best interests while working within the confines of the WTO agreements. Again, it is about ensuring there is an even playing field in Australia for business.

In conclusion, before recommending this bill to the House, I thank the honourable members for Makin, Hughes, Throsby, Murray, Oxley and Riverina for their contributions to this debate. I commend this bill to the House.

Question agreed to.

Bill read a second time.