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Tuesday, 3 December 2013
Page: 1494

Mr MORRISON (CookMinister for Immigration and Border Protection) (20:45): I am pleased to sum up the debate on the Import Processing Charges Amendment Bill 2013 and I thank the member for Kingsford Smith for his contribution—the sole contribution—to this debate. The changes that are to be introduced under this bill to the import processing charges were first announced by the previous government as part of the 2013-14 budget, and they implement both the broadening of the cost base on which charges are based and the increase in the charges for consignments valued at $10,000 or more. I am surprised that there were not more speakers from the other side of the House on this bill, because it was their idea; it was their budget measure.

I must say the government is somewhat reluctant to introduce this bill. It is a further increase in charges. While there are matters that are addressed in this bill which will add in some way to the integrity of how these moneys are raised, the government introduces this bill reluctantly because it is one of the many revenue measures that the previous government announced but did not legislate. They were not prepared to bring it in here and legislate it before the election. This government has had to follow up and introduce those measures. It is one of the things that we said we would have to do in order to address the significant fiscal mess that we have inherited but that we were not keen to do—but we must do it to get the books balanced for the national budget. So I am not surprised that the opposition would be supporting this rather significant increase in charges, because it was their proposal; it was their idea. And, in order to get our budget in a more reparable state, it is important that these matters now proceed.

This is the first time that charges have been increased since 2005-06. The increased charges will only apply to air, post and sea consignments with a value of $10,000 or more. There will be no change to the exemption that currently applies to consignments valued at $1,000 or less in this bill. Broadening the cost base of the charges and increasing the charges levied on air, sea and post consignments valued at $10,000 or more will also see industry make a greater contribution to the full costs of delivering effective border management and the end-to-end costs of trade in goods delivered into Australia. It is estimated—and this is the reason why this bill is before the House—that implementing the changes to the charges as proposed in this bill will generate additional revenue of $674.3 million across the forward estimates, and that failing to introduce this bill into the House and take it through both places before the end of this year would have a very significant impact on the budget and the forward estimates, into which that revenue had been factored by the previous government. They had factored it in but failed to legislate it in this place before the election. And so the government has picked up this measure and brought it into this place to see that it is implemented. It will provide that added support to the budget. We will continue to monitor the impact of these charges on industry.

It is very important that the Customs and Border Protection Service acts as a facilitator of trade, as a facilitator of commerce, not as a ticket clipper. That is the sort of service we want to run on our borders—one that is funded to do the job of protecting our borders. It is of great concern to me that the savings and cuts that were applied to Australian Customs and Border Protection Service by the previous government over their term in office were in excess of $750 million. That is an enormous cut to the budget of the Customs and Border Protection Service. The organisation had 5,700 officers and staff when the previous government came to office; there are 5,000 now; and, on the current forward estimates, they will go to a figure, we estimate, of 4,400. The previous government cut this agency and cut this agency and cut this agency. All they seemed to want to do with this agency was use it to raise revenue, and that is why they came forward with this measure.

But we will set about fixing up this mess. We will set about fixing up the mess of the budget. We will set about fixing up the mess on the borders. We will set about fixing up the mess in terms of the significant cuts that were made to the Australian Customs and Border Protection Service, with a strong business case that will take the agency forward in a way that will enable it to do its job. The people who work for the Australian Customs and Border Protection Service are very good Australians. They are people who put on a uniform and, in many cases—particularly in the case of those who serve at sea, but also more broadly than that—put themselves at risk. They believe in the integrity of our borders, and we believe in the job they are seeking to do. I commend the bill to the House.

Question agreed to.

Bill read a second time.