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Tuesday, 25 September 2001
Page: 31399

Mr PYNE (5:49 PM) —I agree with the member for Denison that the member for Kingston certainly needs his place in the sun. I do not think that he deserves a place in the sun, but he certainly needs one, given his profile in South Australia. The Customs Tariff Amendment Bill (No. 4) 2001 contains amendments to the Customs Tariff Act 1995. I do not intend to keep the House long this afternoon in discussing this bill, given that the Labor Party broadly supports it. The bill is divided into a number of schedules that I will briefly comment on because they deal discretely with different policy aspects of the Customs portfolio.

The first schedule deals with support for the automotive industry in the form of the Automotive Competitiveness and Investment Scheme, which began on 1 January 2001 and which replaced the administrative arrangements to the year 2000 for the automotive industry which had been put in place by the government as part of its general tariff reform policy of the past 5½ years. That change will be welcomed by the automotive industry, particularly in my great state of South Australia, where Mitsubishi and General Motors Holden have their headquarters and principal operations. They will welcome this continuing support for the automotive industry, which employs thousands of South Australians. The automotive industry produces four per cent of gross state product in South Australia, which is about the same percentage as for the wine and defence industries, so it is very significant to the South Australian economy. People in the automotive industry will welcome this continuing support for them by a coalition government in the lead-up to the tariff changes that we foreshadowed in the first parliament after 1996.

Schedule 3 of the bill contains arrangements for the treatment of some South Pacific Forum countries that had previously experienced support from the government, which, as the member for Denison pointed out, was truncated because of the coup in Fiji that saw the democratically elected government of Mahendra Chaudhry overthrown by George Speight. At the time, the government took the very firm line that we needed to ensure that the people in the South Pacific understood that that sort of activity would not be tolerated. The SPARTECA scheme replaces a scheme which was in support of South Pacific Forum nations, in particular in respect of the importation of textiles, clothing and footwear, which will be imported duty free from particular markets in the South Pacific into Australia. That will help to strengthen and provide a base for those economies, because Australia has had a longstanding interest in the provision of support for the South Pacific. It is one of our regions of influence. Those islands look to Australia for support, and the best thing we can do for them is to provide economic support because it will ensure that they have growing economies and decent standards of living which will provide stability in the whole of the South Pacific area for Australia and for all those countries.

Schedule 4 provides for concessional re-entry for imported goods that have been exported from Australia and returned in an unaltered condition. In other words, this is part of the program of support for the automotive industry where component parts which are produced in their entirety in a state like South Australia go overseas and re-enter the country as part of another product. It is important to ensure that, in re-entering Australia, those component parts are not dutied for customs, and schedule 4 will ensure that that is the case.

Schedule 5, as the member for Denison pointed out, relates to the duty free entry of goods imported as part of Australia's space program. This is particularly important in Christmas Island, and in Woomera—again, in my state of South Australia—where we have nascent space programs which we would like to see grow. The member for Denison has been in this House a lot longer than me; I have been here only nine years, but I must say that the space program in Australia has been a longstanding hope for many members of this House. It seems to be something of a mirage at the moment, and we hope that the support that this schedule provides for the industry in its attempts to grow and import the necessary capital equipment for the program will continue to kick-start the space industry in Australia, which used to be a thriving industry at Woomera under the Menzies government. We hope that parts of this bill will continue to encourage the space program at Christmas Island and at Woomera.

Schedule 6 deals with equipment that comes in parts to be treated as one item for customs purposes. It is an administrative but sensible change and I am pleased to see that the Labor Party supports it. Schedule 6 also contains the aspect of duty free imports for specific projects under the project by-law scheme. The policy objectives of the new scheme are to encourage and enhance investment in the establishment of world-class operations; to encourage the involvement of Australian industry in supplying goods and services; to lower input costs for industry where there are sound reasons for doing so; and to facilitate Australian industry participation in domestic and international supply chains. One of the requirements of the project by-law scheme is that the Australian industry participation must be present in a plan to be completed and presented to the government. On that basis, the scheme will apply to promote new industries in Australia.

Schedule 6 also expands the project by-law scheme to include goods such as pipelines and conveyors, and components which are integral to a project. It also expands the range of industry sectors that have previously been able to access the by-law scheme to projects in the manufacturing and gas supply sectors as well as the current sectors of mining, resource processing, agriculture, food processing and food packaging. It involves concessions for goods that will be used to promote industry development in specific industry sectors and specific types of equipment and investment. For that reason, it will encourage growth, jobs and investment. It is a positive move introduced by the government in this bill.

A fair time has been given to allow for the changeover from the current arrangements to the new system, with a closure date for the current arrangements of 31 December 2002. That will allow for the efficient termination of the present administrative arrangements. It also gives a reasonable period of time for industry to import the duty free capital equipment for which it has received approval under the current project by-law scheme before the new scheme is adopted.

Item 56 of schedule 4 provides enhanced concessional treatment for capital items which the Minister for Justice and Customs believes have a substantial and demonstrable performance advantage to be imported duty free by industries in the mining, resource processing, agriculture, food processing, food packaging and some manufacturing sectors for use in approved projects where the total capital expenditure exceeds $10 million.

Mr Kerr —You said you were going to be brief; I would hate to hear you wax lyrical.

Mr PYNE —The member for Denison points out that I have been speaking for longer than five minutes, but he told me in the break during the division that he intended to be very brief in order to give the member for Kingston fair time to speak and then he spoke for 12 minutes. I thought I should follow his example in this. The minister in our government who always says that he will speak briefly and then speaks for the full half an hour is the Minister for Immigration and Multicultural Affairs. The member for Denison will be well aware of that, having been on the other of the dispatch box on many occasions. With those few comments, I commend the bill to the House and thank the Labor Party for its support of this measure.