Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
 Download Current HansardDownload Current Hansard   

Previous Fragment    Next Fragment
Friday, 2 March 1984
Page: 303

Senator PETER RAE(10.26) — The question of anti-dumping provisions is one which has no novelty. It is one which, over a period, has concerned successive governments. I am glad the present Government is taking measures to improve the anti-dumping procedure. I do not think there is a need to go as far as attempting to throw away one of the rights about which the Attorney-General ( Senator Gareth Evans) spoke as recently as 28 February 1984. As reported on page 27 of the Senate Hansard, he said:

The most worrying aspect of this whole matter is, I believe, the massive illegality and invasion of privacy which appears to have been involved . . .

That is a statement which could have come from either side of the chamber in the period since the late 1960s, a period of which I am aware. In the late 1960s there was a recognition, particularly in relation to primary industry legislation, that the bureaucracy was trying to make life easy for itself by ensuring that it had a right of entry and search without warrant even though it was only to enforce something which was perhaps less criminal than most of the criminal law with which we and the States deal. Members of the police forces have to have warrants and normally have to obtain justification for entry into premises and the right of search.

I thought the Senate had established in the late 1960s and early 1970s that it would never permit legislation to go through this place, unless there was some absolute justification which transcended all the normal requirements of natural justice, without requiring that, where a right of entry and search was given, it would be upon a warrant issued by at least a justice of the peace. A former leader of the opposition and a former leader of the government in this place, the present Mr Justice Lionel Murphy, was one of may people who pursued such a requirement. We seek, by amendment a similar requirement. I do not need to quote from the many speeches Mr Justice Lionel Murphy made asserting the need, the right and justification for this chamber to protect the rights of individuals by ensuring that excessive powers were not given.

I find quite extraordinary the idea that, in order to make effective anti- dumping provisions, one should strengthen the powers of investigating officers and give them more power than a police officer has in pursuing a murder. I am sure that the Government, upon giving some consideration to this matter, will agree to an amendment which I propose to move which will require the normal provisions to apply; that is, that the right of entry and search should be upon warrant after a prima facie case has been made out to a justice of the peace and a warrant has been issued. I hope that the amendment which I propose to move is being circulated. I understand that not every honourable senator has received a copy of it so I will speak on some other aspects of the legislation to enable people to look at it. Then I will come back to the amendment.

Anti-dumping legislation is a bipartisan matter. There is no doubt whatsoever that Australia and a number of other countries have been subjected to dumping particularly during the world trading recession. Probably one of the most offensive things that has happened-one of the things which makes even the representatives of the European Economic Community feel a little shamefaced-is when the EEC dumped its subsidised sugar in Papua New Guinea. Having produced sugar from sugarbeet, with a vast subsidy at an absolutely impossible price in world competitive terms, that sugar was dumped on the doorstep of a country of whose budget we provide a significant percentage. Of all the examples to demonstrate how rude dumping can be I think that example is probably the one that takes the bun. It is not a matter of just making a wild assertion. Australia's objections to Europe's dumping of sugar have been upheld by the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade.

The legislation which the Government has introduced is certainly supported by the Opposition. It is the sort of measure which we indicated in government that we would undertake. I could be pedantic and go through this legislation and say: 'We might have done this or that differently'. I do not think it is particularly helpful to adopt that attitude. There are provisions in the legislation for the Minister to deal with hidden dumping or sales dumping. He may construct a normal value where such a value is not available. He may disregard sales at a loss for normal value purposes. An indicative definition of the factors which constitute material injury to Australian industry is given. The Minister has discretion to determine the amount of countervailing duty where insufficient information is supplied. There are a number of measures in this legislation which entirely accord with what the previous Government was doing. They have been picked up by the present Government and are being carried forward as bipartisan policy. They will make effective, faster and more efficient the measures which Australia can take to defend itself.

The position in which we find ourselves in Australia is an extraordinary one. We have had some debates on this matter in the past and I do not intend to take much of the time of the Senate to reiterate the points that were made. Let me just state them very briefly. When the GATT ministerial meeting took place in late November 1982 the former Minister for Trade and Resources and Deputy Prime Minister, the Rt Hon. Doug Anthony and the former Minister for Primary Industry, the Hon. Peter Nixon, both attended part of that meeting. Both addressed not only that ministerial meeting but also people in Australia at considerable length about their objections to the way in which so many members of GATT were blatantly avoiding GATT and any real determination to get on with what everybody -when I say 'body' I mean it in the plural sense-every national and international body had been passing resolutions about. If this matter had not come on quite so quickly this morning I had intended to quote from some of the resolutions of the Council of the European Parliament and of the North Atlantic Assembly. Let me assert, without being able to quote, because this matter came on rather quickly this morning, that each member of GATT in September, October last year carried resolutions asserting that one of the major problems in the world today was the increase in protection, in the non-tariff barriers and in the measures being taken by various countries to endeavour to protect their own employment to the net destruction of employment world-wide.

I was pleased that Senator Button on his recent return from overseas in an interview reported in the Australian Financial Review said the things which I certainly have been saying for a long time and with which I would completely agree; that is that Australia has the capacity and the opportunity but it has really to bring itself into line with the trading practices of the rest of the world and try to get the rest of the world to bring its trading practices into a form which is most conductive for the expansion of trade and not the contraction of world trade. One of the sad things of the recession has been the extent to which hypocrisy and blatant avoidance of international obligation have become a part of international practice. We have seen countries using thousands of measures. Recently I obtained from the Minister for Trade (Mr Lionel Bowen) a list of some 2,000 measures which are identified by his Department. I am informed, but have not as yet received, that there is a United Nations Conference on Trade and Development list of some 22,000 measures which are used to avoid GATT and to limit trade.

What we are concerned about in relation to this legislation is an attempt by the Government, which is a bipartisan approach, to say: Why should this country be a victim for dumping and a victim for trade practices which are avoided or banned by other countries? France was concerned about the extent to which Japan was exporting video machines to France. So France required those videos to be imported through the Customs office at Poitiers. Anyone who knows his European geography will be aware that Poitiers is not exactly a port, it is not exactly close to any major distribution centre and it is not the sort of place that one would expect all of the video tape machines to be--

Senator Button — How many customs officers have they there?

Senator PETER RAE —As I understand it, one customs officer inspects every machine. The equivalent of that would be for Australia to require no tariff on imported vehicles, no quotas on imported motor vehicles but every one of them to be imported through Port Hedland and driven to its point of sale. That is the sort of thing we could do if we applied the principles.

Senator Button —Alice Springs.

Senator PETER RAE —The Minister suggests Alice Springs. I am prepared to accept that as an alternative. Air freighting them to Alice Springs would make it even more an application of the Poitiers principle. It is not something which is fair trading. It is not something which our economy and the people who make our economy tick should have to put up with. I believe that it is necessary for this Parliament to support the sorts of measures that the Government has introduced. There will be the introduction of some discretions to the Minister to enable the anti-dumping provisions to work more efficiently. I point that out to those people who might otherwise be concerned that the Opposition is not taking its usual very keen line in relation to ensuring the protection of the rights and privacy of individuals. The discretionary powers being given by this legislation to the Minister are subject to the Administrative Decisions (Judicial Review) Act 1977, are therefore reviewable and are not simply authoritarian actions which can be taken without people who are concerned being able to object. In the Australian Liberal and National Party policy overview with regard to industry and commerce, it is stated:

. . . we shall fearlessly use such measures as are necessary to protect Australia from the damaging effects of dumping, improper transfer pricing, and other unfair de-stabilising trading actions by other nations.

With that policy how could one not support this legislation? I have dealt with both of the Bills as composites because I think they are complementary. I can, if the Minister wishes me, deal in a little more detail with them separately but , as I understood it, I thought we were dealing with them together as a composite package.

I shall move in the Committee stage that amendments be made in the terms which have been circulated, which will be simply to introduce into the proposed legislation terms which have been introduced into innumerable Acts by this Senate to require that the right of entry and search be only upon warrant issue. In other words, a prima facie case has to be made out before officers with particular functions under Customs legislation, under primary industry legislation or whatever it may be, should certainly not have greater powers than the police, they should be required to obtain the warrants and to make out a prima facie case before they can barge into somebody's place and search.

I do not wish to take up time having a combative debate with the Minister in relation to some aspects because I think a couple of other opportunities will come up later. I think I could suggest that these measures are not as expeditious or as detailed as they might have been. I encourage the passage of these Bills. I encourage the Minister's co-operation and that of other honourable senators in regard to the amendment which I will move during the Committee stage. I think other comments can be made about some aspects of fast track anti-dumping procedures which have not been taken, which are not included and which, hopefully, this Government will deal with or else move aside in the not too distant future and let us get on with it.