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Monday, 2 April 1984
Page: 1023

Senator BUTTON —On Friday of last week Senator Rae directed a question to me relating to the topic of clearance of so-called noil silk fabrics in Melbourne by Customs. Senator Rae's question related to delays in clearances by Customs because of the necessity of scientific tests of certain material. I am informed that the answer is as follows: Fabrics containing a predominance of wool and containing more than 10 per cent noil silk attract a duty of 2 per cent. There has been a marked increase in imports of fabric from Italy which has been declared to fall within the definition necessary to achieve a rate of duty of 2 per cent.

As a result of investigations of a number of importers and of analysis of various samples, a widespread system of misdescription of goods has been uncovered in connection with these fabric imports. Fabric described as containing 60 per cent wool has been found to have a wool content as low as 19 per cent. Instead of containing more than 10 per cent silk, fabric has been found to contain only one per cent of silk. Fabric which does not meet the definition of achieving 2 per cent duty attracts at least 45 per cent duty. A significant quantity of fabric has already been seized and action is being take to seize more. Fabric which is regarded as falling within the risk category has been closely monitored to ensure that the correct duty is collected, and there are large quantities of fabric in this suspect category. Since November 1983, 50 shipments have been sampled in Melbourne and 14 have been found to be incorrectly declared, with large sums of additional duty due; and 16 have been correctly declared and released while results are awaited on several other shipments.

The Melbourne Chamber of Commerce was advised by telex on 22 February that Customs would accept analysis of samples by the Australian Wool Testing Authority. This is in addition to analyses by Australian Government Analytical Laboratories in an effort to facilitate clearance by those importers who correctly declare their goods. The earlier paragraphs are of course self- explanatory in a sense, but the last paragraph refers to the point of Senator Rae's question. There are now two sources of testing and the Melbourne Chamber of Commerce was advised on 26 February of their availability. We hope that it will achieve the result of greater expedition, which was apparent in the concern expressed by Senator Rae.

Senator PETER RAE —by leave-I thank the Minister very much for the expedition with which he obtained that information for me arising from my speech on the adjournment debate last Friday.