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Thursday, 16 December 1993
Page: 4808

Senator ARCHER (12.47 p.m.) —I have a non-contentious speech to the Customs Tariff Amendment Bill (No. 2) 1993, which is a non-contentious bill. Having cleared it with the government whip, I seek leave to incorporate the speech in Hansard.

  Leave granted.

  The speech read as follows

As usual, this bill contains a number of amendments to the tariff:

many minor administrative changes.

A few more of a substantial nature, some already announced by the government.

Coalition will not be opposing the bill.

Some of the more substantive amendments merit comment.

Especially amendments to the Australian system of tariff preferences.

Developing countries (D.C.s) Have been assisted by tariff preferences for about the last 30 years.

Since 1986 this has been through tariff rates 5% lower than the general rate.

Unless general rate is 5% or less when D.C. rate will be zero.

A very valuable concession, or encouragement to these countries, many of which have experienced spectacular growth and development and today can hardly be called developing countries.

e.g., the Asian tigers.

In 1991, imports by Australia from D.C.s totalled $13 billion, or 26% of total imports.

Over 60% of this was from 6 countries: Taiwan, South Korea, Singapore, China, Hong Kong and Malaysia.

The government announced in March 1991 that the margin of preference for imports from Singapore, Taiwan, Hong Kong and the Republic of Korea would begin to be phased out from 1 July 1992.

These countries have clearly developed to a stage where they are strong world exporting countries with rates of economic growth well above that of Australia.

Under the measures in this bill their tariff preference will not suddenly be withdrawn. It will be frozen until the general rate falls to the same level.

General rates will then apply to all imports from these countries.

An associated amendment dealing with tariff preferences in this bill abolishes the preferential rates of duty on a wide range of goods imported from all countries

except forum island countries, and

42 of the least advanced countries (nominated by the United Nations).

The goods involved are textiles, clothing, footwear, chemicals, plastics, rubber and leather goods, fruit juice, canned fruit, sugar and dried fruit.

The margin of preference will likewise be phased out by freezing tariffs for specified goods from developing countries until the general rate falls to the D.C. preference rate.

This measure is overdue and will be welcomed by Australian firms involved, particularly as many restructure to meet the effects of reduced protection over the coming years.

Need for government to further assist the industries through greater micro economic reform, e.g., shipping, transport, labour.

As mentioned earlier, the coalition will not oppose these amendments dealing with developing country preference

but stresses the need to continually review these concessional arrangements.

Australian industry can point to other anomalies, especially as industries in particular countries emerge to a stage which is fully competitive in the world situation.

No longer developing.

Under the Australia-Canada trade agreement, Canadian carpets can be imported at concessional rates, currently 22%. Following discussion with Canada, this bill now provides for the eventual removal of this preference.

The Australian carpet industry is protected by a general tariff which is phasing down from 32% to 15% by the year 2000, currently 29%.

Canadian preference will be frozen until general rate phases down to the concessional level, i.e., 30 June 1997.

The Australian carpet industry is a most important australian industry:

50 manufacturers, with 4 majors supplying 60% of all carpet sold in Australia.

Employs 4500 persons.

Market sales in Australia totalled 45.5 million square metres in year to February 1992.

Wool and wool rich carpets make up approximately 29% of carpet sales.

Imports totalled approximately 5.0 million square metres and exports 1.6 million square metres in the year ending 30 June 1991.

Approximately 15% of Australian carpet manufacturer's requirements of raw carpet wool are supplied by Australian wool producers.

Most of the remainder is from New Zealand.

Another important amendment concerns the adjustment to the excise on Avgas: a reduction of just over 3 cents a litre as a result of implementation of user pays principle.

Resulting from aerodromes transferring to local ownership and control.

The direct charging of aircraft operators for firefighting services at aerodromes, and

provision of weather forecasting services by the Bureau of Meteorology on a cost recovered basis.

A further amendment recognises the establishment of the independent Czech and Slovak Republics on 1 January 1993. Now each are accorded the concessional duty treatment which was received by the former Czech and Slovak Federative Republic.

Adjustments are also made to the tariff to:

remove an anomaly in the classification of needlecraft and tapestry kits imported from New Zealand. Both are now free of duty.

Remove a further anomaly so that boxes of not fewer than five handkerchiefs, and one design and/or colour can be imported duty free.

I indicated earlier that the coalition does not oppose this bill.

  Question resolved in the affirmative.

  Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without requests for amendment or debate.