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Tuesday, 17 October 2017
Page: 7740


Senator SCULLION (Northern TerritoryMinister for Indigenous Affairs and Leader of The Nationals in the Senate) (17:38): I move:

That these bills be now read a second time.

I seek leave to have the second reading speeches incorporated in Hansard.

Leave granted.

The speeches read as follows—

CUSTOMS AMENDMENT (ANTI-DUMPING MEASURES) BILL 2017

I am pleased to present the Customs Amendment (Anti-Dumping Measures) Bill 2017.

The Government is committed to free and fair trade. Protectionist policies will not solve the problem of slow-growing economies throughout the world. More globalised trade provides very real benefits for Australian businesses and consumers, such as greater access to materials for manufacturing and decreased prices for goods, to name just two.

Australian businesses must be globally competitive and should not be shielded from genuine competition.

However, dumping and foreign government subsidisation of goods exported to Australia is not genuine competition and can distort markets and injure Australian manufacturers. Our anti-dumping system allows Australian manufacturing businesses to compete on a level playing field against imported goods, by imposing duties on those goods in proven cases of dumping or subsidisation. A robust and effective anti-dumping system is an essential part of the Government's commitment to free and fair trade.

Since 2013, more than 93 new anti-dumping or subsidy investigations have been initiated by the Anti-Dumping Commission, and there are currently more than 75 final measures in place on dumped or subsidised goods exported to Australia.

Australia's anti-dumping system is composed of a number of interlinked processes, all of which need to operate effectively to ensure the system's ongoing effectiveness. The amendment that I am introducing today is designed to address an unintended consequence generated in one of these processes, known as 'reviews of measures'.

After anti-dumping duties have been in place for 12 months, affected parties can apply for a review of measures. The purpose of the review is to ensure that the rate of the duty is contemporaneous. The new duty rate is calculated by, amongst other things, examining the price the foreign exporter sells the goods for in their home market, and the price at which they export the goods to Australia.

Reviews allow anti-dumping duties to keep in step with changes in exporter's commercial behaviour. If the exporter continues to dump, the duty rate can stay the same or increase. If the exporter has stopped or reduced their rate of dumping, the duty rate can decrease.

Currently, there exists the possibility that foreign exporters subject to duties can subvert the reviews of measures process to undermine the remedial effect of Australia's anti-dumping system. Foreign exporters are able to deliberately limit exports of the dutiable goods for a period of time in order to obtain a more favourable rate of duty for future exports. This facilitates the opportunity for the exporter to resume dumping and continue to injure Australian industry.

To address this behaviour, which is clearly against the intent of Australia's anti-dumping system, the Government is introducing specific methods to determine export prices for foreign exporters in reviews of measures.

When an exporter has made no exports during a review period, or has made a small number of exports that are not representative of commercial trade, the Anti-Dumping Commission will be able to use three specified methods to set an export price. This export price then informs the level of dumping duty that is applied to future exports.

This change will increase Australian manufacturing industry's confidence in the strength of the anti-dumping system by removing an unintended consequence of reviews of measures which could be exploited by foreign exporters. This will make sure that the system continues to operate as intended to provide relief from injurious dumping for Australian manufacturers.

Australia's anti-dumping system is held in high regard by many of our trading partners, and so the Government has worked hard to ensure that this change complies with our international trade obligations, and that it will not diminish the international perception of our system's integrity and transparency.

Australia's anti-dumping system is a complex space that necessitates both long-term vision as well as the ability to act rapidly when significant issues arise. The Government continually monitors the efficiency and effectiveness of the system, and remains in close consultation with Australian industry stakeholders in evaluating the need for further reform.

The Government is committed to ensuring that Australian industry can compete on a level playing field. This amendment will ensure that Australian industries continue to have access to a strong anti-dumping system that delivers efficient and effective remedies for Australian businesses injured by dumping and subsidisation.

I commend the bill to the Chamber.

FAIR WORK (REGISTERED ORGANISATIONS) AMENDMENT (ENSURING INTEGRITY) BILL 2017

I move that this Bill now be read a second time.

Unions and employer associations have a privileged position in the workplace relations system and the economy more broadly, and their members place a great deal of trust in them.

There is absolutely no place for those who breach this trust and act in their own interest at the expense of members.

There is also no place for those who show nothing but contempt for the laws that apply equally to all Australians.

That is why we committed at the last election to implement the changes in this Bill to ensure that unions, employer associations and their officials act with integrity.

The changes in the Bill strengthen the grounds for the Fair Work Commission and the Federal Court to deal effectively with the financial misconduct, disregard for the law and abandonment of members that has been all too common in recent times.

The Royal Commission into Trade Union Governance and Corruption identified countless examples of officials breaching their duties, engaging in blackmail, extortion, coercion and secondary boycott conduct, abusing their rights of entry, acting in contempt of court or failing to stop their organisations from repeatedly breaking the law.

The Bill will restore integrity to registered organisations through four improvements to the law.

First, the Bill will create a public interest test to be applied by the Fair Work Commission when unions or employer associations seek to merge.

When companies seek to merge, they must first satisfy a regulator - the ACCC - such a merger won't substantially lessen competition.

This competition test is like a public interest test companies seeking to merge.

By comparison, unions and employer associations face no similar test. Currently, the Fair Work Commission has very limited ability to do anything other than effectively rubber stamp a merger approved by just a bare majority of members.

There are no general public interest considerations and there is very limited scope for affected parties to raise any concerns about a proposed merger of registered organisations.

Some unions and employer groups have greater assets than many companies. Some also have a capacity to disrupt major sections of the economy. And considering their privileged position, including tax exempt status, it is especially important that they are accountable.

If large, powerful unions or employer groups seek to become more powerful, with more coverage across the economy, then a public interest test should apply.

So this Bill introduces a new public interest test, which will take account of the broader impact of a proposed merger and also the record of the organisations in complying with the law.

Second, the Bill will strengthen the Federal Court's power to disqualify an official from standing for or holding office where they deliberately flout the law, fail to act in their members' interests, breach their duties or are otherwise found to be not fit and proper to act as officials.

The Bill will also make it an offence to act as an official while disqualified.

Again, this is a sensible change, consistent with community standards.

If a company director breaks the law they can be disqualified by a court from running a corporation. If a driver repeatedly breaks the road rules, they can be disqualified by a court from holding a driver's licence.

A similar standard should be applied to an official from a registered organisation who repeatedly breaks the law.

As recommended by the Royal Commission, the Bill also includes automatic disqualification for serious criminal offences punishable by five or more years' imprisonment.

How can anyone seriously suggest that individuals convicted of serious offences such as blackmail, extortion and threatening to cause serious harm to public officials, should be allowed to hold office in a registered organisation?

Third, the Bill strengthens the powers for the Federal Court to cancel the registration of an organisation or take appropriate action against a part of the organisation.

Under present rules, it is virtually impossible to deregister a union or employer organisation - even if they persistently break the law.

This needs to change.

This Bill will allow the Court to cancel registration where the organisation or its senior officials have repeatedly broken the law, breached their duties or failed to put their members first.

Again, this applies a consistent standard. The new grounds for cancellation are modelled on similar power relating to the winding up of companies.

Where a ground for cancellation has been made out because of the conduct of officers or members of a particular branch of an organisation, the Bill will also provide for the Court to make an order specific to that particular branch, division or other part of an organisation.

Last, the Bill strengthens the provisions providing for an organisation to be placed into administration. The current provisions offer little guidance on the circumstances in which administration is available, and do not make clear what steps the Court can take to deal with those situations.

The proposed provisions will ensure that the Court can appoint an administrator to a registered organisation or part of it when financial misconduct has occurred in an organisation, its officials have repeatedly broken the law or breached their duties or it is otherwise dysfunctional.

These provisions will deal with the problems that arose in the context of the HSU being placed into administration. That case was ultimately resolved because the parties largely agreed about the facts in issue.

However, there were numerous court applications, which resulted in a confusing process that could have been extremely lengthy had the facts been contested.

All of these changes will help ensure that unions and employer groups focus on doing the right thing by their members and the industries they represent and ensure that when the law is broken, the court can take action.

The Fair Work (Registered Organisations) Amendment (Ensuring Integrity) Bill 2017 will help improve and in some cases, restore, a culture of integrity to registered organisations - for the benefit of members and also the wider community.

Debate adjourned.