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Thursday, 13 September 2012
Page: 6879

Senator BRANDIS (QueenslandDeputy Leader of the Opposition in the Senate) (13:30): The purpose of the Customs Tariff Amendment (Schedule 4) Bill 2012 is to make amendments to the Customs Tariff Act 1995 which will repeal and replace schedule 4. Schedule 4 currently lists 100 concessional items. They will consolidate and reduce to approximately 55, which aims to improve clarity and usability, particularly for industry and businesses. Despite the recent budget demonstrating no plan to build a stronger economy, repay debts or create secure jobs, the opposition is glad that the government has seen the sense of picking up on the coalition's plans to cut red tape. This bill looks like one of the few ways Labor will make any progress on reducing red tape for small business and industry. Because the bill will help reduce the complexity and red tape for small business and industry, the coalition supports its passage.

The list of concessions within the tariff has grown over many years, becoming increasingly complex to administer and difficult for users to understand. Some concessions have been in place for many decades—for example, item 28A has been in force since 1901. Many items were reduced when general tariff rates were much higher than current rates, and there are 14 government agencies with policy responsibilities for various items. Complexities create burdens on business and can lead to costs being passed on to consumers. Complexity may also result in inappropriate use of concessions. The amendments are a result of a review which focused on removing unnecessary complexity from the schedule by simplifying existing arrangements and removing obsolete items. Recommendations which were put forward by the review and are supported by the coalition include removing items which were redundant, consolidating where possible those items that have similar coverage and explaining them more clearly, reviewing and removing obsolete bylaws that list certain groups under certain items in schedule 4, and placing similar items together in the structure of the revised schedule 4.

Red tape is hurting the viability and prosperity of small businesses and industry around the country. The coalition wholeheartedly supports measures which make it easier for them to do business, grow stronger, create jobs and contribute to the national economy. For those reasons, the coalition supports this bill.