Explanatory Memorandum(Circulated by authority of the Assistant Minister for Immigration and Border Protection, the Honourable Alex Hawke MP)
Attachment A - Statement of Compatibility with Human Rights
Prepared in accordance with Part 3 of the Human Rights (Parliamentary Scrutiny) Act 2011
Customs Amendment (Singapore-Australia Free Trade Agreement Amendment Implementation) Bill 2017
This Bill is compatible with the human rights and freedoms recognised or declared in the international instruments listed in section 3 of the Human Rights (Parliamentary Scrutiny) Act 2011.
Overview of the Bill
The Customs Act 1901 (the Customs Act) sets out a framework for which goods that are claimed to be produce and manufacture of Singapore may claim a preferential rate of customs duty in accordance with the Singapore-Australia Free Trade Agreement (SAFTA) that entered into force in 2003.
On 13 October 2016, in Canberra, the Hon. Steven Ciobo MP, Minister for Trade, Tourism, and Investment and his Singaporean counterpart Mr. Lim Hng Kiang, Minister for Trade and Investment signed an Agreement to Amend the Singapore-Australia Free Trade Agreement (the Amendment Agreement).
The Customs Amendment (Singapore-Australia Free Trade Agreement Amendment Implementation) Bill 2017 (the Bill), when enacted, will amend the Customs Act 1901 (the Customs Act) to give effect to Articles in SAFTA, as amended by the Amendment Agreement (the first mentioned Agreement as amended is hereon referred as the "amended Agreement").
In particular, the Bill will:
- introduce new rules of origin for goods that are imported into Australia from Singapore;
- introduce new procedures to claim preferential tariff treatment for goods that are Singaporean originating goods; and
- extend the record keeping obligations that apply to goods exported to Singapore that are claimed to be the produce and manufacture of Australia to also apply to Australian originating goods that are exported to Singapore.
To give effect to the preferential entry of goods under the amended Agreement, the amendments contained in the Bill provide new rules for determining whether goods are Singaporean originating goods. The new rules of origin will operate as an alternative to the framework for goods claimed to be the produce or manufacture of Singapore for a transitional period of 3 years, after which the latter framework is repealed and only goods determined to be Singaporean originating goods are subject to a preferential rate of customs duty.
The amendments contained in the Bill will be operative the later of the day on which this Act receives the Royal Assent and the day on which the Amendment Agreement done at Canberra on 16 June 2017 enters into force for Australia.
A separate Customs Tariff Amendment (Singapore-Australia Free Trade Agreement Amendment Implementation) Bill 2017 will amend the Customs Tariff Act 1995 to make complementary amendments to set out the preferential rates of customs duty for Singaporean originating goods.
Human rights implications
- This Bill engages the Right to privacy in Article 17 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR).
The Bill, amongst other things, contains amendments that will broaden sections 126AB, 126AC and 126AD of the Customs Act to apply to goods that are Australian originating goods, not just those goods that are claimed to be the produce and manufacture of Australia.
These amendments will enable regulations to prescribe record keeping obligations that apply in relation to goods exported to Singapore where such goods are claimed to be Australian originating goods, and allow authorised officers to request records from exporters and producers. Sections 126AB, 126AC and 126AD of the Customs Act currently enables such regulations to be prescribed for goods exported to Singapore that are claimed to be produce and manufacture of Australia, and for an authorised officer to request for records and to disclose records for a limited purpose.
These requirements reflect the terms of the Amendment Agreement and will allow Singapore to verify the origin of goods for which preferential tariff treatment is claimed in Singapore. This may include the collection and disclosure of personal information for limited purposes. This information will be disclosed to a Singapore customs official for the purpose of verifying a preferential tariff in Singapore.
To the extent the Bill will allow for the collection and disclosure of personal information, the Bill engages the right to privacy under Article 17 of the ICCPR. Article 17(1) sets out:
No one shall be subjected to arbitrary or unlawful interference with his privacy, family, home or correspondence, nor to unlawful attacks on his honour and reputation.
Following the passing of this Bill, the collection and disclosure of personal information in relation to goods claiming to be either produce of manufacture of Australia, or Australian originating goods, will be lawful. Further, the collection and disclosure of personal information is protected under Australian law and the existing protections will not be altered in any way by the Bill.
Verification of the eligibility for preferential treatment is required under the Amendment Agreement and so this measure in the Bill is directed at the legitimate purpose of facilitating and supporting Australia's international obligations under the Singapore-Australia Free Trade Agreement. This collection and disclosure of personal information will only be permitted for the limited purpose of verifying a claim made by a person for preferential tariff treatment making it a reasonable and proportionate response to a legitimate purpose. As such, the collection and disclosure of personal information in these circumstances cannot be said to constitute an unlawful or arbitrary interference with privacy.
The Bill is compatible with human rights because to the extent that it may engage the right to privacy, it cannot be said that the amendment in the Bill could constitute an unlawful or arbitrary interference with privacy.