House of Representatives

Customs Legislation Amendment Bill (No. 2) 1999

Second Reading Speech

Senator NEWMAN (Minister for Family and Community Services and Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for the Status of Women)

I move:

That this bill be now read a second time.

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

Leave granted.

The speech read as follows-

This bill proposes to amend the Customs Act 1901 in three separate areas. The first is the introduction of an Electronic Lodgement and Payments system for refunds of Customs duty, the second is the introduction of a Customs duty deferral facility and the third is an extension to the length of Customs Agents licences from 1 to 3 years.

Electronic lodgement of refund applications

The Electronic Lodgement and Payments system for refunds of Customs duty (ELOR) is an enhancement to the Customs import entry computer system (COMPILE). The process of automating the refunds system has been accommodated by this enhancement, and it will be accessible to users of the COMPILE system.

In order to finalise refund applications under the present legislation, Customs Brokers and Importers must physically lodge the application at a Customs office for processing. Providing no further supporting documentation is required and a refund circumstance exists, it may take any where up to 30 days before Customs staff are able to manually process this request.

In addition, this manual process is very resource intensive, with approximately 60,000 refund applications lodged across Australia in the last two years.

The amendments proposed in this bill will provide a head of power for the making of Regulations to permit the processing of refund applications electronically. It is proposed that the Customs Regulations will prescribe the enhanced COMPILE computer system for this purpose as soon as this bill receives Parliamentary passage.

As with other electronic reporting systems in the Customs environment, the new system will provide an electronic option; the existing manual lodgement system for refunds will still be available for any person who chooses to do so.

The Government acknowledges the support from Industry for the ELOR initiative and places on record that the funding for the development, consultation, implementation, testing, training and post-implementation review has been provided by Industry through the Cargo Automation Development Fund.

Customs duty deferral facility

The second initiative dealt with in this bill relates to a proposed Customs duty deferral facility. At present, Customs duty on imported goods is paid before the goods are released into home consumption. However, there are no current provisions in the act specifying the time when Customs duty must be paid, nor are there any general provisions in the act allowing the payment of duty to be deferred.

The proposed amendments will expressly stipulate the time when payment of Customs duty is required, and provide a mechanism for the deferral of payment of Customs duty by enabling Regulations to prescribe later times for the payment of such duty.

These amendments will bring the Customs Act into line with the Government's GST legislation in so far as the latter creates a link between the payment of Customs duty and GST on imports. The GST legislation makes GST on imports payable at the same time, place and manner that Customs duty is payable. Where deferral of GST on imports is to be permitted under that legislation, these amendments to the Customs legislation will permit a similar deferral of Customs duty to be entertained.

Customs Brokers Licensing System

The final element of this bill proposes amendments to the Customs Brokers Licensing System resulting from a review of that system undertaken by Customs, the Customs Brokers Council of Australia, and the National Customs Agents Licensing Advisory Committee.

These proposed amendments are explained in detail in the explanatory memorandum to this bill, and have the full support of the Industry groups mentioned.

Debate (on motion by Senator O'Brien) adjourned.