House of Representatives

Customs Amendment Bill (No. 1) 2000

Second Reading Speech

BY Mr WILLIAMS (Tangney-Attorney-General)

I move:

That the bill be now read a second time.

This bill proposes to amend the Customs Act 1901 by introducing a new reporting scheme for high volume low value cargo arriving in Australia. All cargo arriving in Australia is required to be reported under the Customs Act. It is basic to Customs' ability to fulfil its border protection responsibilities that people transporting cargo to Australia report to Customs the details of the cargo intended to be discharged in Australia.

An effective reporting mechanism enables Customs to screen the cargo and to protect the Australian community from the importation of illicit drugs and prohibited goods. This bill deals with a particular type of cargo, which is referred to as high volume low value cargo. This term covers bulk consignments of documents and consolidated mail orders which are valued at less than $250 per consignment and which are transported to Australia by specialist operators such as express couriers.

This sector of the transport industry has grown dramatically in recent years, with some 120,000 consignments arriving each week at Sydney airport alone. The current reporting provisions do not work effectively for high volume low value consignments simply because of the large volume of such consignments entering the country each year. This results in many of these consignments not being properly reported. Consequently, Customs has not been able to screen the consignments as effectively as it would like. This is of particular concern given that these types of consignments are of the type commonly suspect by Customs as harbouring illicit drugs.

The High Volume Low Value Reporting Scheme proposed by this bill would enable these consignments to be properly reported and screened. The scheme will utilise electronic technology to enable those reporting such consignments to provide Customs with access to their internal electronic data bases so that Customs may electronically screen the details of each consignment. To perform this screening task, Customs is currently developing the advanced cargo profiling system. The system is being developed at a cost of $2.8 million under the Government's National Illicit Drug Strategy.

This bill proposes to make the scheme available to all people reporting such consignments, whether the consignments arrive by air or sea. The proposed system will therefore enable Customs to perform its screening responsibilities more effectively. At the same time, this bill will provide arrangements for industry to more efficiently and properly report high volume low value cargo. The House should note that further changes to the reporting arrangements will be necessary in the future as Customs updates its processing requirements as part of the continuing streamlining and reform of international trade.

I commend the bill to the House and present the explanatory memorandum to the bill.