House of Representatives

Customs Legislation Amendment (Modernising) Bill 2008

Second Reading Speech

Mr Debus (Minister for Home Affairs)

I move:

That this bill be now read a second time.

I am pleased to introduce the Customs Legislation Amendment (Modernising) Bill 2008 .

This bill contains amendments to the Customs Act 1901 and the Customs Legislation Amendment and Repeal (International Trade Modernisation) Act 2001 to improve the operation of:

·
the new SmartGate solution;
·
the Certificate of Origin requirements for the Singapore-Australia Free Trade Agreement;
·
customs brokers' employment arrangements; and
·
the duty recovery and payments of duty under protest.

Customs introduced SmartGate, a so-called automated passenger-processing solution, in August 2007. What SmartGate does is allow air passengers and crew to use an automated clearance process through the immigration point at the border.

This bill will amend the Customs Act to ensure that any false and misleading information provided using the SmartGate solution is covered by the existing offence provisions related to making false and misleading statements to an officer of Customs.

The bill also gives effect to recommendations of the first Ministerial Review of the Agreement by Australia and Singapore in July 2004. They would allow importers to provide less documentation to Customs when claiming preferential rates of duty on imported goods under that agreement.

To recognise the changing employment practices that are taking place in the customs brokers' community, this bill will also remove the present restrictions in the Customs Act which prohibit individual customs brokers from being employed by more than one customs brokerage at the same time.

The bill further amends the Customs Act to limit the time for the recovery of customs duty to four years in all cases, except in the case of fraud or evasion where no time limit will apply. This proposed new regime is a response to the decision of the High Court in Malika Holdings Pty Ltd against Stretton, a case decided in 2001, and it is consistent with the existing regime for the recovery of other indirect taxes.

The bill will also clarify the process for making a payment of customs duty under protest. Further, the bill will amend the Customs Act to enable the chief executive officer, in certain circumstances, to offset an amount of unpaid duty on goods against any amount of refund or rebate the owner would be eligible for if the owner pays that duty.

This is a bill which assists the administration of Customs by making a number of provisions which will modernise the relevant legislation and, as I say, improve the administration of Customs in consequence. I commend the bill to the House

Debate (on motion by Mr Randall ) adjourned.