House of Representatives

Customs Amendment (Anti-dumping Measures) Bill (No. 1) 2015

Second Reading Speech

Mr Macfarlane (Minister for Industry and Science)

I move:

That this bill be now read a second time.

I am pleased to present the Customs Amendment (Anti-Dumping Measures) Bill (No. 1) 2015, representing part of the government's reforms to strengthen and improve Australia's anti-dumping system.

This is a government that strongly supports genuine free and fair trade and an open and dynamic market economy. However the importation of dumped and subsidised goods, which injure Australian manufacturers and producers, undermines the viability of efficient, innovative and hard-working Australian businesses.

This is why we support Australia having an effective trade remedies regime. It represents an integral part of a robust international trading system and we want to ensure that Australian industries are competing on a level playing field. It is also critical to our broader plan to boost the competitiveness of Australian manufacturing.

Australia's current regime for combatting injurious dumping and subsidisation is transparent and complies with our obligations under World Trade Organization agreements. But there is clearly room to strengthen and improve the efficiency and effectiveness of the system-and that is what we plan to do.

Our reforms included in this bill introduce a number of measures to strengthen Australia's anti-dumping system. The improvements included in this bill will:

improve the current merits review arrangements;
improve the flexibility of stakeholder consultations;
modernise the way information about anti-dumping investigations and other inquiries is published; and
simplify, clarify and better align our anti-dumping legislation with international law and practice.

The improvements that I am introducing today are designed to address stakeholder concerns about the effectiveness of Australia's anti-dumping system, in a manner that is consistent with our trade obligations, including those under World Trade Organization Agreements.

We are introducing more stringent deadlines for submissions to investigations in order to assist businesses to get more timely access to remedies. This amendment aligns our legislation with the quickest time frames permissible and sends a message to businesses intending to export dumped and subsidised goods at injurious prices to Australia that we are serious about taking a tougher approach to combatting unfair trade.

We are also modernising the provisions which govern how key information about anti-dumping investigations, and other inquiries, is made public. Under current arrangements, many types of key notices are required to be published physically in newspapers. This arrangement is outdated and does not fully recognise the high level of transparency of Australia's anti-dumping system or the excellent electronic public record managed by the Anti-Dumping Commission. By standardising electronic publication throughout the anti-dumping system, we will be providing stakeholders with the certainty that they can access all notices in one place, free of charge, and at the same time.

This bill will also increase business certainty in anti-dumping decisions by improving the current merits review process, which is administered by the Anti-Dumping Review Panel. Specifically, the Anti-Dumping Commission will be able to participate in reviews, either by attending a conference called by the review panel or making submissions during the review. This complements the ability of the review panel to request reinvestigations by the commission and provides the review panel even greater access to the commission's expertise. These improvements ensure the review panel members have access to the information necessary to make informed judgements, whilst maintaining their independence from our anti-dumping investigators.

In addition, this bill will also raise the legal and procedural threshold for applying for a review and allow the charging of a fee for lodging an application. Although these measures may deter some parties from seeking a review, this will allow the review panel to focus on only the most serious and review-worthy issues that businesses truly believe need to be challenged. We have also considered the impact of the fee on smaller businesses, with small and medium-sized businesses applicable for a reduced fee when seeking review.

We want to ensure that businesses have greater certainty in decisions made during anti-dumping and countervailing investigations and that these matters are resolved in a timely, robust and efficient manner. This bill will not affect stakeholder rights to also seek judicial review of anti-dumping decisions.

Finally, this bill also reduces red tape by removing the legislative establishment of the International Trade Remedies Forum, which is the government's anti-dumping advisory body. The forum, as it is currently legislated, binds the government to a rigid and restricted method for consulting stakeholders. This government believes that a more flexible arrangement will allow a wider range of stakeholders to be consulted on the operation and reform of Australia's anti-dumping system.

Instead, the government is committed to ensuring a broad range of stakeholders are able to bring their views on the administration and reform of the anti-dumping system to the government. Flexible consultation ensures important issues can be raised in a timely manner and stakeholders are afforded the opportunity to be heard by the government.

The reforms in this bill will be complemented by the improvements contained in the Customs Tariff (Anti-Dumping) Amendment Bill 2015. In addition to the improvements included in these bills, we are introducing a range of further reforms that improve access to the anti-dumping system, particularly for small and medium-sized businesses, and strengthen the incentives for businesses to cooperate with anti-dumping investigations.

Although these reforms address concerns raised by stakeholders, I will continue to monitor the efficiency and effectiveness of Australia's anti-dumping system and consider whether further improvements are required.

We are committed to ensuring that Australian industry is able to compete on a level playing field. Our reforms will ensure that Australian industries have access to a strong anti-dumping system that delivers efficient and effective remedies for Australian businesses injured by dumping and subsidisation.

I commend the bill to the House.