Tuesday, 16 October 2018
Customs Amendment (Product Specific Rule Modernisation) Bill 2018; Second Reading
The Customs Amendment (Product Specific Rule Modernisation) Bill 2018 amends the Customs Act 1901 to streamline the way that the product-specific rules of origin of four existing free trade agreements are given effect in domestic legislation. The amendments in this bill apply to the ASEAN-Australia Free Trade Agreement with New Zealand, the Japan-Australia Economic Partnership Agreement, the China-Australia Free Trade Agreement and the Singapore-Australia Free Trade Agreement.
The amendments in the bill are technical in nature and enable the automatic updating of the product-specific rules schedules for the free trade agreements in domestic legislation immediately after they are adopted by the relevant parties, and after completion of any domestic treaty-making processes. These technical amendments will not affect the operation of any of the agreements that are the subject of the bill or the operation of the domestic legislation. The amendments will remove the need for regulation to prescribe the PSRs that already exist in the treaty text.
If the bill is passed, the Customs Act will apply the PSRs in each of the four FTAs by reference to the treaty rather than duplicating the PSRs themselves. As such, the bulk of the current rules-of-origin regulations, which total more than 2,500 pages, will be repealed, and a customs amendments regulation is proposed to commence if and when this bill is passed by the parliament. These amendments will specifically reduce the amount of time and resources that would otherwise be needed regularly to update the PSRs in these agreements. The bill also makes minor amendments to existing FTA divisions in the Customs Act to ensure consistency between our legislation and FTA text in the Singapore, Thailand, Malaysia, Chile and New Zealand FTAs.
The government is committed to the passage of these amendments in 2018 to facilitate through regulation the transmission of the PSRs scheduled. Failure to pass the legislation in 2018 would put Australia at risk of not being able to meet the commitments we have advocated to other parties. In passing the bill, the government honours the commitments made to its free trade agreement partners to ensure our agreements remain up to date, supporting our jobs and growth agenda as well as reducing red tape for Australian traders.
I also want to touch on the importance of trade. Trade does create wealth. We have a population of 25 million people, but we produce enough food for 75 million people. The electorate that I represent, the electorate of Mallee, is very much a food-exporting electorate. But we also benefit from trade. I know that nearly every member of the parliament will carry an iPhone or a Samsung phone. These are not made in Australia, and this is great technology we benefit from.
But trade also does something else that's important; trade ensures that people have closer interaction with each other, and interaction creates understanding. Countries that trade together very rarely fight. I'm very conscious of this through the legacy in the seat that I have the privilege of representing. I'm the fourth member for Mallee since 1946. Sir Winton Turnbull was the first member for Mallee. He was a prisoner of war in Changi—the horrors of Changi. In 1946, still with those war wounds in his body, he was walking around in the House of Representatives in the Old Parliament House, and yet he and the leadership of that day were able to develop the closer working trade relationship with Japan. The great legacy of that is that they were ultimately able to come from what was war to Japan being a major trading partner with Australia. The outworking of that is that Australia and Japan are close friends and we understand one another better than we ever have. We have never been in conflict ever again.
And so whilst we always spend a lot of time talking about what the economic benefit of trade is and how we ensure we get the best outcome for Australian businesses and Australian households—and that's something we should occupy our minds with—we must also remember that when we think of trade there is a human benefit. There is a benefit for the world. It does worry me that increasingly there are some in our political leadership across the world who think that they can put up walls and pull away from one another—that they can put their interests first and solely without thinking more broadly about the region.
I say that it is good that Australians value trade. I hope that the Australian population values what that brings to us. And I hope that members of this parliament always remember that when people share the goods they produce then they interact with one another and they grow in a greater understanding of one another. The real fringe benefits of trade are better standards of living for both countries and a more prosperous and peaceful world. I commend the bill to the House.
Question agreed to.
Bill read a second time.