Tuesday, 8 November 2016
Customs Tariff Amendment (2017 Harmonized System Changes) Bill 2016, Customs Amendment (2017 Harmonized System Changes) Bill 2016; Second Reading
I rise to say that Labor will support the Customs Tariff Amendment (2017 Harmonised System Changes) Bill 2016 and the Customs Amendment (2017 Harmonised System Changes) Bill 2016. The government is cutting it fine here, as it has to have this done by the beginning of 2017. But we will facilitate the passage of this legislation—indeed, both bills.
In relation to the non-tariff bill—I will call it that—this bill makes some minor amendments to maintain the collection of the correct import duties for biofuels and biofuel blends imported under the China-Australia Free Trade Agreement. The bill also implements some consequential changes required as part of the fifth review of the International Convention on the Harmonised Commodity Description and Coding System, commonly to referred as the harmonised system. It is particularly important, as Australia is a signatory to the World Customs Organisation and we are a part of the harmonised system. It is important for trade—there is no doubt about that.
I note that complementary amendments will be made to the Customs Tariff Act 1995 by the customs tariff amendment, as I have said, so we will support this particular legislation. We are a signatory, and Australia takes seriously its obligations regarding trade and particularly free trade, and Labor has a long history of supporting free trade. Labor will support that particular piece of legislation. In relation to the tariff amendment, this bill makes approximately 950 amendments to create, change and clarify tariff codes. I note that the amendments are the result of the World Customs Organisation's fifth review, as I said before.
Australia has had a significant input into their review, and government agencies and industry groups have been consulted on the changes during the review process. I thank the government for briefing the opposition on this. As a signatory to the harmonized system we are required to implement these changes by 1 January 2017. For those who do not know, the Customs Tariff Act provides an eight-digit classification with a six-digit international classification, supplemented by two digits for domestic purposes. The additional two digits are used for statistical purposes by the Australian Bureau of Statistics. There are some new subheadings, ensuring items are classified in the correct way. I note the International Narcotics Control Board made a request for the new subheadings to be inserted to better facilitate the monitoring and control of narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances.
The amendments address some environmental and social issues, such as further enhanced monitoring of trade in certain fish and tropical woods by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. It removes tariff codes for items no longer widely imported and used, such as typewriters, and it includes changes to recognise new and emerging technologies. It is particularly important in giving assurances to Australian importers that Australia's classification of goods accords with the harmonized system and is consistent with our major trading partners.
It gives effect to the applications of customs duties on certain imported goods in accordance with bilateral trade agreements, for example, the rules of origin in the following agreements—I will not go through them all—our free trade agreements with the United States, Thailand, Chile, Malaysia, Korea, Japan, China et cetera. The changes will be submitted to the Joint Standing Committee on Treaties in accordance with Australia's treaty-making process and, following that, I understand that the department will make arrangements to amend the relevant regulations for each and every agreement. We support both pieces of legislation.
I rise to sum up the Customs Tariff Amendment (2017 Harmonized System Changes) Bill 2016 and an associated bill. I first want to thank the shadow minister and the opposition for their support and consideration of these important changes.
The Customs Tariff Amendment (2017 Harmonized System Changes) Bill 2016 contains approximately 150 amendments to the Customs Tariff Act 1995. These amendments give effect to Australia's obligations arising from the World Customs Organization's fifth review of the International Convention on the Harmonized Commodity Description and Coding System, commonly referred to as 'the harmonized system'. The bill establishes new tariff classifications, amends existing classifications, provides clarity and removes obsolete provisions.
The new tariff classifications established by this bill provide for the identification of new and emerging technologies. Reporting against the new and amended tariff classifications will provide a clearer picture of trade patterns, facilitate the collection and comparison of trade data and assist the monitoring of trade in certain goods. This bill ensures that Australia's tariff classifications are consistent with Australia's major trading partners.
Turning to the second bill, the Customs Amendment (2017 Harmonized System Changes) Bill 2016 contains amendments to the Customs Act 1901. These amendments, in conjunction with the Customs Tariff Amendment (2017 Harmonized System Changes) Bill 2016, which I just spoke about, give effect to Australia's obligations arising from the World Customs Organization's fifth review of the International Convention on the Harmonized Commodity Description and Coding System. The bill also makes minor amendments to the Customs Act 1901 to provide for the collection of appropriate import duties for biofuels and biofuel blends, imported under the China-Australia Free Trade Agreement. I commend the bills to the House.
Question agreed to.