Wednesday, 7 February 2007
Customs Legislation Amendment (Border Compliance and Other Measures) Bill 2006
Just so the record is plain on this, there was no criticism from the Labor Party about your attendance at committees and your diligent work on committees. I do understand that you have to spread yourself quite thinly with the workload that you have in the portfolios in your area. The comments I make do not go to a criticism of you not attending inquiries or you not being aware of the submissions or the reports. I think it is worth while putting that on the record.
We do understand the point that you make in relation to this issue. The Labor Party have had criticisms of the Accredited Client Program for some time now. We still think that the model that Customs has now is deficient. We have a difficulty with you trying to put a definition into this area. Labor cannot agree at this stage with changing the definition to rely on the World Customs Organisation as the benchmark for the Australian standard. These are standards promulgated by the World Customs Organisation. You cannot put them in and adopt them in a legislative framework. Certainly, if it were a treaty, we could ratify or sign the treaty and then implement it in domestic law. That is the usual way we would do those things. It would be unusual to use a World Customs Organisation framework of standards as a way of implementing a benchmark within our legislative framework.
The better way, and in fact what the government should be doing, would be to look at a whole framework, moving forward with the issues in World Customs Organisation standards and going through that process. What we really have instead is a model—that is, the Accredited Client Program—which is not complete. It seems that it is only half the program. In our view, you would need to fundamentally overhaul the current government’s direction in this area to be able to rely on your definition.
We intend to do that at some point. We will look forward to your support in this area. If you look at what the government are fundamentally doing, they are not implementing the Accredited Client Program in a holistic way. It is going to end up without the security components. In many instances, I suspect that not too many people are going to sign up to it. I wonder how successful it will be in the short term, but I do not want to second-guess what might happen to it. But, at this point in time, I do not think that expanding the ACP through the definition is a successful way of bringing about an accredited client program to meet all these things.
This is a matter that government should be pushing. The government should be developing a true accredited client program, with trade facilitation and trade security as the two sides of the one coin. They should then work with the clients to expand it to ensure that it has benefits for industry—the importers, the brokers and everyone else associated with the industry—and that Customs then obtains some benefit out of it. That is a program I think they thought they were developing; it is certainly not one that they have finally developed, especially when you look at the duty deferral issue.
Originally it was promised that we would have a duty deferral system. That fell over for a range of reasons I will come to shortly. We now have a system which I think adds red tape to the overall system. That is a roundabout way of saying that we are not going to support your amendment because it tries to do all of that. It tries to put a framework and an accredited client program in place that just does not exist. The government really needs to do the groundwork first before we will have a true accredited client program that will provide benefits to importers, exporters, brokers and Customs themselves.
I understand the principle; I understand the direction you are going in. I agree with the principle and I agree with the direction you are heading in. In this instance, it is putting in the provisions before the government has even got a system in place, unfortunately. Certainly we will be watching this from our perspective, and we intend to work towards an accredited client program that in fact will work.