Wednesday, 7 February 2007
Customs Legislation Amendment (Border Compliance and Other Measures) Bill 2006
Minister, the Accredited Client Program as originally devised: was that open to all businesses, or was it only ever going to be for the big end of town—that is, when we had full duty deferral? I imagined that the Accredited Client Program was going to be available for those who could comply with the system. What you have now outlined is really a two-tiered system: the big end of town is going to get a streamlined system if they comply; the small to medium sized enterprises are not going to get access to this system. So what we now have is really a closed system, where the big end of town only is going to benefit. You might have small to medium sized enterprises that do want to and can comply and want to participate but, effectively, will not be able to, given the way the system is now going to be devised and the complexity that is going to surround the system where you have Customs entering into one-to-one relationships with the big end of town.
It does sound like the Howard government, quite frankly; it really does. I would have thought that the whole idea of an Accredited Client Program ultimately was to ensure that you would have a simple, easy system, a flexible system, for those who could comply to do two things: facilitate trade and secure the supply chain. And if they can meet the criteria they should be able to join in the system. But I will let the minister answer that shortly.
Another aspect worries me. You also indicated that the system will be that the accredited client will devise a system for the estimation jointly with Customs. Is that going to be a confidential agreement between the two, or are others going to understand how that estimation process is going to work? It could lead to favouritism by one against the other when you have those sorts of arrangements put in place. And, if it is, where are the safeguards?
Will it be transparent as to how those estimations work for one company and the next, or will that simply be confidential between the parties and they and Customs alone will know how that estimation will work? A lot will turn on how that estimation works: for instance, how much is being held in escrow by Customs on behalf of the client. Those types of arrangements can in fact mean quite a lot of money is involved in the scheme itself.