Wednesday, 7 February 2007
Customs Legislation Amendment (Border Compliance and Other Measures) Bill 2006
The way the Accredited Client Program has been described is that anyone is available to apply to be part of the program. But the commercial reality is that you will not get the benefit from it if you are a small importer, because you have to have the volume of importation to get the benefit out of the Accredited Client Program. We have never made any secret of that. We have said that if you have that volume and, of course, you are a client who has shown high compliance, you can get the streamlined importation. So anyone can apply, but you first have to show that you are highly compliant and then you have to make a decision as to whether you have sufficient volume of importation to benefit from becoming part of this program. There would really be nothing in it for a small importer, because they would not get the benefits of a large-scale importer.
This was always designed to accommodate highly compliant importers and those people who could economically benefit from the streamlined approach to high volume. It is more than open to small to medium enterprises to come to Customs—and many of them could be highly compliant—but with what they have to do in this program they would not get the economic benefit of a larger importer. It was always designed that way. It is a commercial decision for the importer as to whether or not it offers them that benefit. They will vote with their feet and say, ‘It is obviously of commercial benefit to me to participate in,’ or, ‘It is not of commercial benefit.’ You could have no better way of letting the market determine its own benefit.
The contract is commercial-in-confidence. We do not publish the details about our contracts with companies. I totally reject any allegation of favouritism. The Taxation Office enters into confidential arrangements with taxpayers. I think we can have every confidence that the tax office is always looking out for revenue and that Customs equally shares that responsibility and that any arrangement would be to the benefit of protecting revenue. I think Customs has a fine tradition in that regard and so does the Taxation Office. I hardly see a situation where that would be disadvantageous to the Australian taxpayer. But for commercial reasons obviously you would want to keep that confidential.
I stress again that the Accredited Client Program is open to anyone, but it is for that person to work out whether it is the program for them and whether it suits their needs. We always said that the benefit would be to the high-volume importer. By natural definition, if you are a high-volume importer you tend to be a larger company.