Wednesday, 10 October 2012
Customs Amendment (Anti-dumping Improvements) Bill (No. 2) 2011, Customs Amendment (Anti-dumping Improvements) Bill (No. 2) 2012, Customs Tariff (Anti-Dumping) Amendment Bill (No. 1) 2012, Customs Amendment (Anti-dumping Improvements) Bill (No. 3) 2012; Second Reading
I am delighted today to rise to support the bills before us, which represent the second, third and fourth tranches of what have been significant reforms to Australia's antidumping regime. They are in fact the most comprehensive reforms to Australia's antidumping regime in over 10 years. They are the result of a comprehensive inquiry by the Productivity Commission and they take account of the views of state and territory governments and Senate committee reports. The consultation was quite lengthy and I am pleased to know that a broad range of views were sought and listened to, from key industry players affected by dumping in Australia right through to major unions. So I think we can be confident that the reforms we have before the chamber are based on the needs of all sections of the Australian economy.
As we know, the Australian economy is in a strong position under the stewardship of the Labor government, and I congratulate the Treasurer and the finance minister on this. Indeed, they have announced that the Australian economy is now the 12th largest in the world. We have leapt three places, surpassing economies as large and diverse as South Korea, Spain and Mexico. It is a testament to good financial and economic management. But, as these bills highlight, there are challenges facing our economy. As I have said before in this place, the health of our manufacturing sector is perhaps the greatest of those challenges. That is why I am pleased to be here in this chamber taking action to ensure that dumping pressures are relieved on the Australian manufacturing sector as one of the planks that help ensure we have a healthy manufacturing sector into the future.
Today we are looking at the Customs Amendment (Anti-dumping Improvements) Bill (No. 2), the Customs Tariff (Anti-Dumping) Amendment Bill (No. 1) 2012 and related bills.
I would like to begin by dismissing the idea that antidumping laws are merely a reflection of protectionist sentiments in this country. It is simply not the case. Antidumping laws are not about protectionism; they are very much about recognising the fact that overseas companies can and do engage in anticompetitive practices by dumping their products here in Australia at prices well below their actual value or cost of production.
Dumping has had serious consequences for the Australian economy and, because Australian companies cannot compete with these artificially low prices, we see the results in the cutting back of jobs and training or sometimes even the closure of shops entirely. Losing manufacturing jobs reduces the diversity and resilience of our economy and we must do everything reasonable to combat these anticompetitive practices. It is notable that the prices of the dumped goods are often artificially lower due to foreign government subsidies and ownership—precisely the type of government economic intervention that opponents of antidumping abhor. In that context, I note the significant challenges to Australian industries, such as the steel industry, while countries that we compete with—China, for example—are building massive reserves of manufactured steel. We need to be mindful that such products are not dumped here in Australia and artificially and falsely compete with Australian steel.