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; In Committee
There are a number of preliminary matters before I get to the amendments that are standing in my name. If I may, I will ask the minister some preliminary questions. I am not sure whether the opposition has a number of questions in relation to how the main bill will operate. One of the issues that I have just raised in my second reading contribution relates to what support small businesses will get under this bill and what support there is under the current antidumping regime in terms of taking on cases. Tindo Solar is to me a typical example of the sorts of difficulties that small manufacturers have. Tindo Solar, with just 10 employees and which is manufacturing in a high-tech manufacturing facility at Mawson Lakes in South Australia, was quoted $1 million for a dumping case. I have spoken to lawyers who deal with WTO matters and they say that it is a highly specialised and very expensive field of law to deal with and that these cases can be exhausting in terms of the exhaustive matters that need to be dealt with. So what mechanisms are there in place? What comfort can the government give to small Australian manufacturers that have difficulty in accessing a fair go if they want to contest a dumping case? Otherwise $1 million is completely out of the question for even some fairly large manufacturers to take on a dumping case.
Thank you, Senator Xenophon. I am advised that the small business support will be comprehensive in that there is an international trade remedies adviser currently placed in Ai Group and their role will be to advise small business on the operation of the scheme. In fact, I would certainly like to extend to you the invitation to meet with the trade remedies adviser, so you can be assured firsthand of the role that they will play in supporting small business to access and operate within the scheme.
I am grateful to the minister for that answer but if she could elaborate as to this in terms of the international trade remedies adviser through the Ai Group, and I know the Australian Industry Group has done a lot of good work in relation to this. As I understand it, the international trade remedies adviser can give general advice but they do not have the resources to actually take on a case. It is an advisory service rather than an advocacy service, and what businesses such as Tindo Solar require is advocacy to ensure that they have a fighting chance of taking on a case. So to what extent can the advisory service provide advocacy services and does the government concede that there is a real issue there for small and medium businesses and even larger businesses in this country when dealing with dumping issues?
Thanks, Senator Xenophon. To bring on a case I understand that there needs to be 25 per cent of the market, so it is not going to be a single SME in the way that you describe. There will be a group and by having 25 per cent of the market and working in the same direction of course there will be resources additional to what you are describing in the case of a single SME trying to bring an action.
If I could rephrase the question in another way: under this legislation can the government elaborate whether with the 25 per cent whether there can be a grouping together in terms of what is being proposed and under the current antidumping regime? In other words, is it a question of those small and medium businesses being able to get together to be considered as an application? Secondly, let us assume you do get a group with 25 per cent of the market. Does that mean that they will get assistance in terms of advocacy? Also, the other issue relates to Tindo Solar, which probably has one per cent or less than one per cent of the Australian market or even well under one per cent given the way that there has been a shrinkage in the Australian manufacturing market share of solar panels. If the market has shrunk below 25 per cent as a result of dumping in the first place, where does that leave Australian manufacturers? Is it a bit of a catch 22 in terms of being able to access antidumping measures?
Senator, the answer to your substantive question is, yes, companies can get together to form that 25 per cent of the market but I reiterate, as you have made the point about the trade remedies adviser, the role of the trade remedies adviser is not to be an advocate per se but rather to provide advice on the operation of the scheme to those businesses. Mr Temporary Chairman, it might be useful for me to generally reflect on the range of amendments proposed by Senator Xenophon at this time. The senator's amendments essentially mirror proposals included in the private member's bill he introduced to the Senate last year and the primary reason the government is not able to support these amendments is that they are not in line with our international obligations, particularly as to the WTO. The key proposal to reverse the onus of proof in antidumping investigations would, as worded, clearly breach WTO rules and would represent a departure from accepted international investigation practices. The government is confident that the four tranches of legislation that we have put before the parliament strike the right balance between the various competing interests whilst also complying with Australia's international obligations under the World Trade Organization rules. As I have described, through the small business support, through the international trade remedies adviser, we are firmly of the view that adequate support will be there for small businesses and will alleviate the concerns that Senator Xenophon is expressing.