When all things change, Customs stays the same

When all things change, Customs stays the same

The Minister for Immigration and Border Protection, Peter Dutton used his opening address at the Department of Immigration and Border Protection (DIPB) Industry Summit on Monday morning (31 July 2017) to assure those in the private supply chain and their clients that the current work agenda would be maintained under the proposed Home Affairs department.

Along with the Acting Commissioner of the Australian Border Force (ABF), Minister Dutton reiterated that the ABF would continue in its traditional ‘Customs’ role and the ABF, as part of the DIBP, would also continue its vital engagement with industry and development of trade facilitation measures to assist in the legitimate trade in goods and movement in people.

At the time of the announcement of the creation of the new Department of Home Affairs (DHA), the focus of the commentary was on national and border security issues with no comment on the traditional ‘Customs’ role of the ABF or its ongoing engagement with industry and the facilitation of international trade at the border.

Naturally, there were some concerns that the failure to address these important roles could mean that the importance of those roles was being downgraded and that momentum on various initiatives here and overseas could be lost with an increased focus on security and intervention in trade.

Both speakers made the point that the involvement of the ABF with the DHA would allow the ABF to have access to additional information at an earlier stage than is presently the case, which would actually enhance the ability of the ABF to carry out its roles. These outcomes were all consistent with the theme of the industry summit being “Border Innovation: strengthening our nation’s economy, security and society.”

In terms of the work of the DIBP and the ABF in the engagement with industry in relation to the movement of goods, there was reference to recent achievements and future commitments with such initiatives as:

  • The creation of a ‘single window’ for trade such as in Singapore and New Zealand.
  • The expansion of the Australian Trusted Trader Program (ATTP).
  • The recent completion of four Mutual Recognition Agreements (MRA) with other customs services for those in the ATTP.
  • The promise of more MRA with customs services in other trading partners.
  • The development and implementation of Free Trade Agreements (FTA) to improve the use of those current and future FTAs by the adoption of robust Rules of Origin, enhanced border clearance facilitation.
  • The increased use of more advance technology and reporting systems.

There were similar references to commitments in the migration space as relating to the movement of persons.

The comments provide a degree of assurance to industry that the current work agenda would be maintained and developed and that the engagement with industry remained a priority. While the reference to the achievements and initiative represents only a reiteration of those developments currently known to industry, their clear support from the Federal Government filled in a gap in the story that arose with the announcements relating to the DHA.

Industry looks forward to continued engagement on these projects and its ongoing collaborative work with government, whether the DIBP, the ABF or other agencies that have a role at the border.

Andrew Hudson is Partner with Rigby Cooke Lawyers’ Litigation Team, specialising in all areas of trade including international trade conventions, dispute resolution and arbitration, trade financing options, commodity and freight contracts as well as dealing with regulation of the movement of goods at the border by all Government agencies.

He is also a member of many of the consultative bodies established by Government in the trade space, including the National Committee on Trade Facilitation convened by the Department of Immigration and Border Protection and the International Trade Remedies Forum convened by the Anti – Dumping Commission (ADC) as well as associated sub-committees. He is also a member of the board of directors of the Export Council of Australia (ECA) and the Food and Beverage Importers Association (FBIA) and works closely with other industry associations representing those in the supply chain.

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