Evidence tendered to a Senate Inquiry on anti-dumping legislation has revealed that the Abbott Government has breached the Customs Act by not holding meetings of the International Trade Remedies Forum, a critical advisory group set up by the previous Labor Government as part of a suite of reforms to enhance Australia’s anti-dumping system.
The Customs Act stipulates that the International Trade Remedies Forum “must meet at least twice each calendar year” (Customs Act Part XVC, page 204). The law also spells out its structure and purpose.
However, we know from evidence tendered to the inquiry that the Forum last met on 25 March 2013.
It is not surprising that the Minister has not answered Mr Zappia’s Question in Writing, submitted over 6 weeks ago, which asked if the ITRF had met in over two years.
Numerous submissions to the inquiry have questioned the logic of disbanding an industry-led advisory group that has played a vital role in strengthening Australia’s anti-dumping system.
At a public hearing of the Senate Committee in Canberra today, even officials from the Anti-Dumping Commission said that the work of the International Trade Remedies Forum was “absolutely relevant to the work of the anti-dumping system.”
Yet the Department of Industry and Science could not explain why the Abbott Government has seen fit to operate outside of the law on such an important issue for Australian industry.
Dumping occurs when goods exported to Australia are priced below their ‘normal value’, which is usually the comparable price in the ordinary course of trade in the exporter’s domestic market.
An effective and responsive anti-dumping regime is critical to ensuring Australian businesses do not suffer injury as a result of goods from overseas being dumped into markets within Australia.
In Government, Labor strengthened Australia’s anti-dumping and countervailing system to provide stronger protection for Australian firms from unfair competition, implementing the most significant reforms to Australia’s anti-dumping regime in more than a decade.
Industry has the right to be concerned that the Abbott Government has dropped the ball when it comes to acting in their best interests.
Acting outside the law on our anti-dumping system is just one more example of this government’s chaotic management and flagrant disregard for Australian businesses and Australian jobs.