Question Without Notice - Anti-Dumping Reforms

Ms BIRD (Cunningham) (14:55): My question is to the Minister for Justice, the Minister for Home Affairs and the Minister for Privacy and Freedom of Information. Will the minister update the House on the progress of the government's anti-dumping reforms in supporting Australian industry? What other proposals have been put forward and what is the government's response?

Mr BRENDAN O'CONNOR (Gorton—Minister for Privacy and Freedom of Information, Minister for Home Affairs and Minister for Justice) (14:55): I thank the member for Cunningham for her question. She is a true advocate and champion for manufacturing workers in this country, and I can assure her that the government is working to keep our economy strong by making sure that Australian manufacturers are supported from unfair trading practices such as dumping.

The government's improvements to the anti-dumping system will deliver faster resolution of complaints. Indeed, we are committed to increasing staff of Customs from 31 to 45 to ensure Customs has the right level of resources but also to ensure additional experts such as forensic accountants in order to ensure we have quicker and more effective advice so we can prevent dumping in this country. Customs, of course, will also consider the need for provisional measures at the earliest opportunity in an investigation rather than waiting until verifying all data, something that I believe has been a problem for manufacturers and producers in this country for some time. Indeed, the legislation that has passed the House will have a 30-day time limit on the minister's decision making for such cases.

By way of comparison, under the Howard government Minister Vanstone would take up to more than one year to make decisions in this area. That certainly frustrated the parties. The government's improvements will also enable us to identify dumping behaviour by making particular market situation provisions more effective and making significant changes to the appeals process and amending the definition of material injury. The reforms will ensure greater consistency with other countries by taking into account relevant cases and practices in other jurisdictions, specifically in relation to non-cooperative parties. Indeed, legislation currently before the parliament also rectifies an omission of the Howard government, ensuring that Australian industry can take action against the same unfair subsidies overseas that everybody else can.

These are very important reforms. The government will also ensure compliance with the trade remedies in place through increased monitoring and anti-circumvention measures. The International Trade Remedies Forum has been established, representing industry, to provide ongoing advice to governments on the effectiveness of anti-dumping. I have been asked about alternative views. The fact is that there are no alternative views coming from the opposition, other than to say that the Leader of the Opposition, in his budget reply in speech in May, made reference to dumping but has done nothing since. Indeed, in February, the opposition set up a task force —

Mrs Mirabella interjecting— The SPEAKER: Order! The member for Indi will withdraw. Mrs Mirabella: I withdraw.

Mr BRENDAN O'CONNOR: Indeed, the member for Indi chairs this task force, which has no tasks and indeed no meaningful force. It has been there since February, telling workers around this country it is going to help them. But what have we seen since February? Absolutely nothing. The member for Indi was at the Press Club today. She spoke for 30 minutes. There were no announcements, no reforms, in this very important area, because in the end, when it comes to the opposition, they are a policy-free zone. We have rhetorical drivel from the member for Indi.

The reality is that this government cares about manufacturing in this country and it cares about agriculture in this country. That is why the employer bodies, the unions and the National Farmers Federation have supported our reforms. What we know is that the Leader of the Opposition may talk about dumping but in the end he will use workers as a prop in a media stunt; he will walk away from those workers in the same way he will  walk away from their entitlements. Giving the Leader of the Opposition control of employment conditions is like giving Dracula the keys of the blood bank. (Time expired)