TRADE policy must not be allowed to slip off the national agenda following the federal government announcing of a new national security-focused Home Affairs portfolio.
That’s the view of trade specialist and partner with Rigby Cooke Lawyers, Andrew Hudson.
Mr Hudson has called for clarification around where the Australian Border Force is to sit under Minister Peter Dutton’s authority, given its role in conjunction with the Department of Immigration and Border Protection.
“This announcement comes just two years after the creation of ABF as part of the merger between the Australian Customs and Border Protection Service (Customs) and the Department of Immigration into the current DIBP,” Mr Hudson said.
“Although ABF is a separate statutory agency, the federal government is yet to clarify whether it will continue as part of DIBP or be shifted, and how this might impact the trade facilitation agenda.”
Mr Hudson said key trade players across the import and export supply chain would be watching closely to ensure the border security agenda did not overwhelm trade.
“Those currently dealing with the border agencies on a daily basis across trade matters face a number of preliminary issues and questions,” Mr Hudson said.
“For example, the terms of the Trusted Trader and Known Consignor schemes conducted by the DIBP and the Office of Transport Security include significant input from the ABF.
“Furthermore, if the Home Affairs portfolio is focused on national security, is there an argument for the revenue collection and related enforcement measures to be shifted away from the ABF to another agency such as the ATO as occurred with excise matters?”
Mr Hudson said the ABF also had an increasingly important role in collecting anti-dumping and countervailing duties and enforcing anti-circumvention measures.
He said if the agency was to be moved, there would be pressure on the Commonwealth Government to ensure trade remedies were preserved and serviced.
“We strongly recommend advanced engagement which preserves the vital trade facilitation agenda, and that these issues are worked out during the time before the new ‘super ministry’ is established.”