THE Australian Border Force (ABF) is an operationally independent, frontline body in the newly created Home Affairs portfolio. Working alongside us in the portfolio are our colleagues from the Department of Home Affairs, Australian Federal Police, Australian Crime Intelligence Commission, and the Australian Transaction Reports and Analysis Centre. The Australian Security Intelligence Organisation will also form part of the portfolio following the passage of legislation.
The ABF is and will remain Australia’s customs service, with trade facilitation a key priority. Keeping trade facilitation and traditional customs functions together, alongside Australia’s national security agencies, has enhanced our ability to identify and focus our efforts on those consignments and people who represent the highest risk. This, in turn, has meant we are able to ensure the seamless facilitation of legitimate people and goods, particularly with record numbers of trade and travellers crossing the border last year and projected to continue into 2018.
Throughout 2018, we will continue to work closely with industry to facilitate trade and reduce illegitimate and non-compliant imports and exports. The ABF will identify and address non-compliance issues and undertake education and enforcement action where necessary to improve voluntary compliance. We encourage businesses to codify their compliance processes and to take advantage of the benefits of becoming a Trusted Trader.
The ABF will maintain its intelligence-led, risk-based approach to the broad spectrum of non-compliance across supply chain integrity, regulated and restricted goods, and economic harm. Throughout the year, particular areas of focus may arise based on intelligence we receive at the time or through analysis of information, incidents and behaviours, but our overall approach of risk assessing all importations and prioritising intervention against highest threats remains the same.
While we’ll focus broadly on supply chain integrity, this year, all customs licences will be ready for renewal, so we’ll be checking that our licensees are compliant with their licence conditions and continue to be eligible to hold their licence. We have increased resources allocated to this important task.
Our continued focus on regulated and restricted goods aims to protect the Australian community from items that pose a risk – preventing the importation of illicit firearms and weapon parts, asbestos and illicit tobacco, alongside emerging threats in prohibited substances such as opioid drugs.
In relation to the protection against economic harm, we will be looking carefully at revenue evasion through misclassification, undervaluation and non-declaration of goods; false claims for GST exemptions; or improper application for preferential treatment under free trade agreements or duty refunds and concessions.
Businesses that have worked closely with us to become Trusted Traders will continue to reap tangible benefits as we welcome new Mutual Recognition Arrangements, and adopt their suggestions for improvements to the programme. Last year we signed an exciting arrangement with China, which gives Trusted Traders a competitive edge with better access and speed to market. We also launched consolidated cargo clearance reporting, which allows Trusted Trader importers to lodge a single import declaration for consolidated cargo for all sea cargo types and for air cargo, which is already saving business an average of 10% in import charges at the border.
While we will continue to work with Trusted Traders to help ensure their supply chain security remains strong, our focus continues to be on trade that is not accredited and poses an unknown risk.
Increased compliance by industry, brokers and the whole supply chain facilitates legitimate trade, ensures a level playing field for industry, and contributes to the protection of Australia’s border. As we progress this important work in 2018, we will continue to work closely with industry to achieve better outcomes for you and the Australian community as a whole.
We acknowledge there is more we can do to improve the ways we work together. For example, we are currently assisting with the Commonwealth Ombudsman’s own motion investigation into our use of legislated powers under the Customs Act 1901 in relation to the processing of inbound containerised sea cargo. We have welcomed the opportunity to demonstrate our operational processes in relation to trade and goods border facilitation and intervention and look forward to the findings of the review.
It is a shared responsibility to protect the border and facilitate legitimate trade with minimal intervention. In the near term, we will look to how our processes can be further streamlined and how voluntary compliance can be more readily achieved so that interventions are minimised. In the longer term, initiatives within the expansive trade modernisation agenda will deliver higher levels of automation and pre-importation compliance that will greatly enhance facilitation and strengthen border protection measures.