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BEFORE our recent federal election, I penned an article for the June print edition of the Daily Cargo News focusing on what I considered were priority issues for the government in place following that election.

It is difficult to determine exactly what may arise now the election has taken place given that there was very little commentary on trade and border issues during the election campaign. Accordingly, the commentary below is only based on inference from the new ministerial appointments made since the election and the recent release of the Administrative Arrangements Order by the new government on 1 June 2022 (here), which sets out the area of administration of each department and identifies the relevant legislation being administered by each department.

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  • Under the previous federal government, there was a separate assistant minister for customs, community safety and multicultural affairs working under the minister for home affairs. However, there has been no reference to that ministry being retained when the new ministries and the new administrative arrangements were announced. The order suggests that the for the time being, “customs” issues will fall somewhere within the broader Department of Home Affairs. Hopefully this does not mean that customs issues will lose the specific attention as had previously been the case.
  • The order provides that, “criminal justice, law enforcement policy and operations, and protective services” will be transferred from Home Affairs to the Attorney-General’s Department (AGD). It is also understood that the domestic intelligence agency ASIO will continue to be administered by both Home Affairs and the AGD, as it has been since 2017.
  • The existing Department of Agriculture, Water and Environment (DAWE) will now be subject to change (again). One minister (Senator Murray Wyatt) has been appointed to the Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry portfolio and another minister (Tanya Plibersek) has been appointed to the Environment and Water portfolio. It has now been confirmed that there will be two new departments, being the Department of Agriculture Fisheries and Forestry (DAFF rides again) and the Department of Climate Change, Energy, the Environment and Water (probably DCEEW?).
  • The new minister for trade and tourism is Senator Don Farrell. The former shadow trade minister (Madeleine King) has now been appointed as minister for resources and minister for Northern Australia. Although not in the shadow trade portfolio, Senator Farrell, in a speech late last year to the Senate outlined a then prospective Labor government’s trade agenda. That speech identified a new federal government’s commitment to an “open global trading system” that would promote “more competitive industries’ and which would “benefit consumers”. The senator noted the need to cut trade compliance costs, especially those associated with bilateral free trade agreements (FTAs) and criticised an approach to bilateral FTAs which, in his opinion, viewed them as “trophies to put on the shelf”. The senator also committed to use of industry assistance to promote openness, competitiveness and productivity by supporting necessary structural adjustment.
  • The former shadow minister for infrastructure, transport, regional development and local government (Catherine King) has retained that role in the new federal government ministry.
  • The former shadow minister for industry and innovation (Ed Husic) has now been appointed as minister for industry and science. The re-naming of that department from the former Department of Industry Science, Energy and Resources would suggest a change to the department’s operations although I understand it will still entail administration of our anti-dumping and countervailing regime.

In general terms, where previous shadow ministers have become members of the new federal government ministry, that may support an easier transition into the mechanics of government. However, the changes to the scope of some ministries and their administration may create some uncertainties and delays in movement on important initiatives.

From a customs and trade facilitation perspective, we await news of the position of the federal government and its agencies in relation to those issues which were at the forefront before the election and the caretaker conventions placed the agenda “on hold”.

Hopefully, the new federal government will not be making any cuts to the funding for projects which were in place before the election or for new projects contemplated by the important “trade modernisation” agenda.

In one sign of changes, I also understand that the responsibility for the “deregulation” agenda will move from the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet to the Department of Finance.

We will continue to watch developments with real interest.

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