Speech - Private Members Business (Imported Products)






MONDAY, 22 JUNE 2015



In recent months we have seen the free market zealotry of the Abbott government take on another manifestation. I too, like the previous speaker, believe in free trade, but I think it can only be accepted as being so if you have a very effective antidumping regime. Indeed, if you are a true believer in trade, you would be arguing for a very robust antidumping regime, because that is the only way you will get the support of the public for what is essentially wealth creation in the interests of all Australians.

Of course, the attempts by the government earlier this year to abolish measures which provide for a robust antidumping regime are entirely regrettable—their attempt, for example, to abolish the International Trade Remedies Forum, as was said earlier. This forum had the support not only of trade unions but of the entirety of the manufacturing sector, and in the face of this there was a misguided attempt to get rid of it. Of course, the current government has also sought to charge Australian producers a fee for bringing cases to the Anti-Dumping Review Panel.

I do not think anybody can say that having an antidumping regime that has integrity and is robust is a bad thing for Australia, and it was good that, through the Senate inquiry and amendments which were put forward by both Labor and others, the worst of the government's legislation was not proceeded with and, in particular, that we kept the Trade Remedies Forum, because dumping is neither fair market nor free market. The practice does not simply dump Australia with goods; it dumps Australia with higher unemployment. In addition, dumping imposes predatory pricing strategies on Australian consumers and it often exposes Australians to substandard, or even dangerous, products.

A typical dumping strategy unfolds in two phases. In the short term, when importers are allowed to price goods well below their nominal value, dumping eviscerates the jobs and industries of Australian workers making similar products. In the long term, dumping also short-changes Australian consumers. Once local manufacturers have been driven out of business by predatory prices, foreign producers often raise their prices to cement their new-found market power. Dumping therefore inflicts a material injury on local producers. It also injures not only Australian workers but also Australian consumers. If Australian workers become unemployed as a result of dumping activities of foreign businesses, it simply will not matter how cheap the dumped goods might be.

I do remain sceptical about the motives of the government, as I watched it drive the auto industry out of Australia over the last couple of years and it is now attempting to wipe out other large sections of the manufacturing sector when it comes to the building of our next generation of submarines. When Labor was in government, we enlisted the Productivity Commission to strengthen and streamline Australia's anti-dumping system. Following the commission's expert guidance, Labor established the International Trade Remedies Forum, which I was talking about before and which, as I remarked before, the government has attempted to abolish—and fortunately that has not occurred. Labor also established a new appeals process for Australian businesses which allowed a three-member panel—independent of the government—to review more complex anti-dumping decisions made by the CEO of Customs. At their core, Labor's reforms recognised the vital contribution that trade makes to the Australian economy. The reforms also recognised that in trade we must obey international rules as laid down by supernational bodies, such as the World Trade Organization.

It might be argued that strong anti-dumping systems simply induce protectionism by another name. From my perspective, nothing could be further from the truth. Anti-dumping legislation in fact embraces free trade so long as it is conducted fairly. Unfortunately the Abbott government's vision of free markets sees Australian manufacturers and workers as mere grist for the mill. We have already seen this government influence and push out manufacturing businesses, particularly, as I said before, in the auto industry—and with no seeming knowledge of what they hope for the future of Australian manufacturing elsewhere across our economy, particularly at a time when the headwinds of a higher currency have been removed and are likely to be removed for a long time to come. This government has no vision about what replaces what it has smashed. I stand here arguing for free and fair trade and a strong anti-dumping system.