Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment (DAWE) – Industry Roundtable
Industry representatives met with Andrew Tongue, Deputy Secretary, Biosecurity & Compliance Group, and Lee Cale, Acting First Assistant Secretary Biosecurity Operations from the Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment (the department) to discuss the performance levels in several services.
Current operational environment
The complexity of the current operational environment was discussed at length with the department to gain an understanding of current and evolving trade patterns, recognising that international container trade changes induced by COVID-19 are having a compounding impact on pest and disease arrivals.
The combination of waterfront industrial action causing vessel arrival delays, COVID-19, vessel bunching, vessel port omissions, high volumes of low value imports and the need to respond to incursions of Brown marmorated stink bug (BMSB) and Khapra Beetle was described by the department as the “perfect storm” with acknowledgement that their existing resources are stretched and have struggled to meet prescribed service levels over recent months.
With a cap on Average Staffing Levels (ASL) to be retained, the department acknowledged a need and a desire to work with industry to progress a series of reforms including improved technology and an increased scope / utilisation of Approved Arrangements. The department noted that a need exists to support such arrangements with assurance and verification measures to reward industry with incentives to maintain high levels of compliance for safeguarding against import biosecurity risks. The department committed to partner with industry through co-designed approaches to better manage biosecurity risks.
Reference was made to other initiatives underway (booking tool, document assessment automation, ‘smart glasses’ for inspections, etc) with a commitment made by Mr. Hunter to present detail on these and other proposed reforms in the new year in a structured and interactive format.
While noting that most of the above listed operational issues are outside the direct control or making of the department, they will continue to divert essential resources to service the import trade sector that would otherwise be deployed to airports and are committed to several lodgement and assessment systems changes for early in 2021.
Whilst we acknowledge the efforts of the department to work with industry, it is evident that the lack of funding that is hampering their ability to adequately resource its various activities is having dire consequences across not only the customs broker / forwarding industry but also heavily impacting on commercial business to meet their obligated contracts with their customers.
As a result, importers can expect a continuation of commercially unacceptable document assessment, treatment result advice and inspection service levels for the foreseeable future with a forecast of sustained high trade volume.
Andrew Crawford who is Head of Harders Advisory NSW, will be included in future high-level meetings with the Department. This will also include Andrew travelling to Canberra in early February (COVID – 19 restrictions permitting) to meet with the Minister, The Hon Mr David Littleproud MP. We will continue to monitor the Departments performance and keep our customers updated.
Australian Border Force (ABF)
Further to the announcement below, by The Hon Jason Wood MP, we are pleased to provide additional commentary for our customers.
As referenced below, the Simplified Trade System as we understand it, is in the early stage of finalising a consultation paper. This is long overdue in our opinion and something that our Industry has attempted to achieve over the last 20 years or so!
The simplification of trade, the removal of unnecessary barriers, reduction in red tape is paramount to our country’s ongoing economic growth, success and prosperity.
To our customers who have not looked at or availed themselves of the Australian Trusted Trader (ATT) scheme, we encourage you to do so as a matter of urgency, the benefits are significant, meaningful and they continue to grow and evolve.
We strongly believe these types of trusted arrangements are the future for compliant, conscientious and dynamic businesses. If you are not a trusted Partner with Government, then it could be argued you are an untrusted partner and subject to additional scrutiny!
If you are considering participating in the Australian Trusted Trader program, please contact Andrew Crawford or Steve Butler and they will provide valuable insight and assistance.
The Hon Jason Wood MP
Assistant Minister for Customs, Community Safety and Multicultural Affairs made the following announcement on Friday 6th November 2020.
As part of the Federal Budget 2020-21 announcement and the Simplified Trade System Budget measures, businesses who are part of the Australian Trusted Trader program will be able to improve cash flows and reduce delays in moving goods.
The Periodic Payment benefit will defer payment of Australian Border Force (ABF) collected import taxes and charges on most imported goods.
The Assistant Minister for Customs, Community Safety and Multicultural Affairs, the Hon Jason Wood MP, said the change recognises the way modern businesses operate.
“Consolidating payments will free up more money for trusted Australian companies to do business and will further help businesses and the economy recover from the COVID-19 pandemic,” Minister Wood said.
From mid-2021, the Periodic Payment benefit will allow eligible Trusted Traders to pay on a monthly rather than transactional basis. It will affect the following charges: Import Processing Charge, Wine Equalisation Tax, Luxury Car Tax, Goods and Services Tax (GST), Agriculture Processing Charge and the Wood Levy.
The Periodic Payment benefit extends the Duty Deferral benefit introduced to the program in 2018, with a single monthly payment.
“This joins a suite of other benefits which cut red tape, reduce regulatory burdens, and streamline processes for Trusted Traders. It is another reason why I’d urge businesses to sign up,” Minister Wood said.
The benefit will initially be available to Trusted Traders who defer payment of GST through the GST monthly deferral scheme.
The Australian Trusted Trader program recognises businesses with a secure supply chain and compliant trade practices, rewarding these businesses with a range of exclusive trade facilitation benefits.
Eligible Australian businesses who are not yet part of Australian Trusted Trader are encouraged to visit the ABF website, or submit an application to join the program. To find out more, and to join, visit www.abf.gov.au/trustedtrader.
Tobacco Smugglers Jailed
The Australian Border Force (ABF) has announced last week by media release that the two masterminds behind an illegal tobacco smuggling operation have been jailed for almost five years.
The operation attempted to smuggle 9.5 million cigarettes into Western Australia, which amounts to evasion of more than $8.5 million dollars in duty and GST. This is the largest illicit tobacco detection in WA.
The penalty applied in this case is evidence of the seriousness with which the ABF is tackling the black market for tobacco products and should serve as a warning to those attempting to defraud the revenue and those complicit in the activity, such as customs brokers, that their actions will not be treated lightly.
The full media release can be found here.
Over the past two months we have seen the focus of activity move from Sydney to other ports where congestion has affected Brisbane and protected industrial action has caused operations to stop in Fremantle.
In Brisbane the Hutchinson Container Terminal could not cope with container volumes in late December due to the surge of imports experienced in the last month of 2020. Truck turnarounds at this time were out to 9 hours placing considerable strain on trucking companies to provide on time deliveries. Many trucking companies could not keep up with this surge and importers suffered accordingly.
In Fremantle, DP World still needed to negotiate their Enterprise Agreements which led to Protected Industrial Action over the Christmas periods. Fremantle had also experienced congestion due to high volumes and changes to shipping schedules. Negotiations in the west are still ongoing.
Empty Yard Update
Relief of some degree has been felt in Sydney however the situation is still very serious. An imbalance of containers will continue to exist until shipping lines can evacuate more containers than what is currently being imported.
In Melbourne the situation has become worse over the last 6 weeks with most of the empty yards at or near capacity. Most of the major lines; Maersk, MSC, COSCO and Hyundai all have a heavy build up of empty equipment. Additional parks have been opened, but this comes at additional cost to industry as they are not located in or around Port Melbourne.
Any detention relief over the holiday period was not provided by all the shipping lines. Its important that you are in contact with our Key Account Managers to understand how this has affected your containers over this period.
Patricks Import Container Weight Amendment Fee
Earlier this month Patricks announced it will introduce a Weight Adjustment Fee for all containers which arrive that have a variance of +/- 1000kgs from the declared gross weight.
This fee commenced in Brisbane on the 4th January and will be rolled out to all Patrick terminals in the coming months.
A Weight Amendment Fee will be charged at AUD 230.00 per container plus GST and this activity is to ensure compliance under current CoR regulations.
It remains to be seen if the other terminals will follow. Our industry bodies are working together to ensure all importers are educated on compliance. Please contact your Account Manager to discuss how your suppliers can ensure all containers are correctly packed and weighed to ensure this fee is not levied on arrival.