Border protection

AUSTRALIAN customs legislation plays a vital role in ensuring there are mechanisms in place to control our borders and regulate trade.

As customs provides the procedures and administrative structure relating to importation, there are several customs acts that importers must be aware of.

Failing to understand your obligations as an importer could result in delays in clearance of cargo if there is an absence of appropriate documentation, payment of unnecessary duty, or the goods are deemed prohibited through incorrect marking of their trade description, which may result in them being seized and destroyed.

Customs Acts that importers must be aware of include:

Customs Act 1901; Customs Administration Act 1985; Customs Securities (Penalities) Act 1981; Customs Undertakings (Penalties) Act 1981; Customs (Trade Descriptions) Act 1905; Commerce (Imports) Regulations; and Customs Tariff (Anti-Dumping) Act.

The Customs Legislation Amendment and Repeal (International Trade Modernisation) Act 2001 was passed by both houses of parliament in June 2001 heralding significant changes to the passage of cargo in and out of Australia. According to information contained on the Australian Customs and Inspection Service web site, it involves:

a new open gateway communication known as Customs Connect Facility (CCF); the merger of several computer systems into an Integrated Cargo System (ICS); tailored arrangements for low risk importers and exporters and under an accredited client program; industry self-assessment of low-revenue, low-risk cargo; and streamlined reporting mechanisms that combine cargo reports and declaration information.

Some of the elements of the Customs Legislation Amendment and Repeal (International Trade Modernisation) Act 2001 commenced on July 1 2002.

These elements include some strict liability offences (for example, for false or misleading statements) and a new infringement notice scheme that applies to those offences, monitoring powers, document/record retention, export examination powers, reporting and control amendments and depot licensing.


Quarantine inspection levels and restrictions have increased in recent times as a result of the presence of several diseases in the international natural environments.

Australian Customs works with The Australian Quarantine and Inspection Service to safeguard Australian primary industries from the threat of pests and disease that may be introduced through animals, plants and foodstuffs being brought into the country.

Quarantine regulations vary according to the types of goods being imported, the country of origin and the packaging of the goods, however goods such as second-hand plant and equipment and goods packed in wooden crates can be subjected to further inspection and treated.

It is recommended that importers ensure they have the appropriate certification and documentation to expedite dealings with quarantine.

Charges are applicable to all quarantine services and it is important to check all detail and requirements prior to importation to ensure the costs are taken into consideration.

The Australian Quarantine Service is part of the Department of Agriculture Fisheries, Forestry-Australia, or AFFA as it is known.


The Customs Tariff (Anti Dumping) Act provides relief from dumped or subisided goods.

Dumping occurs when goods are exported to Australia at a price that is below the “normal value” of the goods. The “normal value” will usually be the domestic price of the goods in the country of export.

While dumpting is not prohibited under international trade agreements, action may be taken when dumping causes material injury to an Australian industy.

A “dumping duty” can be imposed, usually for a five-year period, to offset the effects of dumping.

An alternative to imposing dumping duty is for the appropriate minister to accept a price undertaking from the exporter whereby the exporter agrees that future trade will be at or above a minimum export price for a set period, usually five years.

International Trade Regulations

Importers also need to be aware of international trade regulations when importing goods.

Australia is signatory to the World Trade Organisation, which came into effect on January 1 1995.

While there are a number of problems with some countries flouting WTO requirements, as a WTO member, Australia has agreed to treat other member nations equally in terms of trade.

This includes unconditionally applying identical tariff treatment to imports from other WTO member countries and charging no more than the WTO’s currently agreed maximum tariff rates on imports from other WTO member countries.

The WTO was replaced by the GATT (General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade), which was initially formed to enhance trade and promote the uniformity of international customs administration.

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