On 4 December 2019, the Export Control Bill 2019 (Cth) (“the Bill”) was introduced into the House of Representatives by Minister for Water Resources, Drought, Rural Finance, Natural Disaster and Emergency Management David Littleproud.
Australian agriculture, fisheries, and forestry exports are predicted to be worth around AUD$51 billion in 2019-20, with Australia ranking as one of the top 10 agricultural exporting countries in the world.
Australia’s current legislative framework for the production and export of agricultural goods comprises of 17 Acts and more than 40 legislative instruments, including the Export Control Act 1982 (Cth) and the Australian Meat and Live-stock Industry Act 1997 (Cth). In July 2015, the government released a discussion paper and opened consultation on the Agricultural Export Regulation Review 2015 (“the Review”).
The Review investigated current export laws and sought to ensure that Australian exporters were supported by the legislation and that international trading partners continued to have confidence in Australian exports. The final report, which was published in May 2016, found that there was scope for improvements in the current framework, particularly in clarifying and consolidating the current legislation.
In his second reading speech, the Minister said:
“The Export Control Bill 2019 streamlines and consolidates existing export certification legislation. It reduces complexity, duplication and ambiguity, and provides the confidence for existing and potential exporters to pursue lucrative export opportunities, particularly for those involved with new and emerging industries.”
The Bill builds on reforms in the previously introduced Export Control Bill 2017 (Cth), which lapsed on the dissolution of Parliament prior to the 2019 election.
The Bill proposes to introduce a new framework to support access to international trading markets and regulate goods exported from Australia. One of the main objectives of the Bill includes ensuring that exported goods meet the requirements of importing countries in order to maintain market access.
In the interests of protecting human, animal, and plant life and health, the Bill proposes a number of provisions regarding the prohibition of certain goods from export. The Bill explicitly prohibits the export of split vetch. The Bill also includes provisions to give the Minister authority to temporarily prohibit the export of certain goods, or its export to particular places, where the Minister is satisfied that the prohibition is necessary for the protection of humans, plants, or animals.
Furthermore, the Bill also proposes a list of prescribed goods, which will be prohibited from export unless requirements or conditions are met. The list of prescribed goods are to be set out in later delegated legislation.
Certification of exports under the Bill will only be given where the goods have been assessed to be compliant to both the requirements of the legislation, and the importing country requirements. The requirements may differ from different goods, and can include:
The Bill additionally provides for increased criminal penalties and sanctions, and will introduce new criminal offences and civil penalties for unacceptable exporter behaviour. The Minister in his second reading speech noted the importance of compliance with export standards and regulations as a way to maintain Australia's trading reputation, and international confidence in Australian products.
The offences of exporting non-compliant goods will not be limited to economic or trading matters under the Bill. The proposed provisions take into account risks to plant or animal health, human health and safety, and other biosecurity risks. Additional enforcement tools such as injunctions, enforceable undertakings, and infringement notices are also provided in order to deter exporters from wrongdoing.
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Export Control Bill 2019 (Cth) and supporting documents available from TimeBase's LawOne Service
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