The Government wants to invent a price to charge for tariffs

The bill before us today gives the Minister more options to increase tariffs under anti‑dumping law.

Businesses fail. New businesses start up. Customers end up getting more of what they want. And workers, whose wages never prosper in a failing business, end up working in better paid jobs more often than not.

It’s called free market capitalism. It’s not perfect, but there’s nothing better. And it is the proven recipe for improving the welfare of Australians.

Governments should be the guardians of free market capitalism. So when a failing business complains to Government that competitors are selling products at a cheaper price, the government response that best serves the Australian people is to do nothing.

For instance, suppose an Australian business facing competition can’t cut its costs, and the workers involved won’t accept a lower wage to keep the business afloat, presumably because they think they can get a better-paying job elsewhere. In this case the business should close, and those workers should take those better‑paying jobs they think are available elsewhere. This is in the interests of both workers and consumers.

However, this Government is not a guardian of capitalism, and is not looking after the welfare of Australians.

It responds to complaints by failing businesses by putting up prices for Australians. That’s what the bill before us today seeks to do. It is the Customs Amendment (Anti-Dumping Measures) Bill 2017.

It gives the Minister more options to increase tariffs under anti‑dumping law.

Under anti-dumping law, the Minister imposes tariffs on certain goods from certain importers.

The lower the importer’s prices in Australia are compared to their prices in the country of origin, after accounting for transport costs, the greater the rate of tariff imposed.

This is a ridiculous approach, particularly given that competition in Australia may be greater than in the country of origin, such that lower prices in Australia is what we would expect and want.

To calculate the tariff, the Minister first declares the importer’s price in Australia to be the observed price during a particular reference period or, if information on this observed price is insufficient, whatever price the Minister chooses.

With this bill, the Government wants to change this arrangement. The bill would allow the Minister in certain circumstances to deem the importer’s price in Australia to be different from the observed price. So, essentially, if there is no case for claiming that dumping is occurring, the Minister can invent a case.

This is a step from the ridiculous to the outrageous. If an importer’s prices in Australia are observable, the Minister should not be allowed to make up different, lower prices, just so the Minister can sustain the victim-complex of those who bleat about dumping, to maximise the tariff and to drive up prices.

As you can see, there are few Liberal Senators in the Chamber, but most will be listening on their televisions in their nearby offices. I ask them, when will they stop the daily flow of socialist rather than capitalist legislation in this place, which is slowly squeezing the prosperity out of this country.

If not soon, comrades, we may as well rename the country the Democratic People’s Republic of Australia.