About Tariff Proposals

Customs and excise tariff proposals

Customs (duties levied on imports and exports) and excise (duties charged on goods produced in Australia) tariff measures are usually not initiated by a bill, as considerations relating to timing and drafting make a bill an unsuitable vehicle to initiate the variety and number of tariff proposals that come before the House. Such measures are generally introduced by way of motion, in the form of custom tariff and excise tariff proposals. These, as ‘proposals dealing with taxation’, may be submitted to the House without notice.139 Bass Strait freight adjustment levy proposals were regarded as duties of excise.140

The moving of a customs tariff (or excise tariff) proposal is normally treated as a formal procedure for the purpose of initiating the collection of the duty. It may be debated141 and an amendment may be moved,142 although a private Member’s amendment cannot have the effect of increasing or extending the scope of the charge proposed beyond the total already existing in any Acts.143 It is usual for the debate to be adjourned by an opposition Member and for all tariff proposals to be listed together on the Notice Paper under the one order of the day. Debate on a proposal may be resumed on a later day144 but this is a rare occurrence. Collection of duties is thus commenced on the authority of an unresolved motion, and this has been accepted as a convention.

When the Parliament is prorogued or when the House has expired by effluxion of time or been dissolved or is adjourned for a period exceeding seven days, a notice of a customs or excise tariff proposal may be published in the Gazette and the proposal is deemed to have effect as from such time after the publication of the notice as is specified in the notice. Any proposals given notice in this way must be proposed in the Parliament within seven sitting days of the next meeting of the House.145Customs officers are provided with protection by the Customs and Excise Acts from commencement of proceedings for anything done by them for the protection of the revenue in relation to a tariff or tariff alteration:146

  • until the close of a parliamentary session in which a customs or excise tariff or tariff alteration is moved, or until the expiry of 12 months, whichever happens first; or
  • where a notice of a tariff proposal has been published in the Gazette, under section 273EA of the Customs Act or section 160B of the Excise Act, within seven sitting days of the House or six months from the date of publication of the notice, whichever happens first. Where the details of the notice are subsequently proposed in the Parliament within seven sitting days, the protection outlined in the first paragraph applies.

It has been considered that the validity of a tariff proposal is limited for these specified periods. When the Parliament was unexpectedly dissolved in November 1975, action was taken to publish a notice in the Gazette of those tariff proposals which were before the House at the time of dissolution. Some of these proposals had been in operation since September 1974. The proposals mentioned in the Gazette notice were moved in the House on the second day of the new Parliament.147

A customs tariff amendment bill or an excise tariff amendment bill, as the case may be, is usually introduced at an appropriate time to consolidate most of the outstanding proposals introduced into the House. These bills are retrospective in operation, in respect of each proposal, to the date on which collection commenced.

After a tariff amendment bill has received assent, unless a prorogation or dissolution has intervened causing the motions on the proposals to lapse, the Minister or Parliamentary Secretary usually moves to discharge the orders of the day in respect of those proposals now contained in the Act. For convenience this is usually done on the next occasion that tariff proposals are moved in the House. In the absence of a tariff amendment bill, tariff proposals then before the House may be affirmed towards the end of a period of sittings by means of a tariff validation bill. In this case the proposals are not discharged from the Notice Paper as they have not yet been incorporated in the tariff schedule by means of a tariff amendment bill. A validation bill merely extends the force of tariff proposals.

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