Bills Digest No. 134   1997-98 Customs and Excise Legislation Amendment Bill (No. 3) 1997

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This Digest was prepared for debate. It reflects the legislation as introduced and does not canvass subsequent amendments. This Digest does not have any official legal status. Other sources should be consulted to determine the subsequent official status of the Bill.


Passage History
Main Provisions
Contact Officer and Copyright Details

Passage History

Customs and Excise Legislation Amendment Bill (No. 3) 1997

Date Introduced: 3 December 1997

House: House of Representatives

Portfolio: Industry, Science and Tourism

Commencement: The amendments outlined in this Digest commence on Royal Assent.


The major amendments:

  • ensure that the provisions of the Customs Act 1901 may apply with respect to Ashmore and Cartier Islands; and
  • to delay until 1 October 1998 the date of effect of the Government's decision reducing the duty free threshold for goods imported by post


As there is no central theme to the Bill, a brief background to the major amendments will be outlined in the 'Main Provisions' section of this Digest.

Main Provisions

Amendments to the Customs Act 1901

The major effect of items 1 and 2 of Schedule 1 of the Bill is to ensure that the Customs Act 1901 may, where prescribed, apply with respect to Ashmore and Cartier Islands. The amendments can be said to be consequential to recent amendments which provide customs and migration officials with powers to deal with landings by illegal immigrants on the islands, and the amendment proposed by the Bill providing that the Customs Act 1901 does not extend to the external Territories.

The Ashmore and Cartier Islands are a group of islands and reefs 500 nautical miles west of Darwin and 80 nautical miles south of Timor.

Of greater interest to consumers and business is the proposal to delay reducing the current 'exemption' from duty on articles imported by post. The present threshold of $1 000 will thus remain until 1 October 1998 when it will fall to $250.

Item 12 of Schedule 1 of the Customs Amendment Act (No. 1) 1997 omitted $1,000 from paragraph (e) of subsection 68(1) of the Customs Act 1901. The effect of the amendment was to require an import entry for goods imported into Australia through the Post Office costing more than $250. The $250 value limit was to have commenced on 1 April 1998.

Item 7 of Schedule 1 of the Bill provides that item 12 of Schedule 1 of the Customs Amendment Act (No. 1) 1997 commences on 1 October 1998. This effectively extends by six months the commencement date for the $250 value limit. The limit is largely relevant to imports under Internet trading.

The rationale given by the Government in the Second Reading Speech for extending the commencement date of the value limit is that it had received a significant number of representations concerning the impact the decrease would have on small to medium business. As a consequence of the representations the Government indicated that the Australian Customs Service is examining options to simplify entry procedures for goods imported by post subject to the new entry requirements.

Amendment to the Australian Postal Corporation Act 1989

A new subsection 90S(1) is inserted in the Australian Postal Corporation Act 1989 by item 1 of Schedule 2 of the Bill, which provides that the term 'Australia' does not include the external Territories. The rationale given for the amendment in the Explanatory Memorandum to the Bill is that a difficulty has arisen in the application of section 90S, which provides authorised examiners with power to open postal articles which are in the course of post between Australia and a place outside Australia, due to the definition of 'Australia' in the Act. The Explanatory Memorandum states:

Whereas in the Customs Act, Australia does not include the external Territories (being all external Territories except Norfolk Island). The effect of this difference in the definition of Australia is that mail that is in the course of the post between any external Territory and Australia cannot be examined by Customs. Section 90S does not apply to this mail because the external Territories are not a place outside Australia under the Postal Act.(1)


  1. Customs and Excise Legislation Amendment Bill (No. 3) 1997, Explanatory
    , p. 7.

Contact Officer and Copyright Details

Ian Ireland
24 February1998
Bills Digest Service
Information and Research Services

This paper has been prepared for general distribution to Senators and Members of the Australian Parliament. While great care is taken to ensure that the paper is accurate and balanced, the paper is written using information publicly available at the time of production. The views expressed are those of the author and should not be attributed to the Information and Research Services (IRS). Advice on legislation or legal policy issues contained in this paper is provided for use in parliamentary debate and for related parliamentary purposes. This paper is not professional legal opinion. Readers are reminded that the paper is not an official parliamentary or Australian government document.

IRS staff are available to discuss the paper's contents with Senators and Members
and their staff but not with members of the public.

ISSN 1328-8091
© Commonwealth of Australia 1997

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Published by the Department of the Parliamentary Library, 1997.

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