Bills Digest No. 41   1997-98 Customs Tariff Amendment Bill (No. 4) 1997

Numerical Index | Alphabetical Index

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

Customs Tariff Amendment Bill (No.4) 1997

Date Introduced: 3 September 1997
House: House of Representatives
Portfolio: Industry, Science and Tourism
Commencement: Immediately following the commencement of the Customs Tariff (Fuel Rates Amendments) Bill 1997 which was introduced on 25 June 1997 and is yet to pass either the House or the Senate.


The Bill ensures that the safety net measures enacted in response to the High Court's recent decision invalidating certain State franchise laws and casting doubt on the constitutional validity of others, are not displaced by the enactment of a series of bills dealing with fuel substitution.

In short, this Bill, and a complementary initiative dealing with excise, are consequential measures.


The three operational provisions of the present Bill are contained the Schedule to the Bill and involve amendments to the Customs Tariff Act.

Item 1 insulates the rates of duty imposed by the Customs Tariff Amendment Bill (No.3) 1997 (the safety net Bill) in regard to, amongst other things, Benzole, Toluole, Xylole and various petroleum oils and oils obtained from bituminous minerals and crude from the unintended reduction in duty by the passage of the Customs Tariff (Fuel Rates Amendments) Bill 1997.

Item 2 has the same effect as Item 1 but applies to petroleum products with a higher lead content, ie a lead content exceeding 13 milligrams per litre.

Item 3 amends the Customs Tariff Act to provide that the changes effected by this Bill apply from the date that the Bill commences to goods which have cleared a customs point and entered home consumption.

Main Provisions

Safety Net Bills

On 28 August 1997, the Government brought forward a package of nine Bills intended to deal with the consequences of the High Court's decision in Ha & Another v State of New South Wales & Others and Walter Hammond & Associates Pty Limited v State of New South Wales and Others (Ha and Hammond) (both unreported).(1)

The package honoured the Treasurer's undertakings of 6 August 1997 that:

  • the Commonwealth would use its taxing powers to collect revenues formerly levied under State franchise laws which the High Court had held either to be invalid or constitutionally doubtful;
  • the Commonwealth would protect the States and Territories against any actions brought by persons seeking a refund for payments made prior to 5 August 1997 under (invalid) State franchise laws; and
  • legislation would be enacted to give effect to the above 'safety net' measures as a matter of urgency.(2)

The safety net legislation, which included the Customs Tariff Amendment Act (No.3) 1997 (CTA No.3) and the Excise Tariff Amendment Act (No.3) 1997 (ETA No.3), was passed by the House of Representatives on 2 September 1997 and by the Senate two days later. It will probably receive the Royal Assent before the present Sitting resumes on 22 September 1997.(3)

The principal effect of CTA No.3 and ETA No.3 was to raise rates of duty and excise on tobacco, tobacco products and petroleum products, thereby incorporating State franchise fees invalidated or called into question by Ha and Hammond.

[Note: All nine Bills are analysed and discussed in Bills Digests Nos. 23 31 of 1997 98.]

Fuel Substitution Bills

A package of seven Bills had been introduced on 25 June 1997 dealing with fuel substitution and rates of duty.(4) This legislation is intended to extend and strengthen the present law by making it easier for authorities to determine when people are avoiding tax.

For example, the Customs Tariff (Fuel Rates Amendments) Bill 1997, which is still before the Parliament, provides for amendments to the Customs Tariff Act 1995 (the Customs Tariff Act) to create a new regime for classifying petroleum products and has the effect of adjusting the rates of duty on those products. (The new regime creates a three-tiered customs tariff rate system within six/seven digit classifications derived from the intended use of the products.)

The eventual passage of the seven fuel substitution Bills [including the Customs Tariff (Fuel Rates Amendments) Bill 1997] would, if nothing else were done, have the unintended effect of repealing and replacing the higher rates of customs and excise duty imposed by the safety net measures(5) given expedited passage in the wake of Ha and Hammond.

[Note: All seven fuel substitution Bills are analysed and discussed in Bills Digests Nos. 34 40 of 1997 98.]


  1. 'What is an excise duty? Ha and Hammond v NSW', Research Note, Number 1, August 1997; and 'Federalism Up in Smoke? The High Court Decision on State Tobacco Tax', Current Issues Brief, No.1, 1997-98.
  2. Treasurer, Press Release, No.85, 6 August 1997.
  3. And are for the sake of convenience referred to as Acts in this Digest.
  4. Excise Tariff (Fuel Rates Amendments) Bill 1997; Customs Tariff (Fuel Rates Amendments) Bill 1997; Fuel Misuse (Penalty Surcharge) Bill 1997; Fuel Sale (Penalty Surcharge) Bill 1997; Fuel Blending (Penalty Surcharge) Bill 1997; Fuel (Penalty Surcharges) Administration Bill 1997; and the Customs and Excise Legislation Amendment Bill (No.2) 1997.
  5. That is, the nine franchise fee Bills.

Contact Officer and Copyright Details

Bob Bennett
15 September 1997
Bills Digest Service

Information and Research Services

This Digest does not have any official legal status. Other sources should be consulted to determine whether the Bill has been enacted and, if so, whether the subsequent Act reflects further amendments.

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.

This page was prepared by the Parliamentary Library, Commonwealth of Australia
Last updated: 15 September 1997

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