Border News

The latest news trade and travel news from the Department of Immigration and Border Protection.

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Welcome to the fourth edition of Border News.

The Department of Immigration and Border Protection's vision is to create a trusted global gateway for the Australian border. The Department aims to support growth and efficiency in trade and travel across the border. Effective collaboration with industry is essential to achieving this objective and to explore opportunities for automation, deregulation and streamlining of border management processes.

The Department is developing an Industry Engagement Strategy that will publically set out our strategic objectives, principles and approach to engagement with industry. Consultations on the strategy have been diverse and feedback already received from industry has been vital in helping us refine our approach.

The Strategy will be launched at the Department's annual Industry Summit on 19 and 20 November 2015 in Melbourne. This event will provide valuable opportunities for the Department to have an open discussion on the future of border protection with industry and explore opportunities to work together.

Plans are also underway to develop a web portal specifically to support communication between the Department and industry. This will provide us with an opportunity to communicate with you more often and update you with regular news.

What's hot?

Goods compliance update

A new goods compliance function has been established within the Australian Border Force to focus on compliance with trade and customs laws. We aim to deliver effective and proportionate compliance activities that foster and enable a high level of voluntary compliance, while dealing effectively with those who do not comply with the law. Our high priority is working collaboratively with industry to address compliance issues. In the coming months as the function develops, we will be seeking feedback from industry on our approach to goods compliance.

A Goods Compliance Update has been published on our website to provide compliance results and information about common areas of non-compliance.

Mobile technology targets drugs

Australian Border Force officers will now be able detect and seize illegal drugs on-the-move, with the deployment of eight new mobile examination vehicles (MEVs) in Brisbane, Sydney, Melbourne and Perth. A MEV is a single vehicle that enables officers to use a broad range of examination tools, technology and systems while in the field. Each vehicle is heavily laden with a variety of technologies and capabilities that give officers the flexibility to undertake real-time assessment of goods at any location—something which wasn't possible until now.

Minister for Immigration and Border Protection Peter Dutton and former Prime Minister Tony Abbott staged a media event to launch the vehicles at the DHL Express cargo facility near Brisbane Airport last month. Speaking at the event, Minister Dutton said the MEVs would help ABF officers to continue to protect the community from the scourge of illegal drugs.

'These vehicles provide the capability to deploy substance detection technologies, expert examination tools, safely store confiscated weapons and safety equipment,' Mr Dutton said. 'Many of the capabilities and technologies that were previously grounded can now be driven to specific locations and, for example, suspicious substances can be immediately examined,' he said.


Detector Dog Program officer Bradley Rooney speaks to the former Prime Minister
Photo: Detector Dog Program officer Bradley Rooney speaks to the former Prime Minister at the mobile examination vehicle launch.

New psychoactive substance laws

On 5 September 2015, new laws came into force banning the importation of synthetic substances designed to mimic the effects of illegal drugs such as cannabis, ecstasy and cocaine.

New psychoactive substances pose significant health risks and have been associated with a number of deaths and hospitalisations in Australia. The possession of these substances, commonly known as 'new psychoactive substances' or 'mimic drugs', is already illegal in a number of states.

The new laws will overcome the problem of drug manufacturers making slight changes to the chemical composition of substances to evade prohibited import and border controlled drug listings.

Anyone now convicted of importing a substance that has a psychoactive effect could be fined up to $54,000 and/or sentenced to five years in prison.

It is also an offence to import a substance that is presented in a way that implies it is an alternative to an illicit drug, such as substances labelled as a 'legal high' or 'legal cannabis'.

Psychoactive substances that have a legitimate use, such as foods and alcohol, tobacco, therapeutic goods, industrial chemicals and agricultural or veterinary chemicals, will be exempt from the new laws. The laws will also not apply to substances listed as prohibited imports or illegal drugs, as these will continue to be dealt with under existing controls.

For more information email community.protection@border.gov.au.

Levelling the playing field

A new partnership between the Department and the Anti-Dumping Commission (ADC) to provide a trade analysis capability will make it easier to identify exporters who breach Australia's anti-dumping and anti-circumvention trade measures. 

Dumping is when a company sells goods to Australia at below the domestic price. Companies who engage in dumping gain an unfair advantage over local manufacturers.

On 19 August 2015, Anti-Dumping Commissioner Dale Seymour and First Assistant Secretary Intelligence Karen Harfield signed an agreement formalising the partnership between the two organisations.

'This trade analysis capability will provide the Anti-Dumping Commission with strategic insights into trade data to support their investigation process,' Ms Harfield said.

'It will help the ADC to create a level playing field for local manufacturers and contribute to the successful implementation of the Government's industry protection and assistance policies,' she said.

Under the arrangement, the Department's Advanced Analytics Section will provide analytical support to the ADC, including regular strategic compliance monitoring reports and case and industry-specific analysis.

In addition, both organisations have committed to technical exchanges and training.

This partnership aligns with the Department's priority of combating systematic and serious revenue evasion and will enhance our critical relationship with the ADC going forward.

Australian Trusted Trader launched

Australian Trusted Trader (ATT) is emerging as one of the great success stories of the Department's trade reform journey. The programme passed an important reform milestone when Senator Michaelia Cash, then Assistant Minister for Immigration and Border Protection, officially launched the programme pilot phase in July 2015 and welcomed four initial Melbourne based industry partners into the pilot:

  • Boeing Aerostructures Australia
  • Devondale Murray-Goulburn
  • Techwool Trading
  • Mondelez Australia.

Teresa Conolan (Assistant Secretary Trusted Trader and Industry Branch) said the successful commencement of Australian Trusted Trader marks a new approach to risk management, and closer partnership with industry.

'We are moving towards trust-based regulation,' Ms Conolan said. 'This programme will help us to gain a more holistic understanding of industry and their end-to-end processes across the entire supply chain and we want to encourage and incentivise compliant and secure industry practices so we ultimately reduce risk for the majority of cargo crossing the border.'

Australian Trusted Trader is fast approaching next milestones, including expansion to other capital cities, additional industry participants, and commencement of the Customs (Australian Trusted Trader Programme) Rule 2015 on 24 September 2015.

'The smooth commencement and steady progress of the pilot will deliver on our commitment to bring Australia in line with international trade standards, and improve the efficiency of our border clearance processes,' Teresa said.

The Australian Trusted Trader pilot will roll out in stages over the next 12 months and hopes to welcome broad industry participation from July 2016.

Photo of Roman Quaedvlieg, Commissioner of Australian Border Force
Photo: Roman Quaedvlieg, Commissioner Australian Border Force speaking at the launch of the Australian Trusted Trader (ATT) programme pilot phase.

Watch the video at Australian Trusted Trader.

China-Australia Free Trade Agreement

The China-Australia Free Trade Agreement (ChAFTA) was signed in Canberra on 17 June 2015. Both China and Australia have now commenced their respective domestic processes to bring the ChAFTA into force as soon as possible.

The ChAFTA will enter into force once these domestic processes have been completed. For Australia, this means amendments to the Customs Act 1901 and the Customs Tariff Act 1995 are required, and relevant customs regulations will need to be created or amended.

As part of its ongoing FTA education program, the Department will hold information seminars in Brisbane, Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide and Perth, to provide industry with information on the benefits of accessing the preferential tariff's ChAFTA.

The information sessions will follow on from those provided for the implementation of other recent FTAs, such as the Korea-Australia Free Trade Agreement and the Japan-Australia Economic Partnership Agreement. Session details will be included in a future edition of Border News once the date of Entry into Force of the Agreement has been settled.

Paws abroad

Five untrained detector dogs were gifted to Indonesian Customs and Excise at a ceremony in Jakarta last month.

The dogs will be put through their paces with their Indonesian handlers as they start their training in the coming weeks.

Once trained, the dogs will begin work detecting narcotics at international airports, in sea and air freight, international mail and on vessels. They will initially be deployed in Jakarta and Denpasar.

An officer from the Detector Dog Program (DDP) travelled to Indonesia in preparation for the transfer, working with our counterparts from the Directorate General of Customs and Excise K-9 programme to ensure the dogs' successful transition to the training environment.

Detector Dog Program Superintendent Glenn Scutts said that Australia has provided assistance and training to the K-9 unit since its first engagement in 1981. 

'We were pleased to respond to the Director General's request to assist their K9 programme in providing five Labrador retrievers to assist in expanding their capability,' Mr Scutts said.

'Australia's Detector Dog Program has long been recognised as a world leader in the breeding, training and deployment of detector dogs.

'Our experts regularly provide assistance in building detector dog programmes internationally and we have a number of long-standing relationships with border agencies the world over,' he said.

Simplified student visa framework

During July, the International Education Policy section has been busy delivering stakeholder information sessions across Australia to support the recent government announcement introducing a new simplified student visa framework (SSVF) from July 2016.

Key changes under the SSVF include:

  • a reduction in the number of student visa subclasses from eight to two
  • the introduction of a simplified single immigration risk framework for all international students.

These changes are aimed at reducing red tape and deliver a more targeted approach to immigration integrity. In addition to ongoing internal consultations, a working group comprising peak bodies and relevant Australian Government and state government bodies has been established to support its implementation.

Director of International Education Policy section, Mike Ferguson, said 'It was very encouraging to see such a positive response from the international education sector to the SSVF and extremely useful to interact directly with stakeholders about this important new policy initiative'.

More than 350 external stakeholders including education providers, peak bodies and state government representatives attended the working group sessions.

More detail about the simplified student visa framework is available on our website.

In the news

It was another busy month in the news for the Department with organised crime continuing to be a priority.

In late August, an ABF-led operation in Melbourne resulted in the arrest of two men and a woman for the importation of about 118 kilograms of performance and image enhancing drugs. Separately, joint agency Operation Aristotle resulted in three men being charged in Victoria for their alleged involvement in a large-scale fraud scheme. The operation also resulted in the confiscation of $8.5 million worth of assets from the proceeds of crime, including a Ferrari, and cash. Fairfax publications and the ABC's 7.30 programme both covered the story.

Operation Cringle disrupted an attempt to import about 70 kilograms of cocaine in a yacht on the Gold Coast. Maritime Border Command assisted in monitoring the vessel and ABF officers were also on the ground to assist in the search of the vessel. This seizure attracted national media coverage.

Immigration compliance also continued their great work targeting worker exploitation, with 21 people of interest located across north-west New South Wales. Nineteen were unlawful non-citizens and two were found to be working in breach of their visa conditions. Regional media interest was significant.

Photo of seized drugs
Photo: Three people were arrested after ABF officers in Melbourne seized approximately 118 kilograms of performance and image enhancing drugs.

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