A version of this article was first published by The DCN in June 2022.
It is difficult to determine exactly what may arise now the election has taken place, given that there was minimal commentary on trade and border issues during the election campaign.
Accordingly, the commentary below is based on inference from the new Ministerial appointments made since the election and the recent release of the Administrative Arrangements Order (Order) by the new government on 1 June 2022. The Order sets out the area of administration of each department and identifies the relevant legislation being administered by each department.
- Under the previous Federal Government, there was a separate Assistant Minister for Customs, Community Safety and Multicultural Affairs working under the Minister for Home Affairs. However, there has been no reference to that Ministry being retained when the new Ministries and new administrative arrangements were announced. The Order suggests that for the time being, ‘customs’ issues will fall somewhere within the broader Department of Home Affairs. Hopefully, this does not mean that customs issues will lose the specific attention as had previously been the case.
- The Order provides that ‘criminal justice, law enforcement policy and operations, and protective services’ will be transferred from Home Affairs to the Attorney–General’s Department (AGD). It is also understood that the domestic intelligence agency Australian Security Intelligence Organisation, will continue to be administered by both Home Affairs and the AGD, as it has been since 2017.
- The existing Department of Agriculture, Water and Environment (DAWE) will now be subject to change (again). Senator Murray Wyatt has been appointed Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry, and Tanya Pilbersek has been appointed Minister for the Environment and Water. It has now been confirmed that there will be two new departments, the Department of Agriculture Fisheries and Forestry (DAFF rides again) and the Department of Climate Change, Energy, the Environment and Water (probably DCEEW?).
- The new Minister for Trade and Tourism is Senator Don Farrell. The former Shadow Trade Minister, Madeleine King, has now been appointed as Minister for Resources and Minister for Northern Australia. Although not in the Shadow Trade Portfolio, Senator Farrell, in a speech late last year to the Senate, outlined a then prospective Labor Government’s trade agenda. That speech identified a new Federal Government’s commitment to an ‘open global trading system’ that would promote ‘more competitive industries’ and ‘benefit consumers”. The Senator noted the need to cut trade compliance costs, especially those associated with bilateral Free Trade Agreements (FTAs) and criticised an approach to bilateral FTAs which, in his opinion, viewed them as ‘trophies to put on the shelf’. The Senator also committed to the use of industry assistance to promote openness, competitiveness and productivity by supporting necessary structural adjustment.
- The former Shadow Minister for Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Local Government, Catherine King, has retained that role in the new Federal Government Ministry.
- The former Shadow Minister for Industry and Innovation, Ed Husic, has now been appointed as Minister for Industry and Science. The renaming of that department from the former Department of Industry Science, Energy and Resources would suggest a change to the department’s operations. However, I understand it will still entail administration of our anti-dumping and countervailing regime.
In general terms, where previous Shadow Ministers have become members of the new Federal Government Ministry, that may support an easier transition into the mechanics of government. However, the changes to the scope of some Ministries and their administration may create uncertainties and delays in movement on important initiatives.
From a customs and trade facilitation perspective, we await news of the position of the federal government and its agencies in relation to those issues which were at the forefront before the election and the caretaker conventions placed the agenda ‘on hold’. Hopefully, the new Federal Government will not be making any cuts to the funding for projects which were in place before the election or for new projects contemplated by the important ‘Trade Modernisation’ agenda. In one sign of changes, I also understand that the responsibility for the ‘deregulation’ agenda will move from the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet to the Department of Finance.
We will continue to watch developments with genuine interest.