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Commissioner Vows To Make Border More Profitable & Cut Suppliers A Break

Suppliers to Australian retailers have been burdened with red tape for decades but could be in for some relief after the head of the Border Force pledges to streamline the shocking array of system processes and regulations that the industry has to grapple with everyday.

During his speech to an Australia-New Zealand business group and to highlight current challenges, Michael Outram, Commissioner of the Australian Border Force and Comptroller-General of Customs, said “too many critical IT systems’’ were out-of-date.

Outram also exposed an astounding number of official procedures in the form of 200 regulations and 145 trade systems, overseen by 29 government agencies, of which cross-border business must wade through to do business in Australia.

In total, too many regulations and outdated procedures cost Australia roughly $431 million a year.

In the effort to support the nation’s borders to improve economic productivity, Outram said he is committed to making ”our border a force of business”.

With a statistic he described as “eye-watering”, he went on to paint a even clearer picture by reminding the audience that Australia had fallen from 25th in 2010 to 106th by 2020 globally by the World Bank in its ranking for “trading across the border”.

“Imagine the outcry if our education or health sector dropped 80 places in world rankings or the All Blacks went on a losing streak and New Zealand became a Tier 2 rugby nation – It’s unthinkable,’’ he told the audience.

The Commissioner did not sugarcoat the current plight of trade in Australia but did say that with his excellent team and resources he has at his disposal, he has full confidence that a reform of the border as a “strategic asset’’ is what the country needs to bring our border policies and the potential income generated back on track.

“Australia’s border is one of its greatest assets, but we’re not making the most of it. I want to bring about reform of the border, and not just piecemeal reform. I want to overhaul the border and make it work for Australia the way I know it can,’’ Outram asserted.

“My job is about more than just security and border protection, it’s also about economic productivity and enhancing the wellbeing of Australians”.

In terms of the next steps, the Commissioner highlighted the need for updating IT systems, a new contactless screening system for luggage, cargo border modernisation, and the financing it would take to bring about a reform. He also hinted at taking a tougher stance on detecting illicit drugs crossing the border.

“In other words, despite the thousands of tonnes per year of drugs we are stopping, even on a good day we’re stopping only about 20 to 25% of them. So, we have to do better. We can do better.’’

Outram is committed to progress and said that even if Australia’s border is “wearied at the moment’’, it has the potential to be a massive economic driver and contribute $421 billion in imports and $400 billion in exports with Border Force raking in $20 billion.

“It’s estimated that by 2050, migration will be contributing $1.6 trillion to our GDP. The numbers are huge. But if we don’t invest in the border, like any asset, it’s going to depreciate,’’ he said.

Achieving the type of border reform Outram envisions is not just about border protection and security, he said, it’s also ensuring a huge increase in economic productivity which will benefit all of Australia.

“We have an opportunity to ensure the border maximises our economic prosperity and national resilience, provided we act sooner rather than later.”

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