Commonwealth Numbered Regulations - Explanatory Statements

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Select Legislative Instrument 2008 No. 226


Issued by the Authority of the Minister for Home Affairs

Customs Act 1901

Customs (Prohibited Imports) Amendment Regulations 2008 (No. 5)


Section 270 of the Customs Act 1901 (the Act) provides, in part, that the Governor‑General may make regulations not inconsistent with the Act prescribing all matters which by the Act are required or permitted to be prescribed, or as may be necessary or convenient to be prescribed, for giving effect to the Act.

Section 50 of the Act provides that the Governor-General may, by regulation, prohibit the importation of goods into Australia. This power may be exercised by prohibiting the importation of goods absolutely, or by prohibiting the importation of goods unless specified conditions or restrictions are complied with.

The Customs (Prohibited Imports) Regulations 1956 (the Principal Regulations) control the importation of the goods specified in various regulations and Schedules.

The purpose of the amending Regulations is to repeal the control on the importation of dog collars that are designed to administer an electric shock ("electric dog collars"). The control on the importation of electric dog collars was originally introduced in 1980 at the request of the then Department of Primary Industries and Energy. The lack of sophistication of the devices available at the time resulted in concerns over their usage and for animal welfare.

Domestically produced electric dog collars are freely available for sale in several Australian States and the Northern Territory. The National Consultative Committee on Animal Welfare (NCCAW) is the peak advisory body established to provide advice on animal welfare issues. At their August 2008 meeting, NCCAW supported the removal of the prohibition on the importation of electric dog collars.

Subregulation 4(1) of the Principal Regulations provides that the importation into Australia of goods specified in Schedule 2 to the Principal Regulations is prohibited unless the permission in writing of the Minister or an authorised person to import the goods has been granted. Item 10 of Schedule 2 specifies for subregulation 4(1) “dog collars incorporating:

(a) apparatus designed to cause an electric shock (electric dog collars); or

(b) protrusions designed to puncture or bruise an animal’s skin.”

The amending Regulations repeal the control on the importation of electric dog collars as set out in subitem 10(a) of Schedule 2. The control on the importation of dog collars incorporating protrusions designed to puncture or bruise an animal’s skin has been retained.

The fact that electric dog collars are available for sale in several States and the Northern Territory also raises concerns that the control on their importation does not comply with Australia's international obligations under Articles III and XI of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT). Article III is designed to prevent discrimination between the treatment of foreign and domestically produced goods, and Article XI prohibits the use of import restrictions or prohibitions, other than duties, taxes and charges.

Controlling the importation of electric dog collars while they are freely available for domestic sale may be inconsistent with these Articles, especially as this import control also does not fall within any of the exceptions set out in Article XX of GATT.

Consultation was undertaken with NCCAW, a non-statutory body established by the Australian Government in 1989. One of its terms of reference is to assess and advise the Federal Government on the national implications of welfare issues affecting animals. Membership of NCCAW includes representatives of the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, Animals Australia, the Australian Veterinary Association, the National Farmers Federation, State Government, the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry and the Horse Industry.

The amending Regulations commence on the day after they are registered on the Federal Register of Legislative Instruments.


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