FTA interview with Rosemary Holloway NSW Regional Director ACBPS

Friday, May 10, 2013

Freight & Trade Alliance (FTA) has recently been included with other peak industry bodies to participate in the New South Wales Trade Facilitation Forum (TFF), which is organised by the Australian Customs and Border Protection Service (Customs and Border Protection).

As a part this development, we invited Rosemary Holloway to participate in an interview to give an insight into her role and the specific objectives of the TFF.  

Rosemary is the Regional Director New South Wales and also the National Manager Workplace Relations and Safety.

Q1 Paul Zalai: Thank you for agreeing to an interview for the benefit of FTA subscribers. Could you please give us some details about yourself?

I have been with the Australian Customs and Border Protection Service for four years – initially in Canberra and currently in NSW, and have been in the Public Service in a variety of roles since 1988. I hold a Bachelor of Economics and a Diploma in Education Social Science Teaching from the University of Sydney and Executive Masters in Public Administration (ANZSOG) from University of Melbourne.

Q2 Paul Zalai: The dual role of Regional Director New South Wales and National Manager Workplace Relations and Safety must be extremely demanding. How do you juggle these roles and are there areas where the roles complement each other?

These two leadership positions dovetail well, with the overall strategic role as Regional Director providing the context for development and implementation of people management strategies that are practical and flexible. My ability to bring the regional context to national discussion about work health and safety, and staff engagement has prompted a much more inclusive perspective to policy development.

Q3 Paul Zalai: How do you see Customs and Border Protection managing future challenges of trade volume growth, and a community expectation of increased border security in a tight fiscal environment?

The Service is working hard to develop options for efficient and effective ways of facilitating legitimate trade in increasing volumes. All stakeholders recognise that the current trends of volume increases mean current work practices are unsustainable.

Q4 Paul Zalai: What do you see as the purpose and importance of the Trade Facilitation Forum?

The Trade Facilitation Forum allows regular updates about legislation and policy to be talked through with key stakeholders. The forum provides the opportunity for members to raise issues and questions that the Service can address in a practical and timely way.

Q5 Paul Zalai: There were announcements last year from the federal government that Customs and Border Protection would receive additional resources for compliance activity. Can you provide any update on this measure?

As part of the 2012-13 Mid-Year Economic Fiscal Outlook process, the Government decided to expand the Service's compliance program, so it could do more to treat economic risks, particularly revenue leakage.  The extra funding will pay for increased compliance-related activity, such as audits.  It will also support a systematic review of Tariff Concession Orders, to ensure they are still valid or appropriate. 

Over the forward estimates period, these two activities are expected to increase Government revenue by $57million, with an increase in GST payments to the States and Territories of $22.8 million.  We will also improve our capacity to pursue prosecution and penalty action, in appropriate cases.

There is enough funding for ten additional staff for the rest of 2012-13, but there will be an average of 33 extra staff over the forward estimates, covering compliance, investigation and TCO activities.

Q6 Paul Zalai: As part of a border security initiative, we have seen ICS functionality changes and licensing requirements tightened on both customs brokers and depot operators.

Yes.  A lot has already happened, but it really was needed.

Two major reports had highlighted organised crime threats in the marine and aviation sectors.  One report came from the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Law Enforcement (PJCLE) in 2011.  The other was from the POLARIS Joint Task Force in 2012.  It examined maritime sector criminality in Sydney.  Both those reports revealed serious issues.  That includes criminal infiltration, the misuse of sensitive information and examples of active help to criminal groups.  As a result, remedial measures have already been taken, or are underway. 

In the middle of last year, stronger licence conditions for depots, warehouses and brokers came into effect.  (Editor's note: Australian Customs and Border Protection Notices 2012/29, 2012/35 and 2012/37 refer.)  Changes were made to the ICS in May this year, limiting access to information about cargo.  Since then, only those people who have a direct and legitimate interest in specific consignments can access ICS information about them.  There are also new on-screen warnings for ICS users and new checks on information access.

Building on the success of the POLARIS Task Force in Sydney, the Commonwealth has now established similar Task Forces in Melbourne and Brisbane.  They include representatives from the AFP, the Australian Crime Commission, Customs and Border Protection and the relevant State police services.  We have increased our targeted patrols of the waterfront and we're improving security at our Container Examinations Facilities.

Q7 Paul Zalai: Do you see more scrutiny being extended to other areas, not just customs brokers and depot operators?

That's on the way too, with changes to the Customs Act 1901.  A bill is now before the Parliament that will help to prevent infiltration by serious and organised crime into Australia's cargo supply chain.

It will change the Customs Act, by putting statutory obligations on CTOs and cargo handlers - similar to the obligations of depot and warehouse licence holders.  This includes mandatory reporting of illegal activity, the obligation to ensure physical security, and probity checks on management personnel when we ask.  Non-compliance will attract criminal or administrative sanctions.

The Bill creates new offences for misusing information from the ICS to aid a criminal organisation.  The CEO of Customs will have more discretion in deciding if someone is "fit and proper" under the Customs Act.  That can stop unsuitable people from working in a licensed depot or warehouse.

Our CEO and his delegates will be able to impose new licence conditions at any time.  A breach of a licence condition will be an offence that can be punished.  And there will be higher penalties for some strict liability offences and the offences in section 234 of the Customs Act. 

So, we're definitely moving into a period of tighter controls and tougher penalties. 

Q8 Paul Zalai: From a compliance perspective generally, what might be the focus in the future?

Our focus always depends on the level of risk.  As you know, we apply an intelligence-led and risk-based approach to managing border risks.  This ensures that our responses are in line with our regulatory philosophy. Using this approach, we're constantly reassessing the risks that confront us.  They change from one month to the next and so does our focus.

In our trading environment, the participants largely self-regulate, but we still have to ensure compliance.  We do it through monitoring and intervention activities that are proportionate to the level of risk. Where we detect non-compliance, we have a variety of treatment options, including education, warnings, suspension or revocation of licences, infringement notices and penalties, or even prosecution. We apply the toughest treatments to the biggest risks.

However, it's really important to stress that industry is a powerful partner and ally in all this.  Industry provides vital surveillance and deterrence mechanisms at key nodes. Successful collaboration between us and industry is integral in Australia's response to border threats.  Throughout the region, industry is our eyes and ears, particularly in their local environments. Your members understand what border activities are unusual or suspicious.

To engage more effectively with industry, we recently re-launched our industry program CustomsWatch. We really do value the information given to us by industry, because it adds an additional layer to our intelligence picture. Under the re-launched program, industry will see a more holistic approach to engagement on our part.  

Another good example is the newly established Stronger Compliance Working Group, which came out of the International Trade Remedies Forum.   The Working Group's focus is to give industry a forum to share intelligence about behaviour in their sector that may indicate breaches of anti-dumping or countervailing measures.  It's a good example of industry helping to guide both our focus and our operations – so we can do what is best for industry and for the community as a whole.  

Q9 Paul Zalai: On behalf of FTA and our subscribers, I would to thank you for taking the time to participate in this interview. We look forward to working closely with you and your management team in meeting the upcoming challenges.