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Import regulations and customs duties  - Distribution - Transportation of goods - Standards - Patents and brands

Import regulations and customs duties

Animals, plants and unprocessed derivative products are subject to a complex phytosanitary legislation, which, in practice, makes the import of these products into Australia impossible. More than 150 agricultural products are subject to an Import licence, without which they cannot enter the Australian territory. Hence there are a number of very restrictive measures of quarantine. The role of the administration is confined to the inspection of goods, side by side with the Customs Administration and Australian Quarantine and Inspection Service (AQIS). Food Standards Australia New Zealand also takes action in laying down rules and regulations for food products.
Packages and wooden palettes must be accompanied by a certificate of fumigation.
Here are some examples of products subject to regulations:

Product Prohibition LicenceRegulationsQuotas
Tobacco X
Pharmaceutical products **X

* These can be sold only after authorisation of the Secretary of the Commonwealth Department of Health and Family Services.
**The other pharmaceutical products cannot enter the Australian territory except if they are referred to Australian Register of Therapeutic Goods (ARTG), either as goods subject to "list" (less rigorous controls, for such products as vitamins, solar screens / pads and most of herbal products), or as goods subject to "registration"( evaluation in terms of quality, safety and efficiency).

Business travellers carrying commercial goods or samples may need to obtain permits for their goods depending on the nature of the goods, regardless of value. Quarantine and wildlife regulations and other restrictions may also apply to certain goods.
Laptop computers and other similar electronic equipment for personal use may also be brought in duty free provided Customs is satisfied you are taking these goods with you on departure.

For more information:
- Temporary importation of commercial goods
- Information for travellers

Temporary importation of commercial goods Carnets may be obtained for temporary duty free entry of goods, that are subject to international agreements, such as commercial samples, goods for international exhibitions, equipment for major sporting events, professional television and film equipment etc. Contact your local Chamber of Commerce for application details. For more information on importing goods, contact your nearest Customs Information Centre or an Australian mission overseas.

For more information on prohibited and restricted imports:

All consignments that are over $1,000 in value must be entered via an “Import Declaration”. Import declarations can be communicated electronically, via the Intergrated Cargo System (ICS), or by document on Customs form B650 - Import Declaration (N10). Import declarations are subject to entry processing fees; the cost will depend on whether the declaration is electronic or documentary (manual). Schedule of Recovery Fees.
It is suggested that first time or infrequent importers engage the services of a customs broker who, in addition to completing the Import Declaration, can undertake a number of tasks associated with the import process on the importer’s behalf. As a result of their online connection to Customs computer systems, brokers have access to lower processing fees, although they will charge for the services that they provide. Look under “Customs Brokers” in your local yellow pages for details of firms near you.
If you wish to clear the goods yourself, Customs will provide assistance to first time importers in the clearance of their goods. The minimum documentation required is an invoice, bill of lading/airway bill and any other papers such as packing list, insurance documents, etc. relating to the shipment. The Documentary Import Declaration Comprehensive Guide provides detailed information, advice and examples on how to complete an “Import Declaration” (Customs Form B650).
Where goods are being imported by air or sea, and the total value of the consignment is $1,000 or less the goods must be cleared via a Self Assessed Clearance (SAC) declaration. There is no requirement for SAC declarations if the goods are imported by post.


Customs duties
Australia applies the Harmonised System of Customs Duties. The customs duties are calculated on Ad Valorem basis.

The duty is calculated on the Customs value (basically the price paid for the goods converted to Australian dollars at the date of export). The GST is calculated on the Customs value plus the cost of international transport and insurance plus the duty plus, where applicable, Wine Equalisation Tax. Add these amounts together and the GST payable would be 10% of total. Examples of how to calculate GST are provided in the Documentary Import Declaration Comprehensive Guide.
There is no duty and GST applicable to SAC declarations unless the goods are alcohol or tobacco products. SAC declarations must be reported electronically. More information regarding SAC declarations

For more information:


Import taxes
Any goods imported into Australia may be subject to Customs duty and/or GST and other taxes.


Regulations governing payments
There is no foreign exchange control.


The Australian market is obviously conditioned by the vast dimensions of the country. The centres of distribution are concentrated in the cities of Sydney, Melbourne, and Brisbane to the East and Perth, which is 4000 kilometres to the West. The East Coast is where the largest proportion (around 70%) of the population lives. These cities are so far away from each other that each one of them constitutes a market in itself.

The Business to Consumer (B to C) market
Four big chains carry out the distribution of food products and share 80% of the market : Woolworth's , Coles Myer, Franklins and ALDI. The German company ALDI has entered the market recently in a small way.
The distribution of consumer products is more diversified and segmented, although purchase centres are becoming more and more important. David Jones is an upmarket chain of department stores, as is Myer.
There are many smaller chains of consumer goods retailers, which operate on a franchise system, where the branch stores are owned by franchisees, generally individuals or very small companies; such as Harvey Norman, Howards Storage World, The Good Guys, Mitre 10, Retravision.
Other chains that operate in a more traditional manner are Bunnings, Target and K-Mart

The Business to Business (B to B) market
The import of industrial products is undertaken by a small number of big groups and holdings which control very large parts of the market in different sectors,
 and smaller companies that act as specialists in their target fields. There are importers of agricultural equipment, mining equipment, marine equipment, vehicles, electrical equipment and supplies (such as pumps), electronics, and supplies and equipment for manufacturing companies of all types.
Some companies combine repair and manufacturing work with their importing of fully built equipment.
There are many opportunities for industrial equipment and goods exporters in the Australian market.


Transportation of goods

By road
About 11 million vehicles are using Australian highways.
The most important category of highways is the local road with 685,000 km, out of a total of 810,000 km. More than 80% of the road transport takes place on 20% of the road network of which 18,500 kms are National highways. Between 1994 and 1997, within the framework of the program relating to the road network, the Australian Federal government has spent more than 2.5 billion dollars for national highways. This network links the capitals and a number of regional centres. The road transport represents more than 70% of the goods traffic. The number of vehicles on the road in October 1998 was 11.75 million, of which 1.7 million light trucks and 427,000 heavy trucks meant for goods transport.
There were 14.4 million motor vehicles, including motorcycles, registered in Australia at 31 March 2006. This represents an increase of 12.0% since the 2002 Motor Vehicle Census (MVC), when there were 12.8 million vehicles registered in Australia. The average annual growth over this time was 2.9%

The Federal Government is said to be considering spending up to AUD 19 billion on new road projects.

For more information:

The management of the road network and its safety are ensured by Australian Transport Safety Bureau.

By rail
The Australian Rail System now has over 47000 kilometres of track, of which only 3800 kilometres are electrified. The Australian Government is investing AUD15 billion in the first five years of AusLink to mid-2009 and is focussed on long-term improvement to the critically important national land transport system.

The major focus of this investment is the Melbourne-Sydney-Brisbane corridor. The investment in this corridor is expected to reduce train transit times between Melbourne and Sydney from 13 hours 10 minutes to 10 hours 40 minutes for 1500 metre super freighters and 11 hours 30 minutes for 1800 metre super freighters. Transit time Sydney-Brisbane for 1500 metre super freighters will be cut by 4 hours enhancing rail's ability to compete with road transport.

In November 1996, the Australian Government announced a major rail reform package. The establishment of Australian Rail Track Corporation (ARTC)  provided a single point of access for the standard gauge interstate track.
The objective of these reforms was to increase the private sector involvement to lower the cost of transport to industry and to meet the needs of customers.

The ownership and management arrangements for AustraliaĂs rail infrastructure and rail operations are generally divided into ˘below÷ rail (track management) and above rail (operators of trains and rolling stock). A mix of Government and private sector operators perform these functions.
Most of the lines leased to ARTC (Australian Rail Track Corporation): NSW, VIC, WA, SA. Pacific National also deals with the lines VIC, TAS ; Genesee and Wyoming Australia Pty Ltd with the line SA; Queensland Rail with the lines QLD, WA. Links to Darwin also are operated by FreightLink.

By sea
Australia has 15,000 km of coast as well as 70 ports of a certain commercial importance, of which we may point out Sydney, Fremantle (Perth), Melbourne and Brisbane. The australian continent-size island explains the importance of maritime transport in its international trade, air transport being used mainly for perishable or fragile products. On average, every year, 350 million tons of goods are transported through the Australian ports.

By air
Although the international transport of goods is almost entirely carried out by sea, international transport of physical persons is done by airways. The national company is Qantas, and there are domestic companies,  the main ones being Jetstar (a low budget carrier owned by QANTAS), and Virgin Blue, which fly the main city routes, and a number of smaller airlines serving regional towns. All the State capitals are close to an international airport, the two most important being Sydney and Melbourne.

Patents and brands

The Office of Patents and Trade Marks is the institution responsible for protecting intellectual property and it is to this institution that one must address every application for patent right.
Australia is a member of Paris Convention on industrial property. Australia has signed the Rome Convention and Bern as well as the Convention established by the World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO). In specific matters relating to patents, Australia is signatory to Trade Mark Treaty.

Texts currently applying to patents/brands

  Text Date entered into law Period of validity Comment
Trademark On 1995 Period of validity of 10 years Renewable indefinitely
Patent Patent Law On 1999 15 years
Trademark Trademark Law On 1984 10 years (around 9 years and 10 months) If the trademark is not registered during 5 consecutive years, it then belongs to the public sector.


Last modified in 2006 - ongoing update
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