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3. If the combined cost of the items is under AUD$1000, the entry cost would be waived. If this is true, I’m actually not quite clear how the duties and tax will apply. Would the duties only apply if the total shipment is AUD$1000 and above?

Yes, for now at least under AUD$1000 generally does not incur any import fees, etc. though I have heard that may change.

Once it is over $1000 you will pay import tax and GST on the goods imported (which is recoverable if you are registered for GST) as well as GST on the freight forwarding and clearing costs. This one bit me in the “bottom” first time I imported a shipment as I imported during one quarter and sold the goods bit by bit later so I had a fairly large GST amount to pay out and wasn’t able to recoup it till quite a while later… Probably stating the obvious for more seasoned importers but it really snuck up on me at a time when my cash flow was still very tight.

Finding a good freight forwarder/customs clearing agent is really important and I have found you do tend to “get what you pay for”. Some are cheap, but then you get hit with a lot of hidden fees, especially fees charged for services within the country you are exporting from.