AUSTRALIA’S federal Coalition Opposition has committed to introducing an importer container charge and scrapping Labor’s agricultural biosecurity protection levy.
In its latest budget, the Albanese Labor Government announced more than $1 billion of additional funding for biosecurity, including about $845 million to support biosecurity operations across the country, protecting the nation’s valuable agricultural industries.
The government said $845 million will be allocated over four years from 2023-24, and $255 million per year ongoing from 2027-28, to maintain biosecurity policy, operational and technical functions on a sustainable basis.
Minister for Agriculture Murray Watt said that farmers will pay only 6 percent or about $50 million of the proposed $804 million domestic biosecurity spend in 2024-25, or an estimated $153m over three years.
Importers are to pay about $400m or 48pc of the biosecurity cost (including a new SACS charge), tax payers $370m or 44pc and, people using Australia $17m or 2pc, his office told Sheep Central.
The agricultural biosecurity protection levy will be applied pro-rata, and is equivalent to about 10pc of 2020-21 industry-led agricultural levies levied on all domestic agricultural, fisheries and forestry producers from July 1 next year. The Federal Government is also looking at the legal issues around introducing a container levy.
Farmers slugged unfairly – Dutton
However, in his budget reply, Coalition leader Peter Dutton said Labor has slugged Australia’s farmers with a new $153 million dollar tax.
“They will be forced to unfairly pay for the risks of international importers – especially at a time when our farmers and producers are facing more uncertainty with rising input costs and workforce shortages.
“This tax will be passed onto Australians in the form of higher prices at the supermarket,” he said.
“Instead of taxing Australian farmers, tonight I announce the Coalition will establish an importer container levy – as recommended by the independent Craik Biosecurity review.
“Under a Coalition Government, Australian farmers will not be punished for the biosecurity risk others pose.”
Leader of The Nationals David Littleproud said Labor’s budget measure is a new tax on farmers and food, meaning farmers will have to pass it onto consumers resulting in higher grocery prices at the check-out.
“Why would any Australian government tax their own farmers, to pay for foreigners to bring their products into this country?
“To slug our farmers with a new $153 million tax, who will now be forced to pay for the risks of international importers, is unjust,” he said.
“The Nationals, as part of a Coalition Government, will stop Labor’s new tax, in order to protect and support our farmers, while also helping to ease financial pressures on families.”
Mr Littleproud’s medi release last week said the Coalition, when in government, was in the process of delivering a cost recovery model, where importers would pay a levy, commensurate to the risk provided, rather than Australian farmers.
“Labor has prioritised importers before Australian farmers.
“In stark contrast, The Nationals will always put Australian farmers first,” he said.
“Instead of taxing Australian farmers, we will establish an ‘importer container levy’, as recommended by the independent Craik Biosecurity review.
“Under our plan, importers of foreign products will pay for the biosecurity risk they pose – not Australian farmers.”
“It makes sense that those importing into Australia pay for the biosecurity risk of their products that they benefit from selling here.
“This measure will save our producers of agriculture, forestry and fishery products, while ensuring our agriculture industry can thrive and be protected from biosecurity risks.”
In his budget reply statement, Mr Dutton also opposed the proposed increase in the Heavy Vehicle Road User Charge rate from 27.2 cents per litre of fuel in 2023–24 to 32.4c/l in 2025–26, expecting to raise about $1.1 billion.
“We don’t need Labor’s truckie tax, because transport companies will pass it on in higher prices paid by you,” Mr Dutton said.
Truckies are also facing increases in vehicle registration fees from about $15,500 for a B-Double in Victoria now to nearly $16,500 in the next year and to $18,000 the following year.
For information on the Federal Government’s biosecurity funding model – Budget 2023-24 – Sustainable funding for a strong biosecurity system (agriculture.gov.au)
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