WORK to develop registers of sheep, cattle and goat levy payers is progressing toward a commencement date of 1 July 2021, Meat & Livestock Australia says.
As part of that work, the more than 1000 entities including livestock agents, processors and producers who submit compulsory levy payments collected on behalf of cattle, sheep and goat producers with whom they transact livestock, have been consulted during the past 12 months.
After July 1 they will be required to submit additional information with each levy payment, including the levy payers’ relevant Australian Business Number and or Australian Company Number, business name, contact details (postal address, phone number or email address), quantity of each type of livestock transacted and free-on-board or sale values where applicable.
MLA says assistance is available for businesses or producers who remit levies, or software providers to the industry who would like assistance or information on making required change, by contacting either the Department of Agriculture, Water and Environment (DAWE) or MLA (see contact details at bottom of this article).
The levy payer register is a database of the details of individuals and organisations who pay industry-specific levies and charges.
Legislation passed in June 2018 enabled all 15 rural research and development corporations (RDCs) to establish a levy payer register, if they choose.
In 2014 Senate committee recommended Australia’s grassfed cattle industry establish an automated cattle transaction levy system to identify levy payers against levies paid and to accurately allocate industry voting entitlements. The recommendation was publicly supported by wide range of industry bodies and the Federal Government.
The aim of levy payer registers, as explained on the DAWE website, is to enable the RDCs such as Meat & Livestock Australia, as key recipients of industry levies, to identify and consult directly with the levy payers that fund their activities.
In addition to the register being developed for cattle and livestock levy payers, the RDCs in the grains, wine and grape and sugar industries have also implemented levy payer registers to date, in addition to the dairy and wool industries which had registers in place prior to the June 2018 legislation being passed.
MLA currently receives levies from the Department of Agriculture, Water and Energy (DAWE), without any detail on the levy payers.
The Levies Notice process is currently the way MLA members provide voluntary information about the amount of levies they have paid during the previous financial year, which is used as the basis for determining full voting entitlements at MLA’s AGM.
“When established, the red meat levy-payer register would offer another dataset to MLA (on top of existing information) to further improve collaboration and communication with red meat producers,” MLA said.
Once the levy payer registers for cattle and livestock levies are in place, expected to be from July 1, the additional information will be provided by DAWE back to MLA.
“The Register will allow each RDC to understand where their levy dollars come from and consult directly with producers (fulfilling the RDCs statutory obligation to consult with levy payers), as well as better inform research and development decisions, projects and extension work – this is the intent of this legislation,” MLA said.
DAWE sent out information to collection agents in February advising them of the new level of detail that will be required from July 1.
One issue surrounds who will be able to get access to the information, with protection of levy payer information remaining a priority for MLA and industry.
As the peak industry council representing cattle levy payers the Cattle Council of Australia has previously indicated it should also be able to access the register for approved purposes to enable it to better engage and consult with all producers who pay the cattle transaction levy.
The current legislation very specifically defines ‘eligible recipients’ of levy payer information as the RDCs (in this case MLA) and the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS), which can seek access to the data to perform any of its functions.
Once established, an RDC can use the levy payer information from their register for the following purposes:
- to maintain a register of who has paid a levy and/or charge;
- to maintain a register of persons eligible to vote in a poll conducted by, or on behalf of, the RDC;
- to make public information of a statistical nature;
- in performing its functions under a law of the Commonwealth or under a contract or other agreement with the Commonwealth;
- to determine whether a person is or remains eligible to be a member of the RDC.
Access to the levy payer information by a third party (ie anyone outside of the relevant RDC which is MLA in the cattle and livestock sector) can occur according to legislation with the approval of MLA and the Secretary of the Department of Agriculture, Water and Environment.
DAWE states that requests for disclosure will be assessed on a case-by-case basis and must meet the requirements under section 27B of the Primary Industries Levies and Charges Collection Act 1991.
More information on the DAWE website here, but key points include that in making an approval, the Secretary must take into account whether the proposed use of levy payer information fits into one of the above permitted uses under the legislation.
It also adds that levy payer information may not be used for purposes such as:
- agri-political activities;
- increasing the membership of an industry representative body;
- an activity which would give a commercial advantage to a participant in the industry;
- an activity unrelated to the function of the RDC.
MLA said register preparations are progressing toward a commencement date of 1 July 2021.
The following details have been provided for anyone seeking more information:
Department of Agriculture Levies – team
800 020 619
Meat & Livestock Australia
The DAWE has also advised it has the ability to review test files prior to the register commencing on 1 July 2021.
More information is available at the following websites:
Levies Online General User Guide
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