Senate inquiry told of biosecurity protection levy concerns

Sheep Central, April 23, 2024

CA CEO Dr Chris Parker gives evidence at the RRAT hearing.

Australia’s livestock industries were still “in the dark’ on how the Federal Government’s proposed biosecurity protection levy would be collected just months from its proposed commencement on 1 July this year.

“It is still very unclear to Cattle Australia, the manner in which this levy will be collected,” CA chief executive officer Dr Chris Parker told the Rural and Regional Affairs and Transport Legislative Committee in Canberra today.

“Yes it’s been changed to a GVP model and to be blunt we at least welcomed that in the sense that it was a more equitable collection of the levy, and it’s certainly one model, that might want to use.

“But as far as the actual collection mechanism we’re still a bit in the dark and looking forward to those conversations with the department and the minister about how potentially this might be done.”

Dr Parker said the government was also proposing to collect levy amounts from some groups that would be less than the collection cost. His evidence was supported by other members of the Red Meat Advisory Council at the hearing.

With the clock ticking on the commencement of the Australian Government’s proposed Biosecurity Protection Levy, Cattle Australia has raised a raft of serious new concerns about the tax and called into question government’s ability to adequately consult with industry and legislate in time.

The lack of clarity around the collection system for the proposed levy was among a raft of issues that Cattle Australia raised with senators during the inquiry’s public hearing today.

“The process used by government to consult with industry has been fundamentally flawed from the outset, and CA’s discussions with stakeholders has raised additional alarm as to how the BPL, in its current form, would be fairly, equitably and cohesively implemented and administrated,” Dr Parker said.

“While we welcomed the announcement of the Sustainable Biosecurity Funding Advisory Panel in late February, we are yet to see a broad-ranging and robust Terms of Reference and remain concerned with the government’s level of engagement with the peak industry bodies which represent levy payers.

“The Terms of Reference must include a clear line of sight of the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry budget for activities related to the biosecurity system, including corporate costs,” he said.

The senators were told consultation with stakeholders over recent months has also led Cattle Australia to call on the government to:

Not implement the BPL on the grass-fed cattle sector, until all other agricultural industries have arrangements in place to manage collection mechanisms

Make an equitable determination on the “overcollection” and “undercollection” of BPL levies, that will undoubtedly occur due to seasonal changes, in respect of the grass-fed contribution to total levy collection, and not allow an overcollection to further subsidise its appropriation funding of biosecurity activities

Place industry levy funds in a special account to increase transparency

Not implement the BPL until it has made clear determination on the imposition of the container levy

Ensure the pending National Biosecurity Strategy Implementation Plan include substantial direction around the ongoing sustainable funding of biosecurity including, but not limited to, the implementation of the BPL.

“CA fundamentally supports increased investment in biosecurity and acknowledges the additional funds allocated by government in this area; however, the announcement of this levy in last May’s Federal Budget, without consulting with peak bodies, has meant the ongoing consultation process has simply never been able to catch up, depriving stakeholders of the opportunity to provide guidance in a timely manner,” Dr Parker said.

“With the July 1 deadline looming, we must see urgent action from Government to genuinely work with us, not without us.”

NSW Farmers calls for proposed levy to be scrapped

NSW Farmers president Xavier Martin told the inquiry that despite a last-minute redesign, farm leaders remained opposed to the biosecurity levy bill and would continue to urge parliamentarians to vote against the levy’s introduction over the coming weeks.

“Farmers are already paying significant amounts of money in levies to fund biosecurity efforts in Australia, so asking them to pay millions more is utterly unfair when importers – as the real creators of biosecurity risk – are left free to operate without the burden of this bill,” he said.

“Our farm leaders have spoken, and our message is clear: this levy is totally flawed and unfair, and we need to review and renew our biosecurity funding models so we can ensure passengers and products entering Australia are being adequately charged for the costs of the risks they create.

“The creation of a container levy is a key way that risk creators can contribute to the biosecurity cause and ensure fair biosecurity funding moving forward,” Mr Martin said.

With an additional $51.8 million to be collected from farmers under the proposed levy bill, Mr Martin said farmers would be extremely disappointed to see the bill pass Parliament.

“There is no clear or logical plan to collect this levy, let alone a clear and logical outline of what biosecurity measures this massive tax will actually fund, and yet we have just eight weeks until it is meant to be introduced.

“Farmers have many questions about this proposed levy, and tokenistic attempts to consult us at the eleventh hour just aren’t going to cut it when the stakes are this high,” Mr Martin said.

“We’re all for keeping exotic pests and disease out of our country, but why double tax farmers when we are already stricken with huge pressures on production and when we are already significantly contributing to funding for Australia’s biosecurity system?”


Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Your comment will not appear until it has been moderated.
Contributions that contravene our Comments Policy will not be published.


Get Sheep Central's news headlines emailed to you -