Biosecurity award winner says new biosecurity levy fails pub test

Trevor Ranford receives his 2022 Australian Biosecurity Award from Australian Agriculture Minister Murray Watt.

THE Federal Government’s proposed $50 million Biosecurity Protection Levy fails the ‘pub test’, says Trevor Ranford, an Australian Biosecurity Award winner in 2022.

Mr Ranford, a leading horticulture industry advocate with more than 46 years experience, said despite widespread criticisms from the industry and independent experts, the Government was “blindly proceeding with this unfair tax on farmers”.

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He said the Government was introducing the Biosecurity Protection Levy to balance its biosecurity budget.

The levy will affect about 85,000 domestic agricultural, fisheries and forestry producers and is due to commence on 1 July 2024.

It will collect around $50 million a year, equivalent to six per cent (on an annual basis) of the total Australian Government biosecurity funding in 2024-25.

Mr Ranford said Agriculture Minister Murray Watt wanted to fund the Government’s “normal commitments” to biosecurity – including at borders – by forcing the new levy on primary producers.

He said the Government had ignored a steady stream of advice against the proposed levy.

This included 50 agricultural industry organisations writing to the Prime Minister to reject the levy, and numerous industry bodies denied requests for a ‘hold on the tax’ to allow discussions about alternatives.

“There is a significant and growing body of evidence to show that this biosecurity tax will not make good policy and fails the good old Australian pub test,” Mr Ranford said.

“The industry is ready to assist with the redevelopment of this policy when the Minister decides he is ready to listen.”

National Farmers Federation President David Jochinke said the levy had attracted ‘a tidal wave of expert criticism’.

“Everyone from the Productivity Commission to the Australian National University and the Freight and Trade Alliance has labelled this policy a dud,” Mr Jochinke said.

“It makes zero economic sense.”

He said industry stakeholders were cynical about the motivation behind the Government’s recent decision to establish a Sustainable Biosecurity Funding Advisory Panel.

“It’s pretty clear that this panel is being tacked on at the eleventh hour to try and give the levy some credibility,” Mr Jochinke said.

“All it’s done is demonstrate the continued shambles this process has become – with stakeholders yet to receive formal invites, or any detail on the panel’s scope and role.”

By Mike HELY

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