Biosecurity Protection Levy passes House of Representatives

THE Federal Government’s Biosecurity Protection Levy passed in the House of Representatives last week – legislation which the Nationals are describing as a “fresh food tax” and an “attack on families and farmers”.

According to the Department of Agriculture, the Biosecurity Protection Levy will “ensure that those who directly benefit from Australia’s strong biosecurity make a modest and direct contribution to ensure the biosecurity system is sustainably funded into the future”.

The Nationals however say the new levy will force farmers to pay for the biosecurity risks of international importers.

“In what parallel universe would a government charge its own farmers to pay for the risks their competitors are creating?” Nationals leader David Littleproud said.

“This new tax will hurt families at a time they can least afford it and farmers who are already under pressure.

“It doesn’t make sense at all and comes amid a cost-of-living crisis.

Farmers will be forced to pass on costs, meaning families will feel more pain at the grocery checkout.”

National Farmers’ Federation President David Jochinke said while farmers were disappointed to see the controversial levy progress to the Senate, it was encouraging to see a range of Coalition, Greens and independent MPs validating the industry’s strong concerns.

“This was a very lonely vote for the Government, and we thank every member who voted against this bad idea.

“It’s an important demonstration to farmers that their concerns are being heard.”

Joining opposition to the levy by the Liberals and Nationals, Greens MP Elizabeth Watson-Brown stated her party had “serious concerns about the lack of transparency and oversight” applied to the allocation of collected industry funds.

“The Greens will be pushing the government to commit to progressing a levy on risk creators in the form of a container levy,” Ms Watson-Brown noted.

Several members of the crossbench also reiterated the industry’s concerns.

Indi MP Dr Helen Haines shared concern that the levy will be going into consolidated revenue, noting that “there is no guarantee that this new charge on farmers will actually go to biosecurity measures”.

“In criticising this bill, farmers are not asking the government to do all the work, because they already contribute to biosecurity measures via existing levies, on-farm activities and much, much more,” she said.

Allegra Spender MP called out “the failure of the government to follow its own processes and best practices in policy development”.

The Department of Agriculture has recognised that many primary producers already invest in biosecurity through on-farm activities, but argue more needs to be done.

“Producers also support Australia’s biosecurity system through investment in research and development, membership fees for Animal Health Australia and Plant Health Australia, and contributions to emergency responses under deed arrangements,” the Department stated in a release in February.

“While these investments are important, they do not directly fund biosecurity costs at the border that prevent pest and disease incursions into Australia.

“These investments are not being replaced or duplicated by Commonwealth activities funded through the Biosecurity Protection Levy.”

Leave a Reply