Recently a joint letter was sent to the Prime Minister, Treasurer and Agriculture Minister from about 50 agricultural industry representative groups, expressing shared views and serious concerns about the proposed biosecurity tax that’s being imposed on agricultural producers.

Producers support a robust biosecurity system and already pay significant amounts in levies to underpin biosecurity programs, including the work in partnership delivered by Plant Health Australia and Animal Health Australia. Funding of these agencies is not matched by governments. Other producer levies co-fund RD&E investments, with matching taxpayer funding, through rural Research and Development Corporations (RDCs). Many industries also provide levies for non-matched marketing investments. RDCs also contribute significant funding to deliver investments that strengthen biosecurity outcomes for the nation. For example, the Grains Research and Development Corporation's overall biosecurity investment over the past six years totals about $220 million, which includes $42.3 million in 2022/23. For Meat and Livestock Australia this total was more than $26 million for 2023. Many producers also pay state based levies. 

However, the 2023 federal budget announced a new “Biosecurity Protection Levy” which fundamentally undermines the levy principles. Put simply, it is a tax, not a levy, and it undermines trust and confidence in this important system. The principles of this policy proposal do not accord with the recent Productivity Commission report into levies, which assesses the policy against well-understood criteria. The independent Productivity Commission analysis also supports industry’s view that this is a tax. It is proposed to be non-hypothecated and carries multiple risks and consequences.

An immediate reversal of the government’s flawed tax proposal would help start the process of repairing the damage that’s already been inflicted on trust and confidence in the existing levy system, and key partnerships with producers. It will also allow a more considered approach to accommodate levy payers’ concerns. The longer this proposal is allowed to continue, the further it will exacerbate these tensions and undermine the vital trust and the bipartisan approach producers need on biosecurity matters.



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