Serious concerns raised by Cattle Australia around industry consultation on levy

With the clock ticking on the commencement of the Australian Government’s proposed Biosecurity Protection Levy (BPL), 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.

Appearing at a public hearing of the Senate Inquiry into the BPL by the Rural and Regional Affairs and Transport Legislation Committee on Tuesday, CA Chief Executive Officer, Dr Chris Parker, said extensive discussions with stakeholders since the organisation made its formal submission last October had further brought to light the inadequacies of the tax.

“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.

“Additionally, with the BPL to be initiated by July 1, we still await detailed information as to the collection mechanism of the levy and other policy challenges, noting how little time remains in the sitting calendar to legislate.”

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.

“The international marketability of 75% of Australian beef is contingent on our disease-free statuses, so biosecurity is of paramount importance to grass-fed beef producers.

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

-Cattle Australia