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Axe proposed tax before it's too late

By Barry Large, Chairman, Grain Producers Australia

AUSTRALIAN farmers are extremely angry about the proposed 10 per cent biosecurity tax that’s being imposed by the Federal Government.


And there’s a multitude of reasons why so many farmers – not just grain producers – are fighting so hard against this deeply flawed, unfair proposal and calling for it to be urgently reversed.


Firstly, we already pay significant amounts in existing levies, state and federal, to fund biosecurity activities. And other levies to provide other public good outcomes such as RD&E investments which deliver multiple social and economic benefits for the nation, including increased tax generation.


As highlighted in recent commentary about cost-of-living pressures on Australians, and the prices consumers pay at the big supermarkets, many farmers are doing it really tough right now.


And we all know the seasonal pressures are relentless.


But at the same time we’re facing ever increasing political and public pressures to produce food that’s affordable, reliable, healthy and sustainable, whilst others benefit from our hard work and rake-in record profits.

Many others also benefit from strong biosecurity, but somehow the government’s proposed tax only targets producers as ‘beneficiaries’ and somehow ignores the fact we’re also significant taxpayers.


This Government’s move to impose this new 10pc biosecurity tax will only amplify these production pressures by hitting farmers with another cost that’s coming directly off our bottom lines into government consolidated revenue.


All of the submissions to the consultation process on the proposed Biosecurity Protection Levy conducted since last year’s budget have rejected this flawed, ‘one size fits all’ policy proposition.


In fact, there’s been an extremely high degree of unity amongst farmers and their representative groups in opposing this new tax – and this solidarity is virtually unprecedented.


That’s why GPA has supported a process where more than 50 agricultural producer representative groups have unified to send a powerful, collective message about their strong opposition to the proposed 10pc tax.


These groups represent the views of tens of thousands of Australian agricultural producers across the full spectrum of farm commodities including grains, livestock, horticulture, dairy, forestry, seafood, etc.


A joint letter sent by these groups to the Prime Minister, Anthony Albanese – and Federal Treasurer, Jim Chalmers, and Agriculture Minister, Murray Watt – is calling for an immediate and urgent reversal of the fundamentally flawed policy that’s due to be implemented by 1 July 2024.


The letter says 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 – not a levy.


Pic: Barry Large, Chairman, Grain Producers Australia

Our letter urges Treasury to conduct proper, detailed economic analysis and modelling of the policy proposal including providing the actual criteria used to label agricultural producers the only ‘beneficiaries’ of the biosecurity system and not others who also benefit from strong biosecurity and food security.


Given the significant volume of opposition to this policy, there’s a clear opportunity for the Agriculture Minister Murray Watt and his government to demonstrate they’re actually listening to farmers and not ignoring our genuine concerns.


If they continue to forge ahead and impose this flawed, unfair policy on all Australian farmers, the genuine question must be asked – what’s the point submitting our views to such processes?


Especially when this new levy/tax was never raised and revealed with farmers and stakeholders during the ‘sustainable’ biosecurity funding consultation processes.


Nor was it a recommendation from the Senate Biosecurity inquiry, held shortly after the 2022 election.


Instead, it came as a total shock in the May 2023 budget and we’ve been forced to fight it ever since.

This flawed and conflated consultation is clearly outlined in the timeline attached to GPA’s submission to another process that’s been going on since 2017 – to ‘modernise’ agricultural levies – with another Senate inquiry being held separately on this matter.


GPA is now calling on all producers to get behind our new campaign to reverse this biosecurity tax, alongside other representative groups who share this anger, frustration and serious concerns about unintended consequences.


Individual producers can write to their local MPs and the Minister, to reinforce their clear opposition to the proposal, and call for its immediate reversal. A Fighting Fund has also been set up to help strengthen the voice of producers with vital campaign resources including economic analysis that can actually demonstrate how much producers already pay. HERE 


With the proposed legislation set to be debated and voted-on in Federal Parliament over coming weeks leading into July 1, we need to do what we can to stand up and fight, to defeat this deeply flawed policy proposal, before it’s too late.


If they can impose a new levy disguised as a tax on all agricultural producers for biosecurity, with the funding to go into consolidated government revenue, it sets an extremely dangerous policy precedent for the future.

* this article was first published in the Farm Weekly oon 17 January, 2024 HERE

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