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SENATE BIOSECURITY INQUIRY LEAVES CONTAINER LEVY OPEN

Grain Producers Australia notes the findings and recommendations handed down in the Senate inquiry report into the national biosecurity system that’s now been released. HERE


The Senate Rural and Regional Affairs and Transport References Committee’s report from the inquiry into the adequacy of Australia’s biosecurity measures has made 29 recommendations.


GPA provided a submission and gave evidence at a public hearing in Canberra, reinforcing ongoing advocacy and policies to bolster grower protections with tougher preventative measures.


GPA Chair, Barry Large - who also Chairs GPA's Biosecurity Committee - said he acknowledged the Committee’s findings and focus on an actual local biosecurity incursion, with the plant industry currently responding to varroa mite.


“This Senate inquiry was largely instigated due to public and political concern about the potential threat of foot-and-mouth disease arriving from Indonesia, and lumpy skin disease,” he said.


“Meanwhile in Australia, we can’t ignore the fact we’ve actually been dealing with one of the biggest plant industry biosecurity responses in the nation’s history that’s causing real losses and significant costs and consequences for producers, industries and entire communities.

“Whilst there are no silver bullet solutions offered in this report, to the many complex issues raised in the inquiry, we urge the government to ensure these recommendations are followed through on.


“We can’t afford to lose this opportunity to deliver important reforms and lasting improvements.


“Biosecurity needs to be prioritised with sustainable funding and resourcing, to safeguard Australian grain producers and industry from devastating impacts of hitchhiker pests such as Khapra beetle which could cost $15.5 billion and loss of vital access to important grain export markets.”


GPA Chief Executive, Colin Bettles, said his group’s inquiry submission highlighted a long-standing policy calling for the introduction of a levy on imported sea containers, to help strengthen the biosecurity system and enhance shared accountability and responsibility for risk-creators.


He said the inquiry’s final report stated that one solution proposed to improve resourcing of Australia's biosecurity system – argued by many witnesses and submitters – was the application of a biosecurity import levy on shipping containers entering Australia.


“GPA welcomes the Committee’s comment in the report saying they’re encouraged that the Australian Government has recommenced consultations to explore sustainable and long-term biosecurity funding options, and that they agree one of the potential pathways includes the application of a biosecurity import levy,” he said.


The report said: ‘It is a rational conclusion that the freight sector, which is the creator of a major biosecurity risk, should contribute funds to biosecurity control measures.’


Recommendation 21 said: ‘The committee recommends that the Australian federal, state and territory governments commit to a sustainable biosecurity funding model to reflect the changing risk profile of pests and diseases to Australia's agriculture and environment and overall way of life.’


GPA also noted additional comments by the Australian Greens, welcoming the “attention and seriousness given to varroa mite and its implications for the bee-keeping industry”.


These comments showed some inquiry submissions had made specific reference to a container levy, and said: ‘responsibility for managing a problem that is sourced externally should not lie solely with the industry at the receiving end of that problem’.


Australian Greens Comments: ‘Commitments to long-term funding and sustainability are welcome, but we feel there should be reference to the government incorporating a specific response to the question of a container levy. The Australian Greens recommend the Australian Government provide specific commentary on the feasibility of a container levy and outline whether it intends to consider introducing one in this term of government.’


ENDS

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