Grain Producers Australia is urging Federal MPs and Senators to scrap the 10 per cent proposed biosecurity tax and prevent further cost-shifting onto farmers, via fundamentally flawed policy.
With Federal Parliament set to return today for the first time in 2024, GPA Chair Barry Large said the biosecurity tax was a litmus test for the fair treatment of farmers in Canberra, given all farmers opposed this ‘one-size-fits-all’ policy proposal, in one shape or another.
The Federal Government is aiming to pass new legislation by 1 July 2024, to implement a new revenue collection method, with the 10pc tax set to come directly off all farmers’ bottom lines.
“Farmers already pay significant amounts in existing levies, including state and federal ones, including for biosecurity emergency responses and in their own businesses,” he said.
“It’s time to say enough is enough; especially when there are so many flaws in this approach.
“We’ve long been calling for a container levy so risk creators, who bring in these foreign pests and diseases, can contribute to stronger biosecurity and shared responsibility and accountability.
“Instead, all Australian farmers are being hit with another tax, disguised as a levy – and there’s no sign anywhere of any move to even discuss the container levy; never mind draft legislation being tabled in parliament for discussion.”
Mr Large said at the same time the 10pc biosecurity tax was being pushed in Canberra, several new inquiries have been triggered to try to provide transparency over the farmers’ fair share of the retail dollar, whilst the supermarkets rake-in record profits off consumers.
“The biosecurity tax undermines the integrity of the existing levies that farmers already pay to deliver a multitude of public good benefits, including increased tax generation for the nation and environmental benefits and it contradicts the intent of these inquiries, such as the ACCC’s,” he said.
“This 10pc tax will simply add more direct costs onto farmers whilst the free riders – those who don’t contribute to biosecurity, including through existing levies – keep getting a free ride.
“These are some of the many good, clear reasons why 50 farmer groups across all commodities have unified to send a joint letter to the Prime Minister, Treasurer and Agriculture Minister, Murray Watt, calling for this fundamentally flawed policy to be urgently reversed.
“This letter includes urging the Treasurer to conduct economic analysis and modelling to provide some basic transparency for producers and industry – at least to justify their policy claim that producers are the only 'beneficiaries' of biosecurity and should therefore be paying this new tax.
“We are yet to see a response, but remain hopeful this tax will be scrapped before it's due to be implemented by July 1 this year, given this recent talk about fairness of returns for farmers and politicians being able to break their promises and commitments, to do the right thing.”
Mr Large said this 10pc biosecurity tax will also come directly off the farmers’ bottom line and the funds re-directed into consolidated government revenue.
“There's no guarantee these funds will actually be re-directed anywhere to deliver stronger biosecurity protections for farmers – such as those delivered through projects and activities funded by existing levies hypothecated for specific purposes,” he said.
“We need all members of parliament to ensure they take time to understand the flaws and inequities in this proposal and why so many farmers are strongly opposed to this flawed proposal.
“This includes the independent Productivity Commission’s recent report, which provided analysis to support industry’s view that this is a new tax, not a levy, with a number of inherent flaws.
“The Government has an ideal opportunity to demonstrate they’ve listened to these concerns raised by farmers and their representative groups, and do the right thing by scrapping the tax.”