Australian grain producers have delivered another firm message to Canberra about their unambiguous opposition to paying the Federal Government’s proposed 10 per cent biosecurity levy.
GPA Chair and WA grain producer, Barry Large, said Grain Producers Australia’s submission to the public consultation process is urging the Federal Government to listen closely to the concerns raised by those set to be hit hardest by the proposed policy – and their positive recommendations.
Mr Large also Chairs the GPA biosecurity Committee and said grain producers have serious misgivings about the proposed 10pc levy and oppose paying another one – and these strong views are shared by other agricultural representative organisations and plant industry members.
“GPA understands the Federal Government’s intent to deliver a sustainable funding model for biosecurity, but the proposed policy fails to deliver this outcome on multiple levels,” he said.
“We all want tougher preventative measures to help protect growers, rural communities and the national economy against the social and economic impacts of devastating pests and diseases.
“Khapra beetle is Australia’s number two National Priority Plant Pest and the number one plant priority pest for grains and could cause an estimated $15.5 billion damage over 20 years and loss of access to important grain export markets.
“That’s why grain producers are already paying significant and record amounts in existing levies – including state and federal ones – as well as contributing directly to the costs of biosecurity management, through their own farm businesses.
“However, to collect another 10pc tax off growers, and re-direct these new funds into consolidated government revenue, is a flawed approach that’s severely undermining trust and confidence in the policy proposal, in its current shape.”
Mr Large said there’s no guarantee this funding from the 10pc levy-tax on producers will in fact reach the Department of Agriculture’s budget and biosecurity programs.
“And we already know these funds won’t be re-directed towards investments in existing levy programs and agencies – such as the Grains Research and Development Corporation and Plant Health Australia – that work in trusted partnerships with levy-paying growers,” he said.
GPA Chief Executive, Colin Bettles, said grain grower concerns about the levy-tax proposal were heightened by the Agriculture Department’s poor financial management and performance and the fact growers are being forced to pay more, when risk-creators still don’t pay the container levy.
“GPA’s submission makes a number of key points with pragmatic and sensible recommendations that can help deliver a better and fairer policy, with stronger biosecurity protections,” he said.
“We urge the government and Agriculture Minister Murray Watt to consider and act on these positive recommendations, which can help deliver better outcomes for all stakeholders.”
Whilst opposing another 10pc levy being imposed on Australian grain producers, GPA’s submission is also realistic and pragmatic, saying if this tax is going to introduced by 1 July 2024, then the government needs to adopt certain principles such as:
· transparency on how levy-funding is spent to deliver stronger protections for grain producers and industry;
· outline a clear pathway to implement the container levy, as proposed in the 2017 Craik Review;
· increased accountability on government’s role, including clear performance measures;
· inclusion of a sunset clause on the policy/levy and Regulatory Impact Statement;
· new 10pc levy/tax should be itemised as a separate line item on a grain growers’ recipient-created tax invoice (RCTI) to clearly show it’s not part of the GRDC levy, and different to other levies currently paid by growers;
· specific portion of the new 10pc levy/tax (ie 50pc) directed to fund the Australian Grains Biosecurity Plan – which has identified funding to address priorities in the National Grain Biosecurity Surveillance Strategy – led by Plant Health Australia, working to engage and collaborate with growers and all key stakeholders;
· and specific and additional consultation with grains levy-payer representative groups should be held to determine appropriate thresholds and/or exemptions from this new levy, given the clear weight of evidence presented in (GPA’s submission) about the volume, quality and proactive nature of existing levy-funded programs.
Mr Bettles said GPA’s submission also suggests that the new 10pc levy on producers should be delayed for same time-period risk-creators have avoided contributing to a more equitable funding system ie delay in implementing
the container levy, as pushed by GPA, with successive governments.
GPA and GrainGrowers share the same position in calling for greater transparency on spending programs, and accountability to grain producers, if the policy is implemented.