Citrus industry stands firm against biosecurity levy

July 5, 2024 | 5 Min read
Citrus Australia chief executive Nathan Hancock has told grower members “as hard-working citrus growers, it goes without saying you want to see your money spent on projects and programs where progress can be tracked, and money is wisely invested”.

Citrus Australia chief executive Nathan Hancock has told grower members “as hard-working citrus growers, it goes without saying you want to see your money spent on projects and programs where progress can be tracked, and money is wisely invested”.

But he says the Albanese government’s proposed Biosecurity Protection Levy (BPL) is the antithesis of this notion.
“This ill-conceived piece of legislation would create an additional impost of 55 cents per tonne on orange growers and $1.20 per tonne on other citrus growers (mandarins, lemons, limes, grapefruit etc),” Mr Hancock says.

“This is on top of what you already contribute to biosecurity through a wide range of levies,” he added.

“The rates for all agriculture commodities are not yet known as the Australian Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry (DAFF) has been caught playing catch up while this legislation is rammed through.”

Below is Mr Hancock’s statement to Citrus Australia members:
In my dual role as CEO of Citrus Australia and chair of the Plant Industry Forum, I wrote to the forum’s 38 member associations, urging them to join a 'day of action' on social media, coordinated by the National Farmers' Federation. The campaign aimed to build pressure on the Senate crossbench, bringing attention to the issue prior to the release of the Senate Committee’s final report.
Unfortunately, this report didn’t make for pleasant reading when it was released. While it outlines many of the issues articulated in submissions to a senate inquiry, it fails to prosecute them, or answer any of the questions raised.
In a gross miscarriage of justice, the report waves off the entire agriculture industry’s objections to this bill by claiming DAFF has consulted on these issues and made changes to the bill. 
In truth, DAFF’s meetings provided nothing useful for industry bodies to communicate to their members. A change to the use of gross value of production and the announcement of an advisory panel did not satisfy industry’s real concerns about the direct and unintended consequences of the impact of this levy.
The senate committee’s final report also failed to establish the Federal Government’s reason for taxing the agriculture industry alone, when there are other beneficiaries of biosecurity who are not asked to pay.
Federal Minister for Agriculture Murray Watt has been misleading in his claims industry doesn’t contribute to biosecurity. This is simply not true; we collect and invest millions of dollars in preparedness and response funding. We front up and are on the frontline when it comes to responding and we pour hours of our time into preparedness and response activity that doesn’t get accounted for.
Other parts of the bill that target Australia Post, passengers and small importers are all cost recovery measures that relate to the risk creation of importing goods or people entering Australia. That makes sense and we commend the government for imposing or increasing them.
However, no other beneficiary of biosecurity is being called out to contribute extra funding to the budget for border surveillance activities. Why not?
It is also unclear to industry what the raised funds will be used for, other than to go to DAFF for biosecurity related work. This does not form part of the legislation, is not hypothecated and will be at the discretion of future ministers and treasurers. Likewise, there is no limit or control on how much can be raised or when the rate might change.
The bill is too rushed and the consultation with DAFF has been inadequate. With just weeks until the levy is set to be implemented (1 July), there are still no details available on how the levy will be collected.
I have written to and spoken with a number of crossbench senators directly, urging them to vote against the BPL Bill.

 

 

 

 

 

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