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Government snubs expert advice on biosecurity levy: NFF

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National Farmers’ Federation (NFF), Media Release, 28 February 2024

Farmers across Australia have been left bamboozled this morning by the Government’s attempt to legislate a new tax on farmers, despite a tidal wave of expert criticism.

The Albanese Government this morning tabled new laws to establish the ‘Biosecurity Protection Levy’ – intended to raise $50 million from farmers to bankroll activities that assist importers, airlines and other risk creators.

NFF President David Jochinke said the move was “utterly staggering” given the level of opposition to the policy.

“Everyone from the Productivity Commission, to the Australian National University and the Freight & Trade Alliance has labelled this policy a dud. It makes zero economic sense.

“No farming group wants it. It’s an administrative nightmare. And now we even have the importers themselves even calling to scrap it and send them the bill instead!

“We’re shocked to say the least that they’d ignore the unanimous voices of farmers, importers and policy experts. If they aren’t listening to this broad church of voices who are they listening to?” Mr Jochinke asked.

The tabling of legislation has been accompanied by a media announcement of a ‘Sustainable Biosecurity Funding Advisory Panel’ – aimed at easing industry concerns about oversight of the funding.

Mr Jochinke said the announcement had been met with cynicism by industry stakeholders.

“It’s pretty clear this panel is being tacked on at the 11th hour to try and give the levy some credibility.

“All it’s done is demonstrate the continued shambles this process has become – with stakeholders yet to receive formal invites, or any detail on the Panel’s scope and role.

“Given we flat out oppose the Biosecurity Levy, we’ll think carefully about any role that might be construed as endorsement.

“We note the Panel doesn’t seem to be reflected in the legislation tabled today, so it certainly doesn’t guarantee farmers the oversight they were seeking. Once again, that’s completely out of step with the usual design of industry levies.”

The NFF is now calling on parliamentarians to reject the bills.

“If the Government won’t listen, we can only hope that the Opposition and crossbenchers will.

“Establishing a new tax is a serious matter for the Parliament to consider. Waving one through with this many hairs on it would be a policy disaster,” Mr Jochinke concluded.

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