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GrainGrowers calls for immediate action on biosecurity protection levy

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GrainGrowers, Media Release, 23 April 2024

Industry body GrainGrowers has called on the Federal Government to take immediate action to resolve a range of outstanding issues related to the introduction of the Biosecurity Protection Levy.

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In its submission to the Senate inquiry examining the issue, GrainGrowers detailed its position, calling for the government to address the following matters in relation to the creation of the biosecurity protection levy:

  • Clarity on the establishment and implementation of a container or risk creator levy.
  • Clear information on the value of the charges and the mechanism to ensure equity for all industries.
  • Transparency and accountability in how funds are collected and spent, including clear annual reporting.
  • Delivery of a demonstrated improvement and a clear value proposition in biosecurity outcomes for growers because of the changes to the funding model.

GrainGrowers General Manager, Policy and Advocacy, Zach Whale, who appeared before the Rural and Regional Affairs and Transport Legislation Committee today, said biosecurity was critically important to the grains industry and Australian agriculture. 

Mr Whale said GrainGrowers supported the concept of shared responsibility, with industry, community and government all playing their respective roles in supporting better biosecurity outcomes for Australia. 

He said the grains industry already makes a significant contribution through investment in research and development, support for Plant Health Australia, contributions to emergency plant pest responses as taxpayers, and in the everyday operations of their farm enterprises.

“As an industry, we have expressed concerns about several related issues: firstly, the levy being on beneficiaries rather than risk creators, and also the overall process under which the legislation has been developed.” 

“While these concerns need to be addressed, there is widespread support for sustainable funding for biosecurity to address future challenges posed by increased trade volumes and environmental changes.”

Mr Whale said the industry needed confidence that the biosecurity system could meet the needs of Australian agriculture.

He said the government now had the opportunity to make the necessary changes and deliver a system that could protect Australian agricultural industries and the broader Australian community.

He outlined that GrainGrowers had proposed changes to the proposed legislation to ensure the effectiveness of the levy mechanism and improve grower visibility and line of sight to ensure financial accountability and transparency.

“To ensure the mechanism’s effectiveness, we would like to see a formal review incorporated into the legislation. An annual review would provide a valuable assessment of the mechanism’s costs and efficiency, demonstrating improvements and providing evidence that contributors have confidence in the levy system.”

“In a similar fashion, we believe the government needs to ensure levy income is collected transparently, with commodity income clearly reported and distinguished by the Department.”

“If the legislation proceeds through Parliament, the proposed Advisory Panel should be formalised to ensure industries paying the levy have ongoing financial accountability, transparency, and performance reporting for the funds they contribute.”

Mr Whale welcomed the opportunity to address the inquiry and reinforce the position outlined in the GrainGrower proposal.

“While the process to design and develop the levy has been less than ideal from an industry standpoint, it is important that the process, such as this inquiry, now actively engage and consider the stakeholders’ views to deliver an acceptable outcome,” he said.

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