Cattle Australia implores Government to listen on biosecurity levy

14 February 2024

Cattle Australia (CA) has again called on the Australian Government to genuinely listen to grass-fed cattle producers, and the broader agriculture sector, and take on board serious feedback surrounding the Biosecurity Protection Levy (BPL) Bill.

CA Chief Executive Officer, Dr Chris Parker, said despite the industry consistently expressing that BPL would be detrimental to primary producers across the country, the shortcomings of the policy had still not properly been considered.

“From the outset, this process has not been acceptable,” Dr Parker said.

“As an industry, we were not appropriately consulted before the BPL was announced in May’s Federal Budget and, despite industry groups from throughout the agriculture sector continually raising concerns about the serious inequities of this new tax since that time, there has been no evidence these have been listened to or taken on board.”

CA is calling on the Government to:

• Confirm money collected through the levy will be directly invested in biosecurity measures

• Confirm how various commodities will be charged and how these levies will be collected

• Confirm the Biosecurity Protection Levy design includes a mechanism for real-time industry consultation, both for the implementation of the Levy and its ongoing management, consistent with the sustainable funding actions of the National Biosecurity Strategy

• Clarify the future implementation of a container levy and if WTO trade reasons will prevent this approach.

Dr Parker said these points were required for the issues consistently raised with the government by CA to be addressed.

“What we’ve asked is entirely reasonable and must be addressed before this legislation is taken to the lower house,” Dr Parker said.

“Primary producers are the people who will have to pay this tax, and they must see a direct improvement in biosecurity as a result of this new cost to their businesses. We will simply not accept this levy without the points we have raised being actioned.”

Multiple risks and consequences

Dr Parker said the principles of the BPL did not accord with the recent Productivity Commission report into levies, which assessed the policy against well-understood criteria.

“The independent Productivity Commission analysis also supported the industry’s view that this tax carries multiple risks and consequences for producers,” Dr Parker said.

“This new tax unfairly punishes those already doing the right thing (i.e. levy-paying producers are being forced to pay more taxes), while others continue to avoid making any contribution to biosecurity costs and shared responsibilities.

“Another great inequity of this tax is the levy, as proposed, will be paid many times on an individual animal. This flawed, ‘one-size-fits-all’ tax proposal needs to be paused or reversed immediately to prevent these unintended consequences.”

Dr Parker said Australian grass-fed cattle producers were acutely aware of the critical importance of upholding Australia’s world-leading biosecurity record, which was why they already invested significantly in implementing best-practice biosecurity measures within their operations.

“We also pay directly through other compulsory industry levies that raise hundreds of millions of dollars – including biosecurity levies,” he said.

“We’ve been calling for increased funding and protections to make the system better and fairer for producers with increased accountability and shared responsibility, but this proposal in its current form is grossly unfair and fundamentally flawed.”