Labor’s new fresh food tax will drive up cost of living

19 March 2024

Labor’s legislation on a new fresh food tax has been introduced in Parliament, in a move that will increase the cost of living and hurt families and farmers.

Leader of The Nationals David Littleproud said Labor’s biosecurity protection levy will charge farmers for the biosecurity costs of importers bringing their product to Australia.

“Labor’s new fresh food tax is an extra cost that will hurt families even more at the checkout,” Mr Littleproud said.

“Labor is treating Australian farmers with contempt and unfortunately farmers will inevitably be forced to pass new costs onto consumers.”

Labor will set the tax rate as a proportion of an industry’s average gross value of production over a three-year period.

However, the policy follows a disingenuous consultation process and is expensive, confusing, risky and flawed, putting the entire voluntary levy system at risk.

Labor’s legislation lacks any detail of the cost to farmers or how the levy will be collected. It is not clear what industry will have to pay.

Labor’s legislation also states the rate of the levy can be set to nil, in case the cost of collecting the levy in some sectors actually exceeds the revenue raised from it.

More than 50 agricultural representative groups previously signed a joint letter to Prime Minister Anthony Albanese expressing unified opposition about the new tax.

“In what parallel universe would any Australian government tax their own farmers, to pay for foreigners to bring their products into this country?

“Labor needs to listen to the strong concerns raised by all Australian producers and their representative groups by scrapping the new tax immediately.

“Labor still needs to come up with exact costs and the rate they will be taxed. This has created more confusion and anxiety.

“Labor’s new tax is messy and complicated and not even Labor can work it out.

“Labor is out of its depth and doesn’t understand the industry, yet is still determined to tax our farmers and prioritise importers.”

Mr Littleproud said Labor should drop the tax and instead mirror the Coalition’s importer container levy.

“The Nationals stand by our farmers and will fight this senseless new tax.”

Australian Livestock & Property Agents Association Ltd Chief Executive Officer Peter Baldwin said 7000 collection agents have been left in the dark and are largely unaware they will have to collect the levy.

“Agents who are overburdened already will have very little time to collect the levy – or the government’s tax – and how to do so correctly,” Mr Baldwin said.

“There is immense and utter confusion. If the biosecurity protection levy legislation suggests the collection agent will also have to provide the levy paper with an invoice, this will create a considerable regulatory burden.”

Dunolly-based Victorian farmer Bev Walker said the biosecurity levy would also fail to provide farmers any benefit.

“It’s a tax we wouldn’t have had, we are already paying levies,” Mrs Walker said.

“The people importing food are the ones that should be paying this levy. When you are slugged another levy it’s not fair, especially when farmers are already doing it so tough right now.”