The Morrison Government has alienated industry with its bungled Biosecurity Imports Levy, an Industry Steering Committee Report has made clear when it was finally released today.
Shadow Minister for Agriculture, Joel Fitzgibbon, said the Biosecurity Imports Levy: A Way Forward was finalised in May 2019 and has been hidden for almost three months, because it is so critical of the troubled attempt by the Morrison Government to raise revenues from biosecurity inspections at our borders.
“The Steering Committee was commissioned earlier in the year when it became obvious that industry wouldn’t support the Government’s new Biosecurity Imports Levy,” said Mr Fitzgibbon. “Now we know why the Morrison Government has been sitting on the report – it reveals a mismanaged process, a lack of biosecurity data and a levy that falls disproportionately on low-risk importers.”
The report says the “original design of the levy was unworkable in terms of the party on which imposition was proposed, the collection mechanism suggested, and the resultant burden of the levy.”
The Steering Committee Report is scathing about the Government’s lack of data on which to build a new Biosecurity Imports Levy. “We keep coming back to the absence of authoritative, science-based, biosecurity risk analysis across the spectrum. If such a matrix were available, the selection of appropriate charge rates would be relatively straight forward.”
The concept of the Biosecurity Imports Levy was first recommended in the 2017 Craik review into Australia’s biosecurity system. The Report made it clear that Australia’s biosecurity system needs to be properly funded to close the gap between risk and resourcing.
The original design of the levy put a disproportionate burden on bulk commodity importers because the levy was to be charged on gross tonnage – or weight.
Mr Fitzgibbon said the process of what is an important element of Australia’s security had dragged on for two years and to date there was no final design of the levy and no legislation for the Parliament to look at.
“We still haven’t seen draft legislation to make comment upon, meaning the Opposition and industry have been unable to see what the Government is really proposing,” said Mr Fitzgibbon. “The Steering Committee Report from industry has been with the Minister since May. Biosecurity is a crucial element in protecting Australia’s food system and our reputation from introduced pests and diseases.”
Mr Fitzgibbon said the Opposition treated biosecurity as a bipartisan issue but the Agriculture Minister Bridget McKenzie needed to take biosecurity seriously, respond to the report as a matter of urgency and to find a pathway forward for the bungled Biosecurity Imports Levy design.