The Morrison Government is in chaos and its dysfunction now poses a threat to Australia’s biosecurity, the most important issue for the agriculture sector.
It’s now almost 2 years since the release of the Intergovernmental Agreement on Biosecurity review.
Led by Wendy Craik, the IGAB review made 42 recommendations aimed at strengthening our biosecurity systems including one to improve funding certainty and the adequacy of its financial resources.
Specifically, the Panel recommended the introduction of a new biosecurity levy: $10 on all shipping containers. The recommended implementation date was July 1, 2019.
But in what appears to be an ill-conceived money grab, the Morrison Government is attempting to place a more general and volumetric import levy on all shipping movements. It proposes to raise $325 million over three years.
Understandably, the proposal has industry in a flap. Overnight a group of 14 industry leadership groups released a statement demanding the Government remove the proposed levy’s revenue from the 2019 Budget.
The Government has booked the revenue but has failed to consult industry, has not undertaken a Regulatory Impact Statement and hasn’t even produced draft legislation.
Industry is also rightly concerned that there are no guarantees that the money collected will be spent on biosecurity.
The Morrison Government is now scrambling to establish a steering committee to find a possible solution, however, this gesture must be more than lip service.
Australia is relatively pest and disease free and our key competitive advantage in global food markets is our reputation as a provider of clean, green and safe food. That reputation and brand must be protected.
The additional measure recommended by the Craik Review needs an additional funding source but the Morrison Government has failed in what should have been an uncomplicated task.
Labor supports the rationale for the biosecurity levy. Labor is committed to a properly funded biosecurity system. But the Government’s failure to properly consult industry, and fix the problems within its proposal, now poses a threat to Australian agriculture, the environment and the broader community.