GrainGrowers CEO Shona Gawel said while the current proposal is not acceptable, there is still time to make changes that are in the long-term interests of the rural sector.
Ms Gawel said GrainGrowers had consistently asked for transparency around the delivery and performance of the biosecurity system.
“Many of the arguments against the current proposal could be addressed by the government taking into account the broad range of issues identified as points of contention by not only grain growers but also industry representatives groups across Australia.”
Ms Gawel said GrainGrowers called for the Government to urgently address the following:
Prior to the legislation being presented to the lower house clarification as to the charges applied to each commodity group and the method of collection.
Clear guidance as to the future implementation of a container levy or any WTO trade reasons preventing this approach.
Confirmation that the proposal contains a direct line of sight between the money collected and the money spent on biosecurity.
Increased accountability and performance reporting on the financial and operational aspects of biosecurity on a regular basis to all stakeholders, particularly primary producers who will be paying the levy and impacted by the activities and outcomes under the proposal.
Ms Gawel said addressing these four areas would go a long way to resolving the issues put forward by rural industry.
“Our position remains that there must be demonstrated improvement in biosecurity outcomes for growers due to any changes to the funding model and the collection of a biosecurity protection levy.”
She said the recent Productivity Commission report highlighted the creeping growth of levies as a mechanism for funding government activities.
“Using this funding mechanism requires regular rigorous review to ensure appropriate performance, appropriately set charges, and return benefits to levy payers. A regular review mechanism must be implemented to ensure that the proposed biosecurity levy is fit for purpose.”
Ms Gawel said despite opposition to the current approach, there is widespread support to put in place sustainable funding to develop a biosecurity system that can meet the needs of Australian agriculture.
“A strong, workable system that effectively protects the rural industry from pests and diseases is in the interests of everyone, and the time for the government to act is now,” Ms Gawel said.
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