Independent Federal Member for Indi Helen Haines has urged the Federal Government to refer new biosecurity legislation to a Senate Committee to ensure farmers have their voices heard in the design of a new levy.

“Agriculture is a major employer for Indi, with more than 5,000 people working in forestry and fishing, fibre and food production. This Bill is imposing a new levy on our farmers, to combat biosecurity risks which they don’t create,” Dr Haines said.

“I therefore urge the Government to send these bills to the Senate Standing Committee on Rural and Regional Affairs and Transport where they can be properly scrutinised.”

Dr Haines opposed the Government’s Agriculture (Biosecurity Protection) Levies and Charges Bill, after hearing the concerns of farmers and tax experts that the levy model proposed in the Bill lacked transparency and sensible design.

“The Government has not done the work to gain the support of the people most impacted by this new model of levy – farmers. Farmers must not be sidelined when important agricultural policy is drafted in Canberra,” Dr Haines said.

“Good policy is the product of good consultation. I welcome the early general consultation the government did with stakeholders, but on this specific levy model, the Government failed tomeaningfully engage and listen.”

The Bill imposes a new model of levy on primary producers based on the proportional share of total gross value of production of each sector. For instance, the beef sector will pay a higher rate than a small sector like potatoes.

“I agree, as farmers do, that we need a sustainable and secure system that sets Australia up to respond to biosecurity threats, such as foot and mouth disease,” Dr Haines said.

“However, this Bill has been drafted without adequate consultation. The model proposed in this Billdoes not guarantee that money collected from farmers will go directly towards strengthening Australia’s biosecurity arrangements.

“The Productivity Commission and the Australian National University’s Tax and Transfer Institute both recommend this levy be funded from general tax revenue given the benefits of biosecurity protections flow to all Australians. It is not fair for farmers to carry this financial burden.”

Watch Dr Haines’ speech about the Bill here.

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