Industry groups question government on budget biosecurity levy

Four major industry bodies have joined together to call for clarification on how the biosecurity levy announced in last week’s budget, would operate.

The Australian Logistics Council, the Australasian Railway Association, Ports Australia and Shipping Australia are calling on the Australian Government particularly to clarify how the generated revenue would be spent.

The proposed biosecurity import levy is to charge $10.02 per “twenty foot container (or equivalent)” and $1 per tonne of non-containerised cargo, generating estimated revenue of $360m.

SAL chief executive Rod Nairn said as things stand, the levy measure had no clarity, no plan and no purpose.

“A budget that at its core promises tax cuts for all Australians will simultaneously slug Australians almost $290 million to import the goods they use every day, with no clear explanation of the biosecurity benefit,” he said.

“If $360 million is needed to protect Australia’s unique environmental assets than there should be a plan detailing precisely what the money is paying for and how the government arrived at the figure. This is another example where one sector of the supply chain is being forced to fund something that is not directly related.”

Ports Australia chief executive Mike Gallacher said the lack of detail on the proposal lends weight to the impression that it is a broad import levy across all goods coming into the country.

“Our concern is that this import levy has been announced with almost no engagement with the supply chain and with no plan on how it will be used in the Biosecurity System,” he said.

“The revenue measure estimates $360m over three years. Only $76.6m of this is will be spent enhancing Australia’s Biosecurity System over the same period; that leaves $283.4 million unaccounted for.”

Mr Gallacher said the port sector has stringent biosecurity measures and would always continue to leverage expert capabilities to meet the Australian Government’s objectives on biosecurity.

“Australians use and interact with the supply chain every day, from food to cars furniture to building materials it is essential for day to day life,” he said.

“Yet, there has been virtually no engagement on this plan for a blanket charge on imported goods moving through the supply chain.”

ALC managing director Michael Kilgariff also weighed in on the issue, saying measures in the Budget are expected to be accurately costed and there should be no exception for this one.

“Until such details are made clear, a broad charge on every item imported from another country simply cannot be justified. The freight logistics sector should not be used as a ‘cash cow’ to fund unrelated Budget initiatives,” he said.

“Not only will everyday consumers be impacted by this measure on containerised goods, but anyone importing non-container goods will pay $1 a tonne; that means a construction business importing 50,000 tonnes of concrete will now have to pay an additional $50,000.

“Imagine the impact such a measure will have on infrastructure costs.”

And, ARA chief executive Danny Broad said the levy would ripple through the supply chain and hit the end consumer.

“The levy will ripple right through the supply chain and hit the end consumer. Every product that comes through our ports, onto our rail networks and delivered to the consumers will feel the effects of this levy,” he said.

“Urgent clarification and rationale is needed on the details of this new levy, which is being imposed with almost no consultation with those it will affect the most.

“Industry is committed to continue working with the Government cooperatively to enhance biosecurity.”

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