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Fresh food tax criticised by industry as lack of clarity on payment and collection will harm families and farmers

Labor's new fresh food tax, criticised by industry, lacks clarity on payment and collection. Nationals oppose it, citing absurdity and harm to families and farmers. Industry voices confusion and opposition.

By news@gippsland - 23rd April 2024 - Back to News

Just a little over two months out from Labor introducing its fresh food tax on July 1, industry does not support the new tax and Labor is still unable to explain how it will be paid or collected. Leader of The Nationals David Littleproud said Labor's confusing biosecurity protection levy, which will force Australian farmers to pay for the biosecurity risks of international importers, is causing huge anxiety.

The biosecurity protection levy, previously linked to agricultural rates, will now rely on industry Gross Value of Production (GVP) share, with penalties for non-payment

The biosecurity protection levy, previously linked to agricultural rates, will now rely on industry Gross Value of Production (GVP) share, with penalties for non-payment

Industry condemns fresh tax

It comes after a Senate inquiry into the fresh food tax heard industry was "blindsided" by the "frustrating" and "bizarre" new tax. AgForce, Seafood Industry Australia and Wool Producers Australia told the inquiry the tax has no adequate regulatory impact statement and even the Advisory Panel due to meet on April 30 doesn't have terms of reference.

Mr Littleproud said Labor's fresh food tax must be abolished. "The new tax makes absolutely no sense and it will hurt families and farmers who are already under pressure. In what parallel universe would a government charge its own farmers to pay for the risks their competitors are creating?"

"Farmers will be forced to pass on costs, meaning families will feel more pain at the grocery checkout. The Nationals will continue to fight this senseless new tax. We will fight for families and we will fight for farmers, especially when it comes to taxes that impact food prices," Mr Littleproud said.

Confusion over new tax

NSW Farmers President Xavier Martin said farmers "can't quite believe" the new tax. "They are really confused and confronted by an Australian government that seeks to impose on them a cost that seeks to put them behind their other competitors around the planet. We are trying our best to compete globally and the government wants to put a tax on us. It's just crazy stuff. The last thing we need is some random tax," Mr Martin said.

The rate of biosecurity protection levy will no longer be set equivalent to 10 percent of 2020-21 agricultural levy rates, as announced in Labor's last Budget. Despite Labor admitting it hadn't done any modelling on the new rate, it will now be based on each industry's proportionate share of the total gross value of production (GVP) for the total agriculture, fisheries and forestry sector, with accruing penalty rates if a levy is not paid and fines of more than $18,000 for not keeping records.

Tax burden concerns

Mr Littleproud said while some industries are yet to be consulted, such as the deer industry with a new tax of just $265.12, the administrative burden to collect this small amount would be enormous. There are 84 agricultural commodities that will be levied to raise $50 million.

Collection agents along the supply chain, such as stock agents and wool brokers, will collect the levy and pay the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry at their own cost. But the inquiry heard although Labor has continued to show a complete disregard towards farmers, the Department is still unable to explain if the levy will be paid by the buyer or seller of cattle, an industry which will pay over $9 million.

Tax threatens agriculture

Grain Producers Australia warned the tax is flawed and would go into consolidated revenue, rather than biosecurity measures, creating "a lot of fear and suspicion among representative growers", while Red Meat Advisory Council warned farmers don't understand the tax because it is rushed and unrealistic.

Industry also has concerns about the disruption to the existing levy system for research and development (R&D), with National Farmers' Federation CEO Tony Mahar telling the inquiry the new tax compromises the R&D levy system, which is world class.

"Just tacking, and that's what it is, bolting on some additional tax onto this existing system, potentially blows it up. Just taking some extra cost onto farmers just undermines the whole collaborative process and that's the real fear. This is a poor, clumsy, lazy policy," Mr Mahar said.

Pictures from Agriculture Victoria Facebook page.


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