DAWR Biosecurity Levy on Import Containers - to be implemented in July 2019

Further to the AFIF Bulletin yesterday Biosecurity Levy on Import Containers – Sea and Air – Zero Industry Consultation’, today AFIF participated in a teleconference with the DAWR Department of Agriculture Import Industry Finance Consultative Committee (IIFCC - the confidential consultative finance related forum of DAWR and industry associations) to discuss and clarify the rationale and methodology behind the proposed Biosecurity Levy on Import Containers.

DAWR advised that “the topic was embargoed from prior discussion and consultation as it was a Budget announcement”.

Firstly, AFIF and other peak industry service provider Association bodies have been formally advised that following the Budget announcement (which differs in at least one fundamental way from the Australian Newspaper article) DAWR has released a Fact Sheet as follows:  

Biosecurity Import Levy       Fact Sheet (reproduced as follows)

Biosecurity risks are changing as import volumes increase and pathways become faster and more complex. The government is proposing to implement a levy on imports by sea to invest in a stronger, fit-for-purpose biosecurity system.

This biosecurity imports levy (levy) was a recommendation of the 2017 Independent review of the capacity of Australia’s biosecurity system and its underpinning intergovernmental agreement (the review). The review found that resourcing the biosecurity system is a challenge and governments cannot do it alone.

The levy would contribute to the government’s investment in measures for the benefit of all Australians. It ensures sustainable funding of the activities that help protect Australia’s:

- unique environment and its $6 trillion in environmental assets

- $63 billion agricultural industry

- inbound tourism sector worth $38 billion.

The Biosecurity Import Levy is estimated to raise $325 million over the three financial years from 2019–20, an average of $108 million per year.

Stakeholder consultation

The Department of Agriculture and Water Resources will consult and work with affected stakeholders such as cargo importers and port terminal operators over the next 12 months on the design of the legislation and transitional arrangements. This includes implementing processes and system upgrades to support collection, remittance and reconciliation of levy payments.

About the levy:

The levy would start from 1 July 2019 and would be:

- Introduced on sea containers and non-containerised imports.

- Imposed on port terminal operators for goods that are unloaded and cleared under the Biosecurity Act 2015.

- Set at $10.02 per incoming twenty-foot equivalent sea container and $1 per tonne for non-containerised cargo.

- One per cent of the current cost of importing a container to Australia.

The levy would contribute to onshore surveillance, diagnostic, data analytics, research and adoption of new technology to help us to detect, identify and respond to exotic pest and diseases earlier and ensure we can move people and goods into Australia safely and more efficiently.

AFIF Comment

AFIF does not accept that DAWR was restricted from discussing the new Biosecurity Levy in the IIFCC, being the appropriate confidential consultative forum.

DAWR explained that the principle of the Biosecurity levy and the process for collection - levied on a per TEU basis for containerised cargo and per tonne basis for bulk cargo - is to cover non-regulatory biosecurity activities. Whereas regulatory biosecurity activities are cost recovered via the FID process.

AFIF believes the DAWR functions and operations are all ‘business as usual’ activities, both regulatory and non-regulatory and should be encompassed in a common cost recovery mechanism.

The Biosecurity Levy will be implemented on 1 July 2019. There will be consultation with industry via the IIFC and DCCC in regard to implementation of the fee.  (DCCC – Dept. of Agriculture and Water Resources Cargo Consultative Committee – the operational and service delivery forum of DAWR and industry stakeholders)  

AFIF notes that the Biosecurity Fee will be levied on the port operator, i.e. Stevedores, to recover from industry.  AFIF has significant concerns around this fee collection mechanism and will be engaging with DAWR on this proposal during the consultation process.

AFIF will keep members informed of developments.

Further Information

The report Priorities for Australia’s biosecurity system: An independent review of the capacity of the national biosecurity system and its underpinning intergovernmental agreement is available at: http://www.agriculture.gov.au/SiteCollectionDocuments/biosecurity/partnerships/nbc/priorities-for-aus-bio-system.pdf

The department has published fact sheets on 2018-19 budget measures at http://www.agriculture.gov.au/about/reporting/budget

The fact sheet on the Biosecurity Import Levy is available at http://www.agriculture.gov.au/SiteCollectionDocuments/about/budget/2018-19/import-levy.pdf

The three fact sheets on the spending measures announced by Government are available at the links below:

Assurance, Verification and Enforcement: http://www.agriculture.gov.au/SiteCollectionDocuments/about/budget/2018-19/assurance-verification-enforcement.pdf

Modern, Seamless Border Clearance: http://www.agriculture.gov.au/SiteCollectionDocuments/about/budget/2018-19/border-clearance.pdf

Priority Pest and Disease Planning and Response: http://www.agriculture.gov.au/SiteCollectionDocuments/about/budget/2018-19/priority-pest.pdf