Onshore Biosecurity Levy Scrapped

The Australian Government will scrap the controversial Onshore Biosecurity Levy after industry consultation showed potential significant negative regulatory impact on importers.

Image Credit: AAP

This week the Department of Agriculture Water and Environment (DAWE) issued notice 72-2020: Decision to not proceed with the Onshore Biosecurity Levy.

The Australian Government has dumped its intended biosecurity levy, which was slated to raise $100 million-a-year from incoming vessels and cargo, after two years of stiff industry resistance.

The government first backed the concept after a 2017 review called for a $10-a-container shipping charge to plug funding holes in biosecurity. But the seafreight levy has been plagued by delays since it was announced in the 2018 federal budget, missing start dates in July and September last year following backlash from the shipping industry. An alternative scheme was due to be in place from January 2021, with importers to pick up the bill rather than shipping companies.

DAWE undertook a co-design process with industry to develop a levy model that was practical for industry and the government. The onshore biosecurity levy was expected to pump $325 million over three years into government coffers to strengthen biosecurity at Australia's borders and protect our agriculture industry. However, DAWE has now said that consultation showed the levy could not be implemented without significant negative regulatory impact on importers.

DAWE said the decision not to proceed with the levy has also been made with consideration of the ongoing impacts of drought, bushfires and COVID-19 on the Australian economy and the rapidly changing trade environment. They added that since 2012/13, the biosecurity budget has increased more than 40%, or by almost $250 million, to about $850 million in 2019/20. However, they stress that an alternative levy will not be explored or progressed.

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