I have to be honest, Minister for Agriculture Murray Watt taxing the principle victims of biosecurity breaches, was a move I didn't see coming.
Parking a container tax and instead placing a surcharge on domestic industry research and development levies to fund onshore biosecurity is treasury speaking, not biosecurity.
What sort of bizarro world taxes victims, specifically to fund the police?
Let me explain why this "modest contribution" to onshore biosecurity is not only obscene, but counterproductive.
Biosecurity is a continuum. There are many actions that have to come together so we can keep other biology out of this country and keep our biology here. There is also a number of activities, and significant cost, to be discharged when a breach occurs.
I know the outgoings on fire ants and Varroa mite by government seem significant, but as they are declared endemic, the cost on agriculture is huge.
Yes, Mr Watt, even with the billions being spent on fire ants, when governments say it's all too hard, who pays then?
Varroa mite will cost the bee industry and horticulture big time, as the department walks away and declares it endemic.
This will happen while the importers, who hosted the mite on a cargo ship entering Newcastle, have their responsibility to this fiasco covered by the state. What logic!
To be fair, Nationals leader David Littleproud had to be dragged kicking and screaming to a container tax and now we hear from the government it is "complicated" to charge importers.
Maybe, just maybe, some really big beneficiaries of the "no container tax world" may have the ear of government - both sides.
Shaping a container tax to price risk is a no brainer and is biosecurity economics 101. High risk containers pay the most until they manage the risk properly. This ensures incentives are in place to correct behaviours rather than tax the victims.
Presently, the governments of this country have agreed to another tax on agriculture. Individual identification for sheep. It will cost producers about $100 million a year.
The principle reason for this recurrent investment is to improve the response capacity to foot and mouth disease, should it enter the country. The idea that agriculture is not pulling its weight on biosecurity is patently wrong.
Agriculture also disproportionally funds a huge amount of surveillance activity that benefits the public health effort significantly and facilitates early responses.
Years ago, I was on a committee that oversaw a program on vector surveillance that is critical to public health. Getting government to contribute appropriately was somewhere between difficult and impossible.
So, Murray Watt, have a rethink, is my advice.
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