Agriculture (Biosecurity Protection) Levies Bill — Speech in the Federation Chamber 20/03/2024

March 20, 2024

Hansard 20/03/2024  House of Representatives

Mr LLEW O’BRIEN (Wide Bay(19:05): I rise to speak in favour of the amendment by the Leader of the Nationals, the member for Maranoa, David Littleproud. The amendment is one that effectively speaks against the bill, and that is what I am doing. I’m speaking against the Agriculture (Biosecurity Protection) Levies Bill 2024. I am doing this is because it is a fundamentally flawed bill. It is an unfair bill. It will not promote agriculture. It will not help our agricultural sector, which is what any biodiversity regulation should be doing. This will actually hold them back. It is unfair.

Once again, history shows that the greatest threat to agriculture in this country is not drought, rain, flood, plagues of insects or even disease and biosecurity risks. The greatest threat to agriculture in this country is the Australian Labor Party. They take to agriculture every time they get into government. They treat the sector like they are some sort of cash cow, and ultimately they implement policies that hurt them. We only have to think about the 2011 cessation of live exports to Indonesia to have the perfect example of how they came in and, after one Four Corners episode, shut down an industry, destroyed lives and destroyed businesses. It took years to get over. Not only did it take years to get over but it was ultimately found to be illegal. It was unlawful. They had to pay massive amounts of compensation, and I think that’s still ongoing. It speaks to the attitude of the Australian Labor Party when it comes to agriculture: they do not care.

This bill seeks to introduce a tax on fresh food of $153 million over the next three years. That’s $153 million! It’s tax via a levy that will be placed on farmers and primary producers. These are people we know in our communities. In my community, I think about the pineapple producers around Maryborough and the cane producers. We have avocado producers, macadamia producers, bean producers and we have wine producers in the west. They will all be subject to this outrageous Labor tax. And the reality of it is that they can’t afford to bear that cost. That fee or levy has to be passed on, and it will be passed on. It will be passed on to the consumer at a time when the consumer can’t afford any further increases in their daily expenses. The cost of food under the Albanese government has already gone up nine per cent, and they are going to introduce this ridiculous tax on fresh food and agriculture.

The madness of this tax is not only that it’s imposed during a cost-of-living crisis, when our primary producers are doing it tough, it’s a tax that’s actually paying the bills of their competitors. Our producers, who are competing with importers in the domestic market, are paying a levy so that international producers can import their goods to Australia. The biosecurity measures that are required for that are paid by our Australian farmers. It makes no sense at all. We have 85,000 farmers in this nation and that’s 85,000 people that this government has just turned its back on.

When we went to the election it was pretty clear that Labor had a platform which said it would be easier and cheaper under them—that the cost of living would be less and electricity costs would be lower. The price of electricity was going to be $275 lower—that was said 96 times by the Prime Minister but he hasn’t said it once since the election. They had all these promises. Imagine if the platform they had before the election actually said what they were really going to do? ‘We’re going to come in and introduce a whole range of new taxes. One of them is on fresh food. We’re going to manipulate the tax cuts that we said you’d have so that a whole big cohort of Australians will pay more tax. Electricity? Well, it’s actually going to go up by about 30 per cent.’ I don’t think they would have had the same result that they had back in 2022 if they had been honest. But I’m not allowed to say that they’re not telling the truth on purpose, and I won’t.

This bill is just another attack on honest Australian primary producers. There hasn’t been any consultation around this bill. Peak groups have said that they weren’t consulted; in what consultation there was, those peak bodies gave the absolutely firm message that this shouldn’t be done. And that firm message which peak bodies delivered to the government before they made this crazy decision was also backed up by independent reviews. The Productivity Commission and the Australian National University both came out saying that the policy was flawed, and yet the Australian Labor Party, in its ongoing war against agriculture, said: ‘No, that doesn’t matter. We’ll just slap this tax on our farmers and it’ll all be okay.’

The coalition agrees wholeheartedly that we need strong policies around biosecurity. That’s a no-brainer. Everyone in the nation benefits from that. But it shouldn’t just be on the farmers; primarily, it should be on the importers—those who are seeking to access our markets to take an advantage and make a profit out of that market with their goods. They should be the primary ones paying it. If there is an added expense, it shouldn’t be directed at our farmers. The government is willing to subsidise every other thing. It’s willing to subsidise these crazy renewable projects that are jacking up the price of electricity for everyone. They’ll subsidise those but they won’t subsidise a farm. They’ll actually charge a farmer for something that they don’t cause the cost of. It just makes no sense. This is a time when things are so competitive. Our international competitors, those people exporting to us and importing into Australia, are getting subsidised by their own governments. The EU and America are subsidising their agriculture while we’re charging our producers with a crazy levy like this.

So I stand with the Leader of the Nationals and the elements of his amendment to this mad legislation. This is un-Australian and once again proves that the greatest threat to agriculture in this country isn’t drought or flood, it’s the Australian Labor Party.


In the spirit of Australia, I acknowledge all citizens who contribute to making our nation the greatest on earth.

I acknowledge our defence force personnel, past, present, and emerging, for their service to our nation, and particularly those who have made the ultimate sacrifice in the defence of Australia.

I also acknowledge the Australian taxpayers who, through their hard work, pay for the infrastructure, health, education, and emergency services that keep our proud nation healthy, safe, and prosperous.