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  • Rikki Lambert

Farmers urge import levy to face $100 billion threat

The emergence of foot-and-mouth disease in Indonesia during a federal election campaign has accelerated concerns that Australia's biosecurity settings might be inadequate, the NSW Farmers said on Wednesday.

Veterinarian and NSW Farmers president James Jackson told Flow listeners there needs to be a dedicated levy, raised on imports into Australia, to guarantee adequate funding for the biosecurity battle to protect Australian farm produce:

"We've put the pressure on to get that $400 million for port biosecurity and inboard biosecurity on products. We still need a sustainable funding model for that - it shouldn't come out of consolidated revenue. The importers should be paying a container tax. That piece of work hasn't been finished yet."
"It (an outbreak of foot and mouth disease) could actually take 1 per cent off of GDP (Gross Domestic Product) - $100 billion cost to the economy is significant and that's the sort of scale of the potential cost to the economy. Red meat processing is the biggest secondary industry in the country and that would be in chaos for some time with a foot and mouth outbreak."

Hear the full interview with NSW Farmers president James Jackson on the Flow podcast player below:

The Shooters Fishers and Farmers Party's lead NSW senate candidate and apiarist Shane Djuric expressed his concern on 3 May on Flow about the biosecurity threat to his industry from shipping containers:

"We've now got a concern about more issues coming in from overseas - we've got to do something about that. The shipping containers coming in with live bees inside the shipping containers and they are carrying mites on the actual bees. That's a massive threat to agriculture in this country."

Jackson warned that the lack of a comprehensive biosecurity strategy left the vital issue a potential hot potato juggled between governments while diseases threatened livestock and farmers' livelihoods:

"What we need to do is get a coordinated funding effort. To be fair to David Littleproud, he did put together a discussion paper involving a national biosecurity strategy. That's actually quite important because states and councils have a role. We still don't have a co-ordinated funding effort.
"If a disease comes into the country, the federal government has responsibility until it gets out of the port, then the state government takes over. So people can essentially encourage something to go further because it will be on someone else's balance sheet - and ultimately it ends up on farmers' balance sheet."


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