A levy payer register is a database of the details of individuals and organisations who pay industry-specific levies and charges.
All 15 rural research and development corporations (RDCs) are able to establish a levy payer register, if they choose. Australian Wool Innovation and Dairy Australia Limited already have levy payer registers.
The aim of levy payer registers is to enable the RDCs, as key levy recipient bodies, to identify and consult directly with the levy payers that fund their activities. The Australian Government believes it is important for RDCs to know who their levy payers are to better serve industry needs.
Which laws enable levy payer registers?
How do levy payer registers affect me?
For producers who pay levies to an RDC that establishes a levy payer register, this means you may be contacted by your RDC directly. For example, your RDC may:
- provide you with information about the organisation
- ask you to become a member of the RDC and participate in RDC elections
- ask about your research needs
- survey you about your farming practices
- ask you about other activities the RDC undertakes in fulfilling its function.
For levy collection agents who submit levy returns to the department, this may mean that additional information must be included in a levy return. See the next section.
How will I know if I have to provide levy payer information for a particular collection product or commodity?
The department will publish a dated notice setting out which RDCs are keeping a levy payer register, and which collection products are affected.
Levy payer information is required to be included in any levy return for the relevant commodity that is submitted 28 days or more after the publication of the notice on the department’s website.
The department will advise collection agents that a register is being established for specific collection products. Instructional materials will provided.
When the obligation to provide the information begins, levy payer information will be mandatory with every return. Levy collection agents will not be able to submit levy returns without providing levy payer information.
About the use of levy payer information
Who can access levy payer information?
Under the Primary Industries Levies and Charges Collection Act 1991, all 15 RDCs and the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) are ‘eligible recipients’ of levy payer information. Unlike the RDCs, the ABS cannot establish a levy payer register but it can seek access to the data to perform any of its functions.
If a register is established, levy payer information will be collected and given to the relevant RDC for the collection product.
For example, information about individuals and organisations who pay cattle levies and charges would be directed to Meat & Livestock Australia (MLA), while information about individuals and organisations who pay the cotton levy would be directed to the Cotton Research and Development Corporation (CRDC). Information from one RDC’s levy payer register would not be automatically accessible to another RDC.
Third party access
An RDC may also, with the approval of the Secretary of the department, grant a third party access to levy payer information for uses set out in the Primary Industries Levies and Charges Collection Act 1991.
The department will provide guidance (which will be published shortly) for RDCs that wish to disclose information to a third party. Requests for disclosure will be assessed on a case-by-case basis and must meet the requirements under section 27B of the Primary Industries Levies and Charges Collection Act 1991.
A levy payer will be able to access and correct their personal information through a personal portal if they pay levies to an RDC that is keeping a levy payer register. Through their portal, a person will be able to see how much levy or charge they have paid on each collection product and which RDC (with a levy payer register) receives those funds.
How does an RDC establish a levy payer register?
An RDC should notify the Minister for Agriculture and Water Resources in writing of its intention to establish a levy payer register.
The department will publish the notice required under subregulation 10(4A) of the Primary Industries Levies and Charges Collection Regulations 1991 and begin advising collection agents of their new obligations. Instructional materials will be provided.
Where a levy payer register is established for an RDC, the department stores the data securely. The RDC will be able to access its levy payer register through a secure portal.
What will levy payer information be used for?
An RDC can use the levy payer information from their register for the following purposes:
- to maintain a register of who has paid levy and/or charge
- to maintain a register of persons eligible to vote in a poll conducted by, or on behalf of, the RDC
- to make public information of a statistical nature
- in performing its functions under a law of the Commonwealth or under a contract or other agreement with the Commonwealth
- to determine whether a person is or remains eligible to be a member of the RDC.
The Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) may use levy payer information to perform any of its functions. In practice, the ABS will only be able to access levy payer information if an RDC has established a levy payer register.
What will levy payer information not be used for?
Information collected to populate levy payer registers cannot be used by the department. It will not be used for compliance or purposes other than those specified in the Primary Industries Levies and Charges Collection Act 1991.
The Secretary of the department will assess requests from RDCs to disclose levy payer information to third parties on a case-by-case basis. This is to protect levy payer information being used for any other purpose than the purpose for which it was collected.
For additional information on third party disclosure, see section 27B of the Primary Industries Levies and Charges Collection Act 1991.
Privacy and information governance
Will I have to collect new information from my suppliers?
Possibly. However, in many cases, levy and export charge collection agents already collect and hold levy payer information as required under the Primary Industries Levies and Charges Collection Regulations 1991.
Can I legally pass the requested information on?
Collection agents (called ‘intermediaries’ in the legislation) are legally required to provide the information to the department in a return if a levy payer register is being kept for a collection product.
The obligation applies only if there is a dated notice on the department’s website which says that a levy payer register is established for the relevant collection product, and if 28 days have passed since the date of that notice.
The online return form will require this information to be provided as a mandatory field.
How will levy payer information be protected?
Levy payer information is held securely by the department and may be used only for the purposes specified in the legislation.
The department and the RDCs are bound by the Privacy Act 1988 and are Australian Privacy Principle entities.
Can I access my own information?
Levy payer information will only be collected if an RDC chooses to establish a levy payer register. In these cases, producers will be able to access their own information through a personal levies portal. Through the portal, producers will be able to correct their information, see how much levy or charge they have paid on each collection product, and which RDC (with a levy payer register) receives those funds.
Levy payers who produce multiple commodities may pay levies to one RDC that has a levy payer register, and another that does not. They will only be able to access their information relating to the commodities for which a register is established.
Can I get access to the information held in a levy payer register?
The Secretary of the department may make an approval for an RDC to disclose information from its levy payer register for purposes specified in section 27B(6) of the Primary Industries Levies and Charges Collection Act 1991.
These purposes are:
- for a research and development activity as defined in section 4 of the Primary Industries Research and Development Act 1989 (PIRD Act)
- for marketing activities as defined in section 4 of the PIRD Act
- for biosecurity purposes
- for National Residue Survey purposes
- or in connection with any activity carried out, or proposed to be carried out by the RDC for the benefit of producers of collection products of a particular kind.
An RDC may wish to provide information held on its levy payer register to another party (a ‘third party’) for a range of reasons, for example:
- to engage a mail service provider to distribute a regular publication for levy payers about its research and development activities
- to hire a ballot provider to allocate voting entitlements for its annual general meeting
- to commission a research company to conduct an evaluation of levy payer satisfaction with its investments.
Third parties may also wish to use information from a levy payer register for one of the purposes described above. If your organisation would like access to an RDC’s levy payer register, you should first contact the RDC. For additional information on third party disclosure, see section 27B of the Primary Industries Levies and Charges Collection Act 1991.