Streamlining and modernising levies legislation

The department is streamlining and modernising agricultural levies legislation, to ensure it is efficient, responsive and flexible enough to meet industry needs.

The scope of this work includes the legislation associated with:

  • research and development (R&D) levies
  • marketing levies
  • residue testing levies
  • biosecurity and emergency response levies.

Consultation

The levy system is a partnership between government and industry. In 2017 the department sought feedback from industry stakeholders on a set of options aimed at increasing flexibility in levies processes. Feedback was positive and has informed the department’s approach to streamlining and modernising the legislation.

Further consultation will be important to ensuring the streamlining and modernising of the levies legislative framework benefits everyone involved. The department has commenced a new round of consultation with an online survey, and will commence face-to-face consultation in the coming months to work with stakeholders.

You can have your say on levies legislation through the survey.

Face-to-face consultation will commence in November 2019 with levy recipient bodies.

The timeline for consultation with industry representative bodies and collection agents has not yet been confirmed, but you can register your interest by contacting the Levies policy team.

Questions and Answers

If you are unable to find an answer to your question, please contact the Levies policy team.

Levy System

What do you mean by the agricultural levy system?

Agricultural, fisheries and forestry industries invest collectively in activities that maintain and strengthen their position in highly competitive international markets. These activities are funded through statutory levies and charges (levies) that are imposed on all producers in an industry at the request of that industry.

The levy system is the legal framework that imposes the levies and charges, governs their collection and enables the payment of levies and charges for investment on industries’ behalf.

The Department of Agriculture administers the legislation to collect levies on behalf of Australia’s primary industries and disburse them to levy recipient bodies. The levy recipient bodies include research and development corporations (RDCs), Animal Health Australia, Plant Health Australia and the National Residue Survey.

There are currently 113 levies collected on more than 70 commodities across the agriculture, fisheries and forestry sectors such as meat, dairy, field crops, game animals, horticultural products, livestock, wine and other rural industries. Industries may choose to establish a levy to fund:

  • research and development (R&D) 
  • marketing
  • membership to biosecurity organisations: Animal Health Australia or Plant Health Australia
  • emergency biosecurity responses such as disease outbreak, or
  • the National Residue Survey.

Levies legislation streamlining and modernisation

Why is the department streamlining and modernising levies legislation?

The current levy system has been in place since the 1990s and the legislation that governs it has become large and complex as many industries have established new, or modified existing, levies.

There are 24 levies-related legislative instruments that were initially due to sunset between 2018 and 2022. Sunsetting is an automatic repeal process under the Legislation Act 2003 which is designed to ensure that legislative instruments, such as regulations and rules, are kept up to date and only remain in force for as long as they are needed. The government aligned the sunset dates of these instruments to 2023 to allow for them to be reviewed together.

In 2017–18 the department reviewed those 24 sunsetting instruments and, for the first time, reviewed the overall levies legislative framework. The review found that while the legislative framework serves the objectives of the levy system and is necessary to the successful industry-led arrangement, it is no longer as efficient and effective as it could be to meet industry’s needs.

This work was informed by stakeholder feedback during consultations undertaken in 2017, and recommendations from several Senate inquiries on levies.

What is the scope of this work?

The streamlining and modernising agricultural levies legislation project will reduce the number of levies Acts from 7 to 4 and simplify how levies-related provisions are arranged in the legislation. Provisions relating to levies will be removed from legislation for levy-recipient bodies, which would then deal only with the matters required for the operation of those organisations.   

Operational provisions, including levy rates, when returns are due and record keeping requirements, will be located in subordinate legislation rather than the Acts. These changes will reduce complexity and inconsistency and make the language clearer and simpler. It will also allow changes to be made more quickly to levy settings.

By making the levy system easier to use, the department aims to make it more responsive to industry’s priorities and save industry time and money when establishing or changing levies.

Also within the scope of this work are minor policy changes which are being considered to improve the operation of the levy system for industry. Stakeholders will be consulted on all policy options.

The project will not review individual levies—the focus is on improving overarching levies legislation. Industries will not be asked to re-submit levy proposals as part of this work.

The project does not include any consideration of the RDC model, the government’s commitment to matching funding for eligible R&D, or how levy funds are invested by RDCs.

A separate review is underway to explore opportunities for Modernising the RDC system. On 23 September 2019 Senator the Hon Bridget McKenzie released a discussion paper to invite submissions regarding the Australian Government’s plan to improve and modernise the rural Research and Development Corporation (RDC) system to better focus on delivering benefits to producers and tax payers. While this is not a part of the project to streamline and modernise levies legislation, there are significant overlaps with regard to stakeholders and outcomes.

Find out more about improvements to the RDC system.

What is the overall aim?

The department’s aim is to deliver more flexible, less complex, contemporary levies legislation that supports industries to optimise the way their levies are invested and to better respond to changing circumstances. This will ensure the levies legislative framework is well-placed to adapt to the future needs of both government and industry over the longer term.

What is sunsetting?

Sunsetting is a process used by government to remove spent or out of date legislation. Sunsetting instruments—including regulations, rules, declarations, orders and so on—must be reviewed by the sunset date to determine whether the instrument is still required and whether it is fit for purpose.

If it is still needed, the government acts to retain or redraft the instrument. If not, the legislative instrument is automatically repealed. All legislative instruments, with some key exceptions, are subject to sunsetting. Acts of Parliament are not affected by sunsetting.

Considerations for Industry

Can I cease or change my levy as part of this process?

No. If an industry wishes to change or cease collection of its levy, the usual processes apply—it should approach the department about preparing a proposal to government.

Should my industry wait for this work to finish before proceeding with a levy proposal?

No. This process will take a number of years. Industries looking to establish or amend a levy should not wait for the project to be completed.

Are levy payer registers part of this process?

Levy payer registers are not part of this particular process. It is now possible for RDCs to have levy payer registers. Registers have recently been established for Wine Australia, Sugar Research Australia and the Grains Research and Development Corporation, in addition to the existing registers for Dairy Australia and Australian Wool Innovation. It is up to each RDC to decide, in consultation with industry, whether or not it wishes to establish—and pay for—a levy payer register.

Where can I find out more information?

The department will be consulting with levy recipient bodies, industry representative bodies and a representative sample of collection agents from late 2019 about the proposed changes to the legislative framework. The final timetable for consultation meetings has not been confirmed.

If you have any questions about the consultation process, contact the Levies policy team – leviestaskforce@agriculture.gov.au.


Last reviewed: 4 November 2019
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