Budget delivers first ever sustainable biosecurity funding

16 May 2023

A new era in Australian agriculture has begun, with the announcement that the Albanese Government’s 2023-24 Budget includes a Sustainable Biosecurity Funding model, for the first time in our nation’s history.

More than $1 billion of additional funding has been allocated to biosecurity, including $845 million to support operations across the country, protecting our valuable agriculture sector.

Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry Murray Watt outlined the key components of the new model during a visit to the Gracemere cattle saleyards, near Rockhampton today.

He said a strong biosecurity system is critical to keeping our regional and remote communities strong.

“Unfortunately for some years now Australia’s biosecurity system has been funded in fits and starts,” Minister Watt said.

“Despite consistent review recommendations and calls from farm leaders, the former Coalition Government failed to deliver the sustainable biosecurity funding model we need.

“Our world is changing and the current system does not allow us to respond to these changes or plan for the future.

“It also does not fully recognise that biosecurity is a shared responsibility and that everyone has to do their part to contribute to its upkeep.

“We are locking in a fair system to pay for biosecurity that shares the cost, with taxpayers, risk creators and beneficiaries of the system all contributing.”

Minister Watt said the Government would be committing significantly more permanently dedicated taxpayer funding, and recovering biosecurity clearance costs from importers and others who create risk.

“This Budget delivers new biosecurity funding totalling more than $1 billion over the next four years, with more than $260 million guaranteed every year after that."

“We will introduce a new cost recovery charge of 40 cents per item on low value ($1000 or less) goods imported into Australia by sea.

“From July 1 2024 the costs of these biosecurity clearances will be recovered, to deal with the growing biosecurity risk from incoming parcels and similar items.

“While a small impost on individual items, this fairer system is expected to recover more than $27 million.

“This is on top of increasing fees and charges on importers from July 1 2023, which will ensure importers contribute more fairly by meeting the real cost of biosecurity clearance.

“These increases to fees and charges for importers are expected to contribute an extra $45 million to our biosecurity efforts.

“The Australian Government will also make sure that fees and charges remain aligned to the cost of delivering the biosecurity service into the future.

“Importers’ fees will be reviewed and adjusted annually, and the department will work with industry to make sure our charging models are fit for purpose and as part of this, will look at other options including a possible future import or container levy.

“The arrival of people from overseas is a significant biosecurity risk and has been the focus of considerable recent effort to prevent the arrival into Australia of exotic diseases like foot and mouth disease and African swine fever. 

“The Passenger Movement Charge on international travellers was established with the intent, among other things, to support biosecurity costs associated with those travellers. 

“The Australian Government will increase the current charge from $60 to $70 per person from 1 July 2024, the first increase since 2017.”
Minister Watt said those who receive significant benefits from the system will also make modest contributions.

“To help meet the costs of sustainably funding our biosecurity system, we will be introducing a small Biosecurity Protection Levy on agricultural producers from July 1 2024, amounting to an additional 10% of existing levies.

“In practical terms, this is a very modest levy. 

“It would translate to only 50 cents a head for cattle producers and one fifth of a cent per kilogram of apples or 7 cents a tonne of sugarcane.

“It will mean that producers will contribute 6 per cent of overall funding for the biosecurity system that is so important to their livelihoods.”

Minister Watt said the increased funding would result in tangible outcomes that would benefit industry on the ground.

“In response to the sheer volume of cargo and mail at our borders and the increased biosecurity risk that brings, we are investing $145 million over three years into a Simplified Targeting and Enhanced Processing System."

“This program aims to digitalise and make our systems as efficient as possible so we can free up our biosecurity workers for other jobs and reduce congestion at the border.

“Through our biosecurity funding package, we have also secured $40.6 million over four years and $12 million every year after that, to continue the Indigenous Biosecurity Ranger program, which faced a funding cliff on June 30.

“This will keep Indigenous rangers at the Northern Australia biosecurity frontline, helping to detect exotic weeds, pests and disease before they get a chance to establish.

“Australia’s northern coastline is sparsely populated, remote and hard to access.

“Without the tireless work of the rangers, we would be leaving this northern frontier exposed.

“Biosecurity is everybody’s responsibility, and this budget has created a funding system that is equitable and transparent.

“More importantly, we are making our agriculture sector secure for generations to come."