Sneaky pest tax a costly bug­bear

The Daily Telegraph (Sydney) - - Opinion - JEN­NIFER SEX­TON

CON­SUMERS will pay more for food, fridges, fur­ni­ture and cars un­der a new “im­port tax” hid­den in last week’s bud­get.

The $360 mil­lion tax grab was billed as a biose­cu­rity crack­down — a new charge on ev­ery ship­ping con­tainer en­ter­ing the coun­try to stop bugs and pests from in­tro­duc­ing dis­ease and spoil­ing the lo­cal en­vi­ron­ment.

But The Daily Tele­graph can re­veal only a tiny frac­tion — $77 mil­lion — of the to­tal funds raised over three years is ac­tu­ally slated to be spent on bet­ter biose­cu­rity, leav­ing $290 mil­lion in ex­tra rev­enue.

Re­tail­ers have united with ship­ping and lo­gis­tics com­pa­nies in brand­ing the mea­sure a bla­tant tax grab which will ul­ti­mately re­sult in higher prices for con­sumers.

“If they say they are do­ing it for biose­cu­rity and they don’t, that’s a bad thing. It’s just an­other tax grab,” said Har­vey Nor­man boss Gerry Har­vey (pic­tured be­low).

The money will be raised through a flat $10 charge on ev­ery ship­ping con­tainer or a $1 a tonne charge for goods not in a con­tainer. The mea­sure will net be­tween $110 mil­lion to $125 a year for three years.

How­ever ex­pen­di­ture doc­u­ments in the bud­get re­veal only around $20 mil­lion a year is al­lo­cated for “en­hanc­ing Aus­tralia’s biose­cu­rity”.

“At the end of the day, all of those costs get passed on (to the con­sumer),” Mr Har­vey said.

The peak in­dus­try bod­ies rep­re­sent­ing ports, ship­ping, rail and lo­gis­tics com­pa­nies are call­ing on the Turn­bull Gov­ern­ment to come clean on what it in­tends to spend the ex­tra rev­enue on.

“A bud­get that at its core prom­ises tax cuts for all Aus­tralians will si­mul­ta­ne­ously slug Aus­tralians al­most $290 mil­lion to im­port the goods they use ev­ery day, with no clear ex­pla­na­tion of the biose­cu­rity ben­e­fit,” said Rod Nairn, chief ex­ec­u­tive of the ship­ping in­dus­try’s peak body Ship­ping Aus­tralia.

Lo­gis­tics coun­cil man­ag­ing di­rec­tor, Michael Kil­gar­iff, said: “The freight lo­gis­tics sec­tor should not be used as a ‘cash cow’ to fund un­re­lated Bud­get ini­tia­tives.”

Hit hard­est by the new tax will be bulky items like im­ported cars and build­ing ma­te­ri­als, with a con­struc­tion busi­ness im­port­ing 50,000 tonnes of con­crete cop­ping an ad­di­tional $50,000 charge. “The levy will rip­ple right through the sup­ply chain and hit the end con­sumer,” said Aus­tralasian Rail­way As­so­ci­a­tion chief ex­ec­u­tive, Danny Broad.

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