Speak up about levies

There are probably close to a hundred thousand levy payers, I suspect their voices will be muted

IN case you have not heard, a Senate committee is inquiring into how levies are imposed, collected and used. All sectors are included, including mushrooms, mangoes and onions, now facing levy increases since I dropped my disallowance motion in exchange for establishing this inquiry.

The key tasks of the committee are to examine opportunities for levy payers to approve and re-approve the imposition of levies, and to influence how levies are invested. This will include consideration of the link between levies and improved returns at the farmgate.

As I have written previously, when it comes to imposing levies, I am strongly in favour of payer democracy.

In my opinion, levy payers should have equivalent rights to taxpayers, meaning the capacity every three years to kick out those spending their taxes.

It seems to me that knowing levy payers have the power to stop the flow of levy funds will go a long way towards ensuring levy spenders remain sensitive to their needs.

Issues such as climate change, sustainability and gender diversity, for example, might not receive as much attention as they do now, while issues more directly linked to farm profitability will be given top priority.

The rest of the committee may have a different view to me about that, time will tell, but to come up with a workable approach to managing how levies are managed and spent, the committee needs to hear from levy payers.

There will be plenty of submissions from those who spend levy revenue, talking-up what a great job they do. What I am not so sure about is whether those who pay the levies will be adequately heard.

While there are probably close to a hundred thousand levy payers, I suspect their voices will be muted. Most are individuals with busy lives who would not normally make their opinions known to a Senate inquiry.

While there are representative organisations that purport to speak on behalf of farmers, they often seem to be in cahoots with levy spenders. The pool of funds raised through levies is an alluring honeypot.

I suspect most levy payers could cite examples of gross misuse of levy funds. I am aware of a few myself. A lot of money that could have been used to improve the performance of Australian agriculture has been wasted.

The committee needs to hear the views of levy payers as to how they would prefer their money to be managed for their benefit. It needs levy payer views on who should decide how the funds are spent and what thinking should govern how they are spent.

A possible question for the committee will be whether regular votes to continue paying levies will be sufficient to ensure levy spenders remain accountable to levy payers.

Some people feel intimidated by Senate inquiries, but there is no need to be. Submissions may be made in writing and in person. Submissions from individuals are just as welcome as those by organisations. Indeed, in this case they may well be given greater consideration.

And for those who do not wish to make a written submission, or would like to support their written submission orally, the committee will be holding hearings in major cities.

This inquiry is an excellent opportunity to make a significant difference to how research and development and marketing expenditure in agriculture is undertaken in Australia. All farmers and graziers who pay levies, no matter which sector they are in, should consider making their views known.

Your industry needs you.

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FarmOnline
David Leyonhjelm

David Leyonhjelm

has worked in agribusiness for 30 years and is a Senator for NSW representing the Liberal Democrats.
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READER COMMENTS

Andrew Read
7/10/2014 10:12:22 PM

Time will tell if the sheep CRC is a waste, as John Niven opines, current trends in the seed stock industry indicate otherwise. Sheep genomics is a complex business and the grower elected AWI board has shown it can barely cope with that complexity. What kept the sheep CRC relatively honest was the rigour of the Government sponsored CRC process. A disruptive innovation is never welcomed by those who may benefit.
Mranda
8/10/2014 1:03:09 AM

Of course producers deserve a say on how much they pay and who they pay and how it is spent. Most Levi funded organisations do have channels and checks through which this can occur but they are obviously not working well and probably it is mostly a communication problem. Secondly It is very difficult to measure the end result of Levi expenditure. You have to consider things like prevention of reduced farm gate returns as well.
Chick Olsson
9/10/2014 7:36:43 PM

One man /woman = one vote. Not weighted in favour of the mega wealthy.
farmers bob
10/10/2014 5:29:51 AM

It is a shame that the ruralpress people don't mute this guy and stop promoting his messages as some kind of gospel.
Clark Kent
10/10/2014 7:04:11 AM

The key missing aspect of levy accountability is any actuarial-type TRANSPARENCY. The other missing fundamental issue, not the radar, is the blurred 'nexus' conduit line between the 'middlemen' associations between agribusiness levy consolidators & representative groups (MLA 4 example), livestock processors (in particular) and the major supermarket buyer groups. The 'skewed' R&D grants would indicate that a near cartel relationship exists! All working against improved 'farmgate' returns. It is akin to the cash flow stream of the superannuation system and the inherent corruption now exposed.
newbroom
10/10/2014 11:38:42 AM

this bloke is the donkey vote senator and I object to his existence. Senate voting is a joke and should be fixed. Too many nutters splintering good government. The Senate Rural committee on grass fed beef levies made sensible recommendations to ensure levies were handled so that all payers would be identified and their transactions. Populist spouting is not the answer. Implement the Grass Fed beef levy committee findings and use it as a template for all levy collection and automation. Bureaucrats in Agriculture Dept are hopelessly asleep at the wheel especially in meat section.
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Agribuzz with David LeyonhjelmCommentary, news and analysis with agribusiness consultant David Leyonhjelm. Email David at reclaimfreedom@gmail.com

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