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

Mug
2/10/2014 12:14:25 PM

This bloke is right. Transparency is what is needed. Common sense says we need levies for the right reason, but accountability is needed----like we are all accountable for our actions.
Qlander
2/10/2014 12:34:06 PM

Yeah, basically we pay them to make submissions, on their behalf. But we then have to find extra time (and money) to make a submission on our behalf.
Mug
2/10/2014 12:56:06 PM

Levies are an essential part of a civilised development, breeding, marketing organisation. Why can't it be open and accountable for all to see and judge results? Some people claim that we live in a democracy----is it too much to ask ? Conversely , is big brother hiding something ?
Philip Downie
2/10/2014 2:20:48 PM

Firstly there are the undemocratic orgs dispersing the levies then they get the empires they have funded to write how great they are doing blah, blah but there are no boots on the ground looking at what has been achieved for the grower. Not the value adder not the customer the grower. Grower money spent on marketing, where there are multiple processors is of no use to the grower. The marketer has no control over anything, waste of time, actually worse than a waste of time, can quite easily damage our reputation promising things they can't deliver.
Science Bloke
4/10/2014 12:44:01 PM

I've been the recipient of your levy funds for research and have had dealings with the organisations concerned. It's a good scheme in many ways, but it needs to be more democratic and accountable to the producers. Like every situation where large amounts of money are involved, some people build careers and status allocating your money. The politics and ego involved in is often the priority for some. Being able to move people like that on helps to ensure you get a better outcome and a group that stay focused upon the industry.
Lee
4/10/2014 3:25:26 PM

If BarnAby does not act on the current beef cattle Senate Inquiry report it will be a dark day for democracy in Australia. We all know these compulsory levies do not result in any kind of democracy in the agricultural sector, the is no doubt that it is taxation without democratic representation and it must cease. If not the unrest wil continue to grow and become more aggressive
Peter H
5/10/2014 8:26:59 PM

Levies ?another name for tax.I am not against either as long the funds are used for creating employment ,training,,knowledge as this will inject invaluable ,confidence for all grower,farmer, processor,retailer, consumer .It will strenghthen agriculture WA.
Jethro
6/10/2014 7:49:06 AM

All reports on funded research should normally be available on RDC websites, but commentators should be aware that hindsight is wonderfully accurate. R & D money is wasted only when we already know the answer,
Deregul8
6/10/2014 9:26:06 AM

Hey jethro. What was the last research revelation that GRDC produced that resulted in more dollars in grain growers pockets. Don't tell me no-till or GM crops or claying sandy soils. they were all innovations produced by farmers who decided they were not seeing enough 'returen on investmnet' from the research dollars they had already been compelled to cough up. Next time you read the Groundcover magazine look at how many stories are on farmer innovation independent of GRDC.
John NIven
6/10/2014 5:10:58 PM

The sheep CRC is the greatest waste of resources the universe has ever seen. $18 million P.A. for mumbo jumbo.
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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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