AUSTRALIAN horticulture and agriculture leaders have welcomed news that motions to oppose the hard-fought changes to statutory levies have today been withdrawn in the Senate, after the matter was postponed last month.
The mango, onion and mushroom levy changes have been well supported by the federal government, with Agriculture Minister Barnaby Joyce showing leadership by approving the changes for inclusion in the May budget.
The levy disallowance motions, foreshadowed by Senator David Leyonhjelm, have been withdrawn, with the Greens publicly declaring their opposition to the motions, quickly followed by the Palmer United Party (PUP), and the ALP’s shadow agriculture minister also voicing his opposition to the disallowance motions.
Leyonhjelm 'not correct' on majority
Interestingly, Senator Leyonhjelm continues to state that “the support from the majority of levy payers in each of these industries was missing”.
This is not correct, as the changes were voted on by the levy payers of each industry and required majority support to pass.
The levy system underpins Australia’s agricultural research and development, marketing, and plant and animal health systems that have made our nation one of the leading agricultural producers in the world.
The industries conducted a rigorous five-year process of consultation, investing grower funds and conducting Australian Electorial Commission or independent ballots.
The Greens announced they would not support any motion that would threaten the future of Australia’s agriculture levy system, stating they understood increases and amendments to the levies were supported by growers and provided important investments in their industries.
Agriculture industries respond
Onions Australia levy champion Brian Bonde welcomed Senator Leyonhjelm’s decision to withdraw his motions.
Mr Bonde said the government and a number of other parties had recognised Australian farmers were trying to help themselves and secure their future.
“The Greens and PUP have seen that Australian farmers are doing their best to invest in their own future and have come on board to ensure that not only continues, but thrives,” he said.
“The levy changes have been requested by growers, to invest for the benefit of all levy payers and have been approved by a majority of growers in these three industries, having followed rigorous and transparent government consultation guidelines.
“With some of the lowest agricultural subsidies in the world, the levy system is the best way to keep Australian horticulture and agriculture funding their future in a self-sufficient way.
“We congratulate the Greens and PUP, in conjunction with the federal government, for assuring Aussie farmers that they have our backs.”
Australian Mango Industry Association CEO Robert Gray welcomed the withdrawal of the motions.
“It's been very satisfying to be part of a united across-horticulture group which together have worked to achieve a great outcome for all stakeholders, growers, government and the Australian public,” he said.
Australian Mushroom Growers Association general manager Greg Seymour said it had fast become clear the Senate would reject the disallowance motions, with Senators acknowledging the rigorous and demanding administrative process all three industries had undergone.
“It has also confirmed the importance of the agricultural levy system to underpin the international competitiveness of Australia’s agricultural industries,” he said.
“We thank the government for acting on our industry’s request for a levy increase and leading the fight for common sense. We thank the Greens for their acumen in this debate and all the Senators who displayed their wisdom by publicly stating their intention to vote against the disallowance motions.”