Levy-payer data-bases underway

05 Mar, 2016 01:00 AM
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Cattle Council of Australia CEO Jed Matz.
Cattle Council of Australia CEO Jed Matz.

LEGISLATION has been initiated to establish agricultural levy-payer data-bases for rural research and development corporations (RDCs) that can also be accessed by peak industry bodies.

The move responds to the leading recommendation of the Coalition’s Senate inquiry into agricultural levies and has been welcomed and applauded by farmer representatives.

The Senate Rural and Regional Affairs Committee inquiry was prompted by demands for greater transparency and democracy for levy-payer, and influence on how producer R&D and marketing funds are spent, by NSW liberal Democrat Senator David Leyonhjelm.

The report tabled in June last year said legislative changes should be enacted to enable the collection and distribution of agricultural levy payer information to create databases within two years of the amendment.

In a speech to accompany the Bill tabled in the Lower House, Federal Agriculture and Water Resources Minister Barnaby Joyce said the grass-fed cattle levy inquiry had also identified that improved consultation with levy payers was “key to the ongoing strength of Australia's rural R&D system”.

“The government agrees that levy payers should have more of a say in how their levy funds are spent - RDCs should know who their levy payers are,” he said.

“Levy payers' registers would provide RDCs with the ability to identify and consult directly with levy payers on research priorities and levy expenditure and to accurately and efficiently allocate voting entitlements for polls, where this is relevant.”

Mr Joyce said the Bill allowed levy payer registers to be established by amending the Primary Industries Levies and Charges Collection Act 1991 which currently only permitted the distribution of levy payer information, to the wool and dairy RDCs.

But he said the new legislation remedied that situation by allowing the government to provide levy-payer information, for the purposes of a register, to the 13 other RDCs.

“However, recognising that a 'one size fits all' approach would not be appropriate given the diversity of Australian agricultural industries, the Bill allows for the distribution of levy payer information to an RDC to occur only where an RDC, in consultation with industry, requests it, and that request is approved by the minister,” he said.

“The Department would then work with the RDC on the administrative design and development of a register.”

Mr Joyce said under the changes, industry representative bodies - prescribed in legislation - would be allowed to obtain access to levy payer contact details for specific purposes, subject to approval by the Secretary of his Department.

“This change will support prescribed industry representative bodies’ efforts to engage with their constituency,” he said.

“It will help them to adequately consult on key industry issues; ensuring that they can appropriately advise on levy expenditure where they have a legislated role to do so.

“We’re doing our bit in pushing through these changes and now it’s over to each RDC to work with industry, agree on an approach and forge ahead.”

Mr Joyce said the Bill also empowered his Secretary to permit levy-payer information to be provided to the Australian Bureau of Statistics.

He said it also maintained current practices for distribution of the name and address of the person or body that lodges levy returns with the Department to RDCs, industry representative bodies and others.

“The Bill does not permit secondary disclosure of information included in a levy payer register, except in limited circumstances and where expressly permitted by the secretary in writing,” he said.

“This aims to protect the integrity and security of levy and charge payers' personal information.

“Where an eligible recipient is permitted to disclose levy payer information to a secondary recipient, that person or body may only use the information for restricted purposes relating to R&D, marketing, biosecurity or the national residue survey.

“Where levy payer contact details are to be provided to an industry representative body, the administrative arrangements will enable levy payers to choose to opt out and not receive information.”

Cattle Council of Australia CEO Jed Matz saying accessing levy-payer databases would improve the transparency of industry voting systems and gave peak industry bodies an accurate profile of industry.

“This will have multiple benefits such as improved disease management and prevention, improved extension services, more targeted communication and policy,” he said.

“The biggest win here is that Cattle Council will now have access to a database of all levy payers so we can communicate directly with the people we are representing.

“This is a major step forward in Cattle Council being able to move towards a direct membership model and may possibly have positive implications for the council’s financial options.’’

Sheepmeat Council of Australia President Jeff Murray said under the current legislation, his group was “hamstrung” and unable to identify who the levy payers actually are, “the people we represent”.

But he said, once passed, the amendments would enable peak bodies like his to identify industry issues and levy payer priorities through better engagement “and therefore empower us to oversight levy expenditure more effectively”.

“We fully support the governments’ proposed safeguards,” he said.

“We understand that this information is sensitive and that carte blanche access would be inappropriate.

“However, we also note time is of the essence for this legislation to pass in an election year and we implore parliament’s support for these important amendments.”

Mr Joyce said the government’s commitment to R&D was demonstrated through the provision of more than $260 million this year in Commonwealth matching funds for rural R&D corporations - a $30m increase on matching funds provided in 2012–13.

He said for every dollar that the government invested in rural R&D, it was estimated farmers generated a $12 return over 10 years.

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Colin Bettles

Colin Bettles

is the national political writer for Fairfax Agricultural Media
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READER COMMENTS

Archibald
7/03/2016 8:27:11 AM

Well the truth is out. Mr Joyce said; "This change will support prescribed industry representative bodies’ efforts to engage with their constituency,” This confirms that CCA has a government assigned constituency and is not a democratically elected body by the levy payers, and is a prescribed government body that cannot effectively represent the levy payers. This change does not comply with the intent of the Senate recommendations at all, it is a government construct to maintain the basic status quo of socialist control of the cattle industry without democratic election by levy payers.
John Carpenter
7/03/2016 6:41:04 PM

Is there any limit to this government's disrespect for freedom and democracy?I have shown many times just how easy (and cheap) it would be to identify the levy paying members of MLA via the quarterly BAS.But this would shift levy collection from the DoA to the ATO/Treasury and thus expose expediture of this departmental slush fund to the blinding clarity of scrutiny.The Minister's statement that only "representative bodies" would have access to the members register is against section 173 of the Corporations Act 2001.These people are making up laws on the run without any checks/balances.
David Hill
7/03/2016 8:00:37 PM

Archibald, hopefully when the new grass fed industry peak council is set up you are at the forefront to ensure the mistakes of the past are not repeated!
Archibald
8/03/2016 5:39:03 AM

David Hill, If Joyce adopted all seven Senate recommendations we would have a starting point, what we have with the above is more of the same, government control via prescribed government bodies inside what is calld the Red Meat Industry (Akin to RED socialist control) Selecting one recommendation and doing basically nothing is a disgrace for Mr Joyce and he will have to live with that!
John Michelmore
8/03/2016 5:45:39 AM

I support John Carpenters comment above. However the Joyce and the dept , and all of the Red meat industry would baulk at such simplicity and transparency. John C is right this has been taxation without representation for too long
John Carpenter
8/03/2016 11:06:13 AM

I also hope Archibald and people like him are right at the front of any new CCA. I am sure their first act would be to organise a plebiscite amongst levy payers to vote on the cattle transaction levy i.e do they want to pay it or not.Their second act would be to thereafter wind up the new CCA.
The Serf
8/03/2016 2:42:57 PM

David Hill; the very presumption you have in your comment shows we can never achieve democracy and regain our liberty; Peak Industry councils are an arm of government and that is exactly what we thought you people would do - enforce membership of CCA! We all want CCA unfunded and detached from the 90% who do not support you - CCA have always supported Government and a selected few. We have only got the "industry" to this point because we are outside - the cattle industry can only be represented by private funded, non government groups who lobby politicians, and that is not CCA.
keith
8/03/2016 3:09:52 PM

I am in full and absolute agreement with JC - spot on John. I see the Minister says “This change will support prescribed industry representative bodies’ efforts to engage with their constituency,” that infers we have no choice and the fact is we do not have a choice under the nationl party and that is what we must fight for that freedom of choice - ID is a necessity and then a plebiscite to determine "Do you want to continue to pay the CTL" - and the answer is NO!!
Agribusiness
8/03/2016 4:42:19 PM

To get this far, 20+ years of operation of the RDCs reveals the real level of keenness to be open, transparent, and genuinely accountable to those farmers actually paying the 'money in'. Next step, hopefully, is being able to calculate an individual return on investment (i.e. benefit out)....not just 'an estimate'. Best wishes for those 'advisory committees' too, 20 years of those also indicates likely future trends there too.
PAYG
8/03/2016 7:52:35 PM

“……………..ensure the mistakes of the past are not repeated!” – Of course Mr Hill is joking ? The mistakes of the past include bare faced lying about anything that is contrary to their political ideology including that MLA is a producer owned corporation subject to the rules applied by ASIC, lie, increasing the cost of production by interfering in the property and business activities of their politically assigned constituency, wasting taxpayers money on stupid frivolous programs that don’t pass the smell test etc. Only a full judicial inquiry, audit & jail time can fix this mess.
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