A COMMITTEE set up to examine the Commonwealth’s Biosecurity Imports Levy risks becoming a logistics version of the movie Hunger Games or an episode of Survivor, a panel session in Melbourne has heard.

The committee was announced recently by agriculture minister David Littleproud and is composed of a cross section of representatives from across shipping, logistics and ports.

But Ports Australia chief executive Mike Gallacher told a panel session at ALC Forum 2019 he had real concerns about the committee’s terms of reference.

“Quite simply, I think the focus is still on the money for government.

“I think the timeline equally is fundamentally flawed, it is too short,” Mr Gallacher said.

“Something as important as this, which will be in place for many years to come – you are asking the magnificent nine to sit in a room and work out who is going to pay.

“In other words – ‘which one of you is going to pay for this’. It will be like Survivor biosecurity where we get to vote the weakest one off, a bit like Hunger Games.”

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Shipping Australia chief executive Rod Nairn was critical of the whole concept, arguing it was the result of “secrecy, dishonesty and stupidity”.

Freight & Trade Alliance director Paul Zalai said the levy would generate cascading costs in the supply chain.

“When we’ve engaged with our importer members, they don’t want to be taxed but if they are going to be taxed they want to be taxed at a net rate,” he said.

Assistant secretary biosecurity and implementation Josephine Laduzko provided the Department of Agriculture’s perspective, noting the terrible damage that would occur should brown marmorated stink bugs enter the country.

“The bug itself eats anything and everything, so it is a massive production pest.

“It is also a pest that moves into your house and smells and stinks so what we are dealing with is quite a multifaceted challenge.”

Ms Laduzko said the welcome increase in trade increased the unwelcome risk of stink bug infestation.

“We don’t want to be in a country where trade is plateauing, but at the moment it is growing and the risks we are managing are getting more complex,” she said.

“We have a strong confluence of thinking that our system is under pressure and we don’t have sufficient funding to deal with the risks that are coming our way.”

The panel session was chaired by Ian Ross from DPWA, with other speakers being Maritime Industry Australia chief executive Teresa Lloyd and Duncan Sheppard from the Australasian Railway Association.

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