The Australian Livestock Exporters Council has described an Abbott Government decision to increase live animal export document processing, inspection, certification and registration fees and charges by up to 66 percent from next week onwards as an act of “bureaucratic bastardry” that sacrifices agricultural competitiveness in order to fix the Department of Agriculture’s bottom line.
ALEC chief executive officer Alison Penfold said exporters were informed of the decision to increase charges via a statement from the Government at 7:30pm last night.
The fee hike has angered and disappointed the industry and left exporters facing fees and charges that will put some operators in the red and potentially others out of business.
ALEC says the decision makes a mockery of agriculture minister Barnaby Joyce’s rhetoric surrounding his commitment to improving agricultural competitiveness.
“The Minister for Agriculture has made a huge play on his commitment to support the live trade as well as increase agricultural competitiveness across the sector’s industries,” Ms Penfold said in a statement released this morning.
“We thought he would take our representations through the Cost Recovery Impact Statement process seriously.
“Yet here we are facing outrageous fees and charges that directly fly in the face of the Minister’s statements and the Government’s red tape and deregulation agenda.
“It is our firm view that this decision entrenches and legitimises cost recovery arrangements that are unfair, unreasonable and in breach of the Government’s own cost recovery guidelines.
“Exporters are prepared to pay for services delivered, but those services must be efficient, transparent, sustainable and at least placed under some level of competitive pressure to ensure competitive pricing.
“The simple fact is that none of that exists in the new fees and charges schedule released today – a schedule that deems it acceptable to charge some exporters $671.80 per hour for simple document processing.
“There is no correlation between the services provided and the fees charged. For example, we know that Departmental officers within a range of job classifications undertake this task. Some of the work is done by veterinarians at the APS4 and APS 6 levels. The salaries for these officers range from $62, 818 to $109,584.
If we add a 30pc salary on cost and then add the Department’s 56pc overhead costs, the hourly rate for these two job levels comes in at $75 and $130.70.
“That means the Government is gouging a 500%+ premium out of the pockets of the livestock export supply chain including producers and exporters.”
Ms Penfold said that exporters are now calling on government to make urgent changes to service delivery arrangements to offset the new charging regime.
“The Government must take immediate steps to rectify the internal archaic and inefficient Department of Agriculture business and service delivery systems that have led to this perverted outcome.
“Exporters have been trying for years to assist the Department to fix many service delivery inefficiencies they themselves have identified to no avail in an effort to ensure that the Department met its cost recovery requirements including efficient cost delivery.
“What were once problems with solutions, have manifested into a budgetary crisis for the Department, with exporters left exposed to the Government’s monopolistic and unjustified response.
“The Minister must exert some influence on his Department immediately if he is true to his word and seek an urgent package of changes to offset the costs that now threaten the viability and sustainability of the live trade”.
When contacted by Beef Central this afternoon Mr Joyce’s office was preparing a response to the issue, which will be included in another article later today.