On 3 March 2016, the Australian Government introduced the Primary Industries Levies and Charges Collection Amendment Bill 2016 (Cth) (‘the Bill’). The Bill comes off the ‘[i]ndustry structures and systems governing the imposition of and disbursement of marketing and research and development (R&D) levies in the agricultural sector’ Senate inquiry that reported in June 2015. A key recommendation of the inquiry was that levy payer information be provided to the rural research and development corporations (RDCs) for the purpose of developing levy payer registers which RDCs can use to contact farmers. Previously only the wool and dairy RDCs were able to access this information.
The Bill establishes this by allowing an ‘eligible recipient’, which now includes all 15 RDCs (in addition to the industry services body), key contact information and details for the purposes of:
– Maintaining a register of levy payers or charge payers;
– Maintaining a register of people who are eligible to vote in any poll conducted by the RDC ;
– To make public any information of a statistical nature
The Australian Bureau of Statistics may also use the key contact information and details to perform any of its functions.
Importantly, the distribution of the levy payer information to an RDC can only occur where an RDC, in consultation with the industry, requests it, and that request is approved by the Minister for Agriculture and Water Resources. This means that agricultural industries will not need to utilise the Bill’s new arrangement if they do not see any benefit.
This is positive news for all stakeholders in the agricultural industry, greater collaboration between farmers and RDCs will be able to occur to more adequately meet farmers’ needs and hopefully strengthen Australia’s renowned rural R & D research system.
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