From agricultural levies to ghost fishing net retrieval: Here are 11 budget items for business that have flown under the radar


Source: Unsplash/David Clode.

Now that the big headline programs have been announced and dissected, there’s an opportunity to look at some of the lesser-known items in this year’s federal budget.

These weren’t in Treasurer Josh Frydenberg’s speech, but a comb through the more detailed budget papers shows how targeted, and perhaps obscure, some of the budget measures are.

Here are some that missed the first wave of budget coverage.

1. Other COVID-19 relief

The COVID-19 pandemic has had an impact across all sectors, and the budget response is not limited to the major job creation and tax cut measures in the Treasurer’s speech.

The Bureau of Meteorology, for example, has taken a revenue hit from the downturn in the aviation sector. The budget response has been to allocate $29 million in 2020-21 to compensate for this.

The Family Court has also been disrupted by the pandemic, so the budget allocates $2.5 million over two years to “maintain specialised court lists for urgent matters arising as a result of COVID-19”.

Organisers of regional agricultural field days have had to cancel their events in 2020 due to the pandemic, so they will receive $2.7 million in support through the Association of Agricultural Field Days of Australia.

In recognition that Victoria has been most hard hit by the second lockdown, $36.6 million has been allocated to recovery payments for Victorian after-school and vacation care services when schools return to normal. The allocation is assessed as 40% of pre-COVID-19 revenues.

2. Live cattle export litigation

The Commonwealth is facing litigation from businesses that suffered losses due to the order to suspend live cattle exports to Indonesia in 2011.

Funding will be provided for compensation and legal costs through the government’s self-managed insurance fund Comcover.

The budget does not detail an amount for this allocation, saying it is “not for publication due to legal sensitivities”.

3. Waste export ban

The government will provide $6.6 million over three years from 2020-21 to implement and administer the Commonwealth’s commitment to ban the export of certain types of waste from January 1, 2021.

The Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment will administer a licensing and declaration scheme to enable the export of waste materials where it can be demonstrated that “sufficient processing has occurred” prior to export to prevent harm to the environment or human health overseas.

4. Indigenous rangers for water quality

The budget allocates $4.2 million over two years from 2020-21 to engage Indigenous River Rangers to increase First Nations peoples’ access to water for economic and social purposes, and to embed First Nations’ participation in the delivery of the Murray Darling Basin Plan.

5. “Ghost” fishing net retrieval

Among the issues facing Australia’s oceans is the proliferation of used fishing nets.

To address this, the budget allocates $14.8 million over four years from 2020-21 to remove ghost nets from Australia’s northern waters.

6. Digital readiness

The budget included substantial funding to promote the digitisation of business processes, but many businesses are lagging behind in this area.

The budget allocates $3.0 million over four years from 2020-21 to develop a Digital Readiness Assessment tool to help businesses self-assess their digital maturity and improve their “digital literacy and decision-making”.

7. Agricultural levies

Hidden in the detail of the budget papers are a raft of changes, from January 1 next year, to a number of agricultural levies.

For example, the government will introduce a Plant Health Australia levy component on dried vine fruits at a rate of $1 per tonne, as requested by Dried Fruits Australia.

The additional levy will fund biosecurity management for the Australian dried vine fruits industry.

There is budget relief for prawn farmers.

The government will reduce the white spot disease repayment levy and export charge component on farmed prawns from 3.01 cents per kilogram to nil for a period of 12 months.

The temporary de-activation of this levy will provide relief to Australian prawn farmers in response to a request from the Australian Prawn Farmers Association.

Macadamia nut farmers have not been forgotten.

For them, the government will decrease the Emergency Plant Pest Response (EPPR) component of the macadamia levy and export charge from 0.2 cents per kilogram to nil, as requested by the Australian Macadamia Society.

The budget says this reflects that the industry’s contribution to the emergency response to varroa jacobsoni mite, which was initially underwritten by the government, has been repaid.

8. Compliance monitoring of charities

To improve governance in the charity and not-for-profit sector, the government will provide $2.9 million over three years from 2020-21 to implement a program of field-based compliance reviews to intervene early where charities are at high risk of failing.

The program is designed to meet the obligations under the governance standards of the Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission.

9. Corporate residency

Much has been made in recent times of corporates active in Australia paying minimal tax because their offices are offshore.

To address this, the budget says that the government will make technical amendments to clarify the corporate residency test.

The government will amend the law to provide that a company that is incorporated offshore will be treated as an Australian tax resident if it has a “significant economic connection to Australia”.

This test will be satisfied where both the company’s core commercial activities are undertaken in Australia and its central management and control is in Australia.

The budget papers say this will result in an “unquantifiable impact” on revenue.

10 FIFA Women’s World Cup 2023

Australia and New Zealand will host the showcase event in women’s soccer, the World Cup, in 2023.

The budget shows that the government will provide $2.4 million in 2020-21 to Football Federation Australia to commence the planning and delivery phase of the FIFA Women’s World Cup 2023, and provide additional funding over three years from 2021-22 for direct event delivery costs.

These other costings are not for publication “due to ongoing negotiations with the states”.

11. Kava importation

The government will provide $1.9 million over four years from 2020-21 to continue the importation of the kava drink, popular with Pacific Islander communities, for personal consumption and commercial distribution.

This second stage of this pilot program will establish a commercial importation scheme, support further consultation and evaluation to ensure appropriate safeguards for community health, while recognising the cultural importance of kava to Pacific Islander communities.

The cost of this measure will be partially met from within the existing resources of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.

This article was first published in CPA Australia’s publication INTHEBLACK. Copyright © 2020 CPA Australia Ltd. Used by permission. 

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