The Australian Parliament has recently introduced two suites of bills, relating to charges for the import of food into, and export of food out of, Australia.

The Export Charges (Collection) Bill 2015, Export Charges (Imposition – General) Bill 2015, Export Charges (Imposition – Excise) Bill 2015 and Export Charges (Imposition – Customs) Bill 2015 (collectively the Export Bills) are intended to expand the collection of charges which the Department of Agriculture (Department) imposes on industry for the purposes of ensuring compliance with the Export Control Act 1982 and Australian Meat and Livestock Industry Act 1997. These two Acts, which ensure that certain food exports meet the requirements of the importing countries, are currently administered by the Department. The Export Bills are designed to levy charges on Australian businesses to ensure recoupment of money spent by the Department in ensuring compliance. The Export Bills do not themselves levy charges; Parliament will need to produce regulations for this purpose.

The Import Charges (Collection) Bill 2015 (Collection Bill), Imported Food Charges (Imposition – General) Bill 2015, Imported Food Charges (Imposition – Customs) Bill 2015 and Imported Food Charges (Imposition – Excise) Bill 2015 (collectively the Import Bills) are intended to support the Government’s system for controlling imported food. Currently, imported food is managed under the Import Food Control Act 1992, which governs the administration of food entering Australia. This system requires checks to ensure compliance with various Australian Standards. The Explanatory Memorandum explains that the changes will allow “for the recovery of costs through the imposition of charges as a cost recovery levy, rather than a fee”.

As in the case of the Export Bills, the Import Bills do not specify the amount payable by industry, but rather require regulations to be produced for this purpose. According to the Minister for Agriculture, the Hon. Barnaby Joyce, the purpose of this system is to ensure that charges can be amended flexibly and rapidly if required. The Collection Bill also specifies that late payment fees can be charged, and the Department may suspend or revoke an imported food control instrument if the charges and late payment fees are not paid.

We await the necessary regulations under this collection of bills to consider the full impact of these changes.