All Australian States and Territories are obligated by an intergovernmental agreement to enforce the primary production and processing (PPP) standards in the Australia New Zealand Food Standards Code (Food Standards Code). The
Primary Produce Safety Act 2011 (PPSA or “the Act”) was developed to meet Tasmania’s obligations under this national agreement. The Act has the following statutory objectives:
to provide for the application in Tasmania of the Food Standards Code as it relates to primary production activities; and
to develop food safety schemes for primary industries that reduce risks to consumers associated with unsafe or unsuitable primary produce; and
to promote consumer confidence in the safety and integrity of Tasmanian primary produce; and
to facilitate the trade of Tasmanian primary produce by ensuring it meets national and international food safety standards.
The PPSA applies the Food Standards Code to primary industry at the sectoral level through food safety schemes and, at the individual business enterprise level, through statutory accreditation of high risk primary producers.
Biosecurity Tasmania, a Division of Tasmania’s Department of Primary Industries, Parks, Water and Environment (DPIPWE) is the Government agency with the job of administering and enforcing the Act. Government policy requires DPIPWE to recover some of the cost of performing this role from regulated industry entities. 1
The Government’s principal means of cost recovery will be the annual fees that producers are required to pay to hold an accreditation under the Act.2 In return for this outlay, fee paying businesses (accredited producers) gain the right to participate in a regulated industry, and the legal authorisation to supply their products in Australian markets.
Specific regulatory activities performed by the Tasmanian Government
The following is a list of key regulatory activities performed by DPIPWE under the PPSA (not exhaustive):
Assessment and processing of applications for accreditation, approval of food safety programs and approval of third party auditors
Maintenance and administration of an official register of accreditations and food safety auditors
Audits and inspections of accredited businesses, and “check audits” to verify the performance of third party auditors
Compliance and enforcement activities, e.g. investigation of complaints, warning letters, court prosecutions, resolving civil and administrative disputes relating to accreditation etc.
Technical advice to accredited producers, applicants for accreditation, third party auditors and other stakeholders on regulatory matters
Development of template food safety programs and plans for specific industry sectors
Participation in national intergovernmental forums for the review and amendment of the Food Standards Code
Cooperation with other States and Territories and the Commonwealth in relation to cross-jurisdictional issues
Legislative development and review
Ministerial advice on regulatory policy and operational matters
Produce safety and biosecurity emergency response including food borne illness investigations. This includes working with industry sectors to manage emerging issues.
Collating and reporting of relevant public information.
Many these regulatory functions are intertwined and cannot be attributed or charged directly to a particular business. As such, it would not be appropriate (or practicable) for DPIPWE to set annual fees by trying to apportion and recover the direct monetary cost of administering each individual accreditation for that year.
It would also be unreasonable to expect accredited producers to bear the full costs incurred annually by the Government in administering the PPSA. Although producers gain some private benefits (including market access) from holding an accreditation under the Act; equally important is the Act’s delivery of public health and consumer protection outcomes to the general community (i.e. “public good”).
Furthermore, there are businesses not directly governed under the PPSA that would benefit commercially from a regulatory framework promoting the general safety and integrity of Tasmanian produce. This includes businesses producing lower risk food commodities (e.g. apple producers – not required to be accredited); and those in allied industries such as food retail, tourism and hospitality.
Annual Accreditation Fees
Rationale and principles
Equity: the same basic fee structure applies consistently across all businesses and industry sectors;
Practicality: the fee structure is simple to understand and easy to administer;
Scale and risk: the size, risk and the nature of a business are taken into account;
Transparency: the underlying rationale for the fee structure will be explicit and relevant to functions performed.
DPIPWE considered three accreditation fee models against the guidelines and principles outlined above.
Model 1 – single standard fee
Under this model an identical flat annual fee is applied to all businesses. It is transparent, simple to administer and consistent, but could be seen as inequitable because it indiscriminately distributes the burden equally among businesses, irrespective of business scale or risk. This model would place small producers at a comparative fee disadvantage and could impose an unwarranted barrier to entry for new and prospective businesses.
Model 2 – variable risk-based fee
Under this model each business is individually assessed according the level of food safety risk it involves. The higher the assessed level of risk associated with the business, the higher the accreditation fee. This model is transparent and clearly recognises scale and risk. However it fails in regard to practicality in that it will be very complex and expensive to administer. It would also be likely to impact much harder on some producers than others thereby raising issues of equity and consistency.
Model 3 – tiered standard fees (*preferred model)
This uses a simple tiered scale of fees, with businesses placed into one of three size categories (small, medium or large) according to the number of full time equivalent “produce handlers” working in the business. It recognises that a larger enterprise will generally require a higher level of risk management by virtue of its added complexity, and the greater volume of product being supplied to the market. This model also ensures that the annual fee will take account of a business’s size and significance (in terms of number of people directly participating) within the industry as whole.
Model 3 was found to best satisfy all the requirements of equity, transparency and practicality, and it is DPIPWE’s preferred model.
Standard fee schedule
DPIPWE has set the following standard schedule of annual accreditation fees to be applied across all food safety schemes:
(maximum number of full time equivalent (FTE)
produce handlers engaged)
Annual accreditation fee 2020/21|
(fee unit = $1.62)
|Small (less than 5 FTE)||175 = $283.50|
|Medium (5 – 50 FTE)||350 = $567.00|
|Large (more than 50 FTE)||750 = $1215.00|
Other Fees and Charges
In addition to annual accreditation fees producers must pay for an audit of their approved food safety program to be carried out at least once annually (unless a different interval is required by the Chief Inspector).
Audits can be carried out by an approved private third party auditor or by a DPIPWE auditor and will be charged according to market rates, on a fee for service basis.
There will be no direct charges to producers for a random inspection or “check audit” (to verify a third party audit) carried out by a DPIPWE authorised officer under the Act. However statutory fees will be charged for DPIPWE audits and inspections that are related to non-compliance with the Act or regulations.
Statutory fees also apply in relation to applications made under the Act such as an application for approval as a food safety auditor, or application for an accreditation or transfer of an accreditation. As with annual accreditation fees, it will be possible for these fees to be reduced or waived in the circumstances outlined below in Part 4.
DPIPWE has set the following application fees:
Application fee 2020/21 (fee unit = $1.62)
|Application for Accreditation||350 = $567|
|Application for Variation of Accreditation (Not including a variation or approval of a food safety program)||250 = $405|
|Application for Variation of Accreditation (Including a variation or approval of a food safety program)||300 = $486|
|Application for Approval of Food Safety Program||300 = $486|
|Application for Transfer of Accreditation||300 = $486|
|Application for Approval as Food Safety Auditor||75 = $283.50|
Sector-specific charges and levies
In some industry sectors additional charges or levies may be payable for programs that are specific to that particular industry.
An example of this would be the levy currently paid by bivalve shellfish producers in relation to the Shellfish Market Access Program.
Fee Reductions and Exemptions
Each food safety scheme includes a standard provision allowing fees to be reduced or waived in any of the following circumstances:
- the primary produce business involves exporting the produce to another country under a law of the Commonwealth;
- the primary produce business forms part of, or is attached to, a registered (retail) food business carried on by the person at the same premises at which the primary produce business is carried on;
- the primary produce business is carried on by an aboriginal person engaging in a primary production activity of traditional or cultural significance within the Tasmanian aboriginal community;
- the primary produce business requires accreditation under two or more food safety schemes;
- the primary produce business is carried on primarily for a charitable, educational or other non-commercial purpose;
- any other exceptional circumstances where a reduction or waiver of the fee or charge would be just and equitable.