Levy Relief Package
To assist Commonwealth fisheries the Levy Relief Package provided under the Assistance for Severely Affected Regions (Special Appropriation) (Coronavirus Economic Response Package) Bill 2020, made around $10.3 million available to AFMA in order to waive any further levies for all Commonwealth fisheries for the remainder of the 2019-20 year.
The package provided relief for Commonwealth concession holders from payment of:
- April and May instalments prescribed under the Fishing Levy Amendment (2019-20 Levy Amounts) Regulations 2019 (Fishing Levy)
- April instalment prescribed under the Fisheries Levy (Torres Strait Prawn Fishery) Amendment (Levy Amount) Regulations 2019 (TSPF Levy).
The legislative implementation of the package involved seeking approval from the Finance Minister to:
- the waiver of levy instalment amounts outstanding pursuant to section 63 of the PGPA Act totalling some $7.9 million
- act of grace payments on behalf of the Commonwealth pursuant to section 65 of the PGPA Act for levy amounts already receipted for relevant levy instalments totalling some $2.5 million.
Approvals under PGPA Act s63 and s65 were received from Senator the Hon Zed Seselja, Assistant Minister for Finance, Charities and Electoral Matters on 8 May 2020.
AFMA worked with its Commonwealth concession holders to ensure the timely refund of levy instalment amounts already paid, some $2.5 million. Commonwealth concession holders were asked to complete a ‘reimbursement of levy form’ detailing all necessary information to ensure that refund requests could be verified for accurate and fast payment into their nominated bank accounts. The first payment batch of ‘refunds’, totalling some $2.1 million was processed on 15 May 2020 with remaining refunds processed regularly as verified. Reimbursement of levy Instalment forms were provided. All Commonwealth concession holders were refunded before 30 June 2020. All debt waivers, totalling some $7.9 million were processed in May 2020.
The COVID-19 pandemic impacted a number of AFMA’s activities from March 2020 onwards. The key flow-on financial impacts included: lower employee benefits expenditure as limited recruitment was undertaken and lower travel expenditure due to restrictions on domestic and international travel.
AFMA reported a surplus attributable to the Australian Government of $2.4 million for the 2019-20 financial year compared with a budgeted loss of $1.6 million, or $4.0 million less than budget. Key drivers of this result are provided below.
Employee benefits costs were $2.2 million lower due to significantly lower Average Staffing Levels (ASL) for the year (150.9 ASL compared to a budget of 177.0 ASL). Due to the impacts of COVID-19, there was limited recruitment undertaken from March 2020 onwards as the organisation adapted to more remote working arrangements and limited field operations, further exacerbating below-budget staffing levels.
Suppliers were $0.3 million lower mainly due to:
- lower travel and staff-related costs
- lower expenditure on printing and publications with the move to paperless operations
- offset somewhat by higher expenditure on contractors and consultancies relating primarily to priority information technology and governance projects, along with higher vessel monitoring system costs provided to state and territory governments.
Resources received free of charge were $1.5 million higher than budget due to the transfer of the Pearls Building and land on Thursday Island.