Time is up for farm­ers to stop back­packer tax

Agri­cul­ture groups call on Fed­eral Gov­ern­ment to come to a quick res­o­lu­tion

North East & Goulburn Murray Farmer - - NEWS -

TIME has run out for farm­ers want­ing to con­vince the Fed­eral Gov­ern­ment to aban­don its back­packer tax, with sub­mis­sions hav­ing to be lodged on the con­tro­ver­sial tax by Septem­ber 2.

Deputy Prime Min­is­ter and Min­is­ter for Agri­cul­ture and Wa­ter Re­sources Barn­aby Joyce re­cently an­nounced a re­view of the gov­ern­ment’s pro­posed 32.5 per cent tax on work­ing hol­i­day mak­ers which is due to come into ef­fect on Jan­uary 1, 2017.

Vic­to­rian Farm­ers Fed­er­a­tion (VFF) hor­ti­cul­ture vice pres­i­dent Emma Ger­mano said that while it is “great” the Fed­eral Gov­ern­ment is tak­ing no­tice of the peo­ple who will be af­fected by the tax; those want­ing to lodge sub­mis­sions to the re­view only have un­til the early Septem­ber dead­line.

“Back­pack­ers are a ma­jor source of labour for farm­ers across the na­tion and this tax threat­ens to drive them away, to choose work­ing hol­i­days in other na­tions,” she said.

“Our farm­ers know the back­packer tax is a se­ri­ous threat to their abil­ity to re­cruit har­vest labour, so we’re glad to see Min­is­ter Joyce has ac­knowl­edged the prob­lem, which is a pos­i­tive step.

“But we’ve been fight­ing this tax for more than a year, in which time we came up with so­lu­tions that the gov­ern­ment re­jected.

“So it’s frus­trat­ing that we now have less than a month to come back and tell them what we’ve al­ready said,” Ms Ger­mano said.

She added that the re­view pro­cess should have started ear­lier to give the com­mu­nity and gov­ern­ment more time to make an in­formed de­ci­sion on the fu­ture of the back­packer tax.

“In­stead of start­ing a new re­view pro­cess, the gov­ern­ment should have pro­vided some kind of feed­back on our sub­mis­sion to the last re­view of the tax (in April this year).

“The back­packer tax is a threat to two of our big­gest in­dus­tries – agri­cul­ture and tourism – and it isn’t go­ing to go away un­til it’s dealt with prop­erly.

“Work­ing hol­i­day mak­ers bring in about $3.5 bil­lion to the Aus­tralian econ­omy ev­ery year, and we risk los­ing that rev­enue if the back­packer tax goes ahead,” she said.

The back­packer tax was sched­uled to be im­ple­mented from July 1 this year but was de­layed pend­ing a fur­ther re­view.

The VFF to­gether with the Na­tional Farm­ers’ Fed­er­a­tion (NFF) lodged a sub­mis­sion op­pos­ing the tax.

NFF pres­i­dent Brent Fin­lay said that while he was pleased the re­view was fi­nally un­der way a quick res­o­lu­tion rul­ing out the mea­sure is what the in­dus­try ex­pects.

“NFF will ac­tively par­tic­i­pate in the re­view, and will be seek­ing to meet with the con­sul­tants lead­ing the re­view as soon as pos­si­ble, to en­sure they un­der­stand how im­por­tant this is­sue is for Aus­tralian agri­cul­ture.

“We con­tinue to urge the gov­ern­ment to aban­don this ill-con­ceived mea­sure which will ul­ti­mately dam­age the econ­omy in the long term,” Mr Fin­lay said.

AUSVEG na­tional man­ager – pub­lic af­fairs Jor­dan Brooke-Bar­nett said the na­tional body rep­re­sent­ing Aus­tralia’s veg­etable grow­ers is pleased that the re­view has com­menced but added it would be “in­cred­i­bly dis­ap­point­ing” to see grow­ers suf­fer as a re­sult of a “short­sighted pol­icy de­ci­sion” that failed to ac­knowl­edge the flow-on ef­fects of hav­ing back­pack­ers live and work in re­gional Aus­tralia.

“We’d like to see this re­view re­sult in a sen­si­ble so­lu­tion that ac­knowl­edges the vi­tal role that back­pack­ers play in the veg­etable in­dus­try, as well as many other in­dus­tries, and avoids dam­ag­ing re­gional economies,” he said.

TRAV­EL­LING WORK­FORCE: Back­pack­ers pro­vide labour to many ru­ral in­dus­tries, but the ex­tent to which they are taxed is a hot potato.

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