Time is up for farmers to stop backpacker tax
Agriculture groups call on Federal Government to come to a quick resolution
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.