Or­chardists re­lieved as back­packer tax slashed

Agri­cul­tural in­dus­try wel­comes 19 per cent tax rate for work­ing hol­i­day mak­ers

North East & Goulburn Murray Farmer - - FRONT PAGE - BY JODIE FLEM­ING jflem­ing@ne­me­dia.com.au

FARM­ERS across Vic­to­ria’s North East and the Goul­burn Val­ley are breath­ing a sigh of re­lief af­ter the Fed­eral Govern­ment scrapped its pro­posed 32.5 per cent tax on back­pack­ers re­plac­ing it with a 19 per cent rate.

Third gen­er­a­tion Mooroopna or­chardist Peter Hall said the tax cut was “an im­prove­ment” – putting Aus­tralia on equal foot­ing with other coun­tries that use hol­i­day­mak­ers as a main source of hor­ti­cul­tural labour.

“It brings it (the rate) into line with other com­pa­ra­ble coun­tries that back­pack­ers would find at­trac­tive to visit,” he said.

“We need as many op­tions for har­vest labour as pos­si­ble and any re­duc­tion in the avail­abil­ity of work­ers or any im­ped­i­ment to work­ers com­ing to our area is a chal­lenge.

“For us, in par­tic­u­lar, we have a unique labour re­quire­ment and it needs to be timely as the work is spas­modic, so we really need a source of flex­i­ble labour that these back­pack­ers of­fer us.” The 54-year-old farmer – who grows ap­ples, pears, plums and peaches sup­ply­ing local mar­kets, chain stores, SPC Ard­mona and over­seas mar­kets – said that for as long as he could re­mem­ber his fam­ily had used the work­ing hol­i­day­mak­ers to help with har­vest.

“The back­packer com­po­nent of our labour force is con­sid­er­able… it’s not a small num­ber,” he said.

“They are a sig­nif­i­cant part of our work­force in the Goul­burn Val­ley.

“We have used back­pack­ers for as long as we have had or­chards.

“I re­mem­ber when I was a kid on my grand­fa­ther’s or­chard there were al­ways peo­ple from dif­fer­ent coun­tries com­ing to work.

“We have al­ways mixed up the work­force de­pend­ing on the de­mand, but we also use lo­cals, refugees and sea­sonal work­ers,” Mr Hall added.

Farm­ing lobby groups the Vic­to­rian Farm­ers Fed­er­a­tion (VFF) and the Na­tional Farm­ers’ Fed­er­a­tion (NFF) have called it a ma­jor vic­tory for agri­cul­ture with VFF Hor­ti­cul­ture vice pres­i­dent Emma Ger­mano stat­ing that is was “fan­tas­tic” that the Fed­eral Govern­ment has taken the groups’ con­cerns on board.

“The pro­posal orig­i­nally put for­ward by the govern­ment would have been a mas­sive drain on two of our big­gest in­dus­tries – agri­cul­ture and tourism – be­cause work­ing hol­i­day mak­ers bring in about $3.5 bil­lion to the Aus­tralian econ­omy ev­ery year, but now we can breathe a sigh of re­lief,” she said.

But Ms Ger­mano ac­knowl­edged that the VFF had con­cerns over the govern­ment’s plans to tax back­pack­ers 95 per cent on su­per­an­nu­a­tion ac­crued while work­ing in Aus­tralia.

“We were told at the round­table dis­cus­sions in­dus­try had with govern­ment ear­lier this year that su­per was off the ta­ble, and not to make any rec­om­men­da­tions on this area.

“But now Trea­surer Mor­ri­son has an­nounced a large-scale re­form to su­per and we would ap­pre­ci­ate the chance to re­spond.

“We have said that if back­pack­ers want to work in Aus­tralia, they need to be taxed like the rest of us, but the govern­ment needs to be rea­son­able in its ap­proach,” Ms Ger­mano said.

Mr Hall said he wasn’t sure if there will be any im­pact on the amount of su­per­an­nu­a­tion the back­pack­ers will be re­quired to pay as they of­ten don’t claim it.

“The su­per­an­nu­a­tion is a bit un­usual.

“We have to pay it as the farmer, but they really don’t use it, so why should we pay it any­way?

“It is a cost to us as the fruit grower so we would pre­fer to not have it,” Mr Hall said.

NFF pres­i­dent Brent Fin­lay said they were “de­lighted” that a tax that would have hurt farm pro­duc­tion and, ul­ti­mately, the Aus­tralian econ­omy will not go ahead.

“The na­ture of these types of work­ing ar­range­ments is that farm­ers need an im­me­di­ate, tem­po­rary work­force and back­pack­ers want im­me­di­ate cash in their pock­ets to spend while trav­el­ling – so the ap­proach makes sense,” he said.

“We now look for­ward to see­ing fur­ther de­tail of the an­nounce­ment and work­ing with govern­ment to make sure we have back­pack­ers com­ing to our coun­try who are ea­ger to work on our farms and con­trib­ute to our ru­ral and re­gional com­mu­ni­ties.”

AUSVEG chief ex­ec­u­tive of­fi­cer Si­mon Bolles said the de­ci­sion was a wel­come re­lief for the hor­ti­cul­ture in­dus­try and they were pleased the tax is now more in line with the rate back­pack­ers pay in New Zealand, Canada and the UK.

“It re­mains to be seen what im­pact the re­vised tax will have on the num­ber of back­pack­ers com­ing to Aus­tralia, but we are thank­ful to the govern­ment for com­ing to a com­pro­mise po­si­tion sig­nif­i­cantly lower than what was ini­tially pro­posed,” he said.

“We will mon­i­tor back­packer num­bers un­der the re­vised rate to see if back­packer num­bers fal­ter and whether fur­ther in­ter­ven­tion is re­quired,” Mr Bolles said.

FAIR TAX: Back­pack­ers who come to work on local farms will now be charged 19 per cent tax on their earn­ings.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Australia

© PressReader. All rights reserved.