Political backtracking on backpacker tax in lead up to federal election

Posted by AFN Staff Writers on 18th May 2016

BackpackerThe Federal Government will delay the introduction of its ‘backpacker tax’ by six months to conduct a review which may see it scrapped altogether.

The decision has been described by those against it as an attempt to remove the controversial tax out of the public arena until after the 2016 federal election in July.

The tax, originally planned to come into effect 1 July 2016, was created to remove the tax-free threshold and increase taxes for those who come to Australia under the Working Holiday Maker program.

Fruit and vegetable industry pushes for abolition

Since the tax was revealed in the 2015 Federal Budget, Australian fruit and vegetable industry representative bodies have lobbied against it concerned it will deter overseas workers.

Vegetable grower’s representative group, AUSVEG, yesterday welcomed the delay.

“The Federal Government’s decision to review the backpacker tax is a welcome sign that they are finally acknowledging the concerns held by the Australian agriculture industry, and we hope that this is a step on the road towards the implementation of a more reasonable solution,” White said.

“Australian vegetable growers rely on backpackers to offset domestic labour shortages and perform the high amounts of manual labour needed in vegetable production. Whether the tax is introduced at the currently proposed level now or in six months, the effect will be the same – it will threaten the availability of this vital labour source and leave growers unable to get crops off the field.”

Deferral simply not good enough: QLD Farmers’ Federation

The delay was however not welcomed by all groups with the QLD Farmers’ Federation (QFF) labelling the deferral “simply not good enough”.

“This announcement will not provide the certainly agricultural and tourism operators have been calling for and is out of touch with the needs of our industries and regional communities,” QFF Chief Executive Officer, Ruth Wade said.

Horticulture, fruit and vegetable representative group, GrowCom said growers were mad that they are now left in a state of uncertainty.

“For many crops such as bananas, mangoes, melons, stone fruit, lychees, grapes, pineapples and vegetables, January is the height of picking season in many regional areas but growers will not know whether they will have any workers to harvest their crops,” GrowCom Chief Advocate, Rachel Mackenzie said.

“The time for reviews and more talk is over. This is nothing short of using growers’ livelihoods as a political football and is very disappointing,” Mackenzie said.

It is expected the review will be completed by mid-October 2016 and a final decision made in November 2016 after the July 2016 federal election.