No reprieve on delay in backpacker tax decision

17th May 2016

Voice of Horticulture has welcomed the Federal Government’s move to back down on the controversial backpacker tax for six months while a review into working holiday visas occurs.

However, Voice of Horticulture chair, Tania Chapman questioned whether the new review, to be conducted by the Federal Agriculture Minister Barnaby Joyce, was just a “smokescreen” to get the Government through the next election.

Assistant Treasurer Kelly O'Dwyer today announced that the Government would conduct a review of working holiday visas and postpone any changes to the current system until January next year.

Ms Chapman stressed that “…it wasn’t feasible for the Federal Government to introduce a tax of 32.5 per cent on every working dollar a holidaying backpacker earns”.

“I am not saying backpackers should not be taxed, but it needs to be at a reasonable rate of say between 15 and 19 per cent which makes it comparable to other countries such as Canada and New Zealand.

“What our politicians have to understand is that this issue is huge in all regional parts of Australia who rely heavily on backpackers to harvest their crops.

“To date, most of the backpackers out here have been sending messages back home saying Australia is not worth visiting in terms of a working holiday.”

Ms Chapman was quick to add that she was very wary that in six months’ time “we may end up in the same boat”.

“All the policy makers involved in this new review need to visit rural and regional Australia to appreciate what we do,” she said.

“Horticulture is the largest employer in Agriculture – this includes not just backpackers but local labour – and without this sector a lot of rural and regional communities will go backwards."

“There is more than enough analytical evidence out there for policy makers to gain a true understanding of the impact such a tax would have on the supply of fresh Australian fruit and vegetables to capital cities. Not to mention the damage that could occur to our export market opportunities.”

Ms Chapman stressed that “…backpackers’ contribute more than $3.5 billion to the economy each year and around 40,000 found employment on Australian farms. We need more of them, not less or $10 billion worth of crops will be left to rot."

But damage has already been done in terms of luring backpackers to Australia as a labour force, she said.

“The Federal Government needs to rollout a new campaign assuring backpackers that Australia is the place to have a working holiday with guarantees they will get a fair days pay, with a fair tax rate, for a fair days work – the old Aussie motto.”

Media contacts

Tania Chapman
Chair, Voice of Horticulture
0428 291 717

John Dollisson
Director, Voice of Horticulture
0413 111 123

Follow news about Voice of Horticulture on Twitter via #voiceofhort