Growers used as pawns in a backpacker tax debate that could have seen crops devastated
1st December 2016
Horticulture groups and growers across Australia have breathed a sigh of relief with the much awaited news that a backpacker 15 per cent tax rate has finally been passed by the Federal Government.
The controversial tax rate would have to be the most talked about news item in the country for the past fortnight. Voice of Horticulture, peak body for the horticulture industry, applauded that an outcome had occurred before the end of the 2016 Parliamentary year.
Chair Tania Chapman said that “… at the end of the day, whilst a compromise was required for an outcome to occur… we thank those political groups that were willing to co-operate, because it shows that for the first time in the 18-months since the debate had erupted, someone, or group, has put the growers ahead of their own political gain”.
When a bill was originally passed, that government would retain 95 per cent of backpackers’ superannuation, one of the key recommendations from the Voice of Horticulture was that all superannuation money collected from the backpackers should be spent in rural and regional Australia.
In saying this, Ms Chapman referred to the $100 million the Coalition has promised the Greens Party in order to seal and finalise the backpacker debate, and wanted to reinforce that “ … while the money was for Landcare, growers already protected the environment, land and waterways”.
“If anything, the influx of funding for Landcare will be used to reinforce the way growers already protect their environment – which is the basis in growing quality food crops year-in-year out” she stressed.
Ms Chapman added that it was now imperative a clear message was sent to all those potential backpackers and workers around the World, “… that we openly welcome backpackers, we value their contribution, we will treat them fairly and Australia is an amazing place to visit and work”.
“While the decision is very good news, we must not forget our growers have been living on the edge for so long wondering whether their crops would even be able to be harvested this season” she said.
“We have seen our horticultural industries including the 25 – 30,000 growers as well as industry people live with this uncertainly for a long time as well as being used as pawns in today’s political battle.
“If this is the new process for future legislation and political debate by our politicians then we are in for a very tough time, both in our cities and rural Australia.”
The Voice of Horticulture is a member based organization that represents horticultural growers and business across fruit, vegetables, nuts, mushrooms, turf, nursery plants and cut flowers.