Town awaits tax decision

BACKPACKERS: French backpackers Thibaud Vial and Floran Doudon ready to start picking watermelons as the decision on the backpacker tax looms.

BACKPACKERS: French backpackers Thibaud Vial and Floran Doudon ready to start picking watermelons as the decision on the backpacker tax looms.

KATHERINE employment agency owner Andrew Coldbeck says the controversial backpacker tax would have a serious effect on the region if it goes ahead.

Mr Coldbeck believes the introduction of a 32.5 per cent tax on working holiday makers would leave a labour shortage in Katherine.

NEARLY READY: Farmers await the decision to implement a 32.5 per cent tax on backpackers with mango season around the corner.

NEARLY READY: Farmers await the decision to implement a 32.5 per cent tax on backpackers with mango season around the corner.

He said the tax would have worse effect on regional areas like Katherine and Kununurra than it would in the major centres in the southern states.

“Anecdotally, the people that we see a lot are aware of it and they think it’s unfair,” he said. 

“If they’re just working a 38 hour week in horticulture with the new tax they’ll get $150-a-week less in their hand.

Earlier this week, Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce said they would make a decision made about the tax in about a month, with any changes to take effect on January 1.

Thibaud Vial is a backpacker from France who has been in Katherine around two months and has just started work harvesting watermelons. 

Mr Vial said a major part of his working holiday is to travel across Australia so the introduction of a 32.5 per cent tax would not stop him from working in Australia.

However, he said it would make him think about other options and maybe shorten his stay.

“If the tax came in I would probably stay for a year but not the second year,” he said.

“Some people would not come back to work and they would go to New Zealand where it’s a bit cheaper, I worked there last year.”

The federal government enlisted the help of independent consultants Deloitte who held public consultations across the country about the tax.

Mr Coldbeck attended a public consultation in Darwin where he said the superannuation rebate for backpackers was heavily discussed.

He said representatives from several industries including hospitality, construction and horticulture went to the session.

“The view is that the superannuation should be re-funded to the government and the tax should be reduced without a tax free threshold,” he said.

“There was two English girls in here the other day who had just been re-funded $2000.

“They said we have access to the medical facilities here and we drive on the roads and they would have been happy not to get that back, it’s a real bonus for them.”

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