Wounded industry looks to move on from Backpacker Tax saga

PICK ON: Grower groups have responded with gratitude to the signing of the 15pc backpacker tax deal but say the political process left a lot to be desired.
PICK ON: Grower groups have responded with gratitude to the signing of the 15pc backpacker tax deal but say the political process left a lot to be desired.

FARM groups have welcomed the newly signed 15 per cent backpacker tax but acknowledge scars have been left from the long political battle.

Rather than an overwhelming claim of victory, there was a general sense of relief among farmers and farm groups using social media accounts after the Greens voted in favour of the proposed 15pc rate last Thursday.

As part of the deal, the government has agreed to reduce the tax on backpacker superannuation from 95pc down to 65pc and allocate $100 million to the environmental Landcare program.

Victorian Farmers Federation horticulture vice president, Emma Germano, said although the deal would restore some certainty, damage had already been done which would take months to repair.  

“We can finally put this sorry saga behind us but it doesn’t say much for our political process that an issue as serious as the backpacker tax was allowed to drag on for 18 months when really it should have been settled before the election,” Ms Germano said.

“The agriculture sector has faced unfair stress because Labor, the crossbenchers and the Government played politics with our livelihoods for so long, to the point that many have been unable to find labour for this season’s harvest.”

This must never happen again. The farmers and growers of Australia deserve better.

Simon Bolles, Ausveg

Ausveg also labelled the process as damaging.

“We are incredibly pleased to see this compromise finally rule out the damaging 32.5pc tax rate that threatened our industry," Ausveg CEO, Simon Bolles, said.

“While we welcome the bipartisanship which has brought us this compromise deal, the treatment of this issue should serve as an example of the need to ensure industry is involved in policy development from start to finish. 

“The treatment of the backpacker tax issue is an indictment on our current Parliament, with growers seen to be held to ransom by political games until the last sitting day of the year.” 

“This must never happen again. The farmers and growers of Australia deserve better.”

Cotton Australia general manager, Michael Murray, said growers could now get on with the job.

“Finally, the issue of working holiday-maker taxation has been resolved. We welcome the compromise 15pc deal reached by those politicians who were willing to negotiate on this issue,” Mr Murray said.

“The 15pc tax rate restores Australia’s competitiveness as a destination for backpackers.”

He to made mention of the disappointment in the process to achieve the outcome.

The political games of the past 18 months do not represent the best of Australian politics and farmers are glad to see the issue of the Backpacker Tax in the rearview mirror.

Michael Murray, Cotton Australia

“The political games of the past 18 months do not represent the best of Australian politics and farmers are glad to see the issue of the Backpacker Tax in the rearview mirror,” he said.

Citrus Australia CEO Judith Damiani described it as "one of the more frustrating policies ever developed and debated in Australian Parliament".

"After enduring an unbelievable 18 months of policy debate and multiple reviews leading into an even more frustrating 48 hours, we welcome the last minute outcome brokered by the Greens," she said.

"Best of all it ends the uncertainty for growers and the political impasse in the Senate as well as providing a windfall for regional Australia and the environment."

Growcom shared the sigh of relief of its fellow organisations, with chief advocate Rachel Mackenzie saying a 15pc rate will ensure Australia will continue to be seen overseas as an attractive destination for working holiday makers.

"That we had to go through this disgraceful political circus for the past 18 months to get to this point will not be forgotten by growers in a long, long time," she said.

National Farmers Federation president Fiona Nash said the past 18 months of "tortuous debate, discussion and deliberation" had given way to commonsense.

"I thank the Government, the Greens, senator Leyonhjelm, the NXT Senate team and the One Nation senators for their contribution and support for the package of measures that got the deal done," Ms Nash said.

That we had to go through this disgraceful political circus for the past 18 months to get to this point will not be forgotten by growers in a long, long time.

Rachel Mackenzie, Growcom

"The process did not bring out the best in our political system but I am relieved that an outcome was reached."

Queensland Farmers’ Federation (QFF) president Stuart Armitage delivered a strong response for politicians.

“The entire backpacker tax episode will be remembered as a disappointing chapter in Australian politics where farmers were used as pawns in an unnecessary, highly politicised power struggle,” he said.

“Queensland farmers finally have the certainty we have been calling for and deserve.”

WAFarmers chief executive officer Stephen Brown said growers in his state would be breathing easier.

“Australia’s 40,000 backpackers contribute approximately $3.5 billion to the economy and their presence in Australia boosts not only productivity in the agricultural sector, but also communities and businesses which rely on tourism spending, so the decision to back the 15pc tax rate really is a no-brainer," he said.

“Together, we’ve been through highs and lows, and have heard firsthand how the varied suggestions for tax rates would affect the livelihoods of farmers and their families.

“Despite some trying times, we have never lost sight of our goal, and we applaud and thank everyone involved for their dedication and ongoing support for the agricultural industry on this issue, particularly Sarah McKinnon and the team at the NFF.”​