Backpacker backflip begrudges

Andrew Tillett and Rueben HaleCountryman
York farmer Peter Boyle.
Camera IconYork farmer Peter Boyle. Credit: Countryman

Although the dispute on the backpacker tax has been settled, not all are happy with the outcome achieved on the last sitting day of Parliament as the Government agreed to compromises to end the year on a high.

Last Friday the Greens saved Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull’s bacon over the backpacker tax but the 11th-hour deal has punched a further $155 million hole in the Budget.

The Government claims the package — which includes a headline rate of 15 per cent on working holidaymakers plus a $5 increase in the departure tax — will leave the Budget better off by about $560 million over four years, compared with the $760 million the tax would have raised at the 32.5 per cent rate.

But WA sheep producer and grower Peter Boyle says the Federal Government should never have introduced a backpacker tax in the first place.

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Mr Boyle uses backpackers to help him on his York farm, which grows about 5500ha of various crops and thousands of sheep predominantly for live export.

“The Government don’t seem to understand that it is difficult to attract people willing to work on farms,” he said. “And the superannuation concession as part of getting this deal across the line is a con because whether it is 95 per cent or the now 65 per cent they’ve come down to, it is just another tax on Australian wage earners.”

Mr Boyle said his backpackers spent the money they earned in the local economy.

“When my guys have a day or two off they usually go to places like Margaret River and other tourists destinations as paying customers,” he said.

Mr Boyle said the NFF had not represented farmers’ true needs.

“The NFF became the Government’s spokesman on the issue and shifted to accommodate whatever Barnaby Joyce said about the tax,” he said.

“They were reactive throughout the entire debate and never led the charge. The fact that it came down to the leadership of Jacqui Lambie and others in the Senate to stand up for farmers and represent change, shows how poorly the Federal Government represents the interests of agriculture in this country.”

WoolProducers Australia said it backed the 15 pc tax, claiming it was fair, internationally competitive and recognised the unique nature of seasonal work.

“We don’t believe that backpackers should pay less tax than those on the Seasonal Worker Program,” senior vice-president Ed Storey said.

“Like many agricultural industries, backpacker labour is playing an increasingly important role in Australia’s wool industry, with many woolgrowers and shearing contractors relying on them to fill the employment shortfall.”

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