FARMERS will descend on Canberra today to bring the realities of the ongoing backpacker tax uncertainty to MPs and Senators.
National Farmers Federation chief executive officer Tony Mahar said the eight farmers will descend on parliament despite a lack of interest from key parliamentary decision makers to meet with them.
“The message to the politicians is simple,” Mr Mahar said.
“Throwing your hands up and saying ‘we’ve done all we can do’ is not good enough. Please stop the buck passing and compromise on a tax this week that is fair and reasonable
“The NFF has said that the tax should represent a rate that attracts backpackers into the sector and is comparable to the rates paid to Australian workers. With this in mind, we proposed a fairer tax rate in the range of 15 per cent to 19pc, unless the parliament determined that a lower rate was appropriate.
“In our view while ever the government sees the tax as a budget fix measure and while ever the Opposition and cross benchers see it as a political wedge, we won’t get an outcome.
“With the farmers here I hope they can see that the outcome is actually about real people, real jobs and real communities.”
Group spokesperson and persimmon grower, Brett Guthrey, said coming to Canberra was about telling his story in the hope that it “flicks the switch” in forcing the politicians to come together and agree on a sensible compromise this week.
“We are already bearing the brunt of the failure of the parliament to find a workable compromise on the backpacker tax,” Mr Guthrey said.
“Sourcing backpacker labour is getting harder and harder. Our fruit is going to rot on the trees.
“This uncertainty is hurting our businesses now and it is causing pain and anxiety in families and communities. Even if an outcome is reached this week, damage has been done. Attracting backpackers back to our sector will be difficult for many seasons to come.
“We are astonished that the parliament can’t put aside the politics and do what it is paid to do, find solutions in the interests of Australia.
“Getting the issue resolved should just not be this hard.”
Member for Maranoa, David Littleproud, said the regions that relied on backpacker labour were at the mercy of a Senate decision to continue the tax stand-off.
“Packing and picking is in limbo as Labor backs Tasmanian Senator Jacqui Lambie’s move to halve the government’s backpacker tax rate,” Mr Littleproud said.
“The coalition government consulted widely with industry and came up with a tax rate which has struck the right balance between attracting working holiday makers and offering a competitive tax rate internationally.
“These two senators are playing politics, driving an industry off a cliff because they’ve failed to listen to what the agriculture and tourism sectors want.
“I feel particularly frustrated because Senator Hanson is now doing the one thing she said she’d never do, and that’s play politics with the lives the Queenslanders she has been entrusted to represent.”
Mr Littleproud said the reform package ensured working holidaymakers paid a fair rate of tax, and Australia remained a destination of choice for backpackers.
“Balancing these two principles is essential for the future of farmers and tourism operators who rely on transient labour to meet peak demand in their industries,” Mr Littleproud said.
With only two weeks remaining in the Federal Parliamentary sitting calendar this year, passage of this reform bill is an urgent priority for local producers.