A TSUNAMI of discontent from farm groups is swelling against Canberra over its handling of the backpacker tax.
The surge comes after crossbench Senators Derryn Hinch, One Nation’s Rod Culleton and Tasmanian Independent Jacqui Lambie rejected a compromise of a 15 per cent tax rate yesterday.
4:15PM: Greens break backpacker tax impasse
The Australian Greens have announced they’ve done a deal with the federal government to break the backpacker tax deadlock, agreeing to a 15 per cent rate.
Australian Greens Leader Dr Richard Di Natale said today was a great day for farmers and the environment, with the deal also seeing an added $100 million going into the Landcare program.
3:35PM: Sky News has reported the Greens will support a backpacker tax rate of 15 per cent, giving the government a Senate majority.
3:15PM: And now for some light comic relief, while the debate continues in Canberra, from our friends at Good Fruit and Vegetables:
2:30PM: Queensland farmers have accused Shadow Agriculture Minister Joel Fitzgibbon of misinterpreting a conversation about the farm group sharing Labor’s 10.5 per cents position on the backpacker tax.
Mr Fitzgibbon held a media conference today in Canberra where he accused PM Malcolm Turnbull of having lied this morning on a number of occasions to the Australian community on the issue and telling so-called rich, European backpackers ‘you’re not welcome here’.
1:40PM: The Sydney Morning Herald is reporting the National Farmers Federation is now on board with a 13 per cent backpacker tax.
However, National Farmers Federation tweet says:
1:30PM: Former Tasmanian Liberal Senator and cabinet minister Richard Colbeck says while it is fair to say the government has not covered itself in glory with its handling of the backpacker tax, the circumstance that we find ourselves in now has become just silly and the only ones to suffer will be tourism operators, farmers and other users of this important source of casual seasonal labour.
12:35PM: Senator Derryn Hinch has spoken about the backpacker tax at Parliament House in Canberra:
Sydney Morning Herald is reporting Labor is about to announce it would support a backpacker tax rate of 13 per cent.
Mr Turnbull has been saying Labor needed to compromise. The question is whether the Coalition will.
Senators Hinch, Lambie and Culleton also support the 13pc figure.
Backpacker tax: Malcolm Turnbull attacks Bill Shorten for favouring 'rich white kids' from Europe
With time running out to find a solution to the backpacker tax impasse, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has ramped up his rhetoric on the issue by accusing Opposition Leader Bill Shorten of favouring "rich white kids from Europe" over poor Pacific Islanders and young Australians.
This disgrace will be remembered says Growcom
Peak horticulture body Growcom has called on the crossbenchers, Labor and the Greens to pass the 15 per cent backpacker tax rate in the Parliament or be complicit in condemning industry to 32.5pc.
“Today will live in infamy if politicians can't agree to a compromise position on the backpacker tax rate in the next few hours," said Growcom chief advocate Rachel Mackenzie.
“Ironically, by refusing to support the fair rate of 15 per cent agreed to by industry they are tacitly endorsing the Coalition’s dodgy budget measure of 32.5pc.”
Ms Mackenzie said horticultural growers across Queensland would not forget today’s performance by politicians and their apparent inability to come to a compromise in the Parliament for the benefit of the horticultural industry.
“Without a compromise today, these politicians are just putting in a 32.5pc tax regime for working holiday makers on January 1. The industry will not forget," she said.
“It is a disgrace that in these last available hours of deliberation in the Parliament for the year, politicians are quibbling about a few percentage points either way when the horticultural industry has accepted 15pc and while the spectre of 32.5 per cent looms over the horticultural industry from 1 January."
WoolProducers Australia stands by a 15pc
Australia's wool growers believe the 15pc rate is fair, internationally competitive and recognises the unique nature of seasonal work.
WoolProducers Australia senior vice president Ed Storey doesn’t believe backpackers should pay less tax than those on the Seasonal Worker Program.
“Senators need to stop thinking about their own political games, pass the legislation and move on. It’s not about them - it is about Australian business wanting to get on and produce things,” he said.
Shadow Minister for Agriculture Joel Fitzgibbon says Turnbull and Joyce to blame for backpacker debacle
Shadow Minister for Agriculture Joel Fitzgibbon has released a statement saying Malcolm Turnbull has lost the plot by claiming Labor believes “rich white kids from Europe should pay less tax than Pacific Islanders working here to send money back to their villages”.
Mr Fitzgibbon says this is a lie and under the tax rules for backpackers, 95 per cent of their compulsory super contributions are claimed by the government when they leave Australia.
“The combination of super tax and the tax rate means the effective tax rate for backpackers under Labor’s compromise of 10.5 per cent is higher than for the Seasonal Worker Program, as these workers are not subject to the same superannuation clawback arrangements.
“In addition, under Labor’s 10.5 per cent compromise, there is no income level at which someone on a working holiday visa pays less tax than an Australian worker.
“There is no one else to blame but Malcolm Turnbull and Barnaby Joyce for the backpacker tax debacle they find themselves in.”
Australian Dairy Farmers says months of indecision have hurt the dairy sector
ADF said every day the backpacker tax issue remained unresolved hurt the dairy industry and rural Australia.
ADF president, David Basham, said after 18 months of continued lobbying, the agricultural sector needed a decision that ensured certainty for backpackers and employers.
“We need the message out there now that backpackers are welcome on our farms and to do this we need a fair tax rate,” he said.
“We believe that backpackers should not pay less tax than those on the seasonal worker program, which is primarily an aid program.”
ADF said the government’s decision to reduce the proposed tax rate from 32.5 per cent to 15pc cent tax maintained Australia’s status as a competitive destination for working holiday makers, while ensuring they pay a fair level of tax.
“Compromises have already been put on the table and it is crucial for the industry that this is resolved,” Mr Basham said.
“The Labor party promised the issue would be resolved before the end of this year.”
Avocados Australia says legislation must be passed today
Avocados Australia chief executive John Tyas said the industry was already immensely disappointed the government would be pocketing 95 per cent of backpackers’ superannuation – a cost that industry would be having to bear the brunt of – and something that seems to have been hidden in this debate.
“At the moment, we’re seeing the government giving with one hand while taking with the other,” he said.
“Our position is that as long as the new backpacker’s tax rate stays between 10.5 and 15 per cent, growers can live with that. But sort it out so our growers and backpackers have some certainty.
“Our farmers need these workers to do their job of supplying Australians with premium grade, highly nutritious food.
“Without backpackers working in the avocado industry, everyone will suffer the cost.”
Victorian Farmers Federation sends a final plea to Canberra
Victoria’s peak farmer group is imploring Labor and crossbench senators to consider the impact of a 32.5 per cent backpacker tax if the political deadlock isn’t resolved by the time parliament rises this afternoon.
VFF Horticulture vice president Emma Germano said if the Senators understood the damage this stalemate was causing thousands of family farmers across the country they would surely compromise.
“Farmers are accustomed to dealing with natural disasters that destroy harvests, but no one expects – or plans for – a political disaster that will destroy a year’s work and income.”
Ms Germano said that if this issue wasn’t resolved today farmers would suffer the most and consumers would pay more for fresh food, with fruit likely to be left rotting on trees and vines, and vegetables rotting in the ground.
“The 15 per cent tax rate is in line with the Seasonal Worker Program, an aid program that lets Pacific Islanders work on Australian farms to earn money they can take back to support their families.
“This may not be the perfect number but it is a number we should all be able to accept in the interests of the community.”
Australian Mangoes’ Robert Gray says growers tired of this behaviour by politicians
Mango growers are disappointed that during harvest season their industry is being put at jeopardy by politicians.
A Twitter statement said while the group was breathing a sigh of relief on Tuesday, now they were looking at further uncertainty and the potential return to the default position of 32.5 per cent tax rate.
Mr Gray said the proposed rate of 15pc was strongly supported by mango growers across Australia.
“It is a fair rate, that is internationally competitive and recognises the unique nature of seasonal work.”
Mr Gray has contacted Senators Derryn Hinch and Rod Culleton to voice his concern and urge them to put the issue to bed.
“The whole issue of this tax has been poorly handled and the uncertainty is a real concern.
“If the proposed new rate of 15pc does not get passed this week, then the default position of 32.5pc comes into play on January 1 – this could now have come at a worse time for the growers, many of whom will be in the middle of harvest.
“Losing workers at this time could have a devastating effect, and result in mangoes left on the trees.”
Derryn Hinch: Just another politician
The Australian Financial Review’s Phillip Coorey wrote this opinion piece, writing that in one action on Wednesday, Derryn Hinch became everything he spent years on the radio railing against: A politician who says one thing and does another.
Dairy Connect says politicians must `extract their digits’
The game of political brinkmanship playing out over the backpacker tax in federal parliament is symptomatic of a serious disconnect between politicians and primary production businesses in regional Australia, according to Dairy Connect .
It said no politician could take home any pride in the fact yesterday’s proposed 15 per cent tax compromise failed in the Upper House.
“No doubt, very few members of federal parliament have ever run a small farming business or a business of any sort,” said chief executive officer, Shaughn Morgan.
“The vast majority have never had to roll out of bed at 4am seven days a week to begin milking or to start harvesting carrots at dawn.
“They clearly have no idea of the critical seasonality of labour supply and just seem to stare blankly when told repeatedly by industry that: ‘This is serious!’.”
“Our politicians are simply playing power games and ignoring the economic realities of life on the farm.”
9AM: Farm sector condemns politicians over backpacker tax debacle
The new rate of 10.5PC voted on in the Senate must now go back to the House of Representatives and it seems unlikely the Coalition will back it. Click here to read more.
Unprecedented farmer anger at political game-playing over backpacker tax
The National Farmers’ Federation says there’s unprecedented disillusionment and anger among the farm sector at the political games being played over the backpacker tax in Canberra. Click here to read more.
Culleton defends backpacker tax stance
WA ONE Nation Senator Rod Culleton says he’s standing up for farmers’ and their farm-gate returns by voting with other crossbench Senators and Labor and the Greens for a 10.5 per cent backpacker tax. Click here to read more.