“Silly” backpacker tax issue all about politicians and not those they represent

“Silly” backpacker tax issue all about politicians not those they represent


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Too many in Canberra more worried about themselves than their constituents right now says former Liberal Senator Richard Colbeck who led a review into the backpacker tax earlier this year.

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former Tasmanian Liberal Senator and cabinet minister Richard Colbeck.

former Tasmanian Liberal Senator and cabinet minister Richard Colbeck.

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.

During the early days of this debate, the general conversation around Canberra was that Labor was happy to support the proposed 32.5 per cent rate but understandably happy for the government to take all the heat.

Once the conversation turned to a possibility of change, Labor basically sat on the fence looking for an opportunity to take political advantage.

That position became even more apparent as the government allowed the situation to drag on.

Once the government had established a position the opportunity for politics just took over.

Tasmanian Independent Senator Jacquie Lambie was one of the first off the mark plucking the NZ tax rate as her random bargaining chip.

Her position backed up by Tasmanian political ally Glynn Williams, who saw opportunity to insert himself into a political debate.

His political game having the potential to hurt only one group, his own members.

One Nation and other crossbenchers were unable to resist paddling in the political pond to enable them to scoop up their fair share of attention from the issue.

And of course for Labor it became about inflicting political pain, forget tourism and agriculture.

In fact it could be reasonably said that the whole issue has become all about the political players rather than the issue, or more importantly the constituents all politicians were elected to represent.

The reality is everything that’s on the table now, except for the increase in the passenger movement charge, and including the 19pc tax rate, was proposed back in April.

That rate was supported, as it is now by agriculture and tourism.

The only difference now is that both the government and the opposition, in particular have destroyed any goodwill that either of them had.

Quite simply, while it should never have been allowed to drift on to this, it is well past time for the stupid games to stop and the issue to be resolved so that farmers, the tourism industry and the others that rely on this important source of casual and seasonal labour can get on with business.

But don't hold your breath - there are too many in Canberra more worried about themselves than their constituents right now.

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