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The Backpacker Tax and the power of collaboration

A fair rate of tax has finally been won for backpackers, after a long campaign by the farm sector.

Unveiled in the 2015-16 Budget, the unexpected new tax took rural and regional Australia by surprise. It sent alarm bells ringing for farmers and labour providers across the country. Many feared they would no longer be able to meet their labour needs at critical times of the year. Others saw instantly the flow on effect this would have for rural communities, reliant on backpacking tourists for their football teams, their tourist offerings, and ultimately their survival.

On an issue as important as agricultural workforce supply, it has always been hard to understand the rationale for such a punitive measure. What is even harder to understand is the resistance to change in the face of industry pleas for common sense to prevail.

Led by the National Farmers’ Federation on behalf of Australian farmers, industry bodies rallied together with our natural allies on the issue - the tourism sector, another group who stood to be hard hit by a sharp drop in regional visitor numbers and associated spending on tours, in hotels, cafes and bars.

Not for a long time has this level of collaboration been so evident and so effective in achieving change
Sarah McKinnon, NFF

The campaign has been a long one. It has had its highs and lows – with countless media events, a second Budget, two formal reviews (one leading nowhere) and the final solution finally announced in the dying days of September. It may not be the perfect outcome, and it certainly won’t undo damage already done this year, but it’s a lot better than it would have been without such a strong industry push.

What made the campaign so successful was the level of collaboration across industries and groups. Traditional ties set the foundation, as new relationships began to emerge. The agriculture sector worked positively together, through media, case studies, retweets and facebook posts. We wrote letters to Ministers and Editors alike. Almost 50,000 people signed a petition against the tax. All the while the sector was unfaltering in its insistence on an outcome all could accept.

Not for a long time has this level of collaboration been so evident and so effective in achieving change in the interests of the rural and regional Australia. The results speak for themselves.

When we stand together, we can achieve much. And the more we do, the stronger and more prosperous Australia, and its farmers, will be.

How can we continue to harness collaboration across Australian agriculture? Why not share your thoughts with a comment below?

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