Late on Thursday evening, the Backpacker Tax was laid to rest in the Senate, with legislation passed to secure a reduced tax rate of 15%.
The outcome was reached thanks to a last minute deal between The Greens and the Government. The Greens joined the Nick Xenophon Team, One Nation and David Leyonhjelm, who had already declared support for the industry-endorsed rate.
The outcome follows a hard fought, 18-month campaign by the farm sector.
In a statement following the Senate vote, President of the National Farmers’ Federation, Fiona Simson, said it was a victory for common sense.
“The process did not bring out the best in our political system but I am relieved that an outcome was reached. The NFF advocated long and hard for a fair and competitive tax rate and we held firm to the last.
“I want to particularly acknowledge and express my appreciation to the NFF Member organisations and other agriculture and horticultural bodies that worked tirelessly and stood united behind the NFF’s 18-month advocacy campaign. This was unprecedented and a strong sign that cooperation and commitment to a common goal is alive and well within the farm sector,” Ms Simson said.
The package of measures that make up the final deal have delivered workable outcomes for the sector, including:
- a 15% tax on all working holiday makers (WHM) with no tax free threshold;
- a 65% tax on early departure withdrawal of superannuation for backpackers;
- agreement that the register of WHM employers will no longer be made public; and,
- a new program to allow dole recipients to earn up to $5,000 from farm work without impacting their entitlements.
The deal with The Greens will also deliver a one off injection of $100 million for Landcare – a measure which has been welcomed by industry.
“The NFF is one of the original founding farmers of the Landcare movement and any investment in sustainable agriculture benefits the farmers and the lands we care for,” Ms Simson said.
With the votes tallied on Thursday night, all non-Labor senators (including those who previously backed alternate proposals) voted for the 15% deal.
Deputy Prime Minister and Leader of The Nationals, Barnaby Joyce, welcomed the resolution but remained critical of the Labor Party and Senator Jacquie Lambie who he said ‘did everything to blow the show up’ by standing in the way of a breakthrough for reasons of ‘pure political malice’.
“Labor did not care about a resolution. They joyously wallowed in watching a large chunk of our agriculture sector being taken to the edge of a cliff. They had no regard for farmers, they showed disdain for Aussie workers; and demonstrated they had no care for consumers who would have paid sky-rocketing prices for fruit and vegetables over Christmas had Labor got its way to let produce rot on the trees,” he said.
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