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Backpacker Tax requires political leadership, not political games: cotton industry

Australia’s cotton growers are gutted that the Australian Senate has rejected the compromise Backpacker Tax deal.

Cotton Australia General Manager Michael Murray says Australian farmers have been waiting 18 months for legislators to reach a sensible conclusion to the issue working holiday-maker taxation.

“The Senate appears to have abandoned common-sense in rejecting the compromise tax rate,” Mr Murray says.

“We call on both houses of Parliament to put aside their political differences and swiftly come up with a solution that is fair and ensures Australia remains globally competitive in attracting crucial seasonal workers.”

“Australia’s agricultural industries have already been hard hit by this protracted debate and simply cannot accept any delay to the issue beyond the current Parliamentary sitting week, which ends on 1 December.”

“As it stands, without a resolution to this issue, backpackers will be taxed at 32.5% from 1 January, 2017. Unless this is prevented, extraordinary damage will be delivered to Australia’s global reputation as a destination for backpackers and to the farmers and the rural communities they support.”

“We echo the calls from the National Farmers’ Federation (NFF) and others for political leaders to resolve the prolonged saga of the Backpacker Tax.”

Moree cotton grower Dick Estens AO expressed disappointment that the compromise solution had failed to pass the Senate.

“We’ve been using more than 70 backpackers over the past six months, but that group is telling us that it is far easier for them to go to New Zealand or Canada, which would make it difficult for our business,” Mr Estens says.

“I am disappointed in our Parliamentarians, who do not appear to be earning their salaries. I suggest our federal politicians spend some time working on a farm until they come to their senses and reach a solution before it is too late.”

Mr Murray says the Backpacker Tax is in play at a crucial time for Australia’s cotton industry, which is expecting a bumper crop this season, exceeding 500,000 hectares. “Seasonal workers are absolutely critical for our industry’s productivity, particularly at crucial times of the season like the busy and time-critical cotton harvest,” Mr Murray says.

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