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Parliament fails farmers on Backpacker Tax

Despite a flurry of headline-grabbing drama this week, the Parliament has been unable to reach agreement on a new rate to replace the Government’s looming 32.5 percent Backpacker Tax.

The Senate accepted amendments to the Working Holiday Maker Bills, which would lower the tax rate to 10.5 percent, rather than the Government’s proposal of 19 percent. The Senate’s amendment was later rejected by the House of Representatives, creating a bitter stalemate.

Despite the quagmire, the National Farmers’ Federation (NFF) is confident that a deal can be done to end the uncertainty when the Bills return to the Senate next week, according to CEO Tony Mahar.

“The pressure is on Labor and the crossbench to end their Mexican standoff and work constructively with the government to end the uncertainty and frustration for backpackers, farmers and growers,” Mr Mahar said.

“An outcome on a backpacker tax rate has in our view been frustrated by Labor and Senator Lambie coming late to the table with a position.

“We implore them and the One Nation Senators to now look to an outcome that can pass the Parliament next week by working constructively with the government and in the interests of farmers, Australian workers and consumers to get a deal done.

passage of the bills next week means we can get the message out that Australia is open for business
Tony Mahar, NFF CEO

Mr Mahar said the NFF has spent the past 18 months arguing for a fair and reasonable rate, which would encourage overseas backpackers to work in the regions, while still being comparable with rates paid by Australian workers.

“We negotiated in good faith with the government for support for a fairer tax rate rather than the original 32.5% proposed.  

“At 19%, Australian wages are more than competitive with those on offer in both New Zealand and Canada.

“Parliamentary passage of the bills next week means we can get the message out that Australia is open for business and has its arms wide open to the backpacker community.  Farmers and growers desperately need backpackers at what is the busiest time of the year for many. Only the Parliament can provide this certainty.”

A meeting of the NFF Members’ Council on Thursday passed an urgency motion calling on the Parliament to reach a resolution over the Backpacker Tax before the Parliament rises next week. This comes on the back of a visit to Parliament earlier in the week by a delegation of farmers set to be impacted by the tax.

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