Growcom slams Backpacker tax 'nightmare'

For fresh produce marketing in Australia and New Zealand
Carl Collen

BY CARL COLLEN

Growcom slams Backpacker tax 'nightmare'

Horticulture body describes compromise rejection as 'nightmare before Christmas' for Queensland growers

Growcom slams Backpacker tax 'nightmare'

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In Australia, peak Queensland horticulture body Growcom has said that growers across the state were "absolutely crushed" by the rejection of the compromise position of a 15 per cent tax rate for backpackers in the Senate today (30 November).

According to Growcom, the new rate of 10.5 per cent voted on in the Senate must now go back to the House of Representatives and it seems unlikely the Coalition will back it.

“This game of political brinkmanship must end,” said Growcom chief advocate Rachel Mackenzie. “A 10.5 per cent tax rate that does not get passed this week is worth nothing to our growers, because it means the default position of 32.5 per cent comes into play on 1 January.”

Mackenzie said that 15 per cent was strongly supported by the key horticultural regions in Queensland as it is equivalent to the rate currently paid by seasonal workers under the Government’s Seasonal Worker Programme. It also leaves backpackers with enough money in their pockets to spend in regional communities.

“We had a number of members contact us this week expressing their relief at an end to the backpacker tax saga and we now have to go back and tell them it may default to 32.5 per cent," she continued. “If the ALP and crossbenchers can convince the government to vote for 10.5 per cent then that is a good outcome, but it is hard not be cynical that this is just a grubby political exercise.

“I know that many of our members have personally contacted a number of the Queensland Senators to highlight the terrible impact of a 32.5 per cent tax rate. They will be seething after this latest impasse," Mackenzie noted.

“A 10.5 per cent tax rate potentially places our industry in an awkward position in relation to the Pacific Seasonal Workers who currently pay 15 per cent tax, a rate that has been recognised as internationally competitive, easy to implement and has already been accepted by overseas workers. The overriding issue is for all politicians to get a compromise rate across the line – today! This political wrangling is a complete travesty.”

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