Horticulture

Growers: tax backflip too late

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October 07, 2016

Fruit Growers Victoria chairman Gary Godwill conceded the new dialled back tax rate was ‘‘a lot better’’ than the 32.5 per cent, but wished the original tax had ‘‘just been left alone’’.

While Fruit Growers Victoria chairman Gary Godwill described last week’s rethink of the backpacker tax as an improvement, he said the changes were now ‘‘too little too late’’.

Federal treasurer Scott Morrison announced the proposed 32.5 per cent tax on backpackers would be replaced by a tax rate of 19 per cent from the first dollar earned.

Federal Nationals Member for Murray Damian Drum lauded the changes to the controversial tax as a win for Goulburn Valley farmers.

Mr Godwill conceded the new dialled back tax rate was ‘‘a lot better’’ than the 32.5 per cent, but wished the original tax had ‘‘just been left alone’’.

He believed some working holiday makers had already chosen New Zealand as a temporary home and place to work instead of Australia.

‘‘I know a lot of these people don’t make up their mind five minutes out. And they will have already planned a destination now,’’ he said.

‘‘It will be tougher this year to find backpackers.’’

The degree of impact of the tax would be difficult to determine, Mr Godwill believed, ‘‘until (backpackers) start arriving or don’t start arriving’’.

‘‘It is too little too late.’’

The changes announced by the treasurer included an extension of the time backpackers could work for the same employer from six months to 12 months; a reduction in the visa application charge; and an extension of the eligible age of visa sub-class 417 and 462 holders from 30 to 35.

The VFF and the Committee for Greater Shepparton welcomed these changes.

A ‘‘delighted’’ Mr Drum described the changes as a great result for Nationals leader Barnaby Joyce and the back bench in bringing horticultural concerns to the table.

‘‘The horticulturalists around the Goulburn Valley were very strong ... their voice was heard around the table,’’ Mr Drum said.

Mr Godwill remained ‘‘quietly hopeful we could do better’’ than the 19 per cent (tax) from the first dollar earned.

‘‘They should have left it alone, however, 19 per cent is clearly a lot better than 32.5 per cent.’’

The FGV chairman said he was grateful to State Member for Shepparton Suzanna Sheed, Mr Drum and Nationals leader Barnaby Joyce for their advocacy and stressed it was ‘‘good that (changes) had come out now’’.

‘‘We’ve got to be grateful the announcement was made now rather than later in November,’’ Mr Godwill said.

- Thomas Moir

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