Vote puts farmers at risk

November 25, 2016

Mooroopna farmer Gary Godwill told The News this week he had just about given up on the parliament fixing this problem.

Our farmers, and the greater Goulburn Valley economy, are at great risk of being stung by the current dysfunction in Canberra.

Despite most MPs across the House of Representatives and the Senate wanting to get rid of the painfully high backpacker tax rate of 32.5 per cent, that is exactly what we could be stuck with.

Yesterday the Senate passed an amended bill for the backpacker tax to be lowered from the Federal Government’s proposed rate of 19 per cent on the first dollar earned down to 10.5 per cent.

The lower rate was championed by Tasmanian independent senator Jacqui Lambie, before gaining the support of most senators, but not the government.

The bill was later sent back down to the House of Representatives, where the government used its numbers to vote it down.

The government does not want to negotiate on its preferred 19 per cent rate. And if an agreement on a lowered rate is not found in the final sitting week, our farmers will get hit with the original 32.5 per cent rate from January.

Mooroopna farmer Gary Godwill told The News this week he had just about given up on the parliament fixing this problem, and it is easy to understand his frustration.

The Treasury has admitted it did not do economic modelling on the original 32.5 per cent rate, and the politicians cannot agree to a simple compromise to fix this issue before the time is up.

For farmers such as Mr Godwill, this is not a theoretical debate about ideal tax rates and government revenues, it is about staying in business.

Orchardists and other farmers who need a large seasonal workforce know they cannot get the labour they need locally and the overseas workers are a godsend who work hard just when they are needed.

If the overseas workers are scared off by a higher tax rate, our farmers will lose because they will not be able to get the fruit off the vines, our local economy will lose from the loss of spending from the backpackers and the government will lose because it will not get the millions in tax dollars it was hoping for.

At every step the backpacker tax debate has been a classic example of Canberra dysfunction.

If it is not fixed by next week, our region and other regional areas across Australia will be the ones that will suffer.

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