Not a problem

November 29, 2016

Stanhope publican Mark Beggs, with Mandi Goddard (right) and Dutch backpacker Laura Lekkerkerker, is confident backapckers won't be scared off from coming to Australia.

Publican Mark Beggs predicts his rooms will still be filled in the upcoming months, despite all the warnings that the upcoming picking season could have backpackers abandon Australia.

Mr Beggs operates the Stanhope Pub with his fiancee Mandi Goddard, which can accommodate dozens of backpackers in the busier months of the year.

As the political arguments over the backpacker tax continue in the final sitting week of parliament in Canberra, Mr Beggs said the potential tourists he was speaking to had not been turned off Australia over the potential tax increase.

‘‘That was what we have heard from them, they never seemed too worried about it,’’ Mr Beggs said.

To spread the word to potential backpackers about the accommodation at his pub, he talks with potential backpackers on social media including Facebook and in person.

He does not believe the issue of the tax is as high on the radar of the backpackers as it is with the orchard owners and politicians.

‘‘The government loves tax, 10 years ago a packet of smokes was about $10 and now it’s about $40,’’ he said.

‘‘But people still smoke.’’

The first backpacker he has for the season is Laura Lekkerkerker, who came from the Netherlands to travel across Australia.

For the past month she has been spending her days working at a nearby dairy farm.

She is taxed like Australians, with the first $18200 she earns effectively tax free as it falls under the tax-free threshold.

This will change in January, when backpackers will be taxed on their first dollar earned.

But the rate is still uncertain, with the Federal Government settling on 15 per cent, reduced from 32.5 per cent and then 19 per cent.

Meanwhile, the opposition is committed to a 10.5 per cent tax.

Ms Lekkerkerker said she would prefer to pay a smaller rate of tax, but she did not let an increase ruin her working holiday.

‘‘Through Gumtree I found this dairy and it is awesome, I feel like I am seeing the real Australia,’’ she said.

She did not feel backpackers such as herself would abandon agricultural work as many needed to do it to secure a second year visa in the country.

‘‘All backpackers want their second year,’’ she said.

Cobram stonefruit grower Tony Siciliano was feeling more positive about the upcoming season after it became more likely that 15 per cent would be tax rate from next year.

‘‘15 per cent is a lot better than 32.5 per cent,’’ Mr Siciliano said.

‘‘I’m a bit more confident now.’’

He relies on about 50 to 100 backpackers to pick during busy years, and was angry at the major parties over their handling of the issue.

‘‘They used the issue to try and create political points,’’ he said.

‘‘It’s not nice on us.’’

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