NSW Farmers say Backpacker Tax delays putting farmers' livelihood at stake

SLIM PICKINGS: Farm operators are worried they will not be able to attract enough foreign workers to pick fruit if the high tax rate remains.

SLIM PICKINGS: Farm operators are worried they will not be able to attract enough foreign workers to pick fruit if the high tax rate remains.

NSW Farmers’ president Derek Schoen has urged politicians to put political point scoring aside and reach an agreement on the Backpacker Tax once and for all.

Derek Schoen

Derek Schoen

The senate rejected of the government’s Working Holiday Maker Bills on Thursday, but hope remained a deal could be found to end the uncertainty when the bills return to the Senate next week. 

“We want politicians to wake up to themselves,” the Corowa mixed farmer said on Thursday.

“People have had enough of politicians that are all talk, no action.

“It’s time our elected representatives took into account the fact that farmers’ livelihoods are at stake here.”

Most backpackers would be taxed at 32.5 per cent because they would be considered non-residents for tax purposes, essentially penalising backpackers who were working in the farming sector.

“The backpacker tax disaster has been going on for more than 18 months, it is incomprehensible the Government has allowed it to go on for this long,” Mr Schoen aid.

“Damage to the farming sector is being felt on the ground due to this protracted debacle.

“Farmers are receiving a reduced number of applications when they advertise for seasonal positions.

“In some parts of the state, farmers have had to share backpackers because there are just not enough of backpackers around.

“We need to achieve a better deal for backpackers to keep them interested in working in the farming sector. 

“Time is of the essence. If no solution is reached by the last sitting week of Parliament, which is next week, backpackers who work and travel in regional areas will be subject to a 32.5% tax.”

National Farmers Federation chief executive officer Tony Mahar said the pressure was on Labor and the crossbench to end their standoff.

Mr Mahar said the NFF Members’ Council had passed an urgency motion calling on the parliament to reach a resolution over the tax before the parliament rises next week.

“We negotiated in good faith with the government for support for a fairer tax rate rather than the original 32.5 per cent proposed,” he said.

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

“Farmers and growers desperately need backpackers at what is the busiest time of the year for many. Only the parliament can provide this certainty.”

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