The Federal Government has announced a six-month delay to any decision over its proposed ‘backpacker tax’, creating great uncertainly in sourcing labour for farmers, producers and graziers.
The Assistant Treasurer, Kelly O’Dwyer, stated that the Government will be conducting a review into working holiday visas and has postponed any changes or amendments to the current systems until January 2017.
The delay has been welcomed by some Liberal MPS who believe it will be enough to kill the policy altogether while National MP are in support of backpackers paying the tax.
Deputy Prime Minister, Barnaby Joyce, was in favour of the delay, stating, “I’m just very happy that today we have got a further extension so we can continue on attracting season workers to Australia to 1 January to give us enough time to get to a longer term solution.”
“I’ve been in negotiations with the Liberal party and Mr Morrison and Mr Turnbull, people have heard my commentary on this. I’ve been vitally aware of concerns in the industry and I gave a commitment we’ve have a resolution on this issue.”
The delay creates significant workforce uncertainty for farmers who need to secure workers for later in the year, said the National Farmers’ Federation (NFF) which has opposed the measure with an online petition gaining 50,000 signatures.
President of the NFF, Brent Finlay, said that a long-term solution is needed to addresses agricultural workforce shortages and that the tax would not help encourage backpackers to find employment in rural areas.
Backpackers are heavily relied upon by agriculture to meet seasonal work requirements at peak times, said Brent Finlay, particularly during harvest.
“We have heard stories from farmers across the nation who have found themselves unable to move forward with basic farm management, facing much lower production levels than usual, because of the impact this tax will have.”
“A six-month delay doesn’t alleviate that concern, and for many means that the tax will now take effect half way through their busiest time of the year. Farmers across the country will be wondering how much area to put under crop if already dwindling backpacker numbers drop off even further at that time. The last thing we want is to be in the same situation in six months time, with no workable solution,” he said.
“Backpackers are an integral part of the Australian agricultural workforce. We must make sure they have every reason to come here to work and to spend valuable tourism dollars in our regional communities.”
“If the Government is serious about jobs and growth and is really listening to the farm sector, they will deliver a fairer tax rate for backpackers so that farmers have a fighting chance of finding the workers they need, not just next year, but this year as well.”
Image credit: Gordon Fuad, ABC News