Backpacker tax packed away

Backpacker tax packed away

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Roleystone grower Andrew Marchetti relies on the work of backpackers because of the seasonal nature of fruit picking. Photograph — Matt Devlin.
Roleystone grower Andrew Marchetti relies on the work of backpackers because of the seasonal nature of fruit picking. Photograph — Matt Devlin.

The horticultural and tourism industries had a reprieve after the Federal Government announced the implementation of the backpacker tax would not be until next year, pending a review.

The tax, due to be implemented on July 1, would have seen 417 visa holders taxed 32 cents in every dollar they earn.

It prompted criticism from the horticultural and tourism industries and dissent from a number of Nationals and rural Liberal backbenchers. Hills Orchard Improvement Group spokesman Brett Del Simone welcomed the announcement, describing it as the ‘death of the tax’.

“It is now incumbent upon the Coalition to reinforce confidence of workforce supply within the horticultural and tourism industries, including within the countries from which our backpacking workforce originates,” he said.

Tourism Council WA chief executive Evan Hall also welcomed the announcement but was more cautiously optimistic.

He warned a resolution was needed as soon as possible to prevent further damage to the sector with backpackers choosing other destinations. “This reprieve has only been granted due to the election campaign,” he said.

“We need a proper review and a true economic assessment of the impact of the tax on regional WA. Such an assessment would show dropping the tax is a no brainer.”

Federal Member for Canning Andrew Hastie, who is against the tax, said it showed the government had listened to the concerns.

“As I have said previously no backpacker tax is better than a bad backpacker tax,” he said.

“The government’s decision to delay the introduction of the backpacker tax is a clear message to growers that we don’t take our agricultural industry for granted, we’re listening to concerns and are working towards a better outcome for employers and working holiday makers.”

He said the Coalition was committed to a government review into the broader issues of working holiday makers, the agricultural sector, rural and regional communities and whether or not there is the right labour force in place to deal with the seasonal issues that occur with fruit picking and worker availability.