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Rockliff Says He Will Lobby Federal Counterparts on Backpacker Tax

Parliamentary Activity - Thursday, 22 September 2016, Andrea Dawkins


Ms DAWKINS question to MINISTER for PRIMARY INDUSTRIES and WATER, Mr ROCKLIFF

Your Canberra colleagues' backpacker tax policy, and the uncertainty around it, is having a profound effect on an already strained sector.  Droughts, floods, falling product prices, and now employment instability for crop harvest, have taken a toll on producers.  With an estimated 10 000 workers needed to pick next season's crop, and the failed delegation to Canberra, haven't our farmers had enough?  What have you as minister done to reverse this decision of your Federal colleagues?  How will you ensure a willing workforce to harvest next season's crops?

 

ANSWER

Madam Speaker, I thank the member for her question.  I share her concerns about the impact of the backpacker tax.  I have spoken, written, telephoned a number of my Federal colleagues about the impact it is having on Tasmania right now.  I acknowledge fear of backpacker tax has affected registrations for businesses.  Workforce registrations have diminished considerably.  In the media the other day one business, which usually has around 1600 registrations now has less than 600.  We are concerned about the potential impact of the federal government's proposed backpacker tax on our horticulture, agriculture and tourism industries.

I have written to the Australian Government noting the Tasmanian Government's concern, and recently made a submission to the working holiday maker visa review reiterating these concerns.  I spoke to Luke Hartsuyker a few weeks ago, urging the federal government to act on this.  We again communicated two days ago, and I urged a quick resolution to this matter.  It is all very well to indicate this will be resolved but we need it resolved now.  It is having an impact now on our agriculture and horticulture and tourism industries.

I commend the good work of Senator Jonathon Duniam, who has been instrumental in Tasmania's industry advocacy.  He led a delegation to Canberra just last Thursday, seven days ago.  A number of representatives from primary employers Tasmania, horticultural, tourism sector, individual businesses, the TFGA were represented.  I commend him, and we are working closely with Senator Duniam in advocating for a change to the current federal government policy.

I acknowledge, Ms Dawkins - as I have done many times and it has been well reported - Tasmania's very strong concerns and advocacy to see the backpacker tax, as it currently stands, reversed for the benefit of our tourism, horticultural and agricultural industries which are so vital when it comes to producing a clean, safe and natural product we can all be extremely proud of. 

I have said on radio on The Country Hour a number of weeks ago that if this continues in terms of the 32.5 per cent tax rate, we will not have the workforce in Tasmania to pick the fruit.  It would be horrific for rural communities and individual business to see that fruit rot on the vines.  There are no stronger advocates calling for a federal government backdown on the backpacker tax than the Tasmanian Government.