The Federal Government is refusing to budge on its 15 per cent backpacker tax proposal as the clock counts down to the end of Parliament and the last chance for MPs to resolve the contentious issue.
Embattled One Nation senator Rod Culleton told the ABC he had been in “pure negotiations” with the Government to reduce the rate to 13 per cent and believed the Government “would agree” to the proposal.
Victorian Justice Party senator Derryn Hinch has also been part of the discussions, with Senator Hinch saying he would not shift from his position calling for a 13 per cent backpacker tax.
“We picked that figure because that means we’d be going up 2.5 per cent, they’d be coming down 2 per cent and we’d meet almost in the middle and let’s do it and get it done,” Senator Hinch said.
“Right now Culleton and I are saying to the Government, ‘you can get a deal, 13 per cent, no strings attached’.
“I’m not looking for anything out of it, just settle this bloody thing.”
The Government is adamant it has compromised enough, and it will not countenance any deal with either senator unless they commit to supporting a 15 per cent rate, the ABC understands.
However, early on Wednesday, some media outlets reported that the Government had agreed to the 13 per cent figure.
Earlier on Wednesday, the Senate rejected the Government’s 15 per cent backpacker tax bill after Labor moved an amendment to reduce the rate to 10.5 per cent.
Senator Culleton broke ranks with his One Nation party bloc to support it, together with Senator Hinch, Tasmanian senator Jacqui Lambie and Liberal Democrat David Leyonhjelm.
Senator Culleton has claimed Federal Treasurer Scott Morrison invited him to his office this afternoon for a “few chats” and that “in principle” they had agreed on 13 per cent.
The senator claimed Mr Morrison told him he would take the 13 per cent proposal to his party for discussion.
“He said, if you are serious, he would take it to the rest of his members. And I said, ‘well, we are deadly serious’,” he said.
In a press conference late on Wednesday the Treasurer said the Government’s position was clear on 15 per cent but that it would continue to talk to crossbenchers.
Senator Culleton said he also flagged with Mr Morrison the possibility of the Government deferring the entire backpacker tax bill for another eight months.
Any further delay would infuriate the farming community, which wants the stalemate to end to avoid deterring backpackers from coming to Australia to pick crops.
Nationals Leader Barnaby Joyce urged people to lobby the two crossbenchers to shift their positions.
“Contact Senator Derryn Hinch and contact Senator Rod Culleton and contact the Labor Party and please get them to move on this before we rise for Parliament otherwise we’ve got real problems,” Mr Joyce said.
“Where does it stop? Do you just keep going and they just keep going below you? Is this how the Parliament’s going to work?
“If we go below 15 [per cent], that’s actually below the seasonal rate for people from the Pacific Islands; from Vanuatu, from Fiji.”