News National Greens, government compromise on 15% backpacker tax

Greens, government compromise on 15% backpacker tax

backpacker tax
A number of countries are engaged in talks with the government on reciprocal working holiday-maker visa arrangements. Photo: AAP
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The Greens have handed Malcolm Turnbull a win on the backpacker tax, agreeing to a 15 per cent rate on the final day of Parliament for the year.

Just after Question Time on Thursday, Greens leader Richard Di Natale announced his team of nine senators would support the rate.

“Today we’ve introduced some certainty, we’ve provided a circuit breaker and it is a great day for farmers and for the environment,” he said.

“We’ve ensured that backpackers will continue to come to this country and provide the really important workforce that this country needs.”

The deal will allow backpackers to keep 65 per cent of their superannuation and includes a $100 million boost to Landcare projects. It will raise the same amount of revenue as a 13 per cent tax rate.

Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce welcomed the decision.

It followed a political bunfight which caused the government to shift from an original budgeted rate of 32.5 per cent to 19 per cent and then 15 per cent.

The National Farmers Federation has been lobbying for a rate between 15 and 19 per cent.

Labor earlier in the day announced it would support a 13 per cent rate as a way of breaking the deadlock, having previously supported a 10.5 per cent rate.

The government was one vote short in the Senate on its 15 per cent rate, but crossbenchers were not budging.

It had three One Nation and three Nick Xenophon Team senators on board as well as Liberal Democrats senator David Leyonhjelm.

Senator Di Natale said the dairy industry could not continue to be sustainable while supermarkets were "ripping off" farmers.
Greens leader Richard Di Natale said the outcome was a “common sense victory for farmers”.

Labor had the Greens and crossbench senators Derryn Hinch, Jacqui Lambie and Rod Culleton on board, but lost the minor party’s support on Thursday afternoon.

“We are prepared to support a 13 per cent backpacker tax from every dollar earned by backpackers – we think it gets the balance right,” Labor leader Bill Shorten told reporters in Canberra.

The Prime Minister told reporters earlier in the day Labor was favouring rich Europeans over some of the poorest people in Australia’s region.

There was a sinister side to Labor’s obstinate refusal to accept 15 per cent, the rate paid now by Pacific Islander seasonal workers, he said.

“Bill Shorten thinks a rich kid from Germany should pay less tax than a kid from Tonga or the Solomon Islands or Vanuatu, someone who’s coming here to work over the season to send money back to their village,” Mr Turnbull told reporters.

Labor dismissed the Prime Minister’s accusation.

“Whilst the Prime Minister has been on a frolic of finger-pointing and blame game, Labor has been working to come up with a solution which will end the mess,” Mr Shorten said.

pauline hanson
Pauline Hanson was in favour of the outcome. Photo: AAP

One Nation leader Pauline Hanson said it was “great news”.

“Now farmers finally get a win,” she tweeted.

The Parliament will need to sit longer than scheduled to get the bill passed.

The National Farmers Federation congratulated Senator Di Natale for his leadership and “backing a sensible policy outcome for farmers”.

Treasurer Scott Morrison told Parliament on Thursday afternoon the tax arrangements would be set at 15 per cent.

“This government has honoured the pledge we made at the election,” Mr Morrison said.

He tabled a letter from the Greens in support of the rate.


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