The stage is set for an election focus on the backpacker tax / #backpackertax

May 6th, 2016 | | industry

BarnabyJoyceAgriculture Minister, Nationals Leader and Deputy PM Barnaby Joyce has defended the Government’s lack of action on backpacker taxes in the 2016 budget, echoing the Treasurer’s comments that the Government would have more to say soon.  The Government is delaying the introduction of its controversial backpacker tax hikes, following sustained pressure from the tourism and agricultural sectors.

For more on this take a listen to ABC’s Edwina Farley grill Barnaby on the subject in her Country Breakfast segment on ABC Radio (forward to 39:00 and listen to 55:00)

This seems timely when Mr Joyce is in a fight for the seat of New England in Northern NSW. The latest Newspoll shows Mr Joyce has a two-point primary vote lead over former independent MP for New England Tony Windsor, but Mr Windsor would win back the seat by 52% to 48% based on preference flows. Mr Windsor spent 13 years as Member for New England but retired in 2013. He has come out of retirement as he’s not happy with Mr Joyce’s handling of local issues.

WA Labor Senator Glenn Sterle as reported in Farm Weekly this morning said if backpackers weren’t accessible to far north WA communities like the Kimberley region, roadhouses, pubs, resorts, restaurants, caravan parks, supermarkets and shopping centres would be in dire straits, „before we even start talking about fruit picking”. “How the hell do they think the melons and the mangoes and everything else that grows in Kununurra gets into the back of a truck and down to the markets in Perth – it’s backpackers,” he said. Senator Sterle said the Coalition’s defence of the tax increase and members saying “watch this space” was “just bullshit”.

With an election looming and so much anger over the backpacker tax in rural communities, Mr Joyce rejects any suggestion that his Government was playing politics with farmers’ (backpackers and backpacker businesses) livelihoods by delaying the announcement of its intentions. “I know that people want a discussion on the backpacker tax and nothing else,” he said. “I can assure you that we are negotiating a solution there, and there is more to be said in the coming period, I’d say in the immediate coming period, and no I’m not going to be announcing what that solution is today,” he told ABC Rural in his first interview following the 2016 budget.

In the 2015 budget, the Coalition announced its plan to scrap the tax-free threshold for backpackers, and to tax them at 32.5% from their first dollar earned, from July 1 this year. It was proposed by the previous Treasurer (Edit. supposedly going) to save the Commonwealth $540 million over four years through the changes. The new Treasurer is currently reviewing those numbers.

Backpackers make up about a quarter of the national agricultural workforce, and up to 85% of farm labourers in the Northern Territory. Farmers say the changes will deter travellers from coming to Australia, and make it impossible for them to find the workers they need. While Senator Bill Heffernan suggests “It’s a disastrous bloody outcome. We are going to go topsy turvy in the bush and the government, I don’t give a rat’s arse … they’ve got to sort it.” Clearly the Opposition are loving this with Labour Party candidate for McMillan, Chris Buckingham one to talk about Coalition going into Meltdown over this issue. However, Labour have not said they will also repeal this tax if voted into government in July, so some fence-sitting it taking place there too.


Is Mr Joyce speaking truthfully? Or is his government actually delaying this national issue for his own local needs?  Have your say.


Written by Chris Harrison

All sources are linked in this article.

4 Responses

  1. Macca says:

    Politicians have to realize they are stuffing around with people livelihoods and whole communities

  2. Chris Harrison says:

    Barnaby Joyce was just on ABC News saying he’s aware Aussie farmers will be hit hard by the Backpacker Tax and that he’s about to talk with the Prime Minister and Treasurer about it.

    Now’s our chance – we need to keep pushing Minister Joyce to represent the concerns of Aussie farmers and rural economies.

    Please tweet the Deputy PM now by clicking the blue ‘tweet’ button at the bottom of this update and use the #backpackertax hashtag or call his office on (02) 6766 5157 urging him to ditch the backpacker tax now.

  3. Hi Ken (Edit. Ken O’Dowd Federal MP for Flynn QLD)
    Apparently you chose to ignore and not reply to my last communication with you on this matter.
    You do remember that I am one of your constituents?

    I have now had many conversations with backpackers who are now unanimously telling me that fellow travellers are cutting short their stays in this country as a result of the threat of this tax!

    Further I have consulted with people in the agriculture industry as far and wide as Wee Waa and Deniliquin in N.S.W who tell me that they are already feeling the impact of a lack of seasonal workers and are predicting devastation in some of the more “hands on” segments of the industry.

    As you know I am in the adventure tourism business and I am now feeling the impact of this tax even more severely than I had anticipated!
    I will certainly have a loss of income of $200,000 plus this year and perhaps considerably more.
    As a result I have cut two employees positions here and it could be more.

    Your governments decision to differ a decision on this tax for 6 months (until after the election) is just such an obvious way of shelving it until you think you can get away with it, that is without ballot box repercussions!
    “Blind Freddy” can see what your government is up to and the damage you have done.

    Let me “Put the Writing on the Wall” for you!
    I and all members of my family coming from rural background have always been right wing Liberal or National voters.

    If this proposed tax is not completely buried before this election I can promise you that I and many others will, for the first time across the country, actively campaign against your government.
    Your government needs to learn to “live within its means” without resorting to extortionate backpacker tax or 15% GST.

    Ken’s response was
    Bruce, I was totally unware, I was behind in our correspondence (you and me). Myself and others have delayed the introduction of the backpacker tax for the foreseeable future and hopefully we can convince treasury of the impacts of such a tax, Regards Ken

    Ken, I was unaware that the tail (Treasury) wagged the dog! Who is running this country? Treasury or the elected government?
    What an evasive answer!