Backpacker tax compromise fails

Within just two days, hopes that the bitter backpacker tax stalemate would resolve have been lost. 

It was widely expected the new proposal would pass after the Coalition supported a 15 per cent tax rate on Tuesday.

However, the compromise between Labor’s preferred 10.5 per cent and the Liberal’s 19 per cent, was on Wednesday denied in the Senate.  

Dairy leader, Koroit farmer and Irish backpacker advocate Oonagh Kilpatrick.

Dairy leader, Koroit farmer and Irish backpacker advocate Oonagh Kilpatrick.

As the debate goes in a vice circle, dairy leader and Irish backpacker advocate Oonagh Kilpatrick said she wouldn’t get “hung-up until a final decision was made”. 

“(But) with a higher tax rate you can forget about people coming over,” she said. “Fewer people will see the opportunities that dairy offers, which is sad.”

The Koroit dairy farmer said young people on backpacker visas brought skills to the industry and added to the smaller, rural communities and economies. 

“Some people say they steal our jobs … but they create work and work for others,” she said. 

“On average, they could spend about $300 to $400 a night just from socialising."

More than 40,000 visa holders work in the agriculture industry each year and bring in around $3.5 billion to the Australian economy, according to the Victorian Farmers Federation.

Horticulture vice president Emma Germano said the Senate’s decision was a “mockery” of the political process. 

“This has been a disastrous result for the agriculture industry,” she said.

The high-tax rate has caused many holiday-workers to steer away from Australia, in favour of other countries.  

Ms Germano said the agriculture sector would be put under increasing stress as many farmers struggled to find reliable, temporary labour.

“(The Senate) could have destroyed this season’s harvest for many hardworking farmers,” she said. 

“There is no question that this ugly fight has caused tremendous damage to our reputation.

“We have already seen a drop-off in backpacker numbers and … many farmers are struggling to find the labour.”

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