Farmers and graziers will face a further six months of uncertainty in sourcing labour following the Federal Government’s announcement today that there will be delays to decisions over the ‘backpacker tax’.
Producers across Australia have renewed calls for a compromise on the ‘backpacker tax’ following today’s announcement that implementation of the destructive measure will be delayed for six months.
The issue has been hard-fought by the National Farmers’ Federation and its member organisations with an online petition opposing the measure attracting almost 48,000 signatures.
Today’s announcement by the Assistant Treasurer, Kelly O’Dwyer, will push back the tax until 1 January 2017 pending the outcome of a further government review, but will not provide certainty for farmers on their immediate workforce needs.
Backpacker seasonal labour is an important source of manpower across large parts of Australian agriculture, including the cattle industry.
NFF president Brent Finlay said he welcomed the Government’s acknowledgement that a better long-term agricultural workforce solution is needed, but this would not address the short-term workforce crisis facing the farm sector now because of the backpacker tax.
“Backpackers are heavily relied upon by agriculture to meet seasonal work requirements at peak times, particularly during harvest,” Mr Finlay said.
“We have heard stories from farmers across the nation who have found themselves unable to move forward with basic farm management, facing much lower production levels than usual, because of the impact this tax will have.
“A six month delay doesn’t alleviate that concern, and for many means that the tax will now take effect half way through their busiest time of the year. Farmers across the country will be wondering how much area to put under crop, if already dwindling backpacker numbers drop off even further at that time.”
Mr Finlay said an immediate, permanent solution which encourages working holiday makers to travel to Australia and find employment in rural areas must be delivered as a matter of priority.
“The last thing we want is to be in the same situation in six months’ time, with no workable solution,” he said.
“Backpackers are an integral part of the Australian agricultural workforce. We must make sure they have every reason to come here to work and to spend valuable tourism dollars in our regional communities.
“If the Government is serious about jobs and growth and is really listening to the farm sector, they will deliver a fairer tax rate for backpackers so that farmers have a fighting chance of finding the workers they need, not just next year, but this year as well.”
A six-month delay would not fix the problems that the backpacker tax creates for farmers and regional communities, NSW Farmers’ Derek Schoen said.
“Instead it creates further uncertainty to farmers and graziers trying to plan investment decisions. It’s time to dive in and make the decision to support growing Australia’s farming sector and our regional communities,” he said
“This backpacker tax will result in a short-term workforce crisis for farmers and will impact on local food production.”
Mr Schoen said the Federal Government needed to develop a tax policy immediately that encourages working holiday makers to come to Australia and work in rural and regional areas.
Sources: NFF, NSW Farmers