Backpacker tax stand-off an act of political bastardry: opinion

THE seemingly unbreakable impasse over the backpacker tax has now teetered into high farce.

The issue has become a pantomime, a political plaything for the federal senate at the expense of increasingly desperate farmers.

Less than five months into the new electoral cycle and the senate is looking both hostile and obstructionist, opting for grandstanding and horse trading over natural justice.

How else can you explain the backpacker tax calamity?

After months of finger-pointing and political brinkmanship, senators on Wednesday refused to adopt the government’s amended plan for a 15 per cent tax, instead insisting on a 10.5 per cent rate.

This despite a flotilla of farming groups begging the senate to lock in 15 per cent and put the issue to bed.

If it’s good enough for the group of Australians it will most affect, it should be good enough for those that purport to represent them.

The issue has dragged on for more than 18 months and it is now ten minutes to midnight.

There is just one parliamentary sitting day left – Thursday, December 1 – and it will take an unlikely feat of political will to seal the deal.

What’s more likely is that senators will head home for their Christmas pudding and farmers will be left high and dry on the doorstep of harvest, with no one to pick their produce.

On January 1, the backpacker tax rate reverts to a dangerous 32.5 per cent, the very figure that sparked this whole debate.

The nation’s horticulture industry, of which the Riverina has a large stake, is being held to ransom for the sake of political games.

Producers only want a level playing field; in this case, an internationally competitive tax rate.

Farming is enough of a gamble as it is.

Farmers are at the mercy of Mother Nature and volatile commodity prices. They deserve certainty from elected officials.

Politics is supposed to be the art of compromise but instead, we are seeing the best example of the worst of politics.

If a compromise isn’t struck, farmers across the Riverina – and the nation – will place the blame squarely at the feet of senators who put expediency ahead of what is fair and just.

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