Riverina growers desperate for 15 per cent backpacker tax

Batlow cherry and apple grower Greg Mouat with Riverina-based small business minister Michael McCormack
Batlow cherry and apple grower Greg Mouat with Riverina-based small business minister Michael McCormack

The federal government has offered Labor an olive branch in the hopes of passing a more palatable backpacker tax to stem the likelihood of fruit rotting on trees. 

The government has dumped the proposed 19 per cent backpacker tax and looks likely to do a compromise deal on a 15 per cent rate.

The government is hopeful the reduced rate will pass federal parliament this week, having secured the support of Pauline Hanson’s One Nation senators as well as senators Nick Xenophon and Derryn Hinch.

Foreign workers under 30 will have to pay the 32.5 per cent tax rate if the parliament is unable to resolve the matter this week, the final sitting week of 2016.

It comes eighteen months after the government scrapped an $18,200 tax-free threshold for foreign workers under 30 and introduced a 32.5¢ tax from the first dollar they earned.

Batlow cherry and apple picker Greg Mouat needs eight backpackers to knock on his door within a fortnight, or else his cherries will pass their prime.

“We’d be completely stuffed without backpackers,” Mr Mouat said.

“It’s up in the air, I don't know if they're going to arrive or not given it's taken so long to make this decision.

“You have to remember we're dealing with a perishable product, which doesn’t stop ripening if it’s not picked.

““We'll start cherries in the next fortnight, then we move into hand-thinning apples for a number of weeks, then we pick apples in mid-to late February through to end of April.”

Mr Mouat could swallow a 15 per cent tax on backpackers, but labelled the government’s original 32.5 per cent proposal “outrageous” and Labor’s current 10.5 per cent alternative “party politics”. 

“All the money backpackers earn is generally spend in Australia and on top of that they pay GST which goes into government coffers,” he said.



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