Page MP Kevin Hogan has welcomed the government’s decision to delay introduction of the controversial backpacker tax.
It was feared the move to remove tax-free thresholds from overseas travellers would discourage fruit pickers and harm tourism when it was due to come into effect from July 1, since foreign seasonal workers would be slugged with 32.5 cents from the first dollar they earn.
But the opposition is critical of the timing of the announcement, saying it is merely putting off the unpopular move until after the election.
‘I am very happy that the tax will not be introduced from July 1,’ Mr Hogan said.
‘Our farmers face ongoing challenges to secure an adequate workforce to pick the blueberries, harvest macadamias, process meat and milk cows.
‘We have the opportunity to double our agricultural production to meet growing global food and demand – but we need a workforce to do so.’
The proposal to introduce the tax will now be reviewed as part of a larger review of workforce shortages faced by the agriculture and tourism industries. It will report by October, allowing any changes to be introduced by 1 January 2017.
‘Working holiday makers are an important source of workers for agriculture, with more than 90 per cent of second year working holiday maker visa holders having worked in agriculture in their first year in Australia,’ Mr Hogan said.
‘I, and many of my National Party colleagues, have been talking with local farmers and our communities who are concerned that backpackers may choose not to come to Australia if they have to pay the proposed tax.
‘As a result, the government has agreed to review the tax and defer the introduction of this tax for six months.
The tax was expected to raise $540 million over four years
But Labor’s agriculture spokesman Joel Fitzgibbon is dubious of the announcement’s timing.
‘This is just a stunt to push the issue beyond the election,’ he told AAP.
‘It sends all the wrong signals to backpackers, many of whom are making the decision to travel to New Zealand or Canada instead of Australia.’
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