Tasmanian farmers call for quick decision over backpacker tax

Tasmanian farmers are calling for an end to the uncertainty as a decision on the backpacker tax was left unresolved for another week. 

With summer and picking season rapidly approaching, it is still unclear whether backpackers will face a 32.5, 19, or 10.5 per cent tax.

On Thursday, Tasmanian Senator Jacqui Lambie successfully passed an amended bill in the Senate, bringing the tax down from 19 per cent to 10.5.

This was swiftly rejected by the lower house just hours later, meaning a decision has not yet been reached.

Spreyton Fresh director Michelle Distill said she would just like to see the debate come to an end.

“The bottom line is we just need to know where we’re going … the 19 per cent, to me, seems like a reasonable compromise but they need to agree,” Ms Distill said. 

“If we get rid of the uncertainty then everyone knows where they stand and then you can work with what you’re dealt with.

“[Spreyton Fresh is] starting to get a few more people interested in work coming through now so I think we’ll be okay with a combination of the locals that we normally employ and the backpackers that we’ve had.” 

Senators from the One Nation party look set to offer a compromise and support a 15 per cent tax if the 10.5 per cent amendment was to fail.

Primary Employers Tasmania president Glynn Williams said he was beginning to feel more optimistic after hearing this suggestion.

“Nineteen cents is unacceptable to a lot of people, it’s pretty high, especially if you add in the superannuation that’s taken as well,” Mr Williams said.

“We’ve argued that 15 per cent of the threshold could be taken and then it could go to 19 cents just like every Australian worker so Australians will always have an $18,200 head start.”

He said any decision made had to allow farmers to get on with their work.

“We just want the debate to end because the debate is now causing as much trouble as the tax rate,” he said.

“There’s been less interest overseas than there has been before and that’s a worry.” 

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