Senate debates

Thursday, 1 December 2016

Bills

Income Tax Rates Amendment (Working Holiday Maker Reform) Bill 2016 (No. 2); In Committee

6:57 pm

Photo of Mathias CormannMathias Cormann (WA, Liberal Party, Minister for Finance) Share this | | Hansard source

I move:

That the committee does not press its request for amendments not made by the House of Representatives.

Photo of Penny WongPenny Wong (SA, Australian Labor Party, Leader of the Opposition in the Senate) Share this | | Hansard source

I rise to speak on the message. I want to make a few comments—yes, those opposite should probably leave. To be fair, you could stay if you would like, because we could talk for a while about the nature of the deal and listen to the sort of agreement that you have engaged in. But I think the first and most important thing to know is this: the government that says they are all about budget repair, making sure the AAA credit rating is safe and making sure that they are fiscally conservative, yet they have just blown $100 million on Scott Morrison's pride. What a joke! One thing I will say is that clearly they are not taking Tony Abbott's advice. Remember, we saw Tony Abbott on Sky News saying that the state of the budget should be the primary focus. Well, clearly on this matter, Mr Turnbull has decided, 'No, I'm not going to take your advice.'

Let's understand the cost of what is involved here. One of these is that the cost of going from 15 per cent to 13 per cent was about $55 million. That was, of course, the proposition that Senator Lambie, Senator Hinch and Senator Culleton put forward—that we should go to 13 per cent. That would cost about the same as what the component of the coalition-Greens deal that deals with superannuation costs. I would like to just this point out to Senator Culleton, Senator Hinch and Senator Lambie: your deal cost less than what the government has done, but they clearly were only prepared to deal with the Greens. I do not know how that makes you feel or what sort of political message that gives you, but it is very clear.

But, of course, that was not the whole deal with the Greens. In addition to the 15 per cent, plus the superannuation guarantee changes, the government has chucked in $100 million for Landcare. The difference between what they could have had if they had been prepared to swallow their pride and come to an agreement with the crossbench and the Labor Party was $100 million. You have to ask yourself: why? Why would the federal Treasurer, in circumstances where we already have debt increasing and a deficit of the size that we have, put $100 million on the table just because he did not want to swallow his pride? It is just extraordinary, isn't it!

Photo of Jacqui LambieJacqui Lambie (Tasmania, Independent) Share this | | Hansard source

It's not his pride; it's his ego!

Photo of Penny WongPenny Wong (SA, Australian Labor Party, Leader of the Opposition in the Senate) Share this | | Hansard source

I'll take the interjection from Senator Lambie. She says it is his ego—maybe it is. I find it bizarre. It is bizarre, but the whole handling of this backpacker tax has been bizarre. We had 32.5, 19 and 15, and now we have 15, but with a whole bunch of stuff on the side. The reason there has to be a whole bunch of stuff on the side is that the Treasurer could not, because of his pride, actually accept a change in the rate—which is a very odd position, because he had already accepted a change in the rate. Do you remember? We went from 32.5 to 19, and they were never going to move. That was the end of the line. Then they went from 19 to 15, and that was the end of the line, so he could not move from the headline rate. He had to find some other political fix to deal with this shemozzle. He did it by giving the Greens what they wanted on superannuation and giving them $100 million for Landcare.

It would be kind of funny if it were not so serious, because let us remember the context in which we are operating. Last week, Deloitte Access Economics' Budget Monitor predicted yet another deterioration of the budget which could jeopardise Australia's AAA credit rating. The deficit under Deloitte's predictions could blow out by $24 billion over the forward estimates, which would make a return to surplus in 2021 even more difficult. I note that the Treasurer has in fact become a lot more loose and fudgy in his language when it comes to that surplus date. Under this government, Mr Turnbull, Mr Morrison and the Minister for Finance, Senator Cormann, have delivered a budget deficit for 2015-16, which is eight times bigger than what they inherited, as assessed independently by the secretaries of Treasury and Finance in the 2013 Pre-election Economic and Fiscal Outlook. The 2013 PEFO—which was not prepared by me, as the former finance minister, or by Mr Bowen, but prepared by the secretaries of Treasury and Finance—had a budget deficit for 2015-16 that was far smaller than what is occurring under this government. Their budget deficit for 2015-16 is eight times bigger.

Photo of John WilliamsJohn Williams (NSW, National Party) Share this | | Hansard source

Why did you blow our savings?

Photo of Penny WongPenny Wong (SA, Australian Labor Party, Leader of the Opposition in the Senate) Share this | | Hansard source

I will take the interjection from the National Party. I hope Senator Williams is feeling very good about cuddling up to the Greens. One of the more interesting tweets I have seen in the last few hours was from Barnaby Joyce, praising the Greens. Senator Rice, I hope you are happy about that—Barnaby Joyce!

Photo of John WilliamsJohn Williams (NSW, National Party) Share this | | Hansard source

You are very upset!

Photo of Penny WongPenny Wong (SA, Australian Labor Party, Leader of the Opposition in the Senate) Share this | | Hansard source

Oh, I am not. No, not at all. You can have this, Senator Williams. You can have the political bedfellows of the Greens, and the Greens can have Senator Joyce praising them. I am sure their constituency would love the fact that Senator Barnaby Joyce, who stands for almost everything—

Photo of John WilliamsJohn Williams (NSW, National Party) Share this | | Hansard source

He's not a senator; he used to be a senator!

Photo of Penny WongPenny Wong (SA, Australian Labor Party, Leader of the Opposition in the Senate) Share this | | Hansard source

I am sorry. I apologise—you are right. It is because I knew him as a senator, so he keeps coming into my head. Mr Joyce, how could I forget! He used to stand there and yell a lot—at me, generally.

Photo of John WilliamsJohn Williams (NSW, National Party) Share this | | Hansard source

He didn't yell!

Photo of Penny WongPenny Wong (SA, Australian Labor Party, Leader of the Opposition in the Senate) Share this | | Hansard source

He did! At least he was more interesting than Senator Macdonald, who just chants my name. Senator Joyce—as he then was—was far more entertaining. But I was amused to see Mr Joyce's tweet praising the Greens, because I thought, 'Of all the people who voted for Senator Di Natale, Senator Hanson-Young, Senator Rice and Senator Siewert, I wonder how they'll feel about Mr Barnaby Joyce, who led the charge against action on climate change, against a price on carbon and, along with then Senator Minchin and his militia, against an emissions trading system.' Mr Joyce, who rails against renewable energy, who tells everyone how wonderful coal is, who does not believe that anything is happening to the Great Barrier Reef and whose position on a range of other social issues I would hazard a guess would not be shared by a single Greens voter. But, of course, politics does make for some strange bedfellows, and we have Senator Rice—who is in the chamber—and Mr Joyce on the same page. Well, it is up to the Greens to explain that to their constituency. I will have a bit more to say about that in my next contribution, but, first, I want come back to the budget position.

As I have said, for all their chest-beating and talk about budget deficits, the 2015-16 budget deficit is eight times bigger than that inherited by this government. Let us remember that. Net debt is increasing, gross debt is increasing, and we are seeing rising deficits compared with the trajectory that the secretaries of Treasury and Finance—not political operators, but the secretaries of Treasury and Finance—assessed in the 2013 PEFO. We have seen a tripling of the 2016-17 deficit and debt. Remember the debt? Remember how there was all this talk about intergenerational theft and all of these things? Well, net debt for this year has blown out, I think, by more than $100 billion.

Photo of Deborah O'NeillDeborah O'Neill (NSW, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

Such great money managers!

Photo of Penny WongPenny Wong (SA, Australian Labor Party, Leader of the Opposition in the Senate) Share this | | Hansard source

And they tell us they are the great money managers! Add the deal with the Greens today to that. When you have a $100 billion blow-out in your net debt—it is true that $100 million is only a small proportion of that, but what it does show is an attitude. It shows, if I may say, a pig-headedness, a stubbornness. It shows that the Treasurer is more interested in trying to gain a political advantage than coming to a sensible agreement. The reality was that even the National Farmers Federation were happy to accept 13 per cent. Although it is disappointing that the once-proud NFF, who were prepared to stand up on a whole range of issues, have turned into such patsies of the government that, on Sky TV, they would back in 13 per cent, and then it is a case of, 'Oh, I got a call,' probably from Mr Joyce's office, and all of a sudden, 'We'd better put out a press release saying we really support 15.' I mean, it is really quite pathetic. I hope the NFF understand that everybody in this place noticed what they did. You do not get respect in national politics by simply being the patsy of a political party, and I think that was demonstrated today.

So back again to the AAA credit rating. We have a Treasurer who is so pig-headed he wants to do a deal that costs more. I am going to say that again: the Treasurer wants to do a deal that costs him more. As yet we have not heard from the government why it is so critical that they increase funding to Landcare and that they decrease the superannuation guarantee clawback. I think the reality is that this has been such a shambolic mess they just had to get a deal, and it is clear that the stubbornness of the Treasurer meant they had to get a deal where the headline rate did not change. Behind all of this, there is a serious proposition: if we lose our AAA credit rating, it is not just a theoretical problem; it is a problem that affects the lives of families who have mortgages across the country. It also has an impact on confidence. It would have been more fiscally responsible and far simpler to respect the decision the Senate made yesterday.

This Prime Minister promised to fix the budget and he promised to create jobs and growth, but what is he delivering? He is delivering growing deficits, more debt, record low wages and record underemployment. Labor has been prepared to play a constructive role in repairing the budget in a fair way. We have proposed sensible revenue measures. But we have not been party to striking dodgy deals that strike a higher tax and cost the budget money. That is how much Mr Morrison did not want to give a win to Senator Culleton, Senator Lambie, Senator Hinch and the Labor Party. He is prepared to go with the Greens for a package that actually cost more. It is really quite an extraordinary political achievement, is it not? This is in the context of a budget where net debt is increasing, the deficit has increased and the AAA credit rating is under threat.

So, Senators, next time you get a lecture from Scott Morrison about the AAA credit rating and next time Senator Cormann, who is a very good negotiator, comes to you and says, 'We have to have more savings; you have to support us on this,' I think it is useful to remember that they were prepared to throw a lot of money at this. When the budget measures are coming through this chamber and they give us all another lecture about why poor people, Australians who are struggling, need to tighten their belts a bit more, maybe we should remember the attitude the government have had, which is that they are very happy to throw money at a political problem when it suits them. But, whilst giving us lectures about the AAA credit rating, whilst giving us lectures about—what was that Joe Hockey phrase? Ending the age of entitlement—

Photo of Doug CameronDoug Cameron (NSW, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Minister for Human Services) Share this | | Hansard source

Lifters and leaners.

Photo of Penny WongPenny Wong (SA, Australian Labor Party, Leader of the Opposition in the Senate) Share this | | Hansard source

Yes, lifters and leaners—I will take the interjection. They were very happy to give us lectures about lifters and leaners. That is the way the government talk. What I am going to point out to Senator Williams and Senator Cormann and all of those on that side as they start to talk about the budget deficit is that they were prepared to do a deal that cost them more just so that Scott Morrison did not have to swallow his pride. So do not come in here and give us all a lecture about fiscal rectitude, about the importance of savings. We all know that ultimately the politics comes first for this government. We have seen that this week, with the revelations around the $300 million of taxpayers' money they were prepared to give away to Western Australia to solve a political problem, and we have seen it again today, where they would rather do a deal with the Greens than come to a sensible compromise with the majority of the Senate.

I will have more to say later in this debate about the consequences for the Greens, and also for some senators opposite, of engaging in this. I would make the point that Senator Duniam and Senator Abetz and all of those who regularly rail against the Greens as being all sorts of things—they say all sorts of very nasty things about the Greens; I will not even repeat them—appear to be far happier to come to an agreement with them than with Senator Culleton or Senator Hinch or Senator Lambie or the Labor Party. It does say something about the government, does it not, that they would rather do that?

This is a government that was desperate for a deal. It has completely stuffed up the implementation of the backpacker tax arrangements. It was 32.5 per cent in the budget. We said at the time that would have a labour supply effect. We were told it would be fine, then they realised it would not be, and they engaged in a desperate scramble to come back from that rate as their base erupted. We have seen a range of different rates proposed and then moved away from, and now we have the cherry on the top of the cake—a deal which costs the budget more than what the Senate would have given them.

7:12 pm

Photo of Mathias CormannMathias Cormann (WA, Liberal Party, Minister for Finance) Share this | | Hansard source

I am not surprised that the Labor Party are so disappointed. They were playing political games—trying to prevent a good outcome in the national interest by resolving this issue in the interests of farming communities across Australia. What the government was able to do, together with One Nation and the Greens and the Nick Xenophon Team, is put in place a fair and sustainable arrangement.

Senator Wong suggests that this is a deal that is worse for the budget. That is actually wrong. I am not surprised that Labor made such a mess of the budget, if they do not understand that we are locking in a structural improvement to the budget bottom line. We are making a one-off $100 million contribution to Landcare, which is of course a very good program, which we support and which regional communities across Australia support. Of course, if we had further reduced the tax rate, that would have been a cost to the budget, ongoing. Every single year—year in, year out and over the medium term—it would have continued to accumulate. We have been able to lock in a rate at 15 per cent.

There is a consensus in this chamber now for a 15 per cent income tax rate for nonresidents, foreign workers, holiday-maker workers, and that is of course the rate that will now apply, ongoing. We also have to remember that last week the Senate passed legislation to increase the passenger movement charge by $5 to $60, and that legislation only comes into effect once we have legislated the income tax arrangements for working holiday-makers. In effect, what the Senate is doing tonight is locking in a budget improvement of about $560 million, which is a structural improvement which will build over time.

Senator Wong talks about the AAA credit rating. The credit agencies will look at the structural impact of the decisions that we are making. The ratings agencies, unlike the Labor Party, understand the difference between a one-off $100 million contribution to the National Landcare Program—in effect, a capital contribution, a grants contribution and an ongoing improvement—and an ongoing liability. If we had gone down the path the Labor Party wanted us to go down and cut taxes for foreign workers by more—10.5 per cent is what they said yesterday—we would have had to increase taxes for Australians to pay for it or cut spending for Australians to pay for it. We have been able to achieve an arrangement that will lock in an ongoing budget improvement. We are very pleased that the Greens have engaged with us constructively to find a resolution because, quite frankly, we needed to find a resolution before we left this place this week. I commend the outcome that has been achieved by constructive people right across the chamber. I commend it to the chamber. I think it is in the national interest now for us to get on with it.

7:16 pm

Photo of Helen PolleyHelen Polley (Tasmania, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Parliamentary Secretary for Aged Care) Share this | | Hansard source

Coming from Tasmania, I find it extraordinary to see the Liberals sell out Tasmanian farmers and producers yet again. We do not have the National Party in Tasmania, thank goodness; we do not have those hypocrites in our state. We do have senators who come into this place regularly and berate the Greens for their policies and their views on issues. Then, quick as a wink, they do a dirty deal with them. It is almost as if the Liberals' annual Christmas present is that the Greens will side with them. It is extraordinary.

Senator Duniam is new to this place, but is pretty wise. He has been around the political process; he is a political hack from that side. He came along to the Senate committee hearing in Launceston, and what did he say? He said: 'Everything's going to be all right. We need to do this. It has to be 32.5 per cent.' He sat in the same room as I did and heard the same evidence from people who are directly affected. He heard Mr Reid—who grows some of the best cherries in Tasmania I might add and is not a supporter of this side of the chamber—say that 10.5 per cent was the best deal. If that was the lowest we could get then that is what we should have. But what have we seen?

This morning, it was extraordinary that the Prime Minister of this country, who said he was going to be different to Tony Abbott when he was leader, used the most disgusting language when he was trying to defend the position that this government have got themselves into. It was Barnaby Joyce from the other place who created this mess 18 months ago. What have they tried to do? They have tried to blame everyone else. It was disgusting that the Prime Minister of this country was talking about rich, white European kids coming to this country as backpackers. I was embarrassed to be watching his interview on television. This is a man who himself is rich. There is nothing wrong with that. Congratulations—you know how to make money. Why accuse the European kids who come out here and do the jobs that a lot of people in this chamber would not want to do of being rich? If they were that damned rich, they would not be working picking cherries and apples or working in tourism businesses around this country. That is the desperation of this government.

We heard the Attorney-General talking about his colleagues from Queensland as being mediocre. As disappointed as I am, I have to say that the Prime Minister today demonstrated that he is more mediocre and less of a leader than I could ever have imagined. I think it is extraordinary. My colleagues from Tasmania sat there and heard the same evidence as I did. Keith Rice is the CEO of Poppy Growers Tasmania and a well-respected man in the primary industry and agriculture industry sectors in Tasmania. He said that we needed to have a lower rate of backpacker tax; that was his evidence. Today he is saying the same thing. Mr Reid, a cherry grower from the southern part of Tasmania said, 'If it ain't broke then why try and fix something?' It was not broken.

We understand that we have to be responsible in terms of the finances of this country. Today the Greens have done this dirty deal because they feel irrelevant and because they are a bit envious of the crossbench getting all of the attention from the media with their deals with this government. They have to come out and make big heroes of themselves—at least that is what they think they are doing. Senator Whish-Wilson, who was also at that Senate hearing in Launceston and heard the same words, said at that hearing that there should be zero tax on backpackers. That is what he said. Now he has gone from zero to 15 per cent. What a sellout! He comes into this chamber and lectures people here all the time about how great the Greens are and how they are people of principle. They have succumbed to the dollars. They should be ashamed of the position that they have taken.

Photo of Sam DastyariSam Dastyari (NSW, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

Shame!

Photo of Helen PolleyHelen Polley (Tasmania, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Parliamentary Secretary for Aged Care) Share this | | Hansard source

You are quite right, Senator Dastyari. It is shameful but not unexpected, because we know that they feel neglected and they want to be relevant again. That is why the Leader of the Greens, while he is still leader—I am running my book as to how long he will last—will do anything to make himself the centre of attention. That is what has happened here. But it has come at a cost, particularly in Tasmania. Senator Lambie knows this because she has been consulting and talking to the growers, the producers and those people who are directly affected by this decision, and they have told her that so many local jobs depend on being able to attract backpackers to our state.

This 15 per cent tax does not make us internationally competitive. You think that by spending $100 million you can just whitewash over the decision you have made. It has all been about saving face for Mr Morrison and Mr Joyce. It was so evidently clear when the Prime Minister was being interviewed this morning that, as he has done with so many issues since he rolled Mr Abbott, he would do whatever it takes to win. So if that meant an additional $100 million being paid out to the favourite toy of the Greens, he was going to do it. But the implications of this are far wider than that. We know that Mr Turnbull had a plan to be Prime Minister; unfortunately, he has no plan for how to act as a Prime Minister. And there was never a starker example of that than in his interview this morning. I really expected so much more.

Madam Chair, I know that you would have had the same conversations throughout your community as I have had. People are saying: 'Who is this Prime Minister? He promised so much but has delivered nothing.' We have a government that cannot even govern: they vote against themselves in the House of Representatives. We have had two weeks of late-night sittings. But we do not mind. After all, that is what we are here to do—have debates, scrutinise legislation. But what we have seen is a ping-pong game between 32.5 per cent and 19 per cent—and we are not going to move from there! Senator Cormann, who is in the chamber now, said: 'We will not move from 19 per cent. We're firm on this. We're going to be responsible.' Well, we know that his word, like the Prime Minister's word, means nothing when it comes to protecting the egos of Mr Morrison and Mr Joyce.

Frankly, there is nothing wrong with a politician saying, 'We got this wrong.' And, let's face it, that is what they did on that side; they got it wrong. Mr Joyce has made a complete mess of this. It was not like all of a sudden a bit of knowledge rained down in the last two weeks and they realised: 'Oh my goodness, we've mucked this up as well!' They have known this for 18 months. They knew during the federal election campaign that they had got it wrong. So what did they do? They gave the community the indication: 'We'll just put that policy in the bottom drawer; it's not going to happen.' And too many in the sector actually took that con. So here we are now, with another piece of legislation coming back to us, and we have not even had the opportunity to look at that legislation.

But my real concern is about what this is doing to our reputation in an international sense. Those on the other side do not understand how social media works and what a laughing stock they have made of themselves in government. They have not been able to say: 'Okay everyone, we've made a terrible mistake. Let's clean up the mess we've made. Let's put it to the Senate and accept the Senate's decision'—which was made by more than just us in the opposition—'that 10.5 per cent is a good figure that will keep us internationally competitive.' Our closest neighbours, the New Zealanders, have a lower cost of living. With the weasel words being used by those on the other side trying to justify this, when they were misleading people through the media and in the chamber about the value of the backpacker tax in New Zealand, they never took into consideration the cost of living in New Zealand, which is a lot lower than it is here.

It is really disappointing but it is not surprising. A lot of the producers in Tasmania, a lot of the people who gave evidence at that Senate inquiry into the backpacker tax—and Senator Lambie and my colleagues from Tasmania would concur—are not supporters of the Labor Party. And I can assure you that they will not forget how the Liberal senators in this place—Bushby, Abetz, Duniam and Parry—have sold them out. They do not care about the Tasmanians whose own jobs rely on those backpackers who come into this country coming to my home state of Tasmania.

You think that this quick will deal that you have so nicely packaged together with the Greens is going to pan out well for you because of your embarrassment about how you have stuffed everything up from day one. Since you were elected, week after week, you have stuffed up everything that you have touched. We were giving valedictory speeches for the Attorney-General this afternoon. We know his days are numbered. There is going to be a reshuffle. So they want to get out of here very quickly tonight so that Mr Turnbull can do his reshuffle. And we will see a new ministry coming in. It is going to be so exciting! Who is going to get a job this time? Well, I wonder if Alexander Downer is wondering about this. When I was taking note this afternoon, I had a call from London. It was a call for George—and it was Alexander! I do not know if it was Alexander Downer, but it was from London. And he feels like he might be pushed under the bus, just like Senator Brandis did to Joe Hockey. The people on that side will sell out anyone. They will throw their own colleagues under the bus just to be able to save face.

This is a very sure sign of a Prime Minister who is desperate. It does not matter which way he looks, he knows there is always someone gunning for his back. That is what he is afraid of. We all know that when you are Prime Minister under attack from within your own caucus the last place you want to be is in parliament. I have been around politics for a little while, and I can assure you when a government is in trouble, they want to run. They want to get out of here tonight. Well, they have created this mess. We have a right, as senators, to have a look at this legislation and to be able to debate it. That is what we will be doing.

If you look at the sitting pattern for next year, what do you see? Not too many weeks of sitting, because, once again, Mr Turnbull had a plan to become Prime Minister, but he has never been able to develop a plan or an economic strategy for this country in order to be remembered as a good Prime Minister. What he has done is create some very, very mediocre ministers. We have seen that on display time and time again. What I will say now is what I have said before: travel safe, George, because I think London is calling you.

7:30 pm

Photo of Janet RiceJanet Rice (Victoria, Australian Greens) Share this | | Hansard source

This political grandstanding from Labor tonight is sour grapes because we have been able to deliver an outcome that they are jealous of and that they were not able to. They have sour grapes because we are the ones that brokered the outcome that is a win for farmers, a win for sustainable agriculture, a win for backpackers and a win for the environment.

We have managed to get an outcome that has delivered the same level of tax as what Labor agreed to this morning. This morning there was agreement all round that we would compromise and that we would get a 13 per cent tax rate. We have delivered the equivalent of that, because we tackled the other issue that was not being discussed, and that was the extraordinarily high rate of superannuation that was being clawed back from backpackers. The government was taxing backpackers' superannuation at 95 per cent. We have delivered an outcome that drops that rate from 95 per cent to 65 per cent. For backpackers, the combination of a 15 per cent tax plus reducing the level of superannuation tax is exactly the same rate as they would have had with what the Labor Party were going to agree on this morning. It has been total sour grapes from them tonight. We have already had division after division, and I can just see the expectation that we will be here until the early hours of the morning because you just cannot accept that we have been able to deliver an outcome where you have failed.

We have heard lines of argument as to why this is not an appropriate deal. We heard an extraordinary line of argument that it is financially irresponsible to contribute $100 million towards Landcare. I consider that $100 million towards Landcare to be a really great Green win. It is terrific outcome. It is the beginning of more money being spent on Landcare, which we know has terrific outcomes for our environment and has terrific outcomes for our farmers as well. Those farmers want to be able to take measures that help their farms to be sustainable. They want to be able to leave the land in better shape than they have found it. So this extra money being spent on Landcare is a really great investment. And, talking about financial responsibility, there are plenty of other revenue measures that the Greens have supported and have been arguing for long and hard, which Labor are not coming anywhere near, such as the dealing with the $8 billion being spent every year on fossil fuel subsidies. If you want somewhere to get revenue from, that is one that both Labor and the government have not been willing to touch. If we are talking about revenue, let us bring in revenue by cutting those fossil fuel subsidies. Let us bring in revenue by getting rid of negative gearing completely. Let us bring in revenue by abolishing the capital gains tax discounts. That will bring in tens of billions of dollars. Here we are talking about $100 million, which is such a small but valuable amount of money. It is a great win. I am very pleased to be able to deliver those outcomes, because that what the Greens are about. We are delivering outcomes for the environment, for people and for a fair sustainable future for us all. We have been able to do that this afternoon, and I am very proud of it.

Finally, let me go to the accusation of the strange bedfellows. It is laughable. The number of times that Labor vote with the government—they did it twice just today, on incredibly serious issues. Today, we had them voting with the government on locking up people who might commit a crime. Today, also, Labor voted on changing the definition of war crimes. Those are two things just today and there have been many other occasions of Labor voting with the government, such as on cruel treatment of refugees. Debate after debate, decision after decision, we see the government and Labor on the same side. We do not hear Labor talking about that very often at all, yet they have the gall to criticise us when we get a good outcome for people and a good outcome for the environment—when we can broker an outcome that is a real win for farmers and a win for sustainable agriculture. The political grandstanding is just incredible!

I am very pleased to be able to be here today and that the Greens have supported this outcome. It means that the uncertainty has gone. This whole backpacker tax debacle has been complete shemozzle and a complete circus. It has been 18 months of uncertainty, of treating our farmers with disrespect and of scaring backpackers away from coming here. They are such a critical part of our workforce. It was untenable that this was going to go on over summer. We needed to give certainty to farmers; we needed to make sure that we reached a fair deal for backpackers. That is what we have delivered on today. It took the Greens to be the circuit breakers, come in, say 'Come on,' bang some heads together and say, 'Let's get an outcome'. We have been able to deliver on this, and I am very pleased to have been part of it.

7:36 pm

Malcolm Roberts (Queensland, Pauline Hanson's One Nation Party) Share this | | Hansard source

As a servant of the people of Queensland and Australia I am very happy with this outcome. In fact, I am very relieved. I am even happier that the solution adopted, the 15 per cent tax rate, is Senator Pauline Hanson's solution. It is actually the farmers' solution, because last June we listened to farmers' with these very concerns. They were strawberry farmers on the Sunshine Coast, and they really impressed me because they said, 'We have an enormous problem with the backpackers, and what we need to do is find a solution quickly.' It has not been quick. But those farmers impressed me because of their understanding of the situation and their understanding of the tax, and what really impressed me was their desire to form a solution rather than just whinge. These people understood what was needed not only from their perspective and the region's perspective but also from the backpackers' perspective. They understood the backpackers' view. They are very dedicated.

What that shows is that listening pays off. Pauline Hanson, James Ashby and I actually listened, and, now that we are in the Senate, it is paying off. Instead of being driven by ideology, we are driven by serving our country and by serving the farmers.

Two nights ago I congratulated the crossbench after the ABCC bill was passed, but then I learned something quite horrifying, and that was that a key clause that was changed in the amendments would bring in a two-year transition period. That two-year transition period flies in the face of an actual agreement, an enterprise agreement, between Lendlease and the CFMEU. That was clause 7.3 in an EA which the two parties had agreed to and, I understand, had just recently been finalised. That clause said that both parties, Lendlease and the CFMEU, recognise that the ABCC bill may be passed, and that, if it was passed, the two parties would get together and quickly renegotiate the EA. So there was no need for the transition clause. What it showed was that we as a Senate were bulldozed, we were scammed, by the CFMEU and Lendlease into giving them a two-year period of grace.

I also realised that the Murray-Darling Basin Plan is flawed, as we have known for some time, and is counterproductive for many farmers. Fortunately, we had two members—two farmers, actually—from the Murray-Darling Basin, in southern New South Wales, who showed us the damage that was being done. I need to congratulate the government on not capitulating to the demands for adjustments to the Murray-Darling Basin but, rather, deferring a decision to the future. That shows the power, again, of listening to the farmers involved, and we will be looking at that Murray-Darling Basin Plan quite seriously in the new year.

As a matter of integrity I need to apologise to the coalition for blaming them for this backpackers tax mess.

Photo of Nick McKimNick McKim (Tasmania, Australian Greens) Share this | | Hansard source

I wouldn't go that far.

Malcolm Roberts (Queensland, Pauline Hanson's One Nation Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I certainly do, Senator McKim—through you, Mr Temporary Chair Whish-Wilson—because when I make a mistake I acknowledge it and if necessary I apologise for it. That was a mistake. I realised that the reason for this mess is the former Treasurer, Wayne Swan, a Labor Treasurer who, with the Labor Party, caused so much recurrent spending. I congratulate the current government on standing up and taking note of various tribunal decisions and trying to resolve this in a timely way. So I apologise to the government for my misunderstanding.

I want to also acknowledge and express my appreciation for Senator Cormann—through you, Mr Temporary Chair. He kept his word throughout this whole discussion, and that is extremely important in the crossbench's view, after they were let down in their commitment to Senator Leyonhjelm. Fortunately, Senator Cormann has maintained his position in recent days, after the 15 per cent was agreed to by the government—and that is welcome for governance of this country, because we cannot have a government that bends to every whim. Decisions must be based on data. The government came to realise that 15 per cent, as understood by the farmers that talked to us, and as Senator Hanson proposed, was what was right. They unfortunately could not get some crossbench senators over the line yesterday. However, the 15 per cent is essential in treating not only the backpackers with respect and encouraging them to come back to our country; it is also treating the farmers with respect and maintaining regional Queensland. It is also welcome for governance in this country. It is also welcome for the budget and for debt, and for the farmers and for regional Queensland and for Australia. I hope that the crossbench have realised their mistake in not settling on the 15 per cent initially.

Negotiating is very important in politics, but what I am seeing is that horsetrading can often be damaging, especially when it involves the abuse of facts. We all have to do what is best for Australia and not play to our egos. So I say to the Senate: let's support this amendment that the government has proposed. Let's make Australia great again for everyone. Let's start with our farmers, who work hard over long hours and wear the economic risk to their own security and their family's security. Our farmers are our primary industry. We need to rebuild our regional economies into one nation. Let's make Australia great again for all Australians.

7:43 pm

Photo of Sam DastyariSam Dastyari (NSW, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I will not take up too much of the Senate's time. I want to begin by thanking Senator Roberts. I thought he put his case quite eloquently. It is good to know that this was a decision that was made by the One Nation party! And thank you for clarifying that the Greens, after a lot of struggle, came to adopt a One Nation position at the end of this! I think that is a very important point.

Photo of John WilliamsJohn Williams (NSW, National Party) Share this | | Hansard source

That's long enough!

Photo of Jacqui LambieJacqui Lambie (Tasmania, Independent) Share this | | Hansard source

Get into it, Sam.

Photo of Sam DastyariSam Dastyari (NSW, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

No, no. I have to say, after the election, when we first came back to this place, I thought we were all going to be talking about marriage equality—that marriage equality was going to be a big issue that we were going to deal with, hopefully in this parliament, hopefully in the first six months—and there was all this talk of a rainbow coalition. Well, we have seen the new rainbow coalition emerge: the Greens, One Nation, Nationals and Liberal coalition!

As Senator Roberts was saying, this is the future. We are seeing a crystal ball into the new year and, Senator McKim, it is fantastic that despite your differences with Senator Roberts and despite the fact that you spent the day on Twitter attacking each other about protesters, you are able to fold and give in to their policy positions when you see the merits of the arguments that are being made. Senator Roberts is right, you folded because you saw the empirical evidence. You saw the empirical evidence of Senator Roberts's argument, and in the end the Greens party ended up adopting a One Nation position.

Where are the other Greens? They are not even here. We have not even heard from Senator Whish-Wilson in this debate. Who knows where he is at the moment.

Photo of Peter Whish-WilsonPeter Whish-Wilson (Tasmania, Australian Greens) Share this | | Hansard source

Senator McKim, a point of order.

Photo of Nick McKimNick McKim (Tasmania, Australian Greens) Share this | | Hansard source

Just quickly, it is incumbent on me to point out that in fact Senator Whish-Wilson is in the chair at the moment and fulfilling a duty to the Senate.

The TEMPORARY CHAIR: Thank you, Senator McKim, that is a debating point.

Photo of Sam DastyariSam Dastyari (NSW, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

You are going to be getting up and defending Senator Roberts! But I have to say, Senator Roberts, I did see you a bit earlier and I noticed that there was a web video that you did with a Jean-Claude Van Damme. I hope the minister will not be offended by this, but we call him the 'real' Muscles from Brussels, as opposed to the other one. I thought it was appropriate because it is having a bit of backbone, having a bit of spine and being able to stand up and fight for your position. I think it is fitting, Senator McKim, that we had Van Damme in the building here today, actually trying to instil a sense of, 'You've got to stand up for something; you have to believe in something,' because what we have seen from the Greens is that they fold. They give in. You gave in! You gave in under the first bit of pressure that came, and you gave in to adopt One Nation's policy position.

This whole thing has been fairly sticky from the start, and not sticky in the sense of the protesters that you are all mates with, but sticky in the sense that the policy on this has been shady from go to whoa. The second the government turns around and puts any kind of pressure on the Greens, you fold. You have to learn that you have to stand up for some principles sometimes in this place, Senator McKim. I am disappointed. I have said this before, pragmatism is important in politics but so is policy and so is standing up for what you believe and so is standing up for—

Photo of Nick McKimNick McKim (Tasmania, Australian Greens) Share this | | Hansard source

Oh please!

The TEMPORARY CHAIR: Order!

Photo of Sam DastyariSam Dastyari (NSW, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

Through you chair, it is the Greens Party that are adopting the One Nation agenda. We saw it a few months ago when Senator Hanson made her first speech. They got up and in some kind of theatrical flourish walked out. I did not realise they were walking out so they could go and adopt her policy book. They must have heard the speech and got so inspired that they ran out to see how many of these policies they could adopt for themselves.

When Senator Roberts is playing the tune, it is Senator McKim who is following. I have to say Senator McKim—

Photo of Sam DastyariSam Dastyari (NSW, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

The Pied Piper! Senator Roberts is the Pied Piper!

I know there has been a lot of talk recently from the Leader of the Government in the Senate about the obsession that Mr Dreyfus, from the other place, may have. I do not think there is any truth in that, but what I notice from your social media feed, Senator McKim, is the obsession that you seem to have with Senator Roberts. I am all for that, you know; I am very open-minded about these matters. But what I am surprised about is that it has extended towards policy adoption and the policy development process. We always knew the Greens were a bit light on policy but I did not realise they were so desperate for votes that they were going to try to steal the One Nation policy agenda. And with that I will conclude to give the Senate enough time to actually debate.

7:48 pm

Derryn Hinch (Victoria, Derryn Hinch's Justice Party) Share this | | Hansard source

This may surprise Senator Cormann, but I am thrilled by this deal. I will vote for this deal. I am glad that it is being done. It is great for the fruit pickers. It is great for the horticulturalists. It is great for everybody that we have got to a figure. I wish that I had had the prescience and the perspicacity of the chair and had thought of attacking the superannuation deal myself, because if we had got to that we might have got there a lot faster. When you look at the reduction from 95 to 65 with the superannuation, we have got the 13 per cent that I wanted. We started yesterday with one person pushing for 13. Shortly after that, I got Senator Culleton on board and that was two. Then we got Senator Lambie and that was three, then we got the Labor Party and that was 29, then we got the Greens and that was our 38, and suddenly we thought, 'We're all going to go home for Christmas; it's going to be great.'

I want to put a bit of perspective into how all this came about, because I voted for the 19—I did—with the government, and was happy to do so. But at the Prime Minister's party on Sunday at the Lodge, I happened to meet the Treasurer, Mr Morrison, en passant, as he walked past. I said to him, 'Look, not the place to do this, but I should actually mention maybe that on the backpacker tax you may have to go from 20 down to 15.' He said to me in a brief conversation, 'No way, we can't afford it.' Now he is affording it, and he is giving away $100 million as well, but never mind. He said, 'We can't afford it.' So the next day I gave a press conference in which I said, 'I think the government should come down from 20 to 15. I could go with that.' I was then made aware that the One Nation Party was pushing for 15, and then I heard another press conference where the Treasurer had said we are going for 15.

Yesterday morning, which seems like a week ago, I walked in here—I will grant the Treasurer that he assumed that having backed 19 I would happily back the government again on 15—and supported their stand. I actually voted with them on the superannuation as well. I walked into the chamber and I was assured from the Treasurer's office that, 'Yes, we'll vote for 15 if you've got the numbers,' and we were told they had the numbers. I think they had miscounted the bus because one of those passengers had moved from One Nation to an Independent. I looked at that and I saw that the government was going to lose the 15-per-cent motion. I thought, 'Even if I vote with them they are going to lose, because Senator Leyonhjelm is on the other side.' And I thought to myself, 'We are going to lose at 15.'

So I thought, 'I want to get this through. We have to get it done by Christmas.' I knew that 10½ would get through so voted with them and happily so. Then, I negotiated with the government up to 13 and they drew the line. As I said, a clever move by the Greens, and I support it, that they could get the actual tax down to the 13 that we had aimed for.

I am not going to take up much more of our time on this—I hope we can get out of here early. We have got there. We have done a deal. I am happy with it. I am thrilled that all the opposing parties got to 13 per cent and then the Greens, to their credit, found a way to get a non-movable 15 per cent down to 13 per cent. I agree with their passion about the land. The fact that they got $100 million for Landcare is very good. But I will go to bed tonight thinking, 'The government could have got have got us all at 13 per cent. $100 million is a lot of money to'—as Senator Wong would say—'just assuage somebody's pride.'

7:52 pm

Photo of Nick McKimNick McKim (Tasmania, Australian Greens) Share this | | Hansard source

I thank Senator Hinch for that contribution because it was a much more rational contribution and far more closely connected to reality than the contribution we just heard from Senator Dastyari, who has now fled the chamber rather than stay and face the music and be held to account for the absolute drivel that came out of his mouth during his contribution.

I was listening carefully to Senator Dastyari. Do you know who I did not hear Senator Dastyari refer to? I did not hear him refer to the farmers of Australia once in his contribution. Not once in this debate tonight have Labor addressed a single microsecond of thought to the farmers of Australia who were facing having the fruit rotting off their trees—dropping from the limbs of the cherry trees down at Middleton in Tasmania, the apple trees down at Castle Forbes Bay and, deep in the Huon Valley, the pear trees of Dover. Not once have the Labor Party addressed their minds to those farmers who were facing massive business losses because they simply could not find the labour to get the crops off the trees.

Do you know who else I did not hear Senator Sam 'Dashing' Dastyari refer to? It was the tourism sector in Australia and specifically the tourism sector in Tasmania, which has issued a very glowing statement late this afternoon about the Greens' maturity and the fact that the Greens were ready to be the adults in the room. I do acknowledge for the record that Senator Dastyari is now returning to the chamber. I am glad he has returned to hear this.

Photo of Sam DastyariSam Dastyari (NSW, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I wouldn't miss it!

Photo of Nick McKimNick McKim (Tasmania, Australian Greens) Share this | | Hansard source

I know you would not miss it for the world, Senator Dastyari!

Photo of Peter Whish-WilsonPeter Whish-Wilson (Tasmania, Australian Greens) Share this | | Hansard source

Senator McKim, address your comments through the chair, please.

Photo of Nick McKimNick McKim (Tasmania, Australian Greens) Share this | | Hansard source

I know Senator Dastyari would not miss my contribution for the world. I will turn to Senator Roberts's contribution later. I was just suggesting that of course what we did not hear from Senator Dastyari was empathy for the farmers of Australia who were facing the fruit falling from the limbs of their trees, including the cherry growers of Middleton and down in the Doncaster region of Tasmania. I know, Senator Dastyari, where you are from there probably are not many apple and pear growers. But there are an awful lot of apple and pear growers down in Tasmania. I am proud to represent them.

I want to acknowledge the contribution to this debate and the leadership shown by Senator Peter Whish-Wilson, my friend and colleague from Tasmania, who was instrumental in delivering for the farmers of Tasmania and the tourism sector in Tasmania. I want to place on the record the view of the tourism industry in Tasmania. They have made it clear today that one operator in Tasmania that services backpackers has said that to date their bookings are down this summer compared to last as much as 40 per cent. I am not going to absolve the government of responsibility here as Senator Roberts attempted to do. This is a former Senator Colbeck special that we are dealing with here. You can lay the entirety of the blame for opening up this whole can of worms right at the feet of Richard Colbeck, a former Tasmanian senator and former minister for tourism. He cracked the lid off this entire can of worms. He has to accept his role in this saga.

The government's role has been appalling and pathetic. Their brinksmanship on this issue led us to this place where on the last evening of the last day of the last sitting week of the year it took the Australian Greens to be the adults in the room and make sure that we did not end up with a situation where we adjourned this parliament for the year and over the summer had the risk that we would have an effective tax rate of about 32 per cent, which would have smashed the agricultural sector and the tourism sector in this country, including significantly the tourism sector in Tasmania that I have the honour to represent in this place.

But we did not hear about any of that from Senator Dastyari, because this is all about the politics for the Labor Party, as it was when the Greens ensured that we toughened up tax avoidance measures for multinational companies a year ago. All we heard from Labor was the politics, whereas the Greens stood up and made sure that corporate tax dodgers pay their fair share of tax in this country so that we can adequately fund health, education and essential public services.

Photo of Sam DastyariSam Dastyari (NSW, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

You adopted One Nation's policy.

Photo of Nick McKimNick McKim (Tasmania, Australian Greens) Share this | | Hansard source

The thing with Senator Dastyari is that the louder he gets the more he is hurting and the more truth he knows he is hearing. So I am glad that he is still trumpeting on, even though I do not remember pulling the chain. But I am glad that he is trumpeting on because it just shows that the truth hurts in this place.

I want to go to the quite astounding contribution we have just heard from Senator Roberts, who has also fled the chamber before he has had the opportunity to have the truth told to him. It will not surprise the Australian people to know that once again they have been the recipients of a giant conspiracy theory from Senator Roberts. The arrangement that the Greens have come to through Senator Whish-Wilson and our leader, Senator Di Natale, with Senator Cormann on behalf of the government on which the vote will occur in this place is a far, far better deal than the 15 per cent that it behoves me to point out that both One Nation and the Labor Party were prepared to support.

Interestingly, the Labor Party went on the record this morning saying that they were prepared to support 13 per cent income tax, including 95 per cent on the superannuation payments that are put aside for backpackers when they leave the country. Effectively, Labor said they were prepared to back in an effective 13 per cent rate. That is exactly what we have delivered, with the added bonus of $100 million for environmental programs for Australia's farmers. To Senator Dastyari—through you, Chair—what the Greens have done this afternoon and this evening is to reduce the tax paid on superannuation from 95 per cent to 65 per cent. Combined with the 15 per cent headline income tax rate, that means backpackers are ultimately taxed on all their earnings, including super, which is the same as Labor's offer. It raises the same revenue as the position that Labor put to the Australian people this morning, and means that backpackers get the same outcome.

To everyone listening to this debate, I urge you to put aside the political rhetoric and the spin that you will hear from the Labor Party throughout this evening, because it is absolute drivel. What the Greens have done is, effectively, take Labor's position from this morning and improved it by delivering another $100 million in environmental programs for Australia's farmers. That is why Senator Dastyari, Senator Wong and all the other Labor senators do not have a leg to stand on. That is why their contributors are hopping around in circles, because they only have one leg to stand on for their contributions. I say to the farmers of this country that the Greens have stood up for you today. We have stood up to make sure that farmers are not faced with a 32 per cent effective tax rate over the summer on backpackers, and we have stood up for the tourism sector.

Senator Wong interjecting

Senator Wong is here, so I am going to read to her from a media release from the tourism industry in Tasmania, which congratulated Senators Whish-Wilson and McKim for stepping up when it mattered and striking an agreement that ends the uncertainty in the market. It points out that the Australian Greens, along with the government, have done the right thing—this is from the tourism industry in Tasmania—in resolving the backpacker tax debacle.

Senator Wong interjecting

Do you know who owns the debacle? Do not worry, Senator Wong—through you, Chair—it is not entirely the Labor Party that owns this debacle, because the Liberal Party and the government have to wear their fair share of the blame too, particularly former Senator Colbeck, who opened up this whole can of worms.

Senator Wong interjecting

There is another five minutes to go, Senator Wong, so settle down. What you are hearing today from the Labor Party is the politics. What you are hearing from the Greens is our desire to reflect what the real world is trying to tell this parliament. That is why we have been congratulated by representatives of the agriculture sector in this country and, in fact, by representatives of the agriculture sector in Tasmania. It is why we have been congratulated by the representatives of the tourism sector in Tasmania. It is really important to point out, when Labor tries to link the Greens to the One Nation party, that we have delivered a far, far better deal for the country than the One Nation 15 per cent rate, because we have delivered an effective 13 per cent tax rate for backpackers, plus an extra $100 million in environment programs for Australia's farmers.

It is worth pointing out—and I say this to my Tasmanian Labor colleagues in this parliament, whether it be Senator Bilyk, Senator Polley, the other Tasmanian Labor senators or the Tasmanian members in the House of Representatives—that, unfortunately, what you were prepared to do was let the fruit rot on the trees and let the grapes wither on the vines, all to make a political point. The Greens decided that we had to be the adult in the room here. We had to be the circuit-breaker that brought an agreement to this place and allowed for a resolution to the shambles that the backpacker tax debate had become. We have done so on behalf of the farmers of Australia and on behalf of the tourism sector of this country.

8:04 pm

Photo of Katy GallagherKaty Gallagher (ACT, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

Can the minister confirm what the additional costs are of the agreement reached with the Greens and outlined in the letter signed by Senator Di Natale to Senator Di Natale—that is a little bit odd—and co-signed by Scott Morrison, the Treasurer? Can you confirm what the cost of that agreement is over the forward estimates?

8:05 pm

Photo of Mathias CormannMathias Cormann (WA, Liberal Party, Minister for Finance) Share this | | Hansard source

I indicated that in my contribution earlier. Over the forward estimates the net effect of this package is a $560 million improvement to the budget bottom line. Not only is it a $560 million improvement in the budget bottom line that is legislated; also, as a matter of public record, we have made a one-off contribution of $100 million to the National Landcare Program, which is a one-off contribution as opposed to a recurrent improvement which has been locked in. The net effect of this package is a $460 million improvement. You have to remember that this also locks in the $260 million effect from the increase in the passenger movement charge, which only comes into effect once this legislation passes.

8:06 pm

Photo of Katy GallagherKaty Gallagher (ACT, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I am not sure that answered my question. I understand about the longer term, but what is the additional cost of this deal over the forward estimates, and what is the year-on-year profile over that time?

Photo of Mathias CormannMathias Cormann (WA, Liberal Party, Minister for Finance) Share this | | Hansard source

To be very direct, the reduction from 95 per cent to 65 per cent in the tax on superannuation as it applies to working holiday-makers is a cost of $55 million over the forward estimates. The profile of that on a year-by-year basis—which is in the explanatory memorandum—is minus $15 million in 2017-18, minus $20 million in 2018-19 and minus $20 million in 2019-20. In relation to the $100 million Landcare contribution, it is $100 million over the forward estimates—notionally, $25 million per year, but that is yet to be finally settled.

8:07 pm

Photo of Katy GallagherKaty Gallagher (ACT, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I would like to ask a couple of questions in relation to the agreement reached with Senator Leyonhjelm. This relates to the Australian Business Register that was required under the bill we debated earlier. It appears from statements by Senator Leyonhjelm and the government that further amendments may be required to what have already passed the parliament in relation to the requirements on that Business Register—reporting requirements et cetera. They are not details that have been provided that we can find from either Senator Leyonhjelm or the government, and we are just trying to understand whether further amendments will be required at some stage to enact the agreement reached with Senator Leyonhjelm.

8:08 pm

Photo of Mathias CormannMathias Cormann (WA, Liberal Party, Minister for Finance) Share this | | Hansard source

The agreement with Senator Leyonhjelm is not part of this legislation that is before the parliament, but we have made that commitment in good faith and we will deliver on it.

Photo of Jacqui LambieJacqui Lambie (Tasmania, Independent) Share this | | Hansard source

I genuinely welcome the news that the Greens have negotiated a deal that delivers an effective backpacker tax rate of 13 per cent, and I only pray it works because our Tasmanian farmers should never have been put through the bureaucratic and political hell for the last 18 months that they have been put through. The government's inaction, arrogance and incompetence have caused terrible harm to many Tasmanian, and Australian, farming families. Our farmers deserve a fair share of the extra $100 million announced in the National, Liberal and Greens deal for Landcare, and I am calling for the details of this deal and the total amount to be allocated to Tasmania to be released to our farmers as soon as possible.

I hope that a backpacker deal which has a headline rate of 15 per cent but incorporates superannuation concessions—I sincerely thank Senator Whish-Wilson; you cannot take it away from him because he did a great job with this—that lower the rate to an effective 13 per cent is recognised internationally as competitive. With New Zealand's backpacker rate set at a headline rate of 10.5 per cent and with New Zealand poaching a lot of Australia-bound backpackers, I still have concerns for the long-term viability and the competitiveness of this deal. I will go into the short-term damage that has been done shortly.

I hope that once this matter is dealt with today in parliament a lasting and viable solution is put in place. It would be an absolute disaster if we had to revisit the backpacker crisis in another 12 months, although I have a feeling that after this season we will be visiting it a lot quicker. I will continue to listen closely to Tasmanian farmers and vote according to their best interests. Unfortunately this crisis has shown that mainland dominated farming organisations like the National Farmers Federation—shame on them, they are an absolute disgrace and cannot be trusted to represent Tasmanian farmers in Canberra or any other farmer in this nation—have become the lap-dogs of the National-Liberal parties rather than being watchdogs for rural and regional Australia.

I have a couple of questions for you, and I want to talk about the deal that you have done with the NXT over the dole payments—

Photo of Christopher BackChristopher Back (WA, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

Through the chair please, Senator Lambie.

Photo of Jacqui LambieJacqui Lambie (Tasmania, Independent) Share this | | Hansard source

Through the chair, to the minister: I would like to know how much it is going to cost and is it true that this deal is only offered on South Australian dole recipients and nowhere else?

8:11 pm

Photo of Mathias CormannMathias Cormann (WA, Liberal Party, Minister for Finance) Share this | | Hansard source

No, that is not true.

Photo of Jacqui LambieJacqui Lambie (Tasmania, Independent) Share this | | Hansard source

Through the chair: Minister, what is not true—are you going to offer this to every Australian on the dole?

Photo of Mathias CormannMathias Cormann (WA, Liberal Party, Minister for Finance) Share this | | Hansard source

The suggestion that this is only going to be offered to people in South Australia is not true.

Photo of Jacqui LambieJacqui Lambie (Tasmania, Independent) Share this | | Hansard source

Can you please tell me, Minister, how many people are currently on the dole that you believe are going to access this arrangement?

8:12 pm

Photo of Mathias CormannMathias Cormann (WA, Liberal Party, Minister for Finance) Share this | | Hansard source

As previously indicated, the package has been costed in relation to this aspect of it on the basis of an expectation that 3,000 unemployed Australians will access it per year.

Photo of Jacqui LambieJacqui Lambie (Tasmania, Independent) Share this | | Hansard source

Through the chair: Minister, this is good—how many people are out there on the dole at the moment, and you only expect 3,000 people to take up this offer?. What modelling have you used to come up with that figure?

Photo of Mathias CormannMathias Cormann (WA, Liberal Party, Minister for Finance) Share this | | Hansard source

The numbers are self-explanatory; they are in front of the Senate. Obviously people are entitled to agree or disagree, but there is not much more that I can add to that.

Photo of Jacqui LambieJacqui Lambie (Tasmania, Independent) Share this | | Hansard source

I think, on average, those on the dole payment between 17 and 25 total around 165,000. Can you tell me if 100,000 or 80,000 of those Australian kids out there take up these jobs what it will cost?

8:13 pm

Photo of Mathias CormannMathias Cormann (WA, Liberal Party, Minister for Finance) Share this | | Hansard source

It would be fantastic if all these people on the unemployment benefit wanted to take up work—that would be great—but at this stage it is not our expectation that it would have such a significant uptake as Senator Lambie is suggesting.

Photo of Peter Whish-WilsonPeter Whish-Wilson (Tasmania, Australian Greens) Share this | | Hansard source

Earlier today in the Senate we seemed to have support from the opposition, from the Greens and from most of the crossbench to put up a backpacker tax rate of 13 per cent. That relied on the government sending the legislation to the Senate and us doing what we did the other day. The Greens supported a 10½ per cent backpacker tax rate. Our preferred position was to see backpackers taxed as residents. That clearly was not going to happen, so we compromised and supported 10½ per cent. I have to talk black and blue about the elephant in the room, which has been the superannuation clawback in this bill. It was an additional nine per cent tax on top of the rate.

We have in front of us tonight—I want to make this very clear for anyone around the country who happens to be bored on a weeknight and is listening in to the Senate, and good on them for doing that that if they are—is effectively the same tax rate for backpackers as 13 per cent. This has been structured to achieve a 13 per cent tax rate in their back pocket. To make this clear again: this is what most of us agreed on this morning that would have been enough to have passed the Senate and gone back to the House. The outcome that has been negotiated here is essentially, for all intents and purposes, a 13 per cent backpacker tax rate.

I want to acknowledge Senator Lambie here tonight. She has worked her heart out for Tasmanian agricultural producers, as have the Greens, from day one, to make sure that we get the best deal possible for farmers. Is it a perfect deal? No, it is not. Let's be honest: no, it is not. And any agricultural producer out there will acknowledge that this is not a perfect deal. They wanted to see backpackers taxed as residents for tax purposes. But all we have said to them is that we will do the very best we can to get the best possible deal. This outcome that we have tonight is the best possible deal. It is what most of us agreed on. And we have to be honest—put all the politics and all the BS aside here tonight—that this is what we have here in front of us, and it will give certainty to Tasmania's farmers, to Australian farmers, and to backpackers; we desperately need their labour in this country and always have. I am okay with entertaining schemes that get Australian workers into these jobs. That is great, but it is not going to solve a short-term crisis. But I commend any attempts to do that.

And I want to acknowledge One Nation and other crossbenchers in here as well—Senator Leyonhjelm, Senator Hinch—for actually coming to a practical solution and conclusion to this debate. The only people in this Senate who are not accepting that this is a good solution—it is not a perfect solution, but it is a good solution to this problem that is accepted by the agricultural community right across the board, and accepted by the tourism industry, who want this outcome—are the Labor Party.

So, if you are watching and wondering why Labor is keeping us here until the early hours of the morning, I will give you a very brief history lesson, and then I will conclude. Whenever the Greens do deals that deliver good outcomes for Australians, Labor decides that they need to take some skin off us. It is as simple as that; it is pure politics. My daughter, who is here tonight—Bronte—happened to be here last year during the multinational tax debate, and she remembers the same kind of thing happening: we did a good deal and we were here all night getting skin torn off us by the Labor Party because we dared negotiate with the government to get an outcome that was a good outcome for Australians and for stakeholders. Incidentally, when my daughter Bronte was here last time there were also the climate change protests in the marble hall, and yesterday she happened to be here for the protests across the way at the other place. It might just be a coincidence!

Nevertheless, I will finish up now and say that this has been a long saga. We have been very critical of the government's mishandling of this. This has been a Mexican stand-off, a really dangerous game of chicken, that was going to put a lot of agricultural producers at risk. But we feel we have struck a compromise now that is accepted by agricultural producers, that is accepted by the tourism industry, that delivers certainty and—I am very glad to say—that delivers $100 million back into Landcare for the environment, which is really important to my party and Greens voters and Greens supporters. This is why we are in parliament: to get outcomes. Let's get on with this. Let's pass this into law, get it into legislation, put this sorry saga to rest and hope the hell it never happens again.

8:18 pm

Photo of Pauline HansonPauline Hanson (Queensland, Pauline Hanson's One Nation Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I do support this, and I thank the Greens for coming to this agreement with the government. What I am annoyed about is the horse trading that has gone with it along the way. I believe One Nation is probably the only party in this house that has not done a deal on this. We looked at it on merit and we supported it from the beginning. We did negotiate from 19 per cent down to 15 per cent, and we supported it on its merits. Now, this has been supported by the Greens, and I appreciate that it has been, because the most important people here are the farmers. It is all about the farming sector, the backpackers but also the hospitality industry, which needs to be addressed here.

I have had people ring up my party office saying, 'Thank goodness there is some common sense and that a decision has been come to after so long.' The fact is, this could have been sorted out yesterday if Senator Culleton had agreed to 15 per cent or Senator Hinch had agreed to 15 per cent or even Senator Lambie had agreed to 15 per cent. It could have been sorted out yesterday, but it was not. The fact is that this is about the farming sector, who are in dire straits. So, I am pleased about this. In this chamber policies must be dealt with on merit, not through horse trading, and that is why I do not agree with a lot of things that happen here.

We are the leaders of this nation. I am not happy with the Labor Party's stance on this, because they of all people should be supporting the farming sector, which is the backbone of this nation, the ones who are suffering because of this. I wish this decision had been come to a lot earlier than it has, but that was not the case. Anyway, once again, I will reiterate that the Greens have come to a decision and that common sense prevails in this house. I support this wholeheartedly and I am glad it has finally found closure.

8:21 pm

Photo of Mathias CormannMathias Cormann (WA, Liberal Party, Minister for Finance) Share this | | Hansard source

I move:

That the question now be put.

The CHAIR: The question now is that the committee does not press its request for amendments not made by the House of Representatives.

Question agreed to.

Bill agreed to.

Bill reported without amendments; report adopted.