Thursday, 1 December 2016
Solomon Electorate: Working Holiday Maker Program
I want to use my constituency statement to talk about the damage that has been done by the backpacker tax in the Northern Territory, where I am from.
I have been representing the constituents who live in my electorate who own mango farms, or who are in the horticultural industry or who runs services that backpackers use—the tourism industry. I just want to stress that these are families. These are Northern Territory families, small business people and people who have invested in and built up medium-sized businesses. They have had millions of dollars pulled out of their businesses because 30 per cent of backpackers have gone from the Territory.
I just want to refresh everyone's memory; there is so much spin going on that it gets a bit confusing. There was an initial announcement by the coalition of a 32 per cent backpacker tax rate, and the backpackers voted with their feet and went somewhere else. They went to New Zealand or to Canada. So there has been a 30 per cent decrease in backpackers. The Top End is very dependent on our tourist industry, so this has done a lot of damage.
Finally the coalition realised the madness of 32 per cent and, with no modelling whatsoever—none—arbitrarily decided on 19 per cent. Then the industry—those growers and those tourism businesses—said that 19 per cent is an arbitrary figure and that it is not competitive. So we got 15 per cent.
What I will continue to do in this place—and let's hope that the government sees some sense—is to keep fighting for a rate that makes us competitive. New Zealand has 10.5 per cent; let's just support small-and medium-sized businesses in our country. That is what I have been doing, fighting for businesses in my electorate. And I hope that the Nationals members start to do the same, because if we do not get that rate—it is too late, for example for millions of dollars worth of mangoes which are rotting on the ground. It is too late for those mango farmers. Some of our small tourism businesses have gone to the wall—it is too late for them. But if we can establish a sensible, fair and competitive rate now then we can go out to the market and say, 'Hey, backpackers, come back to the Top End. Come back to regional Australia, because we want you to come and stay with us, work with us and earn your money.' We know that they spend it locally, and that money goes back into our community.
This morning it just got insane, with the member for Wentworth talking about Labor trying to support rich white kids. Backpackers are from all over the world, and they come to see our magnificent country. I really hope that a sensible rate is reached today. (Time expired)