Senate debates

Wednesday, 9 November 2016

Questions without Notice

Working Holiday Maker Program

2:41 pm

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

I thank Senator Leyonhjelm for that question. As I said in an earlier answer, the government's working holidaymaker reform package not only ensures working holidaymakers pay fair tax on their earnings; it also ensures Australia's arrangements are internationally competitive.

To help address concerns about the exploitation of working holiday-makers their employers will need to register with the Australian Taxation Office. Registration will be simple and easy for employers. The employer register will provide valuable data on who employs working holiday-makers, what sectors they are engaged in and where the employers are located. The ATO will report annually to the Treasurer using information obtained from the register.

Senator Cameron interjecting—

Sharing of information between the ATO and the Fair Work Ombudsman will allow the commissioner to disclose information that is relevant to ensuring an entity's compliance with the Fair Work Act 2009—and I am surprised that Senator Cameron appears to be objecting to that. This will provide greater protection to working holiday-makers. This specifically addresses the Fair Work Ombudsman's report, Inquiry into the wages and conditions of people working under the 417 Working Holiday Visa Program, which recommended greater collaboration between the ombudsman and the Australian Taxation Office.

The report also supported the establishment of a publicly available employer register for employers of 417 visa holders. The ATO can already disclose particular tax information to other government agencies for specific purposes, including agencies dealing with social security laws such as Centrelink and Medicare; APRA and ASIC; and state tax offices and law enforcement agencies.

Award wages are, of course, meant to be observed. It is not correct to say that this is the first type of mechanism to ensure compliance with the law for wage setting. The arrangements for the backpacker industry are designed in a way that is adapted for the particular circumstances of this seasonal workforce.


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