Thursday, 1 December 2016
Income Tax Rates Amendment (Working Holiday Maker Reform) Bill 2016 (No. 2); In Committee
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.