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