Macquarie River Food and Fibre scolds Senate over backpacker tax

NATIONAL INTEREST: After the resolution of the backpacker tax, Macquarie River Food and Fibre chairman Michael Egan has told the Senate to act in the "national interest". Photo: File

NATIONAL INTEREST: After the resolution of the backpacker tax, Macquarie River Food and Fibre chairman Michael Egan has told the Senate to act in the "national interest". Photo: File

The Australian Senate has been called “quite childish” by a Western NSW resident who was shocked that the resolution of the backpacker tax came down to the wire.

Warren farmer and Macquarie River Food and Fibre chairman Michael Egan welcomed the legislating of 15 per cent tax on the wages of overseas holidaymakers, albeit on the final sitting day of the Federal Parliament.

But he has scolded the Senate on behalf of Macquarie Valley farmers who traditionally employ “hundreds” of backpackers during summer.

“I think the Senate has been quite childish in its behaviour,” Mr Egan said. “They should get down to the job of actually being the house of review in the national interest and stop all this minority banter and carry-on.”

 An agreement between the Coalition and the Greens secured the 15 per cent tax rate at the cost of allowing backpackers to keep 65 per cent of their superannuation and a $100 million boost to Landcare projects.

The matter was resolved at the last minute because Independent senator Jacqui Lambie convinced One Nation senator Rod Culleton and fellow crossbencher Derryn Hinch to join her, the Greens and the Australian Labor Party in blocking the government’s compromise 15 per cent rate.

The government originally sought to level the tax at 32.5 per cent before succumbing to pressure and moving it to 19 per cent and then 15 per cent.

Without a resolution, backpackers would have paid 32.5 per cent for every dollar they earned from January 1.

Mr Egan said the tax rate was “where it should be”. “I was astonished really that such a simple task in government could take so long and get so convoluted,” he said.

Federal Member for Parkes Mark Coulton said: “With this rate, overseas workers will pay a comparable rate of tax as Australian workers. The 15 per cent rate also means that backpackers are better off, in terms of after-tax wages, coming to work in Australia when comparing their wages to New Zealand, Canada or England.”

Cotton Australia general manager Michael Murray said growers could get on with the job of producing a bumper 500,000 hectare crop.“We welcome the compromise 15 per cent deal reached by those politicians who were willing to negotiate on this issue,” he said. “The political games of the past 18 months do not represent the best of Australian politics and farmers are glad to see the issue of the backpacker tax in the rearview mirror.”

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