Backpacker tax move more of a sideways shuffle
Senator Nick Xenophon and his colleague Rebekha Sharkie MP, the Member for Mayo, have renewed their calls for urgent changes to ‘inflexible and punitive’ welfare rules to give young unemployed Australians a chance to do seasonal work on farms.
Changes announced to the backpackers tax today – to reduce it from 32% to 19% - still put it significantly higher than the 11.95% in New Zealand for earnings up to $14,000.
“The real concern with farms in my electorate is that this new tax rate is still too high compared to NZ, and in any event, many backpackers have made a decision not to come to Australia this summer”, said Rebekha.
Both Senator Xenophon and Ms Sharkie renewed their call to allow jobseekers to work up to eight weeks on seasonal farm work and earn up to $5000 without any penalty. Currently Newstart Allowance recipients can be hit with a reduction of 50c in the dollar for extra money earnt over $104 a fortnight, with benefits cutting out at $1023 a fortnight for single people.
“When we floated this idea last week many farmers and young job seekers were keen to give this idea a go. The fact is there will be a massive labour shortage this summer because too many backpackers have been scared away. If we don’t adopt this measure there will be thousands of tonnes of fruit left rotting on the ground this summer”, said Nick.
“The changes announced by the government are, of course, welcome, but the tax rate still puts us at a big competitive disadvantage compared to New Zealand – another reason why this employment strategy that NXT is behind will address the barriers many unemployed people experience in relation to taking on short term work as well as increase the casual workforce pool for farmers who need every pair of hand working at harvest time”.