Growers question the Federal government's indecision over backpacker tax

It’s been a long time since then Federal Treasurer Joe Hockey announced in the budget of May 2015 a 32.5 per cent tax on every dollar backpackers earned in Australia.

As the word spread on social media it has given potential backpackers, seeking to pay for their holiday around Australia by working on farms or for growers, plenty to think about.

And plenty of time to look at nearby New Zealand with its cheaper tax rate.

Dutch backpacker Neik Hendrix, working as a cherry packer in Orange, agreed on Monday.

Hendrix said backpackers were keen to come to Australia but it had to be worth it.

“New Zealand is very close to Australia. The tax rules there are better,” he said.

“Why would people choose to do the work in Australia?”

On Monday the Federal Government announced it would finally agree to a compromise lower rate of 15 percent is welcome news to Orange growers, where the cherry industry alone will this year be worth $34 million.

Cherries grown in Orange account for up to 40 percent of the national total.

But while a resolution is great news, and will certainly benefit others, including apple growers ahead of their harvest in a couple of months, the lengthy indecision has left a sour taste for cherry growers.

Black cherry grower Troy Williams queried why the government had even considered raising it in the first place as most of the money backpackers earned stayed in Australia.

“The are only using that money to spend on their holiday in Australia. It all goes back into somewhere in Australia.”

And he said that many would likely not stay long enough to claim the tax back anyway.

“How many claim the tax back?” he said.

“A large percentage of them would jump on the plane and head home and not worry about it.”

And you can throw in his concern that growers felt left in the dark over the whole matter due to a lack of information.

“It’s just silly, it really is,” he said.

But for Mr Williams and many growers it’s also very serious.

“I’m a black cherry grower. This is my income for the whole year. We work 11 months of the year for this five to six week period.”

And now with the tax seemingly put aside they still have to beat the weather.


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