AUSTRALIA: Farmers call for certainty as backpackers search for other working holiday destinations

by Amy McCosker, ABC News



Pineapple farmers in central Queensland want politicians to commit to not imposing a backpacker tax.


The Federal Government decided to delay the proposed 32.5 per cent tax on all earnings of people on working holiday visas.


But farmers say it’s such an important issue that politicians should state their intentions in the lead up to this federal election.


Bungundarra pineapple farmer Jake Brooks said he relied on backpacker labour so heavily he would vote for whoever promises not to impose the tax.


“Without backpackers we’d probably scale back 20 to 30 per cent, minimum,” he said.


“It’s very important, I’m only 35, I’ve got a long time to go yet so I don’t really want to be chasing staff or scaling back any time soon… we don’t want to go backwards which is what will happen if this change comes through.”


“It’s easy now to get them if you need them but…[if] this tax comes in it sounds like they not really interested in coming.


“You don’t know who to vote for [in the election] now… we’ll vote for whoever is best for our business.”


Mr Brooks said he needed seasonal workers to harvest and plant, work he cannot find reliable local labour for.


“You just can’t get the local staff to stay, we’ve got 10 regular staff members but when you need extras… you ring the local employment agencies and they might turn up or they just wont,” he said.


“So that’s why we depend on the backpackers because you say you’ve got eight weeks work and they are there for that eight weeks unless you run out [of fruit] or the weather changes.”


Backpackers say they will go elsewhere
Backpackers won’t come to Australia on working holidays if they have to pay extra tax according to some already working in Queensland.


Canadian backpackers William Labonte, Tristan Coderre, Antoine Grondin and Antoine Galipeault-Paquet have been working for six weeks picking pines on Jake Brooks’ farm.


The men, all in their 20s, will be continuing their travels down the coast soon but say they doubt they would be in Australia if they were being taxed more.


“It’s catastrophic if that law goes [ahead], for the farmers who depend on a workforce of mostly backpackers… if that law passes I don’t know how many workers will stay,” Mr Labonte said.


“If you pay 35 per cent [tax], you can pay for accommodation and food but cannot have extra money to travel and that’s the point of backpackers, to earn money to continue to travel.”


The travellers did their research about where they would be able to earn a decent wage whilst experiencing the local lifestyle.


They say at the moment Australian visas are attractive to Canadian travellers but a tax hike will change that.


“It’s one of the easiest places to go to work for Canadians and for people all over the world too,” Mr Coderre said.


“It’s the good landscape and everything but if you want to continue to travel you’ve got to earn money so if the law passes would probably not [work in Australia].”


Source: ABC News

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