Member for O’Connor Rick Wilson MP has called on the Australian Labor Party and Senate crossbenchers to act in the best interests of Australian industries and support the Coalition’s Backpacker Tax amendments.
Mr Wilson said the Senate’s rejection of the Income Tax Rates Amendment Bill was completely out of step with farmers, horticulturalists, tourism operators and the hospitality industry, given they supported the Government’s revised tax rate of 19.5 per cent.
“Bill Shorten and the Senate crossbenchers are about to inflict a great deal of pain on those industries, and the Australian economy as a whole, for reasons only they can explain,” Mr Wilson said.
“Let’s not forget Labor created this mess – their hatchet job of raising the tax-free threshold, linked to the introduction of the Carbon Tax, meant foreign workers were suddenly able to earn $36,000 dollars in Australia without paying a cent in tax.
“The Australian Tax Office and the Administrative Appeal Tribunals subsequently made independent rulings that foreign workers should not be able to claim the tax-free threshold, and the Coalition moved to implement those rulings.
“However, industry told us that a 32.5 per cent rate of taxation for working holiday makers would hurt their ability to attract seasonal labour.
“In response to those concerns we delayed the tax, we consulted with industry, and we took the position of introducing a 19.5 per cent rate – the same rate that had been agreed to by the National Farmers Federation, the Australian Hotels Association and the WA Farmers Federation.
“I went to Manjimup with some of my Liberal colleagues and we stood in a room with dozens of farmers and horticulturalists – we listened to their feedback, and we acted on it.
“Now, despite the Government’s amended policy being in line with suggestions from national industry representatives, the Senate has rejected the Bill and we’re staring down the barrel of the 32.5 per cent rate of taxation that caused some much angst in the community.”
Mr Wilson said the Government would continue to hold discussions with the Opposition and the crossbench to achieve the necessary support to pass the Coalition’s legislation.
Mr Wilson said the fundamental principle was that foreign workers should pay at least an equivalent rate of taxation to Australian workers.
“Australia residents can claim the tax free threshold, but even minimum wage earners end up paying about 17 cents in the dollar – then they pay the Medicare levy,” he said.
“Bill Shorten’s hypocrisy is appalling – he has spent the last few weeks kicking up a storm about 457 visas and supposedly favourable conditions for foreign workers.
“Now he is suggesting foreign workers on 417 and 462 visas should pay less tax than Australians working alongside them in the field. It’s political games at the expense of regional industries.”