Australia: Senate reaches compromise to finally pass backpacker tax
What began as a proposal to tax foreign laborers at 32.5% has officially been brought down to a 15% and passed by the Senate, ending an "18 month saga that has significantly dented confidence in Australia as a backpacker destination" according to industry group Ausveg.
The 15% compromise was reached earlier this week, but resistance to a proposed 95% tax on superannuation (pension) from the Greens and Labor led to the bill's rejection in the Senate.
Back to the drawing board a new eleventh-hour deal was reached across political parties, cutting the superannuation tax rate to 65%.
Ausveg said the deal meant Australia's hardworking growers could finally see certainty over the issue, which has significantly dented an important part of the produce industry's workforce.
"This outcome means that after 18 months of confusion and uncertainty, Australian growers can now finally move forward with certainty about the future of the working holiday maker program," said Ausveg CEO Simon Bolles.
"We are incredibly pleased to see this compromise finally rule out the damaging 32.5 per cent tax rate that threatened our industry."
Bolles said while he welcomed the bipartisanship which brought about the deal, the treatment of the issue should serve as an example of the need to ensure industry is involved in policy development "from start to finish".
"The treatment of the backpacker tax issue is an indictment on our current Parliament, with growers seen to be held to ransom by political games until the last sitting day of the year," he said.
"This must never happen again. The farmers and growers of Australia deserve better."
Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce lambasted Labor for its stance against the tax his Coalition Government proposed, accusing the party of "pure political malice" in a press release littered with colorful, bizarre language.
"Labor did not care about a resolution. They joyously wallowed in watching a large chunk of our agriculture sector being taken to the edge of a cliff," Joyce said.
"They had no regard for farmers, they showed disdain for Aussie workers; and demonstrated they had no care for consumers who would have paid sky-rocketing prices for fruit and vegetables over Christmas had Labor got its way to let produce rot on the trees."