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Monday, 7 November 2016
Page: 3065


Ms BUTLER (Griffith) (17:22): I have got to tell you: some people have a lot of nerve. When I read about this motion on the papers, I thought: 'The member for Capricornia is having a lend of us. She is taking all of us for mugs.' I think that Australians are pretty sick of that. This is the government that, in its 2015-16 budget papers in May last year, took the tax rate for backpackers from zero to 32½ per cent from the first dollar of income. That is what this government did. This government can stand up all it likes and try to pretend that it is the voice of tourism, that it stands up for tourism, but what actually happened last year was the government introduced the backpacker tax.

I spoke at the Adventure Travel and Backpacker Industry Conference in November last year. I was there representing Anthony Albanese, the shadow minister for tourism. Needless to say, the people in that room were not happy with this coalition government and its new backpacker tax. There was a lot of anger in the room from the many small businesses that were there representing the backpacker industry and the adventure tourism sector. They were very unhappy about this government's decision to impose taxation on backpackers in what was just a naked grab for revenue—a $540 million tax grab. These are the small businesses that make up the tourism sector. There are 270,000 businesses in the tourism sector in Australia, and they are mostly small businesses. They do not have a lot of power; they do not have a voice at the table in the same way that some other industries and some other firms do. But they are very clear. They know when they are getting rolled and they know when they are getting treated with contempt. That is what this government did to the tourism sector last year. To now stand up and pretend that it is up to Labor to clean up the mess that it made is deeply disingenuous and wrong.

Such was the outcry from the tourism sector about this outrageous decision they made to push up the backpacker tax to 32½ per cent that they finally gave it a rethink, but it was not until 18 months after they first announced the backpacker tax that they announced their proposed compromise. On 27 September this year they announced a compromise to allow the backpacker tax to be 19 per cent for every single dollar of income earned up to $37,000. They wanted to take their increase from zero per cent to 32½ per cent. They now want to take it back down to 19 per cent and are pointing the finger at us and saying, 'Why hasn't Labor fixed our mess yet?' It is incredibly rude behaviour, and it is rude not only to the members of this parliament but to the members of the Australian public whom they are treating with contempt and disrespect, and whose intelligence they are insulting.

But Australians are not going to fall for it. Australians are not silly. The member for Flynn and the member for Capricornia can stand up and pretend all they like that they have been the great defenders of tourism in this place, but people in their electorates are going to know that they supported the government's move to impose the backpacker tax. Not only that; even with this so-called compromise proposal that brings it down to 19 per cent—still much higher than neighbouring countries, still much higher than the zero per cent that it was before May last year—they are going to point the finger at us and claim that it is our fault and say that we should fix their problem.

There is another kick in it for the tourism industry. It is not enough for this government that they imposed the backpacker tax back in last year's budget papers. It is not enough for this government that their 18-months-later compromise proposal only brings it down to 19 per cent—much higher than neighbouring countries and much higher than the zero per cent it was. They also want to increase the departure tax for tourism. They also want to slug tourism operators, they want to slug our tourism sector, with an increase in the departure tax. It is a tax on tourism, and the worst thing about it is that the Treasurer knows very well what he is doing, because he has opposed this measure being increased in the past.

Needless to say, the transport and tourism forum, local tourism operators and local tourism interest groups are up in arms about this proposal to increase the tourism tax. Next time the member for Capricornia is drafting motions, she might want to think about coming in here and pretending to have been a defender of tourism at the same time as she is supporting a government that has slugged tourism, has slugged tourism again and is now slugging tourism a third time. It is going to look pretty silly to the people back in the electorate because, no matter what she might think of them, no matter how much she might disrespect her constituents, they are not mugs. She can try to take them for mugs as much as she likes, but they are not mugs. They know what is going on with this government. They know this is a tax on tourism and they are not going to stand for it come the next election.