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Thursday, 1 December 2016
Page: 5233

Mr McCORMACK (RiverinaMinister for Small Business) (17:43): The shadow agriculture minister and member for Hunter has asked me to explain how I am going to explain this to my Riverina farmers. Batlow cherry and apple packer, Greg Mouat, needs eight backpackers to knock on his door within a fortnight or else his cherries will pass their prime. 'We'd be completely stuffed without backpackers', Mr Mouat said. He is from Batlow. I used to represent Batlow, from 2010 until the electoral boundaries were changed this year. He is a very, very good man. He said: 'It's up in the air. I don't know if they're going to arrive or not given it's taken so long to make this decision.' Of course he is right. I am glad that it has been resolved in a 'sensible and fair way', as the National Farmers' Federation has pointed out. 'You have to remember, we're dealing with a perishable product which doesn't stop ripening if it's not picked,' Mr Mouat said. 'We'll start cherries in the next fortnight and then we'll move into hand thinning apples for a number of weeks, then we'll pick apples in mid to late February through to the end of April.' Mr Mouat 'could swallow' a 15 per cent tax on backpackers. That is what he said. But he labelled the government's original 32½ per cent as 'ridiculous'. Mind you, that was the member for Lilley's originally, the 32½ per cent. Mr Mouat said Labor's current 10½ per cent alternative was playing politics—merely playing politics.

What we have seen today is a timely breakthrough, because we are on the very last day of parliament sitting for 2016. We could not let the tax go through at 32½ per cent. We know that. It would have done so much damage to the Riverina, to the central west and, indeed, to the Australian economy. Regional small businesses need a mobile labour force who can pick fruit, who can process meat and who can pull beers in pubs at the drop of a hat—absolutely. Backpackers will still come, apples will still be picked at Batlow, grapes will still be picked at Griffith, and pubs right throughout the Riverina and right throughout regional Australia will be staffed.

The member for Hunter went on a lot about the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority moving to Armidale. He also talked about our decentralisation policy. There is nothing wrong with having a decentralisation policy. I am pleased that the Rural Industries Research and Development Corporation is moving to Wagga Wagga. That is going to bring anywhere between a dozen and 21 jobs to my home town. I am pleased that the Grains Research and Development Corporation is moving to Dubbo, in the member for Parkes' electorate—I am glad he has joined me in chamber—as well as to Toowoomba, with other offices in Adelaide and Perth. Decentralisation is at the core of what the Nationals do, but so is also making sure a fair deal has been struck on this backpacker tax issue.

You only need to go to the comment piece written by David Crowe in The Australian on 29 November where he said:

Labor, which had adopted the 32.5 per cent rate in its own election costings, saw an irresistible opportunity to cause trouble. Its position was irrational.

And its position was irrational! We started with the Labor tax rate of 32½ per cent, we put money on the table to review Labor's rate and we have arrived at 15 per cent—having to find savings to do so. The government did not wish to be belligerent, but this is important policy. We could not have left this place—the member for Lyons knows this—and left this at 32½ per cent. We could not. We agreed to move to 15 per cent, and then, at the eleventh hour, we had this ridiculous situation in the Senate where the Labor Party, along with some other senators, tried to blow the show up. Labor has one objective, and that is to wreck the show; to try and take some sort of small semblance of victory out of what has been yet another disastrous year for them.

The member for Maribyrnong and Labor have demonstrated once again that they are more interested in playing base political games—absolute low-level political games—that seek to create chaos and uncertainty for farmers and undermine the budget than delivering real outcomes in the best interests of Australians. That is what this is about. It is about delivering outcomes for Australians. I do not and cannot understand why Labor is so against the rural sector. I do not and cannot understand why Labor has such a bad record when it comes to not sticking up for regional Australia. Take a look at some of the things that have happened just in my time in parliament that Labor has wrought upon regional Australia: the live animal exports, the carbon tax, the mining tax and failing to act when the Asian honey bee incursion occurred. There were so many things. Labor did not spend one cent on mobile blackspot towers. The Murray-Darling states non-deal—it was an absolute disaster for our regions, particularly those river communities which rely on the triple bottom line approach. Labor never wanted to know about it. It was an absolute buyback. It was an absolute disaster, the amount of water that was bought out of the Murray-Darling system, out of the Murrumbidgee, out of the Murray, out of northern New South Wales and out of southern and western Queensland to prop up what Labor was trying to prop up, an environmental outcome for the Murray-Darling system at the expense of farmers and at the expense of social and economic implications.

This bill before us, the Superannuation (Departing Australia Superannuation Payments Tax) Amendment Bill (No. 2) 2016, this sensible resolution that is before us, is so important. One of the most important roles I have in parliament is to stand up for the regions and to fight for the Riverina and the Central West. As the Minister for Small Business, I appreciate and understand and acknowledge that of the 15,000 small businesses in the Riverina, in my electorate, a third are farmers, and many of those farmers use backpackers. Right across the regions and across the nation, many of our small business people are tireless, hardworking farmers. They will be very satisfied with this outcome—15 per cent, as the National Farmers Federation said, is a fair and just resolution. I commend it to the House.