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Wednesday, 9 November 2016
Page: 3350

Working Holiday Maker Program

Mr O'DOWD (Flynn) (14:37): My question is to the Minister for Small Business. Will the minister inform the House why the implementation of the government's working holiday-maker reform package is important for Australian small businesses, including those in the seat of Flynn?

Mr McCORMACK (RiverinaMinister for Small Business) (14:37): I thank the member for Flynn for his question. He understands as much as anyone about small business, because he ran petroleum companies, pubs, hardware stores. And, in his electorate of Flynn, that makes an enormous contribution to the growth of the Australian economy, through the cultivation of sugarcane, fruits, nuts and grain. He knows that backpackers support the farmers and the producers in his electorate. That is why he so passionately fought for a fair and just outcome.

Our working holiday-maker reform package proposes a reduction in the tax rate, from 32½ per cent to 19 per cent. It ensures backpackers will pay a fair amount of tax on their earnings, and it is internationally competitive. The impact of the Turnbull-Joyce government's reform package is financially neutral. It is fully offset within the budget. Labor refuses to seek costings for its new and very irresponsible proposal. Labor does not understand regional Australia. It neither cares nor knows about regional Australia. It is playing politics. It has backed down on its election commitment. There is nothing new there.

It fails to recognise that backpackers make an important contribution to Australia's $43.4 billion tourism industry and that they are a key source of labour, particularly in regional Australia. Farmers are being used as political fodder, which should come as no surprise when it comes from a Labor Party which in government cut funding to our regions, stood in the way of dam construction and attempted to ruin our live cattle industry. Labor's proposal to reduce the backpacker tax rate to 10½ per cent completely ignores the solid support that the government has received from the National Farmers Federation no less.

What we are seeing from the Labor Party is an absolute slap in the face to many of the regional and small businesses who are farmers, local publicans, cafe owners, tourism operators—those who rely on seasonal workforces and backpacker labour. It is an affront to Australian workers.

At least we are sticking up for Australian workers on this side of the House. What would Labor like to see? Fruit rotting on the ground? A pub with no cheer? We all know that backpackers who earn their money in regional Australia often then travel the countryside, experiencing what this great land has to offer, further contributing to our economy, whilst experiencing all the wonderful things that Australia has to offer.

The stalling of the passage of legislation for this means that backpackers will be liable for the 32.5 per cent tax rate from New Year's Day, creating uncertainty and instability for the agriculture, horticulture, tourism and hospitality sectors. Labor has no understanding, no plan for Australian small business; they just want to sit there as idle puppets of their union mates. (Time expired)