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Wednesday, 23 November 2016
Page: 3133


Senator WILLIAMS (New South WalesNationals Whip in the Senate) (18:48): I will just make a few minutes of contributions to the debate on the Income Tax Rates Amendment (Working Holiday Maker Reform) Bill 2016 and related bills. When the Labor Party were in government, they raised foreign workers tax from 29 per cent to 32½ per cent. It did not include backpackers; however, the Administrative Appeals Tribunal ruled that it must include backpackers—hence the 32½ per cent came along. There are some serious problems here, and I am well aware of that. We in the National Party have been informed by plenty about the problems out there, and that is why we need to fix the situation up.

Senator Rice said, 'We can't have young ones unemployed in the cities travel out to the country to pick fruit.' Why not? When I was a young fella and took up a handpiece shearing sheep, I had to travel out to the Flinders Ranges and to many areas of South Australia to get a job. We had to travel. I find it amazing, and this is the heart of the problem. There are roughly 735,000 unemployed Australians. I am sure many of them are young and in very good physical health and condition. Why can't they travel to get to work? I know that in many country towns where abattoirs exist they rely heavily on backpackers. Why aren't the locals working in those abattoirs? I will tell you why: they lack work ethic. They roll up for work and fail a grog test or a drug test, or they simply do not show up to work. It is an unacceptable attitude to me.

As I said in my maiden speech in this place on 15 September 2008, some of these people need a touch on the backside with a cattle prod to get them off their butts and to get them to work. I did not mean literally—even though TheJakartaPost quoted 'literally', that was not the case. But we need to change the attitude a bit here in Australia, where there is important work to be done, and see those people get out there and get a job, even if they have to travel. There are many people unemployed in country towns close to where a lot of this rural work we are talking about—fruit picking and abattoir work—is being carried out. It is essential work. Those people should be out there working, in my opinion, instead of staying home unemployed and not worrying about bothering to go to work or, if they go to work, not doing the job properly and eventually getting the sack, or getting the sack very quickly, or, as I said, in some businesses, failing the alcohol test or the drug test.

I think it is very unfair that, if I am shearing out there somewhere in a shed and I hit the $18,200, the foreign worker shearing alongside me would pay less tax than me. I do not think that is fair, and some are proposing a 10.5 per cent tax. I think it is very unfair that I would be on one downtube shearing sheep and that the bloke from South Africa alongside me who has been there for six weeks and has made the $18,200 bracket—which you would do in about six weeks if you are a good shearer—would pay less tax than me. Why should that shearer from South Africa pay less tax than me? Why should I do the same work, work just as hard, shearing the same sheep in the same conditions, and pay more tax to the Australian government than that foreign worker? That is simply not fair. Life is about fairness.

So we need to sort this out. It has certainly caused some problems in the industry. I know many of my colleagues in the National Party have pushed hard for these changes and this review. Hopefully we will get it settled in the very near future. If we do not get it settled in this place, come 1 January they will all be paying 32.5 per cent tax, and the last thing we want to see is people deferring to other countries. Sure, 19 per cent is higher than Canada, New Zealand and the UK, but the fact is that wages are also higher. People are not mentioning that. The tax is a bit higher but the wages are also higher. It is good to see the NFF and many of those industry bodies now saying: 'Yes, 19 per cent. Go for it. Get rid of the uncertainty, and let's get on with the job.'