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Farmers facing labour shortage set to challenge new tax on visa holders

Currently, there is no tax payable on the first $18,200 working holiday visa makers earn. But from July 1 2016, such visa holders will have to pay tax on every dollar they earn. Farmers who say up to 50 per cent of their seasonal workforce is made up of such visa holders are planning a major lobby against this planned change.

Queensland's peak horticulture lobby groups. Growcom, the Queensland Farmers Federation and Cotton Australia are planning to launch an ‘intensive lobbying campaign’ to highlight the severe impact of the measures on the agricultural sector, which fears an exodus of seasonal farm labour.

"It's very simple. It will deter backpackers from coming and working on our farms," Growcom chief executive officer Pat Hannan recently told ABC Rural Radio.

"Without labour to get the crop into the ground and particularly to get the crop out of the ground, our farmers, some of them, are under threat of losing their businesses. It's really that serious."

"When you're saying to backpackers, you might have been paid $22.62 an hour before but now we're only going to pay you $14.59 an hour, I've got to say that gets around pretty quickly and the backpacker community is going to be less inclined to come to Australia to enjoy their working holidays," Mr Hannan said.

He said the decision would hurt farmers and rural communities, which relied on backpacker labour.

"There are a lot of rural communities that survive based on the backpackers and labourers that come into those communities during peak planting and harvest times," Mr Hannan said.

"It's very short-sighted not to take the dramatic effect on the economies of those areas into account when you make changes the way the Government has.

"The backpackers are affected, the growers and farmers are affected and the local rural economies are affected."

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  • Guest
    Robert Steain Wednesday, 13 January 2016

    It cuts both ways. Many years ago I was working alongside an Irish backpacker who was taxed at a flat 25% where I was taxed at 47%. Work on working holiday visas is supposed to be "incidental" and not the primary reason for being here. I suggest that if those same employers in rural communities increase the wages they pay to adjust for this shortfall, they may find that many more Australians would be prepared to work for them.

  • Guest
    Canadian Bacon Monday, 25 January 2016

    Good luck to the lobbyists! Was planning on coming down under with my friends for a year, but from what we've heard about cost of living in Australia, Don't think we'll be able to have a go of it with these new tax rates. (along with the $440 just for the visa fee).

    If something changes, we'll be seeing you guys next year!

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