Morrison’s backpacker tax
Can Treasurer Scott Morrison be serious about slugging backpacker fruit pickers with a 32.5% income tax? If he did, this would devastate the horticulture and quality wine grape industries.
Backpackers are usually young and seldom wealthy, often visiting from overseas, and they’re in our country for adventure. They work hard and are a valued resource for the fruit and wine grape-growers. They can spring into action quickly and move from farm to farm quickly, and their flexibility is important. Weather conditions often necessitate rapid changes in harvesting plans. These people are usually young and energetic, fit, resilient, optimistic and ready to have a go. When they finish work they often go on a holiday to make the most of their trip. Why on earth would we want to throw a wet blanket on that?
They certainly don’t own negatively-geared houses, Mr Morrison.
Any money they earn is probably spent here, not taken home to Germany or Denmark or wherever they came from. Imposing the tax Morrison flagged would be a serious deterrent to them.
The quality wine industry relies on hand-picking, to say nothing of the horticulture industries. Yes, most Australian wine grapes are machine harvested these days, but not the highest quality grapes. In top quality regions such as the Yarra Valley, Margaret River, Orange, Tumbarumba and others, many vineyards are hand-picked. Any grapes destined for methode traditionelle (bottle-fermented) sparkling wine must be hand-picked because they must be pressed as whole clusters, stalks and all. (Machine picking leaves the stalks on the vine.)
On the ABC 7.30 Report last week a Danish backpacker was quoted as saying she had been told she could earn up to $18,200 before paying tax. But this will change from July. The Farmers Federation has suggested a compromise of 19 cents in the dollar. It is hard to fathom the reasoning behind a backpackers’ income tax of 32.5%.
Like the first Abbott/Hockey federal budget, it will simply reinforce the popular perception that Liberal governments are all about penny-pinching from the ordinary people while looking after the big end of town.