Australian agricultural industry welcomes new "backpacker tax"

MELBOURNE, Dec. 2 (Xinhua) -- Australian farmers and fruit growers have welcomed the nation's new 15 percent "backpacker tax."

The tax, passed by Australia's parliament 18 months after it was first proposed, means that backpackers working in Australia will be taxed 15 percent of their income.

The government, led by Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, dropped its initial proposal of a 32.5 percent tax rate to 19 percent in September due to strong opposition from agricultural workers.

Under further pressure from the Opposition and cross-benchers the government then lowered the tax to 15 percent, which looked unlikely to pass through parliament before the end of the sitting year but was pushed through on the last day due to last minute support from the Greens Party.

Phil Pyke, business development manager for Fruit Growers Tasmania, said there was relief across the agricultural industry now there was certainty.

"We can now start to work for European backpackers to start planning and we are quite happy that we have a baseline to which we can move forward," Pyke said.

Pyke said he was confident that local workers, refugee migrants and international students would be able to fill the backpacker void for this picking season.

"We've got a growing migrant community, from the Sudanese and Congolese in Tasmania, which we can draw on," he told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) on Friday.

"Backpackers are a supplementary workforce and that's what we've learnt about this is we can't rely on this system."

Pyke said the months of debate had damaged many politicians' reputation within the agricultural industry.

"This is a shining example of how the bureaucracy has failed government and government has failed the industry," he said.

[ Editor: meng ]


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