Leading vegetable industry body AUSVEG has expressed its disappointment at the lack of action taken by the Federal Government to change or eliminate the backpacker tax.

Growers are concerned that the tax, which will remove the tax-free threshold and increase the amount of tax paid by workers who come to Australia under the Working Holiday Maker program, will act as a deterrent to work on Australian farms and jeopardise the viability of the vegetable industry.

“The decision by the Federal Government to keep the proposed backpacker tax unchanged in the Federal Budget could impact the ability for Australian vegetable growers to harvest their crops and potentially devastate the industry,” said AUSVEG Deputy CEO Andrew White.

“Australian growers rely on backpackers to offset domestic labour shortages and perform the high amounts of manual labour needed in vegetable production. This decision endangers the availability of this important labour source and could leave growers unable to get crops off the field.”

“We initially welcomed the Federal Government’s review into this tax because it appeared as though they were prepared to acknowledge the strong opposition from Australian farming and tourism bodies. We hope that the Treasurer will be able to find a resolution in the next few weeks that will not threaten growers’ ability to attract the workers they need to harvest their crops.”

AUSVEG is the leading horticultural body representing more than 9,000 Australian vegetable and potato growers.

The Working Holiday Maker program, which includes the Working Holiday (subclass 417) visa and Work and Holiday (subclass 462) visa, allows visa holders to stay in Australia for 12 months and work for up to six months with any one employer.

Statistics from the Department of Immigration and Border Protection show that the number of backpackers coming to Australia has dropped repeatedly over the past two years, with over 34,000 fewer visas granted in 2014-15 than in 2012-13.

“While Australian growers’ first preference is always to employ local workers, there is simply not enough local labour to satisfy demand during peak harvesting periods, and backpackers play a vital role on Australian farms by providing a workforce during these critical times,” said Mr White.

“The ongoing decline in backpackers visiting Australia must be arrested if the Australian vegetable industry is to remain viable. Any further decrease in the number of backpackers visiting Australia due to the tax could have a crippling impact on the Australian vegetable industry, threatening the future productivity and profitability of our growers.”


MEDIA CONTACT:  Shaun Lindhe, AUSVEG Manager – Communications
Phone: (03) 9882 0277, Mobile: 0405 977 789, Email: shaun.lindhe@ausveg.com.au