Leading vegetable industry body AUSVEG has welcomed the announcement by Assistant Treasurer Kelly O’Dwyer that the Federal Government will delay the introduction of the controversial backpacker tax, which has attracted widespread opposition from the agriculture industry since it was first proposed.
The Government’s plan to remove the tax-free threshold and increase the amount of tax paid by workers who come to Australia under the Working Holiday Maker program has been criticised, with AUSVEG claiming it would threaten the viability of the Australian vegetable industry.
The Federal Government today announced that they will undertake a review of the tax, led by Minister for Agriculture and Water Resources Barnaby Joyce. Ms O’Dwyer has flagged that the commencement of the tax is currently deferred until 1 January 2017.
“The Federal Government’s decision to review the backpacker tax is a welcome sign that they are finally acknowledging the concerns held by the Australian agriculture industry, and we hope that this is a step on the road towards the implementation of a more reasonable solution,” said AUSVEG Deputy CEO Andrew White.
“Australian vegetable growers rely on backpackers to offset domestic labour shortages and perform the high amounts of manual labour needed in vegetable production. Whether the tax is introduced at the currently proposed level now or in six months, the effect will be the same – it will threaten the availability of this vital labour source and leave growers unable to get crops off the field.”
“We hope the Federal Government’s review delivers a sensible solution to this issue which acknowledges the unique needs of the Australian vegetable industry and will continue to enable Australian growers to access this important source of labour.”
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.
“The ongoing decline in backpackers visiting Australia must be arrested if the Australian vegetable industry is to remain viable, and any further decrease in the number of backpackers visiting Australia could have a crippling impact on the Australian vegetable industry,” said Mr White. 

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