21 March 2016
Today, industry groups from both the tourism and agricultural sectors have begun consultations in Sydney as part of the review of the 2015 Budget measure on tax arrangements for Working Holiday Makers.
The Minister for Tourism and International Education, Senator Richard Colbeck, announced the review last week at the Destination Australia Conference in response to industry concerns that the measure may impact on Australia's global competitiveness as a destination for backpackers.
"As our economy transitions from a reliance on the mining industry the Government understands that Working Holiday Makers are vital for two of our super-growth sectors for the next decade - agriculture and tourism," Senator Colbeck said.
"These two super-growth sectors will be important generators of economic prosperity and employment growth in the future and the Government is determined to ensure we support them to realise these strong growth projections.
"We must remain globally competitive as a desirable destination that welcomes Working Holiday Makers; they fill vital labour gaps, often in rural and regional areas that depend on their contribution and they make a great addition to our multi-cultural society.
The Assistant Minister for Agriculture and Water Resources, Senator Anne Ruston said this Coalition Government well understands the challenges the agriculture sector faces in securing a workforce - particularly during seasonal peaks.
"Today's Industry round-table with Minister Colbeck was an important step in ensuring that agriculture stakeholders had the opportunity to share their current concerns about the backpacker visas that are under review, and to propose possible alternatives," Senator Ruston said.
"Minister Colbeck has assured the stakeholders present that their concerns will be taken into consideration in the review process that he is leading."
Assistant Minister to the Deputy Prime Minister, Keith Pitt MP, thanked stakeholders for attending today's meeting.
"This process is about getting the right balance between the level of taxation paid by working holiday visa holders, and giving unemployed people in regional areas - particularly young people - real work opportunities," Mr Pitt said.
"Reports from the agricultural sector of crops being left lying in the paddock unpicked because of labour force shortages are very concerning, given the importance of the sector to the national economy and its future growth prospects.
"I look forward to further feedback from stakeholders about potential solutions."
"In any outcome we must ensure there is a balanced and equitable approach to the tax status for all workers in Australia, including those visiting our country on visas," said Senator Colbeck.
"Given our current budgetary situation it is also vital that any changes to this measure must be budget neutral and industry have given various ideas today on how this can be achieved.
"It is important to note that any outcome will involve some level of taxation for Working Holiday Makers as they do utilise government services and this puts us more in line with our competitor countries.
"Once this consultation process is complete the final proposal will be presented to the Treasurer for consideration by Cabinet," concluded Senator Colbeck.