Backpacker Tax given the green light | OPINION

Backpacker Tax given the green light | OPINION

DEAL DONE: Australian Greens Leader Dr Richard Di Natale says yesterday was a great day for farmers and the environment, with the deal also seeing an added $100 million going into the Landcare program.

DEAL DONE: Australian Greens Leader Dr Richard Di Natale says yesterday was a great day for farmers and the environment, with the deal also seeing an added $100 million going into the Landcare program.


As the credits rolled on the Backpacker Tax drama, it was those in the green tights that will have the most chance of snaring future roles.


WAS it all a well orchestrated show?

The backpacker tax deal, that is.

Because if you step back and look at the timeline of the thing, it resembles a Hollywood script, complete with three-act structure and climatic, uplifting conclusion.  

It'd be a long movie, no doubt, but all the hallmarks are there:

  • the slow build up and establishment of characters;
  • the first fall (announcement of 32.5 per cent rate);
  • the hero's rise (six month delay and then 19pc announcement);
  • further falters (Senate committee delay, 10.5 proposal);
  • a major fall with a betrayal from a key character (Hinch's 13pc backing);
  • finally, an out-of-nowhere hero emerges (the Greens) with a deal maker.

That might be a bit far-fetched to suggest but this is politics after all, so we will probably never know the discussions done behind closed doors and late-night conversations beside vending machines.

The experts all suggest an increased tax on backpackers would have a detrimental effect on the number of people coming to Australia for a working holiday.

Others have suggested most wouldn't have any idea, or care about, the tax rate they are working under.

Let's just hope the lure of this country's lifestyle and landscapes is enough to whitewash any bad press this how thing has caused.

It would appear that the angst and uncertainty for farmers might be all cleared up.

Sure, they've got a 15pc tax rate for their iterant workers, which is better than 32.5pc and even better than the initially-reduced 19pc rate, but they have a whole other conundrum now on their hands.

When it comes to Canberra, who do they back?

The horticulture and wider agriculture community has been burned by all sides of government.

As one spokesperson said, regional Australia won't forget this shemozzle.

So who now do they turn to?

Imagine if a federal election was looming- what would be the outcome?

There could be a rise of minor parties as rural Australia shies away from supporting the traditional players and heaps hope onto new blood.

And yet, it was some of those minors and independent players that threw curve balls into the game in the final days of parliament.

Of all the actors within this drama, it seems the Greens have played the cleverest role.

They wanted no tax at all at one stage. Then they shuffled to the background with minimal disruptions, waiting for their chance to ride forth.

The Greens' rescue of the situation is interesting in terms of other aspects to horticultural production methods.

Things such as minimal till, compost, soil biology, integrated pest management and water run-off reduction could all be considered greener approaches to modern farming that are increasingly becoming mainstream.

As production becomes export focussed, potential customer nations (particularly in Asia) seem to warm toward the idea of lest pesticides and more organic methods.

Farmers are finding new light in a softer approach to the environment, working with groups such as Landcare for mutual benefits.

How will Landcare use its extra $100 million? Don't be surprised if a fair portion of that goes into agriculturally prominent activities.

The passing of this one bill could present a major shift in alliances for rural Australia.

There would be plenty out there in there orchards, paddocks and greenhouses at the moment contemplating that perhaps the grass is greener on the other side.​ 


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