Productivity Commission report validates industry’s concerns over backpacker tax

Leading horticulture body AUSVEG has today welcomed the public release of the Productivity Commission’s report on migrant intake into Australia, with the organisation renewing its calls for the Australian Government to remove the proposed ‘backpacker tax’.

The report found that temporary immigration programs can be an effective response to labour market shortages, and includes a recommendation from the Commission for the Australian Government to assess the costs of the proposed 32.5% tax rate on working holiday makers.

“During peak seasonal periods, Australian growers rely on temporary overseas workers to make up for domestic labour shortages, and we welcome the Productivity Commission’s findings that these workers are an effective way of filling these shortages,” said AUSVEG CEO Simon Bolles.

AUSVEG is the national body representing Australia’s vegetable and potato growers.

“Workers who come to Australia under these programs, including backpackers, ensure that Australian growers can keep feeding our nation. This means that policies which could deter workers from visiting Australia, such as the proposed backpacker tax, threaten the productivity of our industry,” said Mr Bolles.

The report also notes that workers who come to Australia under temporary immigration programs are inherently more susceptible to exploitation, and recommends that the Fair Work Ombudsman commission a smartphone app to provide temporary workers with information on their work rights and responsibilities and offer support in lodging complaints about abuse or exploitation.

“It’s vital that vulnerable workers are protected from unfair and exploitative treatment by rogue labour hire firms, and we welcome the Commission’s recognition that this is an area that needs urgent attention,” said Mr Bolles.

“We have repeatedly called on the Australian Government to introduce a licensing scheme that would require companies to prove compliance with Australian law before they can operate as labour hire firms in this country.”

“In the previous Parliament, the Senate Standing Committees on Education and Employment and the Joint Standing Committee on Migration both recommended the establishment of a licensing regime for labour hire contractors.”

“This is crucial reform that will help to protect backpackers and other vulnerable workers from these unconscionable operators and that has support in Canberra.”  Ω

Posted 14 Sept 2016