Working backpackers must now pay tax
BACKPACKERS will still be forced to pay tax from the first dollar they earn, despite Scott Morrison vowing to entice them to spend more than $1 billion in regional areas.
And the Opposition has warned there are not enough safeguards to stop the exploitation of young tourists, who are being encouraged to stay in Australia to work on farms.
The Prime Minister yesterday defended the backpacker tax, as he used the first day of his Queensland tour to announce a suite of measures to entice more working holiday-makers to Australia and to keep them here longer.
Mr Morrison toured the Gold Coast and Logan yesterday and will head to the Sunshine Coast and Rockhampton today as part of a four-day blitz of electorates across the state.
Under visa changes revealed by The Courier-Mail yesterday, backpackers will be able to extend their stay to up to three years if they work on farms for an extra six months.
Age limits will be raised to 35 for some countries, caps on the number of visitors will be lifted, and the number of regional areas eligible for the extra work will be expanded to fill gaps in the farm workforce.
Agricultural groups welcomed the moves, which will also see seasonal workers from the Pacific Islands allowed to stay for longer, and farmers' costs and paperwork reduced.
Mr Morrison set a target of seeing "$1 billion being spent by backpacker tourists in regional areas all across the country", up from $920 million at the moment. " Everything they earn here, they spend here," he said.
But he ruled out removing the controversial 15 per cent tax that he imposed as Treasurer, despite warnings from the tourism industry that this has driven backpackers away.
"We all pay tax when we work. If other people come here and work, they pay tax too," he said.
He also left open the option of an agricultural visa for foreign workers "as a longer- term, medium-term plan".
The deal also includes $1.5 million in funding for industry group Fair Farms, to dob in farmers who are ripping off foreign workers.
But Opposition agriculture spokesman Joel Fitzgibbon said this was not enough.
"Given that migrant workers in Australia have already suffered over $1 billion in wage theft while working on temporary visas, what measures will be put in place to guarantee the Government's new announcements won't undercut the pay and conditions for all workers?" he said.