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Greens backpacker tax deal is a win for farmers and the environment

Speeches in Parliament
Janet Rice 2 Dec 2016

This political grandstanding from Labor tonight is sour grapes because we have been able to deliver an outcome that they are jealous of and that they were not able to. They have sour grapes because we are the ones that brokered the outcome that is a win for farmers, a win for sustainable agriculture, a win for backpackers and a win for the environment.

We have managed to get an outcome that has delivered the same level of tax as what Labor agreed to this morning. This morning there was agreement all round that we would compromise and that we would get a 13 per cent tax rate. We have delivered the equivalent of that, because we tackled the other issue that was not being discussed, and that was the extraordinarily high rate of superannuation that was being clawed back from backpackers. The government was taxing backpackers' superannuation at 95 per cent. We have delivered an outcome that drops that rate from 95 per cent to 65 per cent. For backpackers, the combination of a 15 per cent tax plus reducing the level of superannuation tax is exactly the same rate as they would have had with what the Labor Party were going to agree on this morning. It has been total sour grapes from them tonight. We have already had division after division, and I can just see the expectation that we will be here until the early hours of the morning because you just cannot accept that we have been able to deliver an outcome where you have failed.

We have heard lines of argument as to why this is not an appropriate deal. We heard an extraordinary line of argument that it is financially irresponsible to contribute $100 million towards Landcare. I consider that $100 million towards Landcare to be a really great Green win. It is terrific outcome. It is the beginning of more money being spent on Landcare, which we know has terrific outcomes for our environment and has terrific outcomes for our farmers as well. Those farmers want to be able to take measures that help their farms to be sustainable. They want to be able to leave the land in better shape than they have found it. So this extra money being spent on Landcare is a really great investment. And, talking about financial responsibility, there are plenty of other revenue measures that the Greens have supported and have been arguing for long and hard, which Labor are not coming anywhere near, such as the dealing with the $8 billion being spent every year on fossil fuel subsidies. If you want somewhere to get revenue from, that is one that both Labor and the government have not been willing to touch. If we are talking about revenue, let us bring in revenue by cutting those fossil fuel subsidies. Let us bring in revenue by getting rid of negative gearing completely. Let us bring in revenue by abolishing the capital gains tax discounts. That will bring in tens of billions of dollars. Here we are talking about $100 million, which is such a small but valuable amount of money. It is a great win. I am very pleased to be able to deliver those outcomes, because that what the Greens are about. We are delivering outcomes for the environment, for people and for a fair sustainable future for us all. We have been able to do that this afternoon, and I am very proud of it.

Finally, let me go to the accusation of the strange bedfellows. It is laughable. The number of times that Labor vote with the government—they did it twice just today, on incredibly serious issues. Today, we had them voting with the government on locking up people who might commit a crime. Today, also, Labor voted on changing the definition of war crimes. Those are two things just today and there have been many other occasions of Labor voting with the government, such as on cruel treatment of refugees. Debate after debate, decision after decision, we see the government and Labor on the same side. We do not hear Labor talking about that very often at all, yet they have the gall to criticise us when we get a good outcome for people and a good outcome for the environment—when we can broker an outcome that is a real win for farmers and a win for sustainable agriculture. The political grandstanding is just incredible!

I am very pleased to be able to be here today and that the Greens have supported this outcome. It means that the uncertainty has gone. This whole backpacker tax debacle has been complete shemozzle and a complete circus. It has been 18 months of uncertainty, of treating our farmers with disrespect and of scaring backpackers away from coming here. They are such a critical part of our workforce. It was untenable that this was going to go on over summer. We needed to give certainty to farmers; we needed to make sure that we reached a fair deal for backpackers. That is what we have delivered on today. It took the Greens to be the circuit breakers, come in, say 'Come on,' bang some heads together and say, 'Let's get an outcome'. We have been able to deliver on this, and I am very pleased to have been part of it.

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