Backpacker tax: Hunter backpackers, industry welcome certainty as government strikes deal

LOVING NEWCASTLE: Backpackers Tom Conway, of Ireland, and Pia Moellendorf, of Germany, kicking back in Pacific Park on Thursday. Picture: Brodie Owen

LOVING NEWCASTLE: Backpackers Tom Conway, of Ireland, and Pia Moellendorf, of Germany, kicking back in Pacific Park on Thursday. Picture: Brodie Owen

THEY didn't know it – but Germany's Pia Moellendorf and Ireland's Tom Conway were in Malcolm Turnbull's sights on Thursday when a political volley was swung their way on national radio.

The Prime Minister ripped into Labor over the backpacker tax, saying the Opposition favoured “rich white kids from Europe” holidaying in Australia over “Pacific Islanders working here to send money back to their villages”.

But to Mr Conway, who is backpacking in Newcastle from the Irish city of Galway, the PM's broadside was “not really fair”.

“When you're here from a different country, you're here to spend money. That's all you do,” he said. “All the money we earn goes back into the Australian economy. We don’t take it back with us.”

The government appeared likely on Thursday night to secure a 15 per cent rate in the Senate after striking a deal with the Greens.

The budgeted 32.5 per cent was due to kick in on January 1 if stalemate prevailed.

LOVING NEWCASTLE: Backpackers Tom Conway, of Ireland, and Pia Moellendorf, of Germany, kicking back in Pacific Park on Thursday. Picture: Brodie Owen

LOVING NEWCASTLE: Backpackers Tom Conway, of Ireland, and Pia Moellendorf, of Germany, kicking back in Pacific Park on Thursday. Picture: Brodie Owen

“If it was to go up to 32, it would have just encouraged more cash-in-hand jobs,” Ms Moellendorf, 18, said. “Both the employer and the backpacker would have said no.”

The German backpacker, who is due to start work at a Newcastle cafe on Saturday, said she would have reconsidered her visit if she was taxed 32.5 per cent on every dollar she earned.

“I definitely would have thought about it,” she said. “But in the end the positives outweigh the negatives.”

Hamilton East hostel owner-operator Anna Lambert welcomed the reduction as a win for certainty.

“It really levels the playing field,” she said. “A lower tax is better for everyone – backpackers, farmers, people like me. Those [backpackers] that did know about it were saying, ‘Why bother when I could just go somewhere else?’.”

Hunter MP Joel Fitzgibbon, who backed a 13 per cent rate, said the government’s deal was a “dud” and “face-saving”, while the Liberal’s state parliamentary secretary for the Hunter, Scot MacDonald, accused Mr Fitzgibbon of “playing Canberra games” at the expense of the Hunter Valley wine industry.

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