Sen. Lambie calls Coalition backpacker tax move a "backflip"

UPDATE: Senator Jackie Lambie has welcomed what she calls a Coalition "backflip" on the rate for the so-called "backpacker tax"

The Coalition leadership team earlier announced they have agreed to a 15 per cent rate for the tax, down from the 19 per cent which failed to make it through parliament. 

"If Tasmania had the balance of power in the Senate, with the assistance of a couple more JLN independent senators - then the backpacker tax rate would have remained unchanged at zero percent - and this unnecessary, harmful rural crisis would never had developed," Senator Lambie said in a release issued today.

She also said the plan to tax backpackers 32.5 and then 19 per cent "was always dumb, uncaring, and bloody-minded."

"While ever New Zealand has a backpacker tax rate of 10.5% - rates of 32% and 19% were always going to be internationally uncompetitive - and doomed for failure.

"And while I acknowledge that many desperate farmers will welcome a reduction of 4% to 15%, they still don't have any guarantee, that the damage to Australia's international reputation will be repaired."

The Australian Tourism Export Council also expressed their dismay at the potential harm done to Australia's reputation.

"Our industry has been caught up in this unimpressive political posturing for most of this year and we are ready to welcome the end of the debate and to put our focus back to the business of providing an amazing destination for international visitors," ATEC Managing Director, Peter Shelley said today.

"Unfortunately, damage has been done to our reputation and image as a great destination for youth travellers and our focus should now be on getting behind Tourism Australia's campaigns to re-engage this market.

"ATEC members, businesses which are at the coalface of the export tourism industry, are telling us they are experiencing a 20-30% decrease in visitation from this market and they are very eager to get Australia back on track."

EARLIER: The federal Coalition has agreed on a rate of 15 per cent for the new "backpacker tax" instead of the previously touted 19 per cent.

The decision ends the uncertainty in time before parliament finishes sitting at the end of the week.

The ABC reports Nationals MP Andrew Broad reportedly broke ranks and called for the compromise rate of 19 per cent to be lowered to 15 per cent. 

There are reports an amount of discontent is brewing inside the National Party over Mr Broad's actions, with the majority preferring to keep pushing for a 19 per cent rate. 

>> Backpacker tax: What our farmers think

Senator Hanson has taken ownership of the 15 per cent proposal.

"Most importantly this is a win for farmers, small business and tourism but this is also a win for One Nation and a win for common sense," Hanson said.

"Instead of letting lobbyists and special interests groups dictate policy politicians should be visiting their voters and listening."

Vegetable grower industry body AUSVEG welcomed the announcement of the likely compromise rate.

"It is good to see that the Government has responded to pressure from members of Parliament and industry groups to negotiate a compromise deal which ensures a fair deal for backpackers visiting Australia, and which is the same rate paid by workers under the Seasonal Worker Program," AUSVEG CEO Simon Bolles said.

"We're grateful that this debate has finally been put to bed and Australia's vegetable growers can have certainty going forward about this crucial source of labour."

The Senate had previously agreed to an amended 10.5% backpacker tax rate, supported by Labor, the Greens and key crossbenchers.

But the lower tax rate proposal was rejected by the House of Representatives.

Growcom chairman Les Williams said a tax rate needed to be negotiated and agreed on by all parties before the "draconian" 32.5% tax rate was foisted on backpackers from January 1.

"This is a disgraceful political shambles of the highest order," Mr Williams said.

"Growers don't care who started it, they only care that for the past 18 months no-one has actually managed to get an agreed rate across the line, which reflects badly on the government and badly on the Senate."

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