MONDAY, 23 MAY 2016
SUBJECT/S: Backpacker tax

JOEL FITZGIBBON, SHADOW MINISTER FOR AGRICULTURE, FISHERIES AND FORESTRY, SHADOW MINISTER FOR RURAL AFFAIRS: It’s wonderful to join Janelle here at Richmond Dairies and to be back in Page. We look so much to Janelle joining us again in Canberra. She was an outstanding Federal Member when she was last there and I’m sure when she comes back she’ll make a substantial contribution again. This electorate needs Janelle Safin back in Canberra. She is a tiger in the Caucus, she is a lion in the House of Representatives Chamber and it will be a great thing for Page if she returns. I really appreciate her inviting me to Richmond Dairies. This company fits the narrative I’ve been trying to promote in agriculture – that is value adding, putting the sector back up the value curve where we get a bigger return for the investment of our natural resources. So this is a great thing and we’d like to use this as an example of the private sector leading the way.

JOURNALIST: Janelle is it fantastic to have the Shadow Minister here during Beef Week celebrations?

JANELLE SAFIN, LABOR CANDIDATE FOR PAGE: Oh look it is because Beef Week is the big annual event and contrary to what they say in Queensland, Casino is the beef capital of the world – it is not Rocky go away, it is Casino. But look, it’s a really important occasion here and what Joel just said about value adding, that’s really important because that’s about local jobs. And we’ve got the crisis that’s happening to some of our dairy farmers that we all feel for and are supporting, to have such a success story of the butter here and this might be a bit incorrect but butter is better – I’m a butter eater.

FITZGIBBON: It’s true, that you don’t have a strong economy here in Page, if you don’t have a strong cattle industry. I keep hearing from producers who remain frustrated by Barnaby Joyce’s unwillingness to address their very real concerns about industry representation and advocacy.  I’m here to tell them that Janelle and I are on their side and a Labor Government will sit down with them and work through those Senate recommendations to ensure that in the future they have strong representation in Canberra and they have a Government prepared to work with them on these issues.

JOURNALIST: In your opinion do producers in the area also have a reason to be concerned about this backpacker tax situation?

FITZGIBBON: Everyone in a regional economy has reason to be concerned about the backpacker tax. This has been going on now for 12 months. Backpacker numbers have already substantially fallen off. Young backpackers in the UK for example are very savvy these days they watch what’s happening here in Australia and now they have Barnaby Joyce and Kevin Hogan telling them they are going to have another review. This is going to drag it out another eight months – backpackers just shrug their shoulders and say well I’m off to Canada or New Zealand instead.

JOURNALIST: So obviously we are seeing less backpackers come through, is that hurting local producers and they not able to fill those jobs with local staff?

SAFFIN: That’s what the local farmers and producers tell me but also other businesses that rely on you know our agricultural/ horticultural sector so they are hurting. They said since it was announced that the amount of visas applied for went down and also Mr Hogan he supported it initially, he then said there would be a review, he lead people to believe that there would be a change in the budget there was no change. Two days after the budget he defended the backpacker tax and now he is saying there is a review and I’m saying Mr Hogan come clean tell the true to the farmers, to the electorate.

JOURNALIST: Would you have preferred an outcome on this either way before the election before all of this campaigning.

FITZGIBBON: It’s not what I prefer it’s what people working in tourism and agriculture are demanding. We’re now six weeks out from election day and it’s clear that this Government still intends to implement this tax. Barnaby Joyce was one of the greatest supporters of this tax within the Cabinet and within his Party Room. He can stand up today and guarantee people that there won’t be a tax from July 1 by declaring that he is giving up the $540 million he is going to raise over the next 4 years.

SAFFIN: Mr Hogan and the Nationals, they’re not on our side on this issue and on many issues that are hurting our local communities.

FITZGIBBON: Not only is Kevin Hogan not on the side of the local community and local businesses, he is misleading the local community by suggesting we’re not going to have the tax when the fact is the tax is on track and the $540 million has been booked by this Government for the next 4 years. The PEFO – the Pre-Election Financial and Economic Outlook last week confirmed that.

JOURNALIST: There has been a big focus on multi-national companies paying their fair share of tax from both sides of politics, is this different is this not the same sort of approach we are looking at here trying to get everybody in the country working in the economy to pay tax, is this different somehow?

FITZGIBBON: No I think - the point is often lost here - is that backpackers don’t pay tax here if they don’t come here. So they have stopped coming, so they are not paying the backpacker tax. They are not paying the GST when they rent a room or participate in our local economies and the local people don’t have their pubs full because it’s suppressing local economies. This is well beyond backpackers; this is a hit on all regional economies right throughout Australia.

FITZGIBBON: Ok, thank you


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