Speech - House of Representatives

17 October 2016

Income Tax Rates Amendment, Treasury Laws Amendment, Superannuation Amendment & Passenger Movement Charge Amendment Bills 2016

Thanks very much, Mr Deputy Speaker Vasta. I rise to enter the debate tonight on

the Income Tax Rates Amendment (Working Holiday Maker Reform) Bill 2016. I am following the member for

Canning, who finished his remarks by saying this piece of legislation was the definition of 'good public policy', in

the Hawke and Keating tradition. Through you, Mr Deputy Speaker: the member for Canning is certainly no Bob

Hawke and certainly no Paul Keating. And, if the member for Dawson threatening to quit, a meltdown inside the

coalition party room and a reform taking 18 months to come onto the floor of this parliament is your definition

of good public policy, we have a big problem ahead of us with this government, and I am not surprised it is in the

mess it is in. But, from listening to the contributions from those opposite, particularly the members of the National

Party, it seems that somehow they want to be congratulated for the mess that they have created! Somehow they

want a pat on the back for the mess and uncertainty that they have delivered to their regional communities.

I support the second reading amendment moved by the shadow Treasurer and member for McMahon because

this backpacker tax has been nothing more than a shambles. And you do not need to take my word for it. It

was only this week that a member of the government, Senator Barry O'Sullivan, gave a speech about this very

legislation, saying 'massive uncertainty' was created by the tax, which was reworked yet again last month, and

the toing and froing over the tax 'had gone on far too long'. He said:

I do not want to seem critical of my own government—

but he was!—

but I think this whole exercise could well have been managed better and more promptly. All the information

available to us to resolve the issues that presented to those sectors has been at our disposal for a significant

period of time.

So, what happened? Despite the rubbish we have just heard from the member for Canning, who said this reform

was the definition of good public policy, there was something called an election that got in the road, so that we

had to have a stopgap measure to stop that infighting over that election period. The member for Barker paid

tribute to the wonderful advocacy of the members for Braddon and Lyons. Well, they did not do very good job,

because the community made sure that they became former members of this House! If they were so good, they

would still be here; but they are not, and that is the reality, because quality people have taken their places now,

people who will champion issues on behalf of the community, rather than letting politics get in the road.

We also have the uncertainty that has been caused to the agricultural and tourism sectors. The hypocrisy of those

opposite knows no bounds.

Mrs Wicks interjecting

Mr DICK: I can hear the member for Corangamite interjecting, as she does. She is trying to defend the shambles

once again, but she knows she cannot because she is on the record as being part of the mess that has resulted in

fewer backpackers coming to Australia, with more pressures on the community.

When the announcement, the so-called miracle, came forward on the backpacker tax, a Victorian citrus grower

and chairwoman of lobby group Voice of Horticulture said last week:

… industry had wanted superannuation for backpackers to be scrapped.

'Why are we just not saying that superannuation is not payable for backpackers but this amount has to be paid

in increased tax?' she said.

'At the end of the day it's no benefit to the grower, it's now no benefit to the worker, so it's just another piece of

administrative burden back on to those already overworked growers.

But she said after 18 months of uncertainty, Australia's reputation among as a working holiday destination had

been damaged.

'We have got such bad publicity out there at the moment about this backpacker tax, a lesser rate would have maybe

made it more attractive to people who have already booked their flights to New Zealand or to Canada,' she said.

'That reputation, I really have no idea how long it's going to take us to rebuild that …

So, instead of giving congratulations and pats on the back for what can only be described as a shambles of a

policy, we need to ensure that this is properly reviewed.

It is all very well to say we have had 18 months of dithering and not making decisions. We have now seen,

as a result of yet another government policy change, the passenger movement charge increase. Once again, a

couple of weeks ago we were hearing from the government, 'We are not going to touch that, we are not going

to increase that, but we have all sorts of problems with the backbench, we have all sorts of problems about the

way this legislation has been managed that we are going to jack up the passenger movement charge.' Despite all

the hysterics and lectures that we had about that issue, we are now seeing the government do exactly the same

thing that they were condemning this side of the House for.

The amendment also says:

  1. concerns have been expressed about the changes to the arrangements for Working Holiday Makers given the

rorting, abuse and exploitation that has occurred.

We need only listen to the contribution by the member for Bendigo, who elegantly outlined the issues surrounding

the Ombudsman's report which came down last week.

But I want to focus on some of the other contributions we have heard today from those opposite, and the absolutely

breathtaking hypocrisy of people like the member for Murray—a big lion in his electorate but a little pussycat

when he comes into this chamber. Before the election, he was saying we should scrap the tax, and the Liberal

candidate in Murray said he was going to cross the floor. What has happened since? We have had a minor thing

called the election and now he wants to be congratulated for his results. He warned that the tax should go in

interviews before the election.

Now we are also seeing the Tasmanian agricultural sector raise serious concerns, and I know the member for

Lyons will discuss that in his speech today. The Tasmanian government are against the tax. They know that

there is a lot of concern and frustration about the lack of consultation, and I am quoting from media reports from September.

So we know there are around 200,000 working holiday-makers coming to Australia each year and in the 2015-16 year, there were around 214,000 working holiday-maker visas granted. We are talking about a significant amount of people that this tax will impact, but more importantly we are talking about the regional communities and theflow-on effects.

Representing a great state like Queensland, I am advocating on behalf of the tourism industry while I serve in

this place. If you look at the amount of time backpackers have spent in Queensland, it has recently fallen by nine

per cent. We know backpacker tourism is worth an estimated $3.5 billion to the Australian economy. I know that

those opposite talk tough at home but when it comes to coming into this chamber it is a different story.

Tourism operators in my home state have also been frustrated by the way the government has been handling this issue.

In September of last year, Mary Carroll from the Queensland Tourism Industry Council, a former National Party

candidate, said that the uncertainty around the laws was reducing the number of backpackers planning trips to

regional areas and that it would have a devastating impact on the industry's future. She said:

We need to remove the uncertainty so it doesn't affect our long-term visitation in a year or so—

Fast forward to today— or further out.

So the warnings to the government have been loud and clear but they have refused to listen to those warnings,

and now they are paying the price. We are seeing a decrease in the numbers coming to Australia.

The passenger movement tax is being jacked up but we have no modelling on its impact and no consultation

with the tourism sector. All they got was a phone call, apparently, from the Treasurer, not saying, 'What do you

think about this?' but saying, 'It's happening,' on the day of the announcement. That is not good public policy,

as the member for Canning would like us to have.

We know that this is a critically important issue. We know that this is an important component of regional

tourism and regional employment not only for Queensland but for states like Western Australia, South Australia

and Tasmania. So I simply say to the government this does not fit the definition of good public policy; it is

the opposite. It is an example of how not to handle issues. I certainly hope that this is a wake-up call to the

government. On behalf of members on this side of the House, we will be doing everything we can to make sure

that that inquiry goes as smoothly as possible so that we get the best possible outcome for an important sector

of our economy.