May 18, 2016

    Australia delays 'backpacker tax' after protests


    WORKING holidaymakers from overseas were given a reprieve yesterday from being hit with a so-called "backpacker tax" in Australia after a campaign by farmers and the tourism industry.

    The government had planned to introduce the levy on foreign travellers who are often young and work in agriculture and hospitality as a vital source of seasonal labour.

    It would have boosted government coffers by an estimated A$540 million (S$543 million) over the next three years.

    Farmers and tourism operators fear backpackers will shun Australia as a travel destination if the tax comes into force in favour of places such as New Zealand and Canada.

    Nearly 50,000 people signed an online petition in protest. Assistant Treasurer Kelly O'Dwyer said the tax would be suspended for six months pending a ministerial review.

    Some 600,000 backpackers visit Australia every year and farmers, in particular, rely on them at harvest time.

    The National Farmers' Federation welcomed a pushing back of the tax and called for a permanent solution.

    "Backpackers are an integral part of the Australian agricultural workforce," federation president Brent Finlay said.

    "We must make sure they have every reason to come here to work and to spend valuable tourism dollars in our regional communities."