Transcript: 2GB - Interview with Ross Greenwood

Subjects: backpacker tax

ROSS GREENWOOD:

So there you go. So that was a very fired up Barnaby Joyce. Now, you know why he's fired up, because he came on this program and told farmers around Australia to plant their crops because the backpackers tax would be fixed. He told us here. He said Ross, I know you're trying to push me on this, plant your crops, he said to the farmers. We will fix this in. Now, remember the Government first proposed a 32 and a half per cent tax on backpackers, which meant backpackers did not come here. They went to other countries: New Zealand, they went to Canada, instead of coming here to Australia. Then what happens, that Barnaby Joyce came up and said, 19 per cent is the rate, because it's fair for the backpackers, but also fair for Australian workers.

Well, for some reason, Jacqui Lambie- and I can't quite understand this, Jacqui Lambie put up a proposal for a 10 and a half per cent tax rate for working backpackers. She's actually won the vote in the Senate 37 to 30 with the support of the Greens and the Labor Party, which is the reason that Barnaby Joyce went off like a belt-fed mortar there.

So, let's go and find out exactly what's taken place. Matt Canavan is the Minister for Resources and Northern Australia, he would really understand the backpackers tax inside out. Matt, what's taken place? Why is Jacqui Lambie running economic policy in this country?

MINISTER CANAVAN:

G'day Ross. Well, she's running economic policy for the Labor Party because the Labor Party have contracted that aspect of their job out to her. The NFF, the Farmers' Federation, are happy with the rate of 19 per cent. This rate of tax will make sure that Australian workers don't pay more tax than foreign workers, and I think that's something we could agree to. It’s certainly what you'd expect the Labor Party to agree to, you'd expect them to stand up for Australian workers but they're not in this instance. All they're doing is, because Jacqui's come up with a different rate, they said, oh, we'll go with her because she's got a different view to the Government's.

This is all about trying to hold up what the Government needs to do to make this country run, at the expense of Australia's farmers, Australian people who work on farms, who have a job on farms. That's who they should be supporting, but instead they just want to create division. That's just normal politics.

ROSS GREENWOOD:

Okay, Matt. Just explain one thing for people, as well: normally legislation is created by the Government, is put through the Lower House, the House of Representatives, first and then it goes to the house of review, the Senate, the Upper House. If it's rejected it comes back to the House of Representatives and then goes back to the Senate. Why is it that Jacqui Lambie is creating policy in the Senate and pushing it back to the House of Representatives?

MINISTER CANAVAN:

Well, that's what has happened. So the amendment, as you said, was passed in the Senate today and that means this piece of legislation will go back to the House of Representatives. We're not going to accept a lower tax rate on foreigners than for Australian workers. That's not our principles, that’s not our view. If people think that low taxes for foreigners is a good thing, well, you know where to park your boat, you can go to the party that is standing with Jacqui Lambie, the Labor Party, the Australian Labor Party, apparently, adopting that position. We're not going to support that, so in the House of Representatives we'll reject that amendment. It'll go back to the Senate next week and the Labor Party will have a chance to decide whether they're going to back Australian workers or going to back Jacqui Lambie.

ROSS GREENWOOD:

Okay well Matt, you, like Barnaby Joyce himself, the Agriculture Minister, would know a lot of farmers, and the reason why I put the question to him originally, about whether farmers should plant their crops, is because he is a former accountant, would have had those farmers in his office and basically asking him, well, come on, do we plant the crops or not? And he said, plant your crops.

So Matt, right now a lot of these crops are planted. Fruit pickers have got to be brought in from somewhere to try and get the fruit picked off them. The fact of the matter is that fruit prices are going to go through the roof if you've either got to pay the higher rates to these, to workers, itinerant workers, or we're going to have a shortage of fruit because you're not going to be getting it off the trees or the vines.

MINISTER CANAVAN:

Well, we're in this position, Ross, because a tribunal last year ruled that backpackers should have to pay the non-resident tax rate, which is 32 and a half per cent. So it's been hanging around for a while. Now we've got our solution on the table here. It's up to the Labor Party to decide whether they are going to support what farmers want, what farmers have submitted to us - and the National Farmers' Federation today put a media release out saying they're happy with the 19 per cent rate. They want Labor to get on with it and support it. Now, if Labor don't do that, well, those farmers that would potentially face higher costs next year, they'll know who to blame. They'll know exactly who to blame: it'll be the Australian Labor Party and Jacqui Lambie.

ROSS GREENWOOD:

Well, there's one small thing, now, before we get to that point, because remember, it was the Government, in other words your Government, that brought in the 32 and a half per cent tax rate in the first place that had to be changed.

MINISTER CANAVAN:

That's not actually correct. It was the tribunal, as I said, who made that decision, so …

ROSS GREENWOOD:

Well hang on, on the recommendation of Joe Hockey when he was Treasurer.

MINISTER CANAVAN:

No, no, that's not correct. After that tribunal's decision, you're right to say that we decided that the rate should be at 32 and a half per cent because that was what the tribunal decided.

ROSS GREENWOOD:

Well, you're splitting hairs with me, Matt, you're splitting hairs. But look, I agree that right now the issue is, with the Labor Party and the Greens, if they want to actually support Australian workers or whether they want to give itinerant workers, backpackers coming to this country, a cheaper tax rate than what local workers pay, which you don't really want and I think that's a pretty obvious thing. Matt Canavan is the Minister for Resources and Northern Australia and Matt, always good to have you on the program.

MINISTER CANAVAN:

Thanks, Ross. Cheers, mate.

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