O'Dowd: Nationals to fight Liberals on backpacker tax

FLYNN MP Ken O'Dowd has vowed to fight the Federal Government's proposed changes to working holidaymakers' tax arrangements - the so-called 'backpacker tax' - after Treasurer Scott Morrison gave the National Party six months to come up with the $540 million that would be raised by the changes using other means.

Mr O'Dowd, an LNP backbencher who caucuses with the National Party, said he and other Nationals MPs including leader Barnaby Joyce had expressed their displeasure with the proposed changes to the Treasurer in person.

"I went to Scott Morrison myself ... I said I can come up with (savings) straight away," he said.

"If the fruit is left lying on the ground, you'll (lose) more than ($540 million).

"He said (he didn't) accept that argument and I said, well that's a fact."

'BULLDOG WITH BITE': KEN O'Dowd during his maiden speech to Federal Parliament in 2010.
'BULLDOG WITH BITE': KEN O'Dowd during his maiden speech to Federal Parliament in 2010.

The proposed changes would see the tax-free threshold and the lowest tax bracket of 19% eliminated for working holidaymakers so that they would be taxed at 32.5% from the first dollar they earned - causing an outcry from farming and tourism groups who believe backpackers could choose to holiday elsewhere.

Moura irrigator David Hutchinson, of Hutchinson Ag, told Mr O'Dowd that the six month delay in the implementation of the tax changes would do little to change wary backpackers' minds.

"We employ backpackers here because you just can't get short term staff quickly, and it will impact on our operations if there's a big dry-up of backpackers (that would) sooner go to Canada or somewhere else than come to Australia... and be taxed fairly heavily," he said.

"Let's have a definite decision that we're going to have something more permanent in place because... it's only been put off six months at the moment. When people are planning to go overseas to Australia or Canada or somewhere else, (they will be thinking) 'Am I going to be able to afford to have the holiday and travel around as well as work?'"

Mr O'Dowd said the National Party was prepared to fight with its Liberal Party coalition partner on the issue as the Nationals' members understood the impact the proposed tax changes would have on tourism in regional towns.

"I think we'll win, but it's not definite," he said.

"But I realise the impact it will have on tourism, even in pubs."

"(The Liberals) mightn't like us that much, they might kick us out of the Coalition," Mr O'Dowd said.

"But it's an issue we're prepared to fight on."


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