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Backpacker tax passes lower house

AAP logoAAP 16/10/2016

The federal government says Australian farmers will be let down if the opposition delays the introduction of its revamped backpacker tax arrangements.

Labor did not oppose the legislation, which passed the lower house on Monday after debate was gagged, but vowed to refer it to a Senate committee for further scrutiny.

Shadow treasurer Chris Bowen said the coalition's handling of the issue had been a shambles and caused uncertainty to the agriculture and tourism sectors.

"We will ensure in the other place that affected sectors ... have the chance to be consulted and have their say in a way they have not been by this government," he told parliament.

The government originally slated a 32.5 per cent tax rate from the first dollar earned in the 2015 budget, but has since dropped it to 19 per cent.

The package also includes a 95 per cent tax on superannuation payments once working holiday-makers leave Australia, and a $5 increase in the international departure tax from July 1, 2017, to $60.

Assistant minister Luke Hartsuyker said the peak tourism season and main harvest period was just around the corner, and the coalition had made a commitment to have the issue resolved by January 1.

"Prolonging the uncertainty about this issue will let farmers down and that's why Labor's decision to refer this to the Senate economics committee is utterly reckless," he said.

"They're using our farmers as political pawns."

Farmers last week flagged their anger at Labor's move to put the bill to a Senate inquiry.

Labor's agriculture spokesman Joel Fitzgibbon warned backpacker numbers started falling away the day the tax was announced and the problem continues.

He fears just as many backpackers will be driven away with the reduced tax rate.

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