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Farmers to MPs - end backpacker tax debate

AAP logoAAP 20/11/2016 Jennifer Rajca

Farmers will urge the parliament to break a stalemate over the backpacker tax, which they argue is already going to leave rotting fruit on trees.

A delegation of farmers and growers will travel to Canberra on Monday to explain to MPs and senators the impact of the ongoing uncertainty.

"The message to the politicians is simple - throwing your hands up and saying 'we've done all we can do' is not good enough," National Farmers' Federation CEO Tony Mahar says.

"Please stop the buck passing and compromise on a tax this week that is fair and reasonable."

Persimmon grower Brett Guthrey hopes sharing his story "flicks the switch" in forcing politicians to come together and agree on a sensible compromise.

The federal government has legislation for a 19 per cent tax before parliament, having reduced it from the originally slated 32.5 per cent.

But Labor, Senator Jacqui Lambie and One Nation senators want it to be further lowered to 10.5 per cent.

"We are already bearing the brunt of the failure of the parliament to find a workable compromise on the backpacker tax," Mr Guthrey said.

"Sourcing backpacker labour is getting harder and harder - our fruit is going to rot on the trees."

Even if an outcome is reached this week, the damage has already been done, he argues.

"Attracting backpackers back to our sector will be difficult for many seasons to come."

Independent senator Nick Xenophon says his crossbench team is willing to back the government's 19 per cent rate, but only if unemployed Australians are able to earn up to $5,000 for seasonal work without losing their welfare benefits.

"If there is going to be a shortage of seasonal workers, as I expect there will be because of the backpacker tax ... then we need those young and older Australian workers to fill the gap and this is a way to do it," he told Sky News.

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