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Govt senator slams backpacker tax saga

AAP logoAAP 11/10/2016 Belinda Merhab

A coalition senator has criticised his own government for bungling the controversial backpacker tax.

Queenslander Barry O'Sullivan used a speech in parliament to decry the "massive uncertainty" created by the tax which was reworked last month after a barrage of criticism.

The toing and froing over the tax had gone on "far too long".

"I do not want to seem critical of my own government, but I think this whole exercise could well have been managed better and more promptly," he said.

"All the information available to us to resolve the issues that presented to those sectors has been at our disposal for a significant period of time."

The government announced the tax in the 2015 budget but pledged a review during the federal election campaign.

It amended the tax in September so working holiday makers pay 19 cents from the first dollar they earn from next year, rather than the 32.5 per cent originally flagged.

It will make the change budget-neutral by increasing the passenger movement tax by $5 per individual when travellers leave Australian shores.

Senator O'Sullivan said the amended legislation, introduced in the lower house on Wednesday, sought to restore certainty to the tourism and agricultural sectors.

There was data showing the uncertainty had impacted the choices of potential visiting backpackers, the Nationals senator said.

Senator O'Sullivan pleaded with the opposition not to send the legislation off to a Senate inquiry, arguing it would prolong the uncertainty.

The Labor caucus on Tuesday voted to allow the legislation to go through the lower house but send it off to a Senate inquiry to report on November 7.

Senator O'Sullivan said that would be the fourth inquiry, including the latest which cost hundreds of thousands of dollars and took more than 1700 submissions.

"I just want to make a plea to my Senate colleagues on the other side to revisit their decision to have this pushed off until 7 November, because the uncertainty will continue in the sector."

Backpackers comprised a quarter of the workforce in agriculture, doing jobs young Australians weren't attracted to, Senator O'Sullivan said.

Farmers would be left with a diminished workforce later this year and early next year unless parliament restored stability.

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