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Labor forces govt to debate backpacker tax

AAP logoAAP 10/11/2016 Belinda Merhab

Labor has joined forces with the Greens and One Nation to force Senate debate on the government's controversial backpacker tax plan.

Manager of government business Mitch Fifield attempted to move a routine motion relating to the order of Senate business on Thursday but the opposition successfully amended it to bring on an unscheduled debate on the backpacker tax.

Labor frontbencher Katy Gallagher said the government had created 18 months of uncertainty around the tax, causing harm and anguish to farmers and it needed to be dealt with immediately.

Crossbench senator Jacqui Lambie said the National Party's claim that it supported regional Australia was a lie.

"What a nasty, grubby, little porky peddled by a group of backstabbing gutless cowards," she told parliament.

"And the leader of this useless herd of has-beens and geldings is our deputy prime minister, Barnaby Joyce."

Senator Fifield dismissed the move as a stunt and insisted it was the government's responsibility to determine what legislation was dealt with and when.

"The government of the day determines what is government business."

Cross bencher Nick Xenophon, who voted with the government, said the stunt was unproductive because negotiations on the legislation were ongoing.

Labor has backed Senator Lambie's proposal to drop the tax to 10.5 per cent.

Mr Joyce implored One Nation to support the government's 19 per cent proposal, calling Labor a party of "hypocrites".

There was a reason why the bill had been dropped off the list for debate, he said.

"There's no point in putting it through the Senate if it loses and all of a sudden creates complete chaos in farming areas," he told reporters.

The Senate ran out of time to debate the backpacker tax bills, with Labor accusing the government of filibustering on its own non-controversial legislation to avoid it.

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