1 December 2016
Subject: backpacker tax; Parliament House protest
So it's the last day for us in the Senate to prove to the Australian people that we are a responsible chamber, that we are responsible elected officials here. It is time for the Senate to decide to support a 15 per cent tax on working holiday makers. This is a reasonable arrangement. It is something the Government has been flexible on, has been willing to compromise on. But a 15 per cent rate makes sense. It's fair for Australian workers, to give them a go. It makes sure that foreign workers do contribute to our taxation revenue, to our public services. And importantly it will align with other programs which are also at 15 per cent, like the Seasonal Worker Program which has workers coming from Pacific Island nations. It would be absolutely absurd if we had a tripartite tax system in the fruit orchards of our country, where an Australian pays one rate of tax, someone from the Pacific Islands pays 15 per cent tax, and then according to Jacquie Lambie and Lambie-nomics, a backpacker would pay 10.5 per cent tax. That would be unfair, unworkable, and we should now resolve to fix this problem before Christmas at 15 per cent.
It seems Senators Hinch and Culleton are now looking at 13 per cent. What do you make of that?
As I say, this will create unnecessary complexity for our farmers. Two per cent, we're getting down now to 200 basis points. It's not going to make any sizable or material difference to the number of backpackers coming here, but would add appreciably to the confusion for farmers, for our overall visa system, and it would still be a situation where foreigners are paying less tax than Australians. I think Australians deserve a first crack at these jobs. I want to get as many Australians a job, I want to give as many Australians the opportunity to work and make a living in seasonal fruit picking industries like table grapes in Queensland. So let's give them a go. 15 per cent is right. It's a fair rate. Let’s just get it done. The Australian people want this over with. It's now incumbent on those crossbench Senators to prove to the Australian people that they are responsible.
Are you still happy to sit until it's done?
I’m always happy to sit. It's always a privilege every day you get to sit in this place on behalf of, in my case the people of Queensland, and the Australian Commonwealth more generally. It's a great honour, and while you do get very tired late at night, every time you go into that chamber and sit in your seat – your name on the desk, you get quite a lot of inspiration.
What did you make of the protest in the other chamber yesterday?
Well look, people have a right to express their views in this country, but they have an obligation to be subject to the law. Now my understanding is these people broke the law, or it would appear they have done so, and the law should be upheld and they have to pay the punishment for that. I certainly reject the notion of these protestors that somehow they represent the democratic will of the Australian people. I saw a number of them say that yesterday. That is absurd. They were actually in the people's house, the people that represent the democratic will of the Australian people are those who were sitting on the floor of that chamber, and these protesters interrupted the democratic process we have in this country and they deserve to pay the appropriate penalties for doing that.