CANBERRA – It Is not certain they are picking Australia's fruit, but "rich, white backpackers from Norway and Germany" -- and their ability to pay Australian tax better than Pacific Islanders -- have been drawn by the Prime Minister into the last ditch negotiations on the backpacker tax.
On the last day of parliament for 2016, the Turnbull Government is desperately trying to clinch a new compromise over the tax on working holidaymakers after a deal with crossbenchers for 15 percent was reneged on Wednesday in the Senate.
PM Turnbull walks the press gallery on the last day of parliament for 2016 pic.twitter.com/wmrdtaZGB9— Karen Barlow (@KJBar) November 30, 2016
Turnbull and Treasurer Scott Morrison still want a 15 percent tax, but Senators Rod Culleton and Derryn Hinch are trying to get the government down to 13 percent. Labor and independent senator Jacqui Lambie continue to insist the rate should be 10.5 percent. If legislation is not passed by the end of the day, the rate would revert to 32.5 percent from January 1.
NFF President Fiona Simson urges crossbenchers to adopt 15% #backpackertax "otherwise the politicians might have to pick the fruit"— Frank Keany (@FJKeany) November 30, 2016
The Prime Minister regards it as an "impasse", so instead -- repeated throughout the morning on numerous media appearance -- he has turned his attention to Labor and raised a 'have and have nots' divide.
"Bill Shorten thinks a rich kid from Germany should pay less tax than a kid from Tonga or the Solomon Islands or Vanuatu," Turnbull told reporters in Canberra. Someone who is coming here to work over the season to send money back to their village.
"And you know something? He does not care."
"It's the Labor Party that's saying that foreigner from some of the richest countries in the world should pay 10.5 percent tax, while Australians would be paying a marginal rate of 19 (percent) and Pacific Islanders, who come here as seasonal workers doing the exactly the same work under an aid program so they can send money back to their villages, they will be paying 15 percent."
Labor's Finance spokesman Jim Chalmers has told Sky News that Turnbull's argument "shows how desperate the Prime Minister is as his policy crashes around him".
"He is grasping at straws. He's trying to introduce at five minutes to midnight other arguments that apply to completely different programs."
And Labor's tourism spokesman Anthony Albanese said "bagging" any backpacker for working in Australia was "extraordinary".
"You know what? People who come here and spend money create jobs," he told reporters in Canberra.
"This government just doesn't get it".