Nov 9, 2016

Transcript of doorstop – Canberra

Subjects: Backpacker tax, Passenger Movement  Charge increase.

ALBANESE: Yesterday Labor announced that we wouldn’t agree to the Government’s shambolic position when it comes to backpacker tax and the Passenger Movement Charge. Part of our argument is that this has been bad policy because of the way that it was done. The backpacker tax, announced without any economic modelling, without any consultation, and then of course, the changes to the backpacker tax, again, done during an election campaign, the deferral of the timing of when it would come in from the 1st of July this year, deferred off to the 1st of January. The uncertainty that was created for the agricultural and tourism sector has been a disaster. In agriculture we saw farmers actually say that they wouldn’t plant crops because they weren’t sure that they would be able to be picked. And then of course, when it came to the Passenger Movement Charge, out of nowhere, came this proposal for a $5 increase, without any economic modelling, again without any consultation, in this case with the tourism sector, that of course was already hit by the backpacker tax. Both these measures have an undue impact on regional Australia and that’s why it’s extraordinary that the National Party haven’t stood up for the interests of regional Australia. And yesterday, in a fit of pique, the Treasurer, Scott Morrison, said that he might have to double the increase in the Passenger Movement Charge if there are any changes to the rate in which the backpacker tax is payable. Now this shows precisely the problem with the Passenger Movement Charge increase. The tourism sector is very concerned that they are seen as just a cash cow. That you can increase the Passenger Movement Charge, without having any impact, without having any consultation and that it’s a bottomless pit. Well it’s not. We already have the second highest charge in the world and the only charge for departures from airports that is higher is the UK for long haul flights. For Australians most of our international departures aren’t actually these days to Europe. They are to Bali, they’re to Fiji, they’re to Vanuatu, they’re to New Zealand and hence, why, this was always a bad policy. But in the threat to double the Passenger Movement Charge increase Scott Morrison has just shown yet again, unless he did modelling in between the ALP caucus meeting and his media yesterday afternoon, that he has once again just plucked this out of nowhere.

REPORTER: The NFF yesterday said that this continuing uncertainty’s crippling the industry (inaudible) by announcing this at a late stage (inaudible) that uncertainty?

ALBANESE: We haven’t had a late stage at all. What we had was a Budget announcement in May of 2015, without any consultation, and then the Government all the way through from May 2015 up to post the election; no legislation. We have a process whereby the uncertainty is solely the responsibility of the Government and maybe the National Farmers Federation should have had a bit of backbone from the beginning and just rejected this move by the Government. If they had done that, they themselves have been pretty inconsistent; it’s got to be said. But I don’t blame them; I blame the Government for that. This is an ill thought out policy that wasn’t planned well, that wasn’t thought through in terms of the impact that would be made. And the Government is continuing to make those mistakes. When we sat down with Treasury and asked about the Passenger Movement Charge increase, what modelling had been done, we were told that there hadn’t been any before that announcement of the $5 increase. And yesterday we have Scott Morrison foreshadowing a $10 increase, they keep having mistake upon mistake.

REPORTER: So isn’t there going to be continuing uncertainty with it looking like it’s not going to get through and what we’re left with for regional areas?

ALBANESE: The fact is that the Government should bring on debate on this issue. It’s extraordinary that the Government now haven’t listed this issue for debate in the Senate today. Let’s get on with it. We’ve had the Senate enquiry. That’s been the one opportunity for the sector to put forward submissions and what happened on the backpacker tax was submissions saying what the impact would be, how ill thought out this policy was, and on the Passenger Movement Charge increase, whether it’s the peak bodies like TTF or BARA or a range of bodies, Qantas, Virgin, the airlines, the tourism sector unanimously were putting forward their objections to this tax. Thanks very much.