Pm rescued from humiliation by lastminute package on fruit pickers

← Homepage

MALCOLM Turnbull formed a united front with the Greens today to escape a humiliating backdown on backpacker tax.

Even with the last-minute rescue mission by nine Green senators the Prime Minister had to endure a messy final sitting day of Parliament.

An ugly stand-off over the long-running backpacker issue meant he was unable to deliver an uncluttered boast of achievements he said justified the July 2 double dissolution election.

The Greens deal involved a 15 per cent tax rate for overseas tourists on working visas, with a bigger return of their superannuation contribution when they leave the country.

Greens Leader Richard Di Natale said it was effectively a 13 per cent tax rate after the superannuation bonus. The Greens also won an extra $100 million for land care.

It could have been worse for the Government.

Without the help of his ideological enemies, Mr Turnbull would have been forced to swallow pride and Labors 13 per cent income tax rate for tourist fruit pickers, rather than his preferred 15 per cent.

Or he would have had to carry out a threat to leave in place the existing 32.5 per cent rate, to the anger of the horticulture industry, which feared the much-needed pickers wouldnt turn up because the after-tax pay would be too low.

That threat was never going to be carried out. But he Prime Minister needed to flip just one Senate vote to avoid it, and for most of today he couldnt.

Derryn Hinch, Jacqui Lambie and One Nations Rod Culleton stayed locked in with Labor for a 13 per cent rate. And for most of the day the Greens were with them.

The Government had support from the other three One Nation senators, the three from the Nick Xenophon Team, and Liberal Democrat David Leyonhjelm, but that was one vote short of victory.

Mr Turnbull was then saved when the Greens offered a new package. The Government accepted it, no doubt with Nationals gritting their teeth.

This unusual political salvation was revealed after a rowdy Question Time in which Opposition Leader Bill Shorten goaded Mr Turnbull: Since being elected Prime Minister, the Prime Minister has been willing to back down on everything he has ever believed in.

Why doesnt he back down on the backpacker tax and fix this mess before Parliament rises today?

No one blinked, until Senator Di Natale made his announcement.

Weve seen the Greens really clean up the mess that is of the Governments own making, he told reporters.

This is an issue that has been going on far too long. It has created a lot of uncertainty in regional and rural communities.

He said: Farmers just didnt know whether they would be able to collect their fruit or it was going to be withering on the vine.