Doorstop

Transcript
01 Dec 2016
Parliament House, Canberra
Prime Minister

JOURNALIST:

Prime Minister, have you reached a deal with the crossbenchers on the backpacker tax?

PRIME MINISTER:

The position we have on the backpacker tax of course is already a compromise. As you know, the rate of the tax for non-residents is 32.5 cents. We’ve proposed 19 cents - that was our proposal. We compromised to bring it down to 15 - that is a very, very fair level. It’s a very concessional level already and the question should be for Mr Shorten; how does he justify backpackers from some of the richest countries in the world, paying less tax than Australians? He wants them to pay 10.5 per cent tax, less tax than Australians and even less tax than Pacific Islanders who come here to work during the season picking fruit, so that they can send money back to their villages in some of the poorest countries in the world. They’re paying tax at 15 per cent.

JOURNALIST:

Mr Shorten is not here, I was just wondering whether you’ve reached a deal with Derryn Hinch or David Leyonhjelm to get them to support that 15 percent?

PRIME MINISTER:

Yes, we are urging the crossbench but above all we are urging the Opposition. I know the focus is on the crossbench but every member of the House and the Senate has a responsibility and none more so than the leaders of the major political parties.

How does the Labor Party claim to be the defender of Australian workers, if it wants foreigners - rich kids from some of the richest countries in the world in many cases - to pay less tax than Australians? And how can it claim to be a defender of equity and fairness, if it wants these people from some of the richest countries in the world, to pay less tax than Pacific Islanders? People who are sending $5,000 a season on average back to their villages, Tonga and other islands in the Pacific, sending that money back to countries where often the per capita income is less than $2,000 a year. So is this the modern Labor Party? Its’ only consistency is hypocrisy, cynicism, political opportunism. They have to be called out for this, for their hypocrisy.  

JOURNALIST:

Prime Minister would you accept 13 percent as a figure? Could you accept that?

PRIME MINISTER:

We have a very fair proposal at 15 percent. It is already a compromise. It’s the same level as that which applies to seasonal workers from the Pacific. It’s a very fair level. As I said it’s already a compromise and the Senate should support it.

JOURNALIST:

But you’re not ruling it out?

PRIME MINISTER:

The Senate should support the 15 percent level.

JOURNALIST:

Many of the Senators would be watching this now, is that your way of ruling it out? Saying 15 percent or nothing?

PRIME MINISTER:

The Senate should support the 15 percent level and I ask every Senator to ask themselves this; do they really want to go into the Christmas break, demanding that backpackers, foreigners from some of the richest countries in the world, should pay less tax than Australian kids? And pay less tax than Pacific Islanders who come here from some of the poorest countries in the world? Where is the justice, where is the equity in that?

Every Senator has to live with their conscience and how do they justify that? How do they justify a position which is so plainly unfair, so unreasonable and yet supported by the Labor Party for no reason other than cynical political advantage.

JOURNALIST:

So it’s 15 per cent or we leave here with it unresolved tonight?

PRIME MINISTER:

If this matter is not resolved by the Senate, then the tax will be 32.5 per cent and the responsibility for that will be on every Senator who does not support the Government’s position, but in particular on the Labor Party. We should not – again, I know the focus is on crossbenchers - it is the Labor Party that is saying that foreigners from some of the richest countries in the world should pay 10.5 percent tax, while Australians will be paying a marginal rate of 19 and Pacific Islanders who come here as seasonal workers doing exactly the same work, under an aid programme so they can send money back to their villages, they’ll be paying 15 percent. So Bill Shorten thinks a rich kid from Germany should pay less tax than a kid from Tonga or the Solomon Islands or Vanuatu - someone who is coming here to work over the season, to send money back to their village. That’s what Bill Shorten thinks. And you know something, he doesn’t care. It’s all politics, it’s all cynicism. He has no values and no principles. But I hope there are people in the Labor Party that do - that will persuade him that he must on this occasion, support our proposal, because it is just.

Thank you very much.

[ENDS]