Influential billionaire Anthony Pratt has called for the backpacker tax to be scrapped to fix farm labour shortages.
Mr Pratt told the National Farmers’ Federation Congress in Canberra on Wednesday the 15 per cent tax on working holidaymakers should be eliminated, as the peak body ramps up its push for a new agriculture visa to source workers.
“Let’s look at eliminating the backpackers tax. It’s one thing our farmers have said to me,” Mr Pratt said.
“This is essential if we’re to ensure that no fruit is left behind because of a lack of labour to pick it.”
NFF president Fiona Simson remains optimistic that decisive action will be taken before the end of the year after calling the government’s latest plan shallow.
She described the shortage of workers on Australian farms as crippling.
“We won’t rest until agriculture’s labour shortages are fixed,” she told conference delegates.
The Morrison government last weekend flagged a scheme to apply harsher welfare penalties to jobseekers refusing to take jobs on farms.
The coalition has also announced a register for farmers to tell the government about labour needs to help the government match them with workers.
Agriculture Minister David Littleproud didn’t specifically address the agriculture visa in his speech to the congress, but said earlier in the week the proposal wasn’t dead.
Mr Pratt also called for more investment in water infrastructure including desalination technology for groundwater reserves.
He urged Australia to build stronger links with Israel and California to address common water storage issues.