Bungundarra pineapple farmer Ben Clifton.
Bungundarra pineapple farmer Ben Clifton. Contributed

Pineapple farmers could be spiked

BEN Clifton needs backpackers to keep his Bungundarra pineapple farm viable and fruitful.

The owner of Valley Syndicate Farms said he has concerns over the tax increase on working backpackers, which will see foreign workers considered as non-residents, meaning they will have to pay tax at 32.5% on every dollar they earn from July 1.

Currently, those on working holidays are given the same personal tax-free allowance as Australian citizens, and pay zero tax on earnings under $18,200 and 19% tax on income above that up to $37,000.

Mr Clifton said he had mixed feelings on the changes.

"(Backpackers) allow us to adapt to the changes in seasons at short notice, we can bolster our crew quite quickly and in the same respect they can move on very quickly if we need to downsize," he said.

"We run a core staff of local people and we always try to employ locals for long term work we have, but our peak season and our short term busy periods are where we take on backpackers.

"Bad publicity over (the changes) may deter people from leaving their home, and may choose other destinations other than Australia....but in saying that they can claim their superannuation the moment they leave the country. They get some benefits that local people don't get."

Mr Clifton said there could anywhere between zero and 15 backpackers working on the farm, to bolster the 10 permanent local core staff.

The farmer said there were many regulations surrounding the employment of someone local which made temporary recruitment difficult.

"My business can't afford to carry someone for longer than it needs to," he said.

"We need a flexible work force and some of the government incentives to employ local people are a bit of a disincentive for us because it locks us into a longer term arrangement when our business needs to be able to react to seasonal variation.

"I just want the importance of backpackers working in Australia noted."