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"Backpacker tax" postponed until after election

Business

The Turnbull government has deferred introduction of the so-called backpacker tax in a bid to rid the issue as an election irritant in rural and regional seats.

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Working holidaymakers were facing a 32 per cent tax from July 1, sparking fears by farmers and tourism operators they would shun Australia as a travel destination.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull told a politics in the pub gathering in Darwin on Monday night to “watch this space” when quizzed about the impact the planned tax would have on northern Australia.

On Tuesday, the government was sending signals the tax would be deferred for further consideration.

 

Assistant Treasurer Kelly O’Dwyer, addressing reporters in the NSW regional seat of Eden-Monaro today, said the tax would be suspended for six months, pending a ministerial review to be led by Nationals leader Barnaby Joyce.

Labor was dismissive of the move, saying it wouldn’t stop backpackers shunning Australia for New Zealand and Canada.

“This is just a stunt to push the issue beyond the election,” opposition agriculture spokesman Joel Fitzgibbon told AAP.

Turnbull will use a second day campaigning in Darwin to announce $15 million in federal funding for a PET scanner at the Royal Darwin Hospital.

The announcement is welcome news for cancer patients in the Northern Territory who are now forced to travel interstate for specialised diagnosis.

The better news is that a PET scanner will be in place no matter who wins the July 2 election, after Labor backed the coalition promise.

Opposition Leader Bill Shorten will pledge $500 million for a new tram network when he moves his campaign to Adelaide.

Labor had a dig at the prime minister’s penchant for train travel when spruiking the announcement.

“Labor will create thousands of jobs and ease congestion by investing in key public transport projects whereas Mr Turnbull thinks public transport is just about selfies on the train,” a campaign spokesperson said.

But Labor is facing increased pressure from the Greens on weekend penalty rates.

The minor party has launched TV ads attacking Shorten’s reluctance to enshrine protections in law.

With a hung parliament on the cards after the July 2 election, key independent MP Cathy McGowan says she won’t be making any deals with the coalition or Labor to form minority government.

AAP

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