Australian Transport Summit, backpacker tax review & the $1B holiday tax

The annual TTF/UITPANZ Australian Transport Summit is nearly upon us. At the end of next week we will once again be bringing together some of the best international and domestic minds and expert opinions in the transport field to discuss the major drivers for the industry going forward. This year’s theme is very much focused on exploring the disruptive technologies and embracing innovations that are already transforming public transport and are set to shape the planning and construction of the next generation of major projects.

We are very pleased to have international guest speakers Gerald Francis of Keolis North America and Paul O’Kelly of Iarnrod Eireann Irish Rail join us this year alongside the great line up of Australian speakers who are leading the roll out of major transport projects in our capital cities ,and those overseeing the adoption of new technology to improve the customer experience. The full program is available to view and I encourage you to register your attendance so you don’t miss out.

The Federal Government has kicked off the working holiday maker review that Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull announced in the opening days of the election campaign. TTF was one of the first industry groups to sound the alarm on the impact of the backpacker tax when it was included in the 2015 Federal Budget and we will continue to campaign for the Federal Government to abandon this ill-considered cash grab. Industry groups such as the National Farmers’ Federation and TTF have made it very clear that introducing this damaging tax will have a negative impact on the number of people choosing a working holiday in Australia and that will make it even harder for farmers and tourism operators to secure their seasonal workforce.

Over the past couple of years we have seen a marked decline in the number of applicants for working holiday visas as successive Governments have ratcheted up the cost of these visas. Now they are also going to be slugged this new 32.5 per cent backpacker tax. Something is going to have to give and I fear it will be an exodus of working holiday makers to other countries rather than coming to Australia. The best outcome from the working holiday maker visa review is simply for the Government to scrap the backpacker tax and work with industry to increase the number of working holiday makers coming to Australia.

If you happen to have been perusing the Herald Sun last week you might have seen my opinion piece on the Federal Government’s ‘holiday tax’ – the Passenger Movement Charge. This holiday tax is now a $1 billion a year burden on travellers and far exceeds the estimated $247 million cost of providing passenger facilitation at Australia’s international gateways. In an increasingly competitive global tourism marketplace we need to be actively reducing the cost of travel to Australia.

International visitors – just as an Australian does – are looking for value for money and there are plenty of great destinations across the world to choose from when travel costs become the deciding factor. If the Federal Government is serious about embracing tourism as a super-growth sector for the Australian economy, then the Government needs to announce a continuation of the freeze of the Passenger Movement Charge at the current rate with a longer-term goal to start winding it back.

Another reminder that TTF is working on a research piece with Ernst & Young on the restructure of the visitor economy and we are seeking industry views of the challenges and/or constraints on current and future growth of the sector and why. Please take a few moments to complete our five minute survey and please feel free to share it with other industry stakeholders to provide us with some good data.