Jim Pembroke

About Jim Pembroke

Jim Pembroke grew up in Brisbane, Queensland, where he learnt to sail, and got his B.Ed at QUT where he learnt to write, M.Ed at JCU, Townsville, where he learnt to think. He now lives permanently on his boat where he writes too much.

A mess in a shared bathroom: Thoughts on the backpacker tax

Approx Reading Time-10With the backpacker tax now official, I say it’s time we all stop complaining about who did what to who, and gulp the facts down with a heavy dose of salt.


The backpacker tax is done and dusted, so those young layabouts in their hostel bunks can stop whatever they’re doing, put on some sunscreen and head back to the fruit trees.

They should thank their lucky stars the government is only taking 15 percent out of their cherry picking, ghetto dwelling arses. They come over here, have our adventure, steal our culture and take photos of our icons. We give them the party of a life time and make their dreams come true. All that we ask is they put on some deodorant, do all our low paid jobs and occasionally pay some tax.

So let’s not hear any complaining about the new backpacker tax. Not everyone’s happy with the compromise, of course. The Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnbull, wanted the “rich white kids from Europe” to pay more. But at least it’s a higher tax than our fair dinkum, bronzed Aussie, snoring half naked on the lower bunk, has to pay. It’s only fair that Gazza, born under the southern cross, pays nothing. He gets the $18,000 tax free threshold. Picking onions is hard work and if you’ve been at it so long that you have to start paying tax, well, it’s not the onions that will make you cry.

The Prime Minister is not just thinking about Aussies, of course. This backpacker tax is a win for Pacific Islanders, as well. Malcolm Turnbull has reminded us that it’s important the Norwegians and the Icelanders are held to the same level of poverty as “someone from Tonga who is sending the money back to his village”. It’s all about addressing inequality.

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Not that those pale faced, unkempt fruit pickers care about that. They’re too busy wandering around town trying to steal Wi-Fi to appreciate that the $100 million Landcare deal that the Greens did to secure the backpacker tax was for their benefit. Landcare is all about planting trees.

Those trees aren’t going to pick themselves.

Furthermore, the conga line of backpackers trudging to the laundromat can be thankful that the government isn’t also taking them to the cleaners with a 95 percent tax on their superannuation. Even for foreigners, that’s a bit steep. That’s why it has been negotiated down to 65 percent. If the Irish and the Swedes should ever bother to complete the truckload of paper work, when they return to their homeland they can apply for 35 cents in the dollar. Good luck with that, or as the Germans say, “viel Glück”.

Before we hear any more whinging, backpackers should look at the complete deal. The reduction in superannuation tax effectively brings the whole thing down to 13 percent anyway, which is where the Labor Party landed at the end of negotiations. It cost taxpayers $100 million for Malcolm Turnbull not be seen dealing with the Opposition. So, it was a huge, expensive mess but we found what we wanted in the end. Not unlike the dorm room key after an all night party at the backpacker hostel.

It’s clear that backpackers have little to complain about. Who doesn’t dream of throwing back two dollar shots and yahooing at wet t-shirt competitions every night? And when each day starts with explosive diarrhoea and vomit on the floor in shared bathrooms, a little backpacker tax is the least of your worries.

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