Current Issues 

Government responds to Horticulture Code of Conduct review

The Australian Government has announced its response to the independent review of the Horticulture Code of Conduct, which will see a range of improvements put in place to address key concerns and ensure the ongoing sustainability and productivity of Australian horticulture.

Assistant Minister for Agriculture and Water Resources Senator Ann Ruston said it was important that the Code supported constructive and fair business between horticulture growers and traders.

The Australian Government has accepted nine recommendations from the review of the Horticulture Code of Conduct. The Government's response to the recommendations will:
·   Provide better guidance to make it easier for traders and growers to comply with the Code;
·   Ensure that growers and traders have a fair, binding horticulture produce agreement in place to support a more productive and fair trading relationship;
·   Allow the ACCC to better identify and rapidly respond to breaches to further support compliance with the Code; and
·   Remove unnecessary regulation where appropriate and allow growers and traders greater flexibility in the trading relationship.

The Government's full response can be found here.
Senator Ruston's media release can be found here.
The VFF media release can be found here.

Backpacker Tax

The VFF and National Farmers’ Federation launched a campaign urging the Federal Government not to proceed with the proposed 32.5%‘backpacker tax’ which will erode the agriculture workforce and the prosperity of regional communities.  After 18 months of very public debate we were successful in securing a lower rate of tax for Working Holiday Maker (WHM) visa holders.

From 1 January 2017
 
All 417 and 462 visa holders working in Australia for employers that register with the ATO will pay 15% tax on income earned from zero up to $37,000, then the same tax rates as residents above $37,000.
 
It is important to note that employers who do not register with the ATO will be required to withhold tax at the normal non-resident rate of 32.5% from the first dollar earned for all 417 and 462 visa holders.

The ATO has made the new online employer registration form available here

Employers’ obligations for paying superannuation to backpackers remains the same as for Australian employees, requiring the equivalent of 9.5% of the employee’s wage be paid as a super contribution. The new rules in relation to superannuation do not come into place until 1 July 2017. The new rules will have no impact on the amount of super you pay as a grower.
 
The ATO website provides guidelines on the new rules applying from 1 January 2017.

We have requested that the ATO develop a PDF form for grower registration to assist those growers with poor internet access. We are also seeking clarification in relation to the Tax File Number (TFN) declaration form as to whether a new form will need to be filled in for existing workers as of 01 January 2017. We will let you know as soon as the information comes to hand.
       
Before 1 January 2017
 
Consistent with previous tax years, until 1 January 2017 working holiday makers who meet the residency rules will be assessed under the tax laws as residents with access to the $18,200 tax free threshold.
 
Those working holiday makers who have identified they do not meet the residency rules will be taxed as non-residents, the same as last financial year.
 
As in previous years, this information is provided on the TFN declaration form and it is not your responsibility to determine the residency status of a WHM or provide advice in any way.
 
Attached HERE is a factsheet providing more information.

Licencing of Labour Hire Companies

On 3 June, 2015 the Victorian Minister for Industrial Relations, Natalie Hutchins, announced an inquiry into labour hire with a move to licence labour hire companies operating in Victoria.

The inquiry examined the labour hire industry, including the practices of rogue operators, the rights and employment status of workers and the impact of insecure work.  

The final report has now been released and the VFF is assessing the 35 recommendations to measure their impact for growers.

To download the report and the recommendations click here.  http://economicdevelopment.vic.gov.au/inquiry-into-the-labour-hire-industry 

FAIR WORK OMBUDSMAN REGIONAL CAMPAIGN

The Fair Work Ombudsman (FWO) is currently undertaking a regional campaign in the Shepparton and Latrobe Valley/Gippsland regions, involving audits of a wide range of businesses.

We encourage all members to contact the VFF Workplace Relations Department to seek guidance on compliance.  This guidance includes ensuring you are aware of your Migration Act and Fair Work Act obligations in relation to wage rates, piecework rates and ensuring you are employing a workforce that has the right to work in Australia.

Whether you employ one or 100 employees you are encouraged to purchase a VFF Employment Handbook ($124 + GST) and an “Engaging a Contractor” Kit ($39+ GST).   

To seek guidance or purchase the guidance material contact VFF Workplace Relations Department on 1300 442 481

Seasonal Worker Program

The Horticulture Group was part of the development of the initial Seasonal Worker Program pilot program and has continued to support the
program as a way for growers to source a reliable workforce.

The VFF encourages growers who are seeking a regular seasonal workforce to consider participating in the program either through an Approved Employer or by becoming an Approved Employer themselves.

The program provides a ready workforce from 10 participating Pacific nations that are able to return to your farm each year for up to nine months.

For more information on the program click here.  https://www.employment.gov.au/seasonal-worker-programme 

To speak to an Approved Employer about getting workers to your farm contact:
Michael Fryzer - Connect Group at http://www.theconnectgroup.com.au/contact-us or
Rob Hayes - MADEC at http://www.madec.edu.au/seasonalworkerprogramme/ 

Horticulture Code of Conduct

In June 2015 the Minister for Agriculture, the Hon. Barnaby Joyce announced a review of the Horticulture Code of Conduct (the Code),
which regulates trade in horticultural produce between Australia’s fresh fruit and vegetable growers and traders. On Monday 8th February,
2016 the final report in the Horticulture Code was released.

The VFF Horticulture Group is supportive of most recommendations which we believe will make for a more workable and effective code.
We call on government to act quickly to implement the recommendations and conduct a feasibility study into a horticulture price reporting
system.

Click here for the summary report
Click here for the Final Report

Members can contact the VFF Horticulture Group by calling Lis Blandamer, VFF Horticulture Manager on 1300 882 833 or email lblandamer@vff.org.au.