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Wednesday, 10 March 1999
Page: 3601

Ms BAILEY —My question is to the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Trade. Could the minister advise the House of the potential for increased exports in the wine and flower industries, and detail any benefits to both our national economy and my electorate of McEwen?

Mr TIM FISCHER —It is nice to get the sixth solid question asked in this question time compared with the failed attack from opposite.

Mr SPEAKER —The minister will come to the question.

Mr TIM FISCHER —I would like to make the point that there are many small, medium and large winemakers and wine producers in many country electorates—including McEwen and even the electorate of Flinders, quite apart from the electorate of Riverina and elsewhere—which are part of a great exports strategy, and full credit to the Winemakers Federation of Australia, Ian Sutton and others, who have now driven forward our wine exports over 10 years from just $15 million to $900 million of job creating export effort. I might add the additional dimension associated with this is that quite often the wine industry is about providing a lot of youth employment in regional Australia, especially in the picking season for grape and related fruits, in a way which is very positive for regional economic development.

I want to salute the wine industry, which has reached the stage where for every 10 bottles of wine consumed in Australia 15 bottles are now being exported. We are exporting to France and to Italy great quality Australian wine. We are exporting to the USA and to Japan. I know their economy presents a lot of opportunity, even though it is in a trough at this time. Our exports of Australian wine to Japan rose last year by 135 per cent—a great effort by the Australian wine industry.

I know Windy Hill in the electorate of the member for McEwen and other great Yarra Valley locations have come from nowhere to everywhere in producing high quality, value added wine exports to the world.

Mr Costello —Windy Peak, not Windy Hill.

Mr TIM FISCHER —Windy Peak? I get confused with the Bombers. Pillow talk—my wife barracks for the Bombers.

Government members interjecting

Mr TIM FISCHER —I am proud of my wife; I am not proud of the team she barracks for. There is also a very useful export effort opening up with regard to the cut flower industry, again from the electorates of McEwen, Riverina, Mallee and many others—$24 million worth of cut flowers now being exported from Australia. The demand for those Australian flowers has been affected by recent economic difficulties in Asia. We have just had the 12 leading Asian heads of mission here this last couple of days with Minister Downer and I examining all aspects of that. Export growth to the US and the Netherlands is particularly strong. Cut flower exports to the USA and the Netherlands increased 30 per cent last year.

I am particularly pleased that exports of proteas such as those grown in Kinglake in the honourable member's electorate doubled last year. The cut flower market is a tremendous market. It is a $30 billion worldwide market and Australian industry is moving rapidly to get an enhanced share of that market, working closely with Foreign Affairs and Trade and Austrade to open up more market access and capture those markets in this lucrative trade. Austrade's Nagoya office recently coordinated an Australian stand at a Japan flower festival that attracted 120,000 visitors over three days. The City of Wagga Wagga is involved right now in a project in China to further advance flowers and related products into the Chinese market. That $24 million will double soon enough. I congratulate our outstanding exporters in cut flowers as well as the wine industry. I congratulate our exporters in turning the tide against difficult odds at this time.