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Monday, 16 March 2009
Page: 2799

Mrs MIRABELLA (7:31 PM) —I rise to support the efforts and campaigns of microbrewers right across the country for tax reform. Coming from a small business background myself, I know only too well not only the burden that unnecessary government regulation places on small businesses and how that impacts on their bottom line but also how unfair taxation can be. Isn’t it strange that often it is the smallest businesses that are affected by taxation?

The microbrewers industry has developed significantly. My electorate has seven microbreweries—arguably the largest concentration of any electorate in the country. I will list them, for the information of the House. There is the Sweetwater Brewing Company in Mount Beauty, the Jamieson Brewery in Jamieson, the Buffalo Brewery in Boorhaman, the Bright Brewery in Bright, Bridge Road Brewers in Beechworth, Boyntons Feathertop Winery at Porepunkah and Bintara Brewery in Rutherglen.

I would like to inform the House that these breweries have added value in a very real way to the tourist product in the north-east. They have employed people. They have developed the tourist product. They have given visitors yet another reason to come to the north-east. We are blessed with some of the best wineries and wine regions in the country. I know my friend from Mayo would disagree and say that there are significant wineries and wine regions in South Australia, but anyone who has visited the north-east will know that we are blessed with a clean, green environment and we produce terrific wines. Now we produce wonderful beers as well.

The current tax system is a burden on local microbrewers. I support the campaign for change and would like to see a system akin to the WET scheme. Having campaigned for changes to the excise on wine for boutique wineries even before I was elected, I can empathise with microbrewers. They are in the same position as those small wineries were. We had to fight for several years but we were successful in the end, under the previous government. I would hope that, with the efforts of members on both sides of the House who have an interest in rural and regional development and who have a knowledge of the economic advantages that microbreweries are providing not only in their own electorates but around Australia, we can achieve this.

The current definition of ‘microbrewer’ is far too small. It is capped at 30,000 litres. That needs to be removed. The excise tax refund of 60 per cent of excise duty on beer needs to be increased from the current maximum of $10,000 to the same maximum amount as the wine industry producer rebate under the WET, which is $500,000 per annum. That would go a significant way to removing the current restrictions on expansion for microbrewers. It is not going to have a significant impact on government revenue. It is estimated that the proposed changes are going to cost $5 million annually, but that is a very small loss to the revenue compared to the jobs and economic activity that will be generated and the tax revenue that that activity will create.

In the current environment, where jobs are being lost left, right and centre—thousands of jobs—week after week, it is encumbent on us to do all we can to remove the impediments of unfair laws, particularly unfair taxation laws, on an industry that has shown that it does have growth. We have seen in recent times that, at a time when there is a decrease of two per cent in employment in larger breweries and the brewery industry generally, there has been more than a 10 per cent increase per annum in employment in the microbrewing sector. That shows a trend and tells us what Australian consumers are wanting to see.

In the remaining time that is left to me, I would like to thank those entrepreneurs—those young people, middle-aged people and the broad cross-section of individuals—who have taken the risk to establish microbreweries in my electorate of Indi. I do enjoy your product, as do many of our visitors, and I will fight with you and on your behalf to get a fairer tax system for you.