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Thursday, 16 May 1985
Page: 2073

Senator COOK —Has the Minister for Finance seen reports in Adelaide papers last Monday attributed to the Opposition 'whine' expert, Senator Messner, speculating that the Government would increase sales tax on wine in Tuesday's May economic statement? Can the Minister say whether there was ever any truth in the Messner claim or any of the other statements made in the article? Without giving Senator Messner a wine bucket, can the Minister say whether this sort of speculation is of any help to the wine industry?

Senator WALSH —I have seen statements attributed to Senator Messner and I am sure they are attributed correctly. The index of unreliability which Senator Messner has previously displayed on this question has been upheld in this case. He was, of course, as is now a matter of public record, absolutely wrong about there being any increase in wine tax in the measures announced last Tuesday night. I would have thought that even someone as ill-informed as Senator Messner would have realised that last Tuesday night's statement was about expenditure, not about taxation.

Nevertheless, last Sunday, in his typical style, he decided to throw panic among the poor wine growers of Renmark by saying that something was going to happen on Tuesday night. He managed to get himself reported in the Adelaide Advertiser, the Adelaide News and, presumably, radio and television. Senator Messner has displayed with this latest statement that he is illiterate as well as innumerate in reference to statements that I have made to the Senate on this subject in the past. He said that the statistics included sales of overseas wines which have flooded onto the market since the Hawke Government lowered the level of protection for Australian wines. The figures that I quoted before were extracted from the Australian Bureau of Statistics publication catalogue No. 8504.0 'Sales and Stocks of Australian Wine and Brandy by Winemakers, February 1985'. So not only, as I said earlier, has Senator Messner demonstrated that he is innumerate; he is illiterate as well.

While I am on the subject, I might note that I also saw in the Press recently-I cannot remember the precise date-a letter from Mr Ernest Marty who represents an organisation which I think calls itself the Wine Industry Lobby.

Senator Chaney —Mr President, I take a point of order. The Minister, by his words, indicated that what he is saying now is totally incidental to the question which has been raised. I would ask you, in light of the small amount of time that is left, to ask the Minister to resume his seat so that other questions can be asked.

The PRESIDENT —I have been listening to Senator Walsh and what he is saying is still related to the question. However, I would ask him to confine his remarks to the question and keep the rest of his answer short. A lot of long answers have been given during Question Time and a number of honourable senators still wish to ask questions.

Senator Missen —Mr President, I take a point of order. Is this related to Government Business? I know that Senator Messner will soon be in government, but he is not at the moment in government and actually this is not related to Government Business.

The PRESIDENT —Order! The question as asked by Senator Cook clearly related to government responsibility and the Minister's responsibility. It is clearly in order. I ask Senator Walsh to keep his remarks to the point.

Senator WALSH —Thank you, Mr President. Certain propagandists, of which Senator Messner and Mr Marty are prime examples, have long been noted for making wildly exaggerated assertions based on highly improbable assumptions. The most recent of these claims is that although the volume of sales of bottled wine has increased by quite a high rate, sales have fallen.

I refer again with respect to bottled wine to the fact, not entirely revealed in the February issue of the publication to which I referred because it does not have the statistics for all the months but has statistics on a monthly basis going back to 1983 for all dry red, dry white, sweet and rose sold in glass containers of less than one litre, that the increase in sales in all those categories in the six months September 1984 to February 1985 over the same six months in the previous years amounts to 8.1 per cent. So in fact bottle sales-bottles being defined as containers of one litre and under-have shown an even greater rate of increase than wine sales in general.