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Thursday, 6 September 1984
Page: 613

Senator TEAGUE(8.58) —It should be no surprise to the Senate that I, as a Liberal senator from South Australia, am totally opposed to the wine tax imposed in the Budget. I said so in a speech in this chamber the day after the Budget was brought down. The Minister for Resouces and Energy (Senator Walsh), who is now in the chamber, put up a pitiful defence of this breaking of an election undertaking by the Labor Government. I am thoroughly opposed to the wine tax, as are the people, the Government and the Opposition parties of my State of South Australia. The South Australian Parliament has passed motions directly condemning the Hawke Labor Government for breaking a promise that gave an undertaking to the wine industry, and indirectly to South Australia, not to impose this penalty. Some 60 per cent of the wine industry is in South Australia . Therefore, 60 per cent of the burden of this penalty must be borne by my State . We will not take this lying down. Of course the debate which started the day after the Budget was delivered is continued now in this chamber. This measure will actually bring this $62m per annum tax into effect. Today, in addition to earlier representations, letters, phone calls and views put to me principally by South Australians, I received a series of telegrams from the wine industry in Victoria, Western Australia and, not least, South Australia. I will read one of the telegrams. It is from Mr Greg Trott who represents MacLaren Vale Wine Makers Inc. He is from the southern vales in the electorate of Kingston. I know Greg Trott. I have visited his winery. I have seen the grapes on his vines. He is an honourable representative of the grape growers and wine-makers of my State of South Australia and he has, very moderately, sent this telegram which states:

We asked for you to move for a delay in the Wine Sales Tax Legislation until after proposed inquiry into wine grape growing industry.

It was received by the Usher of the Black Rod at 2.15 p.m. today and sent directly to my office. I will illustrate, through this telegram, the series of representations that have been received as late as today by all senators in this chamber. It is not just the moderation and good sense of the industry's statements to us year by year that leads me to give credibility to the telegram, and I want to see it reflected in the Opposition's amendment to this Bill in this second reading stage of the debate. I want to identify myself fully with it .

The Senate already knows my direct opposition to this wine tax. When an inquiry was promised by the Australian Labor Party before the election and that inquiry was announced in this Budget, why bring in the cart before the horse? Why bring in a tax before the structure, future growth pattern and nature of opportunities and difficulties in that industry are fully assessed? It is an inappropriate time to bring in, off the cuff, such a $62m problem to an industry. Everyone in this chamber acknowledges that the industry has difficulties. The advisers from the departments, who are with us in the chamber to advise the Minister, must acknowledge that the industry has problems. Their advice has reinforced the requests of the Opposition and the industry for a full inquiry. I remind the Government that, prior to the election, a spokesman for the Labor Party on primary industry gave an undertaking that Labor would not impose a sales tax or an excise on wine. I remind the Labor Government that that direct promise, which has been broken by this decision, and for that matter by the excise on fortified wine in the last Budget, was presaged by a firm statement. It states:

The wine industry is beset with problems.

Labor will seek co-operation with the States to facilitate the establishment of grower Regional Councils to collect basic statistics and to allow growers to gain a better idea of which varieties can best be grown in their areas;

Labor will examine the special problems faced by co-operative wineries and supplying growers;

Labor will maintain the Wine and Brandy Corporation.

The taxation disadvantages suffered by the winemakers with respect to stockholding will be objectively examined on the basis that wine making is a primary production process, not a manufacturing industry.

It is acknowledged that there are direct problems in the wine growing industry and the Government is to have an inquiry. Why not wait until after the inquiry before some proposals can be put to the industry and, for that matter, to this chamber and to the governments of South Australia, Western Australia, Victoria and New South Wales, and even to those representatives of the wine industry, although small, in Tasmania and Queensland? Why not have the inquiry put forward some options to these representative bodies-it may even include some revenue measure, if that is what the Government still has its heart set upon-and then see in a rational way, on the basis of the evidence, whether the industry will co-operate with some kind of revenue measure?

I can only reiterate the good sense of the representations so moderately put by wine industry spokesmen as late as these telegrams today: That the Government delay the measure we have before us in the Senate; that there not be this sales tax on wine. This will enable us to see where the grape growing industry has come over its recent years of difficulty.

I want to illustrate in this brief contribution to this debate-I understand it must be brief as there has been an undertaking by the Opposition to allow the Government to make some progress with the legislation this evening-that we will do all in our power to stop this wine tax being implemented short of the conclusion of this inquiry. We will make sure that the people of Australia, not least South Australia, are reminded of the clear undertakings prior to the election by the Labor spokesmen and their direct abrogation by the measures in the last two Budgets.

Senator Macklin —They haven't got a mandate.

Senator TEAGUE —There is no mandate for this tax. It is directly contrary to the clear undertaking-it was acknowledged by the Labor Party-of the special problems of the wine industry. This may be special pleading but I will plead for my State of South Australia. The lion's share of the industry is in my State and we, with one voice, will oppose this measure. At this late stage I again ask that the amendment to the motion for the second reading of the Bill will be acted upon by the Government so that no jobs will be lost, so that there will be no decline in sales, and so that up to 60,000 tonnes of grapes will be left on the vine. If that pattern follows the passing of legislation such as this the problems should be left at the feet of the Labor Government. When the Australian people see grapes still on the vine, see thousands of jobs lost and see the penalty, particularly in my State of South Australia, let them then expect the Government to lose votes and suffer a real penalty.