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Wednesday, 27 March 1985
Page: 881

Senator COOK —My question is directed to the Minister representing the Treasurer. Last week I asked the Minister a question on wine sales in Australia since the imposition of a 10 per cent sales tax in last year's Budget. Since then have any new figures on wine sales become available? If new figures have been released, do they show a drop in wine sales due to the tax? Do any new figures support the dire predictions of the Opposition that a wine tax would ruin the Australian wine industry?

Senator WALSH —Some new figures have come to light. The sales of Australian wine for the month of January were published by the Australian Bureau of Statistics yesterday. Senator Cook asked me whether they support the dire predictions made by assorted members of the Opposition last year. The answer is no, they do not support those predictions. Indeed, they flatly contradict them and show how stupidly erroneous and irresponsible were the predictions made by the Opposition. Sales for the month of January 1985, compared to January 1984, were up by 5 per cent. That compares to a year on year growth in the year before the sales tax on wine was introduced of 4.1 per cent, so sales are increasing at a faster rate than they were increasing prior to the imposition of the 10 per cent tax. In view of Senator Cook's reference to the claims and stupid, irresponsible assertions made by assorted members of the Opposition last year, I have a few quotations. Senator Messner, on 23 August last year said:

. . . as a result of the introduction of this tax there will be a decline of 13 1/2 per cent of its total market.

Senator Jessop said:

A 10 per cent sales tax on wine will automatically lead to a decrease of aobut 21 per cent in the grape crush of growers.

That is the most extreme claim I could find anywhere. Senator Hill said that there would be more than 4,000 jobs lost in South Australia; that South Australian wine growers would lose $15m in income and that the Riverland growers would lose $5m in income. Senator Teague said that the impact of the higher price to the consumer because of the sales tax would lead to a drop in consumption estimated to be 14 per cent. In other words, they showed appalling judgment. They tried to scare the daylights out of wine grape growers in the wine industry, just as they try to scare the daylights out of pensioners or anybody else.

The PRESIDENT —Order! The Minister is debating the question. I suggest he bring his answer to a conclusion.

Senator WALSH —In summary, I say-in response to Senator Cook's question-that the facts have shown that all the members of the Opposition were widely wrong and, indeed, what they were saying was nothing short of palpable nonsense.