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Thursday, 7 July 2011
Page: 4327

Senator XENOPHON (South Australia) (13:23): I move the amendments on sheet 7114 standing in my name:

(1)   Schedule 8, page 10 (after line 3), before item 1, insert:

1A At the end of section 31


(4) A corporate plan developed under this section after the commencement of this subsection must outline the strategies of the Corporation to monitor and prevent the counterfeiting of Australian wines within and outside Australia.

1B At the end of section 31F


(4) An annual operational plan developed under this section after the commencement of this subsection must set out particulars of the action that the Corporation intends to take in order to give effect to or further, during that year, the monitoring and prevention of counterfeiting of Australian wines within and outside Australia.

[monitoring and prevention of counterfeiting of Australian wines]

It is important to put this in perspective. I was approached about a year ago by Emanuel Skorpos, who is a proprietor of Flinders Run estates, a small boutique winery in the southern Flinders Ranges in South Australia. It is a small and growing business, and he produces excellent wines that have been highly rated. He received information that his wine labels were being counterfeited in China. His initial experiences with Wine Australia—I think it was called the Wine and Brandy Corporation then—were less than satisfactory. At his own expense he had to go to China to establish that the wine labels were indeed being counterfeited. There were some small variations, but effectively wines were being passed off as his. There has been subsequent confirmation that the wines were not Australian wines. As I understand it, in fact they were counterfeit wines.

We need to put into perspective how big the Australian wine industry is. It is a huge export earner. It is a massive industry in this country, a multibillion dollar a year industry, and it is of particular significance and importance in my home state of South Australia, where, I unambiguously say, we produce the best wines in the country.

Senator Joyce interjecting

Senator XENOPHON: Senator Joyce has not disputed me, but he may want to talk about Queensland wines—mango wine or whatever they produce in Queensland.

The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN ( Senator Crossin ) (13:26): Senator Xenophon, I might draw your attention to your amendment or we will be diverted forever, I think.

Senator XENOPHON: Madam Temporary Chair, I am suitably chastised by you. But I just could not resist that. This is not an onerous amendment. This amendment will simply require that, in the corporate plan they are obliged to provide, Wine Australia make reference to the issue of the monitoring and preventing of the counterfeiting of Australian wines within and outside Australia. The amendment is not mandating what action they have to take but it does mandate that they have to pay attention to it to the extent that they need to say what they are or are not doing in relation to the counterfeiting of wine.

This is a major issue. We know that the risk of tainted wine, for instance, which is at much higher risk with counterfeit wine, can have a devastating effect on a wine industry. The Austrian wine industry was affected a number of years ago, and it took them a number of years to recover from that. It is the integrity of the labels. It is essential that our wines be protected from counterfeiting. The experiences of Mr Skorpos in relation to his Flinders Run estates label are quite salutary. I think it is fair to say that Wine Australia has certainly improved lines of communication and they have been open with Mr Skorpos in relation to this. But the key issue is: what is wrong with requiring Wine Australia to say, 'This is what we're doing as part of our corporate plan in relation to counterfeiting'?