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Wednesday, 3 May 1961

Mr ADERMANN (Fisher) (Minister for Primary Industry) . - by leave - I move -

That the bill be now read a second time.

The purpose of this bill is to authorize the Australian Wine Board to operate an Australian Wine Centre in an overseas country to assist in promoting interest in Australian wines in export markets and to enable the board to purchase Australian wines and brandies for sale in such centres. The immediate object of the bill is to permit the board to acquire and operate, purely for promotional purposes, a suitable Australian Wine Centre in London.

The Australian Wine Board is constituted under the Wine Overseas Marketing Act 1929-1954 to supervise the export trade in Australian wine and brandy and is financed by means of levies collected on grapes utilized by wineries and distilleries under the provisions of the Wine Grapes Charges Act 1929-1957. The rate of levy at present being applied - 12s. a ton of grapes - yields about £100,000 in a normal vintage year.

Under the existing legislation the board may expend its funds on, inter alia, activities likely to improve the quality or to promote the sale of Australian wine and brandy both in Australia and overseas. The board contributes annually to the scientific research programmes of the Australian Wine Research Institute and is committed to publicity campaigns in the Australian and United Kingdom markets.

At the request of the Federal Viticultural Council, which is the central organization of Australian winemaking interests, both proprietary and co-operative, the board has for some time been devoting its attention to the prospect of establishing a central point for Australian wines and brandy in the United Kingdom with a view to ensuring that adequate supplies of our best quality wines, including table wines, are constantly available to the public in that country under Australian, makers' own labels. The industry considers that such a proposition would give great prestige value to the wine promotion campaign being conducted in the United Kingdom under the auspices of the Overseas Trade Publicity Committee.

A number of leading Australian wineries have given tangible support to the idea. They contributed to the share-capital of an Australian Wine Centre which was established in London late last year and, in fact, have the majority of the shareholdings in the venture. The board has contributed to the establishment costs of the centre and, with the support of the shareholders, the Federal Viticultural Council, the Federal Grape Growers Council and the South Australian Co-operative Winemakers Association, has been negotiating to take a lease of the centre. The stage was reached some months ago where the board was in a position to effect suitable arrangements if its legal standing in the matter was undoubted.

However, in consultations with the

Commonwealth's legal advisers, some doubts were expressed as to the authority of the board properly to enter into a trade promotion venture of this kind under its existing statutory authority. The board, with the approval of all sections of the wine industry, therefore asked the Government to amend the Wine Overseas Marketing Act to make its legal status in the matter perfectly clear. The Government has agreed to the board's request, and this bill is introduced for the purpose.

Clause 4 gives the board the express authority to undertake activities designed to improve the quality or to promote the sale of Australian wine and brandy in Australia or overseas. Under the terms of the principal act this authority arises by implication only - from paragraph (e) of section 22. Clause 4 also authorizes the board to purchase wine or brandy as a means of promoting the sale of these products in overseas countries and consequential alterations are made by clause 6 to enable the board to make arrangements for the handling and sale of the wine or brandy.

For the benefit of honorable members, I may say that the United Kingdom is easily the most important export outlet for Australian wines and the annual sales level is about 1,250,000 gallons, mainly in fortified wines, namely, sherry and port. Efforts in recent years to obtain a foothold in the United Kingdom market for our quality table wines have been largely negatived owing to the inability of the industry to obtain a continuity of retail outlets. The wine centre operation is expected to provide a part-solution to this problem and its development will also serve to counter the criticisms of Australian publicity activities which have frequently been expressed in the past on the grounds that our best wines have not been readily procurable in London. The Australian authorities responsible for the conduct of promotion campaigns for Australian products in the United Kingdom see in the project a vehicle for intensifying wine publicity and public relations activities generally in that country.

The opportunity is being taken by the Government to tidy up some other provisions of the principal act, mainly relating to the banking and investment arrangements of the board. They are not amendments of substance. The present necessity, under section 21 of the principal act, to require the appropriation from the Consolidated Revenue Fund of wine grapes charges collections to flow through a Wine Export Fund into a bank account is being removed. The appropriation from Consolidated Revenue will, in future, be directly to the board for crediting to bank accounts operated by the board for administrative convenience. A substantial proportion of the board's expenses is incurred on publicity activities in the Australian domestic market and continued reference to a Wine Export Fund is misleading and confusing to the wine industry as well as superfluous.

In addition, the banking provisions are being reframed to give the central bank its proper designation and to bring them into line with similar provisions in other marketing board legislation of this nature. Finally, section 29 (2) relating to the tabling of the annual reports of the board is being revised to remove ambiguity in that connexion.

I commend the bill to honorable members.

Debate (on motion by Mr. Pollard) adjourned.

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