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Wednesday, 25 October 2017
Page: 12107

Mr GOSLING (Solomon) (18:36): I rise to speak on the Australian Grape and Wine Authority Amendment (Wine Australia) Bill 2017. It's great to be able to make a contribution on this important subject for our economy. The wine industry is large and getting larger, and it is in all parts of the country. Some listening may think that there'd be no wineries up in Darwin, in the Top End of Australia, but the Northern Territory does, in fact, have mango wine. There is a mango winery, the Red Centre Farm—where mangoes are grown, harvested, pulped, frozen and then sent down to the great state of South Australia—where they're turned into all sorts of fantastic wine products: Mango Moonshine, Mango Mist and Mango Magic. Some listening may have heard of the silly season up in the Top End when the build-up comes, such as we are experiencing at the moment, where there's a bit of mango madness, and I can't vouch for the Mango Magic wine myself, but I know the moonshine is not a bad drop for a mango wine.

All around our country there are wine-growing areas that everyone in this place should be very proud of. On this side, as those that have spoken before me have articulated, we're supporting the Australian Grape and Wine Authority amendment bill. As we've heard, that's going to allow the newly named Wine Australia to administer two funds created as part of the wine equalisation tax, or WET, rebate reforms. One part of that is the Export and Regional Wine Support Package, $50 million; the other is the Wine Tourism and Cellar Door Grant program, $10 million.

It's not a bad package, but, as the member for Bendigo said, it's a shame we had to come on the route that we did to get here. Australia's wine industry is such a vibrant component of regional Australia. We just heard some figures about its input into the Victorian economy of $7.6 billion. I grew up in the Yarra Valley of Victoria. When I was growing up, there were two wineries in our part of the world: Miller's winery and the Fergusson winery. There was a lot of dairy country, but over time many of those dairy properties have become wineries, and the beautiful Yarra Valley, with its cool climate, is making fantastic chardonnays, sparkling wines and pinot noirs. As I said, there were two wineries around Yarra Glen when I was growing up, but I reckon there are probably about 40 now.

I've been very lucky throughout my life to have lived in other wine-growing areas. I just want to tip my hat to them and the fine winemakers who are plying their trade making world-class wines. When I was in the Army, at one time I was posted to Singleton, in the Hunter Valley, which, as you know well, Madam Deputy Speaker Claydon, makes incredible semillons, which is widely considered the iconic wine of the region. The beautiful Hunter Valley produces outstanding shiraz, cab savs, verdelhos and chardonnays. They are also innovating with a variety of new styles. The member for Hunter is a great advocate for wineries in that part of the world and, I understand, a great advocate of the Pokolbin Pride weekend that happened recently, which you, Madam Deputy Speaker, might be frequenting in our beautiful Hunter Valley wine region, listening to Midnight Oil. Midnight Oil were recently up in Darwin as well. It was one of the best concerts I've ever been to, I must say.

The Clare Valley in South Australia cannot be forgotten either, it being one of our oldest wine-making regions. It is well-renowned for riesling. I had the opportunity recently to try a riesling made by one of our own members of parliament: Farrell Wines. For the record, Don Farrell and his winery make a fantastic riesling. The Clare Valley has an amazing story over a long period of time, as far as wine-making goes. It is a story of migration, it is a story of Australia in many ways. They make excellent wines. The exports from those wine-growing areas will really benefit from this legislation, in that funding has been made available for marketing to export markets in China and the States in particular. That's obviously a very good thing for those wineries. We support the bill for those reasons.

I was recently on a parliamentary delegation to Beijing and Shanghai with a number of our colleagues, including the Speaker of the House of Representatives. There's certainly a great interest there in our wines. Looking at the growing number of Chinese entering the middle classes, in particular in places like Hong Kong and Macau, we see that they are having a bit of a crack at wine, and they want the best. They're increasingly wanting to get their hands on some Australian wines, so marketing support really benefits those wineries that are sending their wines overseas.

It is a bit of a shame, however, for some of the smaller wineries, which, with these reforms, are now getting less of a rebate and also aren't benefitting from the marketing assistance, because they're not exporting. For those smaller wineries servicing our domestic market, we need to be aware of the challenges they have with their businesses and we need to be looking for ways in which we can assist them. There is our Red Centre winery at Ti Tree, on the highway, growing mangos that go down to South Australia—I'll put them in that basket as well. We really need to make sure that we maintain the clean, green image that we are renowned for all around the world. We need to value it and protect it because therein lies the credibility and uniqueness of our brands. This reform of the wine equalisation tax rebate is long overdue.

The system had been open to rorting by some of those bulk and unbranded operators, and it's important to recall that the government did plan, back in the day, to pocket $300 million from the first reform proposal it put forward. However, following significant industry backlash and expressions of concern from Labor, the government did back down and went back to the drawing board. The government still plans to be $160 million better off as a result of these reforms and the implementation of this industry support package. There is, possibly, little case for this; those who are doing the right should not be made to pay for the crimes of others.

As I said, the system was a little bit open to rorting and there was some creative entity structuring. However, I don't want to dwell on that too much because, as the member for Bendigo said, Minister Senator Anne Ruston has done a pretty reasonable job talking to the industry and coming up with a package that, more or less, suits their needs and that they're happy with. Understandably, they're not as happy as they could have been, and it has been a bit of a messy process, but we on this side of the House look forward to working with all stakeholders to ensure that the $60 million that we are approving today through the passage of this bill is money well spent.

Finally, I want to reflect on the people who are working in this industry around our country. There are some fantastic wineries in Margaret River. The army kept sending me from wine area to wine area. When I was in Perth I managed to get down there. I'll never forget the Xanadu winery in Margaret River, but I do forget most of my trip to Cape Clairault Wines in the same area! There were outstanding wines and very professional people working at the cutting edge of innovation. Winemaking is not a backyard operation. There are some great backyard operators having a crack at making good Australian wine, but, usually, it is very much a professional undertaking that requires high levels of education, skill, perseverance and tenacity, and Australian winemakers all around our country can be very proud of the job they're doing.

Debating this bill today, I have been proud to just reflect on their work making great produce for our country. I stress again the need for us to maintain the clean, green food bowl image that we have and to make sure that it is real. It is incredibly important that we protect that brand. It will ensure the sustainability—with the support of these measures—of our industry into the future.