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Thursday, 10 October 1985
Page: 991


Senator FOREMAN —I refer the Minister representing the Minister for Trade to a slight on Australian wines which could severely affect sales of the product. The Japanese media have confused Australia with Austria where a component of anti-freeze was added to more than 300 wines as a sweetener. Taken in large quantities, the additive can cause brain and kidney damage. The Japanese media reported that Australian wines had been polluted. In light of this, does the Government intend to ask the Japanese Government to correct the mistake?


Senator BUTTON —The confusion between Austria and Australia is an endemic problem which crops up in various ways. I remember being told by a Minister in the Austrian Government two years ago that it had done a survey of its profile as a nation in the United States and that some 60 per cent of the respondents in the United States confused Australia with Austria, with 70 per cent thinking that the kangaroo came from Austria. So we have a problem, and it has been reflected in the situation in relation to wine in Japan. This issue arose some time ago and I think it is true to say that the Australian authorities in Japan acted with some promptitude. There was, first of all, a general degree of confusion created by television and radio reports in Japan which referred to Australian instead of Austrian wines.

Following those announcements the Senior Trade Commissioner in charge of marketing in Tokyo issued a media release expressing concern at the mistaken identities and containing assurances from the Australian Wine and Brandy Corporation as to the quality of Australian export wine. This was reinforced by direct contact with offending radio and television stations. Briefings were also given by the Senior Trade Commissioner to a number of Japanese newspapers and magazines on the contamination issues. At the request of the Senior Trade Commissioner, the Japanese Government, through the Ministry of International Trade and Industry, also made direct contact with several media networks expressing concern at the mistaken identities and also re-released the Embassy's media release to MITI Press contacts.

A further initiative was a message put out by the Ambassador in Tokyo, Sir Neil Currie, on behalf of the Australian Wine and Brandy Corporation confirming that Australian wine shipped to Japan does not contain diethyleneglycol, which is the offending substance, as I understand it, to which Senator Foreman referred. Senator Morris will be able to tell me whether I am right. Most major media carried the story in some form. The Senior Trade Commissioner has also proposed a significant advertising campaign in Japan for Australian wine to help turn around the misfortune caused by the wine contamination issue to the advantage of Australian wine. I am pleased to say that the Australian wine industry, including a number of South Australian companies, which would be of concern to the honourable senator who asked the question, are vigorously supporting that campaign.