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Thursday, 19 August 1993
Page: 309


Senator KEMP (1.27 p.m.) —I rise to bring to the attention of the Senate some very great concerns relating to one of the growth industries in Victoria—the Victorian wine industry—and its concerns about the impact of the budget on its prospects and employment in the industry. Mr Acting Deputy President, you would be aware that there is very widespread concern in the community today about the broken promises of the Labor government. Everyone would be aware that Mr Keating went to the election promising time and time again that there would be no tax increases. He indicated that the income tax cuts which he had promised would be delivered in full and would not be funded by rises in other taxes.

  It is true to say that on the Labor back bench there is very great concern about the tax increases which have come through in this budget. Senator Chris Evans from Western Australia, I am happy to see, is in the chamber today. He will be able to relate to the Senate, when he makes his maiden speech, the importance of the wine industry in that great state of Western Australia. I wonder whether Senator Christopher Evans can tell us whether, when he went around and campaigned during the election and undoubtedly met some of the wine producers, he gave any assurances to the wine producers that there would be no tax increases on their product. But Senator Chris Evans will have to speak for the industry in Western Australia and I hope that he will join his colleagues on the back bench who are in revolt over this budget.

  I do not say that all members of the Labor Party have the same appallingly low standards as the Prime Minister (Mr Keating). I guess that people like Senator Chris Evans, when they made promises based on the Labor Party platform, believed that those promises would be kept. They now have a duty to ensure that the commitments that they made in the election are brought to the attention of the Prime Minister and that it is made clear to the Prime Minister in no uncertain manner that those promises are meant to be kept.


Senator Teague —Free themselves from the deceit.


Senator KEMP —That is it exactly. The election has clearly been won by a massive deceit. I guess that, having made all these promises, they are feeling now that an election has been stolen and the Labor Party's name has been besmirched by the actions of the Prime Minister.

  My purpose in rising today is to discuss the wine industry in Victoria. I have had the opportunity of speaking to the Victorian Wine Industry Association and have listened to its very great concerns about the impact that this massive rise in taxes will have on its industry. In my home state there are some 230 winemakers and many of those are planning major investments as the wine industry is one of those sectors of the Victorian economy which has really been targeted as a growth sector, certainly in terms of the export markets that we see opening up to wine production. Of course, as people know, the wine industry also has important effects on the tourism industry and particularly on employment in the rural sector.

  So it is an important industry. It is an important industry in my home state and it is an industry which we see as one of the growth sectors. As a result of this promise broken by the Keating government, we are now seeing some of these prospects of the industry cast into doubt. I bring to the attention of the Senate, and particularly Labor Party backbenchers, the concerns of the Victorian wine industry. There are two Labor Party seats in Victoria which have a large wine sector and those are the seat of McEwen and the seat of Burke. The member for McEwen is Mr Cleeland and the member for Burke is Mr O'Keefe. I would like those two particular individuals but also people like Senator Chris Evans and others who come from wine growing states to be very aware of the impact that these tax changes on the wine industry will have on the growth of that important sector.

  The Victorian Wine Industry Association will be making a press release later today in which it strongly condemns the federal government's budget, particularly the sales tax hike from 20 per cent to 31 per cent. This is what the Victorian Wine Industry Association says:

A 55 % increase in sales tax from 20 % to 31 % at this absolutely critical moment in the development of the Australian wine industry is more than simply ill-considered and regressive. It is in fact a savage counter attack on one of Australia's and Victoria's truly internationally competitive and successful export industries . . .

Victoria's 230 winemakers are angry and perplexed by the Treasury's vicious assault.

The wine industry has clocked up the following remarkable achievements in recent years;

1. Developed a unified national structure and strategy

2. Achieved 38 months of consecutive growth in export sales

3. Committed itself to seeking $1.2 billion of investment capital over the next five years in order to achieve its $1 billion export sales target

4. Developed `a leadership role' for Australian agriculture and manufacturing industry via its vertically integrated, value-adding, technologically-pre-eminent practices

and

5. Highlighted the relationship between wine exports and international tourism.

The press release continues:

And yet the federal government (despite exhorting Australian companies to do all these things) has chosen to penalize the wine industry for being successful.

That is a statement by its president, Mr Shelmerdine. Mr Shelmerdine says:

The Prime Minister has clearly been completely misinformed about the wine industry . . . The Treasurer is perversely taxing away our great natural advantages. Our international competitors—Chile, South Africa and Eastern Europe—are celebrating tonight . . .

That is because of the tax increase on wine which the Prime Minister imposed, quite contrary to the specific promises that he made during the last federal election. Mr Shelmerdine continues:

The mantle of government leadership and encouragement for Australian winemakers has now passed to the state governments of Victoria, South Australia and New South Wales.

Victorian winemakers are fortunate to have a state government committed to the full tourist, technical and economic development of the wine industry.

The federal government have cynically abdicated their responsibility to the thousands of independent grape growers and small and medium sized family wine companies in rural Victoria.

This tax grab must be rescinded at once.

He concludes:

Regrettably, it is yet another example of Canberra bureaucrats' complete insularity from an insensitivity to the real, hard world of winegrape growing, winemaking and international marketing.

I have brought to the attention of the Senate just one example of the adverse consequences that this budget will have on a particular sector of the economy. I dare say that we will see, as we go right through various sectors of the Australian economy, similar perverse results. They are the result of the Prime Minister breaking his election promises.

  I know that the wine industry, and the Victoria wine industry, will be making their views very firmly known to the government, to the Labor members of parliament and to the Labor senators. It is certainly my intention to make sure that their particular concerns are properly and fully addressed by the government. This matter raises the wider issue that has been before this chamber now for a number of days since the budget: what value does one put on the price of a Labor promise these days? Is there anything so worthless in the community as the word of our Prime Minister? Let us face it, Mr Keating will say anything and do anything in order to win a short-term political advantage. As one journalist wrote in a newspaper today, the very currency of political debate in this country has been demeaned by the Prime Minister.

  Senator Sherry, who is in the chamber, and Senator Chris Evans went around the electorate making promises and saying that there would be no tax rises. The test is now on them to see whether their word is worth more than the word of the Prime Minister. They had the chance to stand up in their party room and defend the promises that they made and which they were elected on. They had the chance to stand up and make it clear to the Prime Minister that, no matter how lowly and cynically he might hold the value of his own word to be, they held their promises dear. If those two senators do not do that, the community will take note that, in future, a Labor promise will not be worth the paper it is written on or the policy statement it appears in. The Labor Party will suffer very serious consequences as a result.