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Monday, 24 February 2020
Page: 1120


Senator STERLE (Western Australia) (12:52): Labor supports the passage of the Wine Australia Amendment (Label Directory) Bill 2019. The bill's primary purpose is to allow Wine Australia to establish a label directory, which will include digital colour images of grape product labels and information in relation to the grape products and those exporting them, to enable Wine Australia to use the label directory as a part of its role in controlling the export of grape products under the act and regulations. According to the explanatory memorandum the purpose of the label directory is to deter exports of copycat wine from Australia. This is a good thing, as copycats of our great Australian wines have a massive impact on our wine producers. Copycats should not gain commercial benefit from the high-quality Australian brand that our wine producers have developed. It's their hard work that created the brand. This should be protected.

However, it is important to note that the bill does not give Wine Australia the power to protect the intellectual property rights of wine brand owners. The bill will only better facilitate wine brand owners to protect their own interests by being able to search the database to easily see whether other labels may be seeking to trade off their intellectual property so they can undertake appropriate civil action against copycat exporters.

The bill enables Wine Australia to take into account the behaviour of wine exporters using the label directory in administering licences to export grape products. That means that when exporters are trying to take advantage of the good name of Australian brands or using untruthful or noncompliant labels Wine Australia can suspend or cancel their licence to export.

However, whilst the bill before the parliament will assist wine producers to better protect their brand from copycat behaviour, many wine producers are concerned about the impact that climate change is having on their industry and Australia's wine industry's reputation. This is why I will be moving a second reading amendment condemning the government for its lack of understanding about the impact climate change is having on Australia's wine industry. The rapidly changing climate is having a significant impact on the agriculture sector, and viticulturists want the government to act meaningfully on climate change.

For many viticulturists, the recent fires have had a significant impact on their wine-producing regions. On 9 January 2020, the peak industry organisation, the grape and wine association, Australian Grape and Wine—known as AGW—provided an update on the impacts that the bushfires have had on various wine-producing regions. In terms of the effects on the Hunter Valley region and the 2020 vintage it really is still too early to tell. The update reads:

Smoke taint is a reasonably new and inexact body of science, and the region is currently working through all the options and procedures at their disposal to evaluate any perceived risk.

However, experienced wine producers, such as Bruce Tyrrell, have had to make difficult decisions to ensure the brand of their wines, stating:

… the company had decided most of its vineyards would not be harvested for wine production and it would have a severely reduced 2020 vintage. Overall the drought and smoke taint would bring a grape crush 80 per cent below normal.

Further adding:

Smoke taint gives grapes—especially reds—burnt, smoky, medicinal or "dirty ash tray" characters that are reproduced in the wines.

Much of south-eastern Victoria has been subject to fire. Gippsland has suffered severely, and Rutherglen, King Valley, Beechworth and the alpine regions are vulnerable in the next few weeks. This could bring up to 10,000 tonnes under threat. The update went on to say that in the Adelaide Hills:

To date, the fires have impacted more than 60 grapegrowers and wine producers and the flow-on effect within the region will be severe.

The devastation has hit close to home for growers, producers and wineries in the region with significant loses of vineyards, buildings, equipment, machinery and wine.

But it is not just the fires. Drought is also having a significant impact on wineries in our wine regions.

There are media reports that farmers in Stanthorpe are facing difficult decisions about whether future generations will be able to continue farming the region and they want real action from the Morrison government. Stanthorpe media are reporting 'dirt underfoot as dry as anyone can remember, Mike Hayes sees numbers everywhere as he walks through dusty rows of grapevines'. The article continues:

To say Hayes is unimpressed with news of a regional drought tour by federal Treasurer Josh Frydenberg and senior Coalition MPs this week would be an understatement.

Mr Littleproud and Mr Frydenberg visited Stanthorpe and Warwick in Queensland and Inverell in northern New South Wales before Christmas. Mr Hayes has seen it all before. I'll quote Mr Hayes. He says:

They'll come in their flash RM Williams and their Akubras and their imported polo shirts from France, thinking they're super cool.

I'd like to get them out in the vineyard and spend a couple of days working, tasting and eating the dust, facing extreme temperatures we haven't seen before. It might just wake a few of these politicians up.

Wine producers want real action, not drought tours, which at best usually deliver concessional loans with headline announcements such as '$8 billion in drought support.' The Morrison government is fooling no-one, and our farmers deserve better.

Climate change is forcing Australia's struggling winemakers to adapt. In August last year, Hunter Valley wine producers, Tulloch Wines, shared the challenges they were facing because of climate change. Mr Tulloch is quoted as claiming:

The extreme drought has affected the yields on some our vineyards—some dropping beneath 25 per cent of what they had previously yielded.

With climate change presenting an increasing threat, winemakers are being forced to adopt new measures to combat the challenges.

We've invested a lot of money in irrigation in our vineyards which previously weren't irrigated and that's been a response to more frequent and more intense droughts.

The article that quoted Mr Tulloch continues:

Climate scientists warn the increasing challenges to grape-growing reflect the vulnerabilities of the entire farming industry.

"[It] just reflects what's happening much more broadly across the agriculture sectors," said Professor Mark Howden, director of the Climate Change Institute at the Australian National University.

"Climate change is already [having] an impact, not just based on the amount of product that they can grow, but also on the quality of product."

Whilst Australia's wine production is a high-value product known for its high quality, the future of the industry will require meaningful action on climate change to ensure that the industry can further adapt and build resilience and mitigate the impact of climate change. But, sadly, the Morrison government continue to be focused more on their own internal machinations than prioritising developing an effective climate change policy.

The department of agriculture has officially changed to its new structure as the Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment. The department also obtained two new ministers, albeit Minister Littleproud was given back his old job. Minister Pitt is the new water minister—and hopefully the working relationship between Minister Littleproud and Minister Pitt will be a better working relationship than what existed between Minister Littleproud and the former Minister for Agriculture, Senator McKenzie—and Andrew Metcalfe was reinstated as the secretary to the department of agriculture, after the Abbott government sacked him back in 2013. But these changes cannot be used as an excuse by the government to continue to not act on assisting farmers to build resilience and to adapt to the challenges that climate change presents. The Morrison government love to blame bureaucrats or the states for policy failings. However, the Public Service is there to serve the government of the day, and this can only be done if there is a clear mandate from the government of the day. Changing ministers and departmental secretaries, and moving portfolios, do nothing to assist our farmers dealing with the challenges of climate change.

Ironically, the former, former, former—sounds a bit like Monty Python!—agriculture minister, Barnaby Joyce, asserted that the water portfolio could not sit with the department of the environment because the latter was captured by the green movement. Yet now both agriculture and water can sit with the environment department. So the question is: why did the water portfolio need to be moved in the first place? It was purely for National Party optics. Remember that locating water in the agriculture department and under the responsibility of the then minister Barnaby Joyce was the deal done when former Prime Minister Tony Abbott was knifed in the back. Of course, leadership instability continues to plague the coalition, as the National Party almost—almost!—saw the return of Mr Joyce to the helm. Whilst Mr Joyce did not get across the line this time, it did expose the fractures that continue to exist in the Liberal and National parties with regard to climate change policies.

What happened in the first parliamentary sitting week for 2020 will give Australian wine producers absolutely no confidence that the Morrison government have their industry at front of mind. The recent rains around Australia, which are welcomed by all, should not be used as an excuse by the Morrison government to do nothing. The agriculture sector, including fisheries and forestry, want a coherent national strategy for agriculture. This plan will need to include meaningful action on climate change; otherwise their vision of reaching $100 billion by 2030 will be difficult to achieve.

I move the second reading amendment:

At the end of the motion, add:

", but the Senate condemns the Government for its failure to address the impact climate change is having on the Australian wine industry".