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Monday, 24 February 2020
Page: 1123


Senator RICE (VictoriaDeputy Australian Greens Whip) (13:04): The Wine Australia Amendment (Label Directory) Bill 2019 enables Wine Australia to establish and maintain a publicly available directory of grape product labels intended for export. We know that Australia has a very significant wine industry and a very significant wine export industry. Based on the recent data in the Bills Digest, we produce around 1.7 million tonnes of wine grapes a year, we consume 492 million litres of wine a year, we export 866 million litres of wine and we imported 100 million litres of wine. Over time Australia's largest export markets have shifted from being predominantly the US and the UK to a greater volume going to China and South-East Asia.

In 2017 we had the reports that there were 14,000 bottles of fake Penfolds wine that'd been stopped from sale in Shanghai. This bill is intended to address situations like that situation. This bill enables Wine Australia to create a directory of labels as part of export controls—all very good. The Greens are going to be supporting this bill because, yes, it's a useful thing to be doing, but we do question the priorities of the government. We do question whether this is actually the most important thing to be tackling to support our wine industry. The coalition is being quick to protect Australia's wine industry when it comes to protecting the intellectual property of our major producers but there is a massive looming challenge. There is a massive elephant in the vineyard that the coalition is failing to act on and that is our climate emergency.

We have seen the impact that our climate emergency has had on wine growers this summer. With the fire emergency that we faced we need to look no further than right here around Canberra where we have Canberra wine growers who are basically saying, 'There's no vintage this year because of the fires around Canberra.' Tim Kirk is from Clonakilla wines, who are based in Murrumbateman. They usually produce between 15,000 and 20,000 cases of wine each year. They made what they describe as the 'painful' decision to not have a 2020 vintage. 'It's been pretty devastating actually,' said Mr Kirk. He said:

We've had bushfires before, but this was something else. The fires all around us, we just seemed to cop all of smoke and it hung around for weeks and weeks.

What happens is it sits on the skins of the grapes and gets sucked into the grapes as they start to ripen. Once you crush the grapes and begin to ferment them, those smoke compounds are released into the wine.

He says with some understatement:

It is not what you want with a great Canberra district wine.

Mr Kirk also said:

The impact is going to be significant, there's no doubt about that, and it will be quite a heavy financial blow for us.

He estimates the loss to their winery in the millions of dollars. He said:

We're not going to make any wine from this vineyard at Murrumbateman, or indeed any of our vineyards from suppliers that we have in the Hilltop district or the Canberra district.

We've been in this game a long time, it's 50 years next year. We've never actually written off a whole vintage before.

There you go. This is the real emergency. This is the real issue that wine growers in Australia need to have this government addressing. If we don't address the climate emergency no amount of fiddling around the edges and providing registers of wine labels is going to mean the ongoing financial viability of our wine industry.

This summer we had the issue of smoke taint. It's not just in Canberra where it was felt. With our fires that we've had this year we know that fires of this extremity, fires of this intensity, the longer fire season, the smoke hanging around, are going to be signs of things to come unless we address our climate emergency.

Then you have got the issue of the hotter conditions—the rising temperatures that come with climate change. I would like to talk about a study that I have got a particular personal connection to, which my late wife, Dr Penny Whetton, was an author of in her role as being one of Australia's leading climate scientists. It was a paper entitled 'Observed trends in wine grape maturity in Australia' published nine years ago now in Global Change Biology in 2011. That research was based on studying data from vineyards around Australia over very long time frames. Some of it was from over 115 years of data. It showed very clearly the impact that a hotter climate was having on our wines. Over the 1993-2009 period the grapes matured, on average, 1.7 days earlier each year. Crucially, the paper summarises:

The trend to earlier maturity was associated with warming temperature trends for all of the blocks assessed in the study.

Again, this is what we need to be addressing. This is the urgent issue. This is where there needs to be urgent action from everybody in this place—the government, the Labor Party, the crossbench and certainly us Greens. You know that we want to see the urgent action, of the speed and scales that are required, in order to rapidly reduce our carbon pollution to zero. And it is not just about just leaving it until 2050—net zero carbon by 2050. Look, that may be great, but it also may be too late. We need urgent action now, not just fiddling around at the edges.

Putting aside the whole issue of the impact of our climate crisis on grapes and focusing on new wine labels: the experience of our wine growers with the increasing impact of our climate crisis shows that, tragically, it is being felt now. Just as the fires showed that we are in a climate crisis, there is no escaping it. The impact of those fires was felt, and so is the impact of a hotter climate being felt. Alisdair Tulloch, from Keith Tulloch Wine, stated:

You need to pull the camera back further than the bushfires themselves and the way they are influenced by climate change to look at the broader picture of grape growing in general. Grape growing has been showing the fingerprints of climate change since the 1980s when the harvesting dates began to move forward.

And of course we know that the climate crisis has affected not just the wine industry. It's affecting our agriculture sector more broadly. A recent report by ABARES estimated that climate-related losses are on average about $1.1 billion per year for the broadacre property industry.

If there was any other factor—whether it was invasive species, coalmining or another issue—that was costing farmers over $1 billion a year, surely this government would be acting to address that issue. Instead, we're being told: 'Don't worry. We've got it under control. We're going to meet our Paris targets, and everything's okay.' But it is blatantly clear to everybody—you cannot fool the community—that the action that is needed, that is required to reduce our carbon pollution, is needed much more urgently and at a much greater speed and scale than this government is doing. While we've got a government that continues to be spruiking coal, to be spruiking the opening up of the Beetaloo Basin, to be fracking gas, we are not addressing our climate emergency. We are not addressing the impacts of climate change on agriculture. We are not addressing the impacts of climate change on our wine industry.

This is what needs to happen if we are concerned about not just our environmental viability but also the economic viability of this country. On any other issue that was causing losses of $1.1 billion a year, this coalition government would be acting to address it. There'd be a special envoy, there'd be a series of summits and the minister would make announcements of multimillion-dollar government programs. There would be at least an attempt at action. But this government's not acting on the climate emergency. And do you know why? Because while they talk up big about supporting farmers, we know who is really pulling the strings. We know who they are listening to, and that is their fossil fuel donors—the coal dinosaurs who will not accept the truth or act on it, and a Prime Minister who still fondles lumps of coal and refuses to engage on the issue.

In 2007—if you want to go to the impact that climate change is having on our agricultural industry—the Howard government's drought package included exit packages worth $150,000 to farmers. This is what one scientist commented in 2007. Professor Peter Cullen, of the Wentworth group of scientists, said:

… this would enable farmers to exit the land with dignity.

Australia is going through a horrible transition as we adjust to climate change and there are places where farming isn't going to be able to be continued.

These are the issues. This is what this government needs to be focusing on, rather than just fiddling around the edges with small things like putting together a register of wine labels. Yes, a register of wine labels is all very good, but it is tiny in significance compared with what we need to be doing on our climate emergency. More recently, the National Farmers Federation called for exit packages as well. Fiona Simson, the head of the NFF, said of exit packages that they would:

… provide some support for those people making the difficult decision and enable them to establish themselves in a new location, with a new future in front of them.

The coalition government could be exploring exit packages as a way to make land sustainable and supporting farmers in the middle of our climate emergency. Instead, it's continuing to bury its head in the sand.

We need leadership from our government. That's what the community want. They want leadership. They want action, not just fiddling at the margin with export labels, to be meaningfully addressing our climate emergency. So the Greens will be supporting this bill. It's a bit of legislation that, yes, is going to go some way to improving things—to stop fake wine labels being used abroad, protecting our wine producers—but it is tiny in the larger scheme of what needs to be addressed to ensure a positive, robust and sustainable future for our wine industry, for our agricultural sector more generally and for all of us—for us, our children and our grandchildren.