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Monday, 24 February 2020
Page: 1126

Senator VAN (Victoria) (13:15): I rise today to speak in support of the Wine Australia Amendment (Label Directory) Bill 2019. It's one that supports Australia's wine producers and the integrity of their product. Australia is the sixth-largest wine producer in the world and the fifth-largest wine exporter, with two-thirds of Australian wine exported, adding $2.89 billion to the economy annually and employing over 170,000 workers in the industry.

My great home state of Victoria has a fantastic wine industry, one of the best in the world. There are over 1,100 wine producers in Victoria, with over 740 vineyards spread right across the state. The people here and those listening at home might be familiar with some of these regions—the Yarra Valley, the Bellarine and Mornington peninsulas, Rutherglen, Pyrenees, Goulburn Valley and more. These predominantly small and medium businesses employ nearly 13,000 workers in both direct production and associated industries. Some of those industries include tourism. They contribute over $7.6 billion to Victoria's economy. They supply 19 per cent of Australia's wine production to a range of producers who export right across the world. Their hard work, innovation, experimentation and high-quality production has seen Victoria develop an enviable reputation as a producer of high-quality varietals of all types, some of which now challenge and beat the traditional exporters from Europe and North America.

It is this kind of hard work and success that the Morrison government want to support. We've boosted the Export Market Development Grants scheme by $60 million to back small and medium-sized Australian exporters, including our wine producers. We, the Morrison government, have delivered trade agreements with China, Japan, and Korea, all growing wine markets. We've signed the Pacific Agreement on Closer Economic Relations, as well as agreements with Indonesia, Peru and Hong Kong. As a result, Australia's exports increased to a record $438 billion in 2018, up from $307 billion in the financial year 2012-13. In 2018 Australia had a trade surplus of over $22 billion, compared to a deficit of $19.9 billion in financial year 2012-13.

Our wine industry will also benefit from the new Trans-Pacific Partnership. It is an agreement between 11 major economies in our region with a total worth of over $13.7 trillion. Through these initiatives, we have opened up new opportunities for all of our exporters, including our wine exporters. We will continue to help them grow and prosper.

However, this government hasn't just left support for small business at that. Other initiatives include reducing the tax rate for businesses with a turnover of less than $50 million from 30 per cent to 27.5 per cent, the lowest rate in 50 years. This will support some 230,000 small and medium-sized companies in my home state of Victoria alone. For unincorporated businesses with a turnover of less than $5 million, we have introduced a tax discount of eight per cent, capped at $1,000, and we have legislated a further increase to 16 per cent—a great boon for all small and medium-sized businesses. We have fast-tracked this tax relief so the full benefit is delivered in the financial year 2021-22. That is five years earlier than originally planned.

The Morrison government is also helping small and medium businesses invest and grow through the instant asset write-off. We expanded the instant asset write-off for small and medium businesses up to a turnover of less than $50 million until 30 June this year. This means those businesses can instantly deduct each and every asset under $30,000. You can imagine that for a small to medium primary producer, like a wine producer, this means everything. This gives them the help that they need in real and meaningful ways. These changes will benefit 3.4 million businesses employing over seven million Australians, helping them to invest, create more jobs and develop further export opportunities.

Success, however, can be impacted by a range of issues. Factors such as drought, bushfires and plant disease can impact on crops and the quality of the product. Factors such as low wholesale prices, oversupply or export controls can impact growers' profitability. That is why the Morrison government has also announced a range of initiatives to help agricultural producers and small businesses through the impacts of drought and natural disasters. These include more than $1 billion of drought loans, worth individually up to $2 million, with no repayments or interest for the first two years. This will make it possible for some agricultural producers to buy fodder, transport stock, build water infrastructure, agist animals, mend fences or refinance existing debt. There is also a new small business drought loan of up to $500,000 that will help support small regional businesses impacted by the drought.

Unfortunately, wine producers have experienced various nefarious activities by people seeking to pass off inferior products through copycat wine and other grape product exports. The wine industry regulator has seen products exported from across the country with labels that seek to mimic elements of Australian brands for commercial gain and unfairly benefit from the reputation of those brands. They are damaging the hard work of reputable wine brands and threatening the continued growth of the wine industry not only in my home state but right across Australia. That is why the regulatory work of Wine Australia is so important. The continuing success of Australian wine exports depends on the maintenance of our internationally recognised reputation for quality and integrity, and that is supported by Wine Australia's regulatory activities.

The Australian wine industry asked for stronger regulatory controls to deter the export of copycat wine from Australia. The passage of this bill will enable a label directory to be established as part of Wine Australia's export controls. The directory was proposed by industry as one way of assisting brand owners to protect their intellectual property rights and, by extension, the reputation of Australian wine. It will act as a deterrent to exporters of wine and other grape products who seek to damage Australia's wine industry and unfairly benefit from the reputation of Australian brands. The label directory will provide brand owners with a searchable database of images of labels that can be used to find labels that potentially infringe their intellectual property rights and enable them to undertake civil action against copycat exporters through the Australian legal system. The bill will also enable Wine Australia to use the label directory in administering licences to export wine under the Wine Australia Regulations 2018.

One of the great challenges of creating a regulatory regime is ensuring that it does not create an undue burden on those who seek to work within the regulations. This government has actively sought to reduce compliance costs for businesses, individuals and community groups and has removed over $6 billion of regulatory burden since coming to office in 2013. This includes simplified business activity statements for 2.7 million small businesses, doubling of ASIC financial reporting thresholds, reducing the burden on 2,200 companies, a small business superannuation clearing house and hundreds of other decisions that are making life easier for our small businesses, including our wine producers and exporters.

To help reduce state government red tape, the government will pay up to $300 million to states and territories that reduce the regulatory burden on small business, assuming they deliver on the promises that they have made. As part of that effort I acknowledge my colleague Senator Bridget McKenzie, former minister for agriculture, for her work on this policy piece. I also thank the Department of Agriculture, Wine Australia, IP Australia and the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet for their work on this bill that is now before us. I commend the bill to the Senate.