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Monday, 24 February 2020
Page: 1135


Senator McKENZIE (VictoriaLeader of the Nationals in the Senate) (13:55): I rise to speak on the Wine Australia Amendment (Label Directory) Bill 2019 and to follow on from other contributors. The Australian wine industry is one of our nation's great success stories. It's been built by pioneer families who recognised very early on that Australia's climate and terroir were building blocks for wine production of high quality. In my home state of Victoria, these pioneers include the Browns of Milawa, the Campbells and Morris families of Rutherglen and, more recently, Otto and Elena Dal Zotto in the King Valley, who make a fabulous Prosecco—and I hope we'll still be able to call it that post EU free trade agreement negotiations. These pioneering families have developed the industry and their household names and brands over many generations. This bill comes to the Senate designed to protect their blood, sweat and tears from unscrupulous operators who seek to cash in on their hard work.

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. The continuing successes of Australian wine exports depend on the maintenance of our internationally recognised reputation for quality and integrity, which is supported by Wine Australia's regulatory activities. The Australian wine industry, represented by Australian Grape and Wine Incorporated, asked the government for stronger regulatory controls to deter the export of copycat wine from Australia. Copycat wine and other grape-product exports are products that are exported from Australia with labels that seek to mimic elements of Australian brands for commercial gain and to unfairly benefit from the reputation of those brands. A label directory was proposed by industry as a useful way to assist brand owners to protect their intellectual property rights and, by extension, the reputation of Australian wine.

Passage of the bill before the Senate today will enable a label directory to be established, as part of Australia's export controls, as a deterrent to exporters of wine and other grape products who seek to unfairly benefit from the reputation of Australian brands. The label directory will provide brand owners with a searchable database of images of labels, allowing them to find labels that potentially infringe their intellectual property rights and enabling 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. For instance, Wine Australia can use the images of the labels submitted to it to confirm that wine exporters are complying their obligations under the Label Integrity Program, as set out in the act, or evidence of copycat labelling can be used in Wine Australia's ongoing assessment of whether a wine exporter can be considered a fit and proper person to hold a licence to export wine from Australia.

Public consultation on the proposal to develop the label directory was undertaken by the department of agriculture during September and October 2018, and the majority of submissions from the wine industry broadly supported the need and proposed model for the label directory. Following this consultation, the department further refined the proposal with Wine Australia and AGW. The Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet and IP Australia were also consulted.

The amendments to the Wine Australia Act 2013 made by this bill will enable Wine Australia to impose additional requirements on exporters as a condition of approval to export grape products from Australia. This will support our internationally recognised wine industry to not just maintain the beautiful, high-quality product, which is on tables and in restaurants not just in Australia but around the world, but to underpin the significant regional tourism and job opportunities that are a result of our valuable viticulture industry. The bill will allow regulations to be made that would result in a requirement that digital colour images of labels be submitted and administered. There will be no impacts on importers of wine to Australia.

I hope the bill before us has the full support of the Australian Senate. It will underpin the integrity of our system of wine exports, and I think that's something everyone in this chamber can support.

Debate interrupted.