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Thursday, 19 October 2017
Page: 8048

Senator JACINTA COLLINS (Victoria) (13:02): Labor will be supporting this bill, which will allow Wine Australia to administer two funds created as part of the wine equalisation tax rebate reforms. Firstly, $50 million will be allocated to an export and regional wine support package, and $10 million will be allocated to a wine tourism and cellar door grant program. Labor believes that these will be helpful schemes if they are well designed and money is allocated on a merits basis. We will be watching this particular issue closely. This government has demonstrated a preference for both pork-barrelling in coalition held seats and less-than-optimal programs designed more to win votes than to grow regional economies.

While we support the bill, we are critical of how we arrived here. Reform of the WET rebate was long overdue. The system was being rorted by bulk and unbranded operators and creative entity-structuring. Unfortunately, the Turnbull government attempted to turn reform into a revenue grab at the expense of our wine producers. Indeed, the government planned to raise $300 million from the first reform proposal it put forward. Following significant industry backlash and expressions of concern from Labor, the government backed down and went back to the drawing board. However, the government still plans to be $140 million better off as a result of the reforms and the implementation of this industry support package. There is no case for this. Those doing the right thing should not be made to pay for the crimes of others. Still dealing with an unhappy wine sector, the government offered the package before us today as compensation. It has been a messy process: it didn't need to be so hard, the outcome is probably less than optimal and Labor looks forward to working with all stakeholders to ensure that the $60 million we are approving today is money well spent.