I represent two premier Australian wine regions—the Margaret River and the Geographe wine regions. That’s why I am supporting this bill. The bill enables the Australian Grape and Wine Authority to implement all activities under the Wine Support Package, including for cider and international wine tourism. It enables the authority to administer grant programs for wine, including the cellar door grant, and it changes the name of the authority to Wine Australia.
I’m very, very proud of our region’s winemakers and wineries. They bring great value and vibrancy to the south-west. In fact Margaret River is about to celebrate its 50th anniversary of commercial fine wine making in the modern era. Margaret River is an international brand, as we all know. The two main wine regions in the south-west, the Margaret River and Geographe wine regions, have very well-deserved reputations for producing top-quality wines. However, the winemakers never stand still. They are continuously striving to produce even finer quality award-winning wines.
The measures in this bill are important to the over 95 cellar doors in the region that sell wine directly to the public. Many of these are small and family businesses that have invested year upon year, often starting from very humble beginnings; mortgaging their houses or properties to start that small business; at times, like so many small business people, not sleeping at night wondering how to pay wages and bills; investing countless hours themselves in and on their businesses. But their considerable efforts have produced so many benefits for the region. In terms of exports across Australia, in 2016 the wines were worth over $2.2 billion. For the south-west region in 2016, the value of exports was over $42 million, according to Wine Australia. In our export markets—predominantly China and Hong Kong—and around Australia the most popular wines are shiraz, cabernet sauvignon and chardonnay. The benefits of these export dollars flow not just to wine producers but to their regional and small communities, and there are so many local jobs involved. Countless other small and family-owned businesses benefit from the wine industry. Just look at the farm supply companies. Cowaramup Agencies supplies trellising, fencing, winemaking, cleaning and packaging supplies, and there is Landmark in Margaret River. We have LP and JA Fryer in Harvey—all the rural traders, delivering similar services to the industry.
And consider some of the other local businesses that supply or support the industry, including fencing contractors, transport companies, mechanics, local tourism operators like Bushtucker River and Wine Tours, accountants, and marketing companies like Jack in the Box—the list is endless. It demonstrates why the wine industry is very important in my electorate. It’s important to the regional and state economy as well as our broader Australian economy in terms of export earnings as well as the tourism income and local jobs in communities like mine in the south-west.
The coalition government clearly understands the important contribution this industry makes to the local, state and national economy, as demonstrated by the measures in this bill. Industry came to us and said there were problems with the wine equalisation tax rebate scheme. There were integrity concerns, and they said there was a need to target the benefits back to the original purpose: that of supporting small wine producers in rural and regional areas. These changes were negotiated with wine producers across the nation and, most relevantly for me, in the south-west, Margaret River and the Geographe region, through discussions with Assistant Minister Senator Anne Ruston.
They were very robust discussions, with a diverse group of growers who raised a range of issues—and they did it so well. Much of what we see in this bill is as a result of consultations and us genuinely understanding the businesses of the small- to medium-producers. I want to thank every producer who made time to meet with Senator Anne Ruston and me for their frankness during those discussions. I also want to acknowledge the work of the Minister for Revenue and Financial Services, Kelly O’Dwyer.
This initiative also recognises and supports the value and vibrancy that wine producers bring to regional communities like mine. We largely depend on that vibrancy. I will be looking very closely at how my wine regions are represented in the marketing effort. Wine producers in my electorate will be very focused on how they can leverage and improve their export options, particularly on the back of the three free trade agreements concluded by the coalition government. On the back of the federal funding that I secured there will be an upgrade of the Busselton-Margaret River Regional Airport to international passenger and, importantly, for my producers, it will have more freight capacity. This is, as I have repeatedly said, a transformative project—one that is greatly anticipated. We are really looking forward to the upgrade of the airport being completed and services being able to run out of there. I can see a lot of fantastic exports from the south-west moving out through that airport.
This bill is ultimately about increased support for small regional wineries. It’s exactly what our small- to-medium cellar doors need to offer to attract and retain tourists in this area. It’s very, very important. I wholeheartedly commend the bill to the House.