24 February 2020
Wine Australia Amendment (Label Directory) Bill 2019
I'm really pleased to speak on the Wine Australia Amendment (Label Directory) Bill 2019 because I'm a big supporter of the wine industry in Australia, especially in South Australia. I'm always going to be pleased to support legislation that will make the work of this important industry easier and, credit where credit's due, this bill does do that.
To be clear, this bill aims to amend the Wine Australia Act 2013, to enable Wine Australia to establish and maintain a publically available directory of grape product labels intended for export. The purpose of the label directory is to deter exports of copycat wine from Australia. This bill does not give Wine Australia the power to protect the intellectual property rights of wine brand owners. However, it will better facilitate wine brand owners to protect their own interests by being able to search the database, to easily see whether other labels may be seeking to trade off their intellectual property, so they can undertake appropriate civil action against copycat exporters.
Anyone who is familiar or has a relationship with the wine industry would know that this is a significant issue for industry. The issue around copycats has certainly affected a lot of businesses in South Australia. So any work that seeks to address that is work that the Labor Party obviously would support, particularly for the industry in South Australia, where some of our best known brands globally and the most important wine exports for Australia are located. On that note, I draw attention to a fantastic winemaker in the chamber at the moment in Senator Farrell, who, I am sure, will be welcoming the provisions within the legislation.
But this bill isn't enough or sufficient to do all we know that we need to do to be supporting our wine industry, because we're at a critical juncture for this industry. This is particularly true in my home state of South Australia. The wine industry in South Australia suffered enormously in the recent bushfires, especially in the Adelaide Hills. The Cudlee Creek fire that tore through the Hills region claimed 25,000 hectares. I visited Cudlee Creek a few week ago and was able to see the impact of this firsthand—in particular, at Petaluma Wine, in Woodside, in the Adelaide Hills. Petaluma was one of dozens of affected wineries in this region, and the impact of the fire is clear to see, not just within Petaluma's property but in the surrounding properties.
I witnessed blackened soils from eerie patterns on the ground, showing the seemingly random path of the fire through the vines. I saw vines completely burnt, vines that had been spared and areas where the fire appeared to have jumped certain parts of the property and the vineyard. I saw vines shrivelled to ash and buildings gutted in its wake. Grand centuries-old gum trees adjacent to the cellar door are now blackened through sections of their trunks. Some of these will survive, with the scars a constant reminder, but others won't.
Petaluma estimates significant losses to production for the year. Yet this winery was relatively fortunate if we compare it to other wineries in the Adelaide Hills. Their cellar door is still intact, which means they can welcome visitors, they can still showcase their wines and they can still be part of that critical tourism infrastructure that is so important to the Adelaide Hills, and they still have some vines for future production. Others have absolutely nothing left. Vinteloper was completely engulfed, losing all of their vines, their cellar door and even the owner's home.
But across the Adelaide Hills, in true South Australian style, there is a widespread resolve to rebuild and regroup. It speaks volumes to the character of the wine industry that there is widespread determination to recover from this bushfire disaster. In listening to what some producers need, through recovery support, what I heard clearly was that the recovery is only just beginning and it will be a process that takes many, many years. The industry will require our significant and long-term support. All wineries are different, of course, and their recoveries will take different paths and they will have different needs. Some will need large distributors, like Coles and Woolworths, to be flexible with supply over the coming years, so that they can maintain important existing distribution agreements. Some will need weekend tourists to accept, for a while, some reduced amenity whilst they're visiting. What they will need is a continuing effort from consumers to buy local and to make a special effort to seek out local produce and local wines. What they need desperately is the support of our parliament.
Though there is a long and difficult process ahead, there are signs of positivity, there are signs that this recovery is already underway. Vines that shrivelled in the bushfire heat but stayed alive are now pushing out small green bunches of new grapes. On the backdrop of the black earth, vibrant green grass shoots provide a stunning reminder of nature's incredible capacity to renew and regrow. The winemakers are testing their fruit to assess the impact of the bushfire and the smoke aftermath on the quality of the fruit. The Australian Wine Research Institute will apply knowledge gained from previous bushfires to support producers through this disaster. I want to put on the record what producers have been telling me, which is that they have just absolute praise for the Australian Wine Research Institute and the work they have been doing to actively support them.
As a parliament we should be working to ensure practical support is provided to the right areas to help producers return to business as usual as quickly as possible. Bills such as this is an important way to support the industry. But there are, of course, bigger issues that we as a nation must be tackling to be able to say with confidence that we are doing everything we can to support our wine industry, an industry that substantially provides for our broader economy.
South Australia's five world-renowned wine regions in the Barossa Valley, McLaren Vale, Clare Valley, Coonawarra and the Adelaide Hills, as well as the other regions in our state that are producing top quality wine, account for almost 80 per cent of Australia's premium wine production. So protecting local South Australian wine brands is vital not just for my state of South Australia but also for our national wine industry. In 2017-18, South Australia's wine industry generated more than $2 billion in revenue, with $1.8 billion from exports to more than 100 countries. Australian wine exports have continued to grow in the 12 months to June 2019, increasing by four per cent in value to almost $3 billion. In 2017-18, Australia consumed over 400 million litres of wine but exported more than 800 million litres—double the amount consumed locally. Clearly this is a critical industry for our broader economy. South Australia is charging and fuelling that industry and its growth.
So especially at this time, a time when our South Australian industry has been devastated by these unprecedented bushfires, we need to be doing everything we can to support our wine industry, to support our producers and to support the people in South Australia whose jobs are dependent on the success of these businesses, on the exports of these businesses. That is absolutely critical. We need to do more than just provide monetary support and short-term support schemes. We need a long-term plan and we need to listen to people in this industry who are concerned about the broader changes ahead for their industry. I'm speaking specifically here about the challenges that climate change will present to this industry and to producers.
On 9 January 2020, the grape and wine peak industry organisation, AGW, provided an update on the impacts the bushfires have had on various wine-producing regions. To date, the fires have impacted more than 60 grapegrowers and wine producers in the Adelaide Hills. The flow-on effect within the region is going to be severe, clearly, with this level of impact. The devastation has hit close to home for growers, producers and wineries in the region, with significant losses of vineyards, buildings, equipment, machinery and wine. Equipment is an important part of the story, but, of course, insurance often covers the cost of equipment and we can rebuild. The damage to the wines, the damage to the other part of the infrastructure, the damage to the natural environment, the damage to the precious things that were also burnt cannot be replaced.
After a challenging season of the extreme heat that we have seen, of drought, of catastrophic bushfires, it is so clear that this industry is hurting. It is hurting deeply. We have to be clear when we're talking about this, if we're going to be meaningful and impactful in the ways we want to support this industry, that we acknowledge that the severity of this bushfire season and the extreme weather that exacerbated conditions has resulted from our changing climate. There's no stepping away from that. The science is very clear. Australia's wine industry is on the front line of climate change. They have an incredible amount to lose if we do not take action on climate change seriously. Climate scientists warn that the increasing challenges to grape growing reflect the vulnerabilities of the entire farming industry. As Professor Mark Howden, director of the Climate Change Institute at the ANU, recently stated, climate change is already having an impact not just on the amount of product they can grow but also the quality of product. Our rapidly changing climate is having significant impacts on the agriculture sector more broadly, but of course particularly on our winemakers, who want the government to act meaningfully on climate change.
South Australian wine growers have stated that the dramatic shift in harvest dates is just one of the things that are taking a toll on their businesses. In response to this they have invested significantly in irrigation, solar and other measures to combat these challenges. But it's not a fight our producers can win on their own. It's not a fight any industry which is at risk that climate change will fundamentally affect their bottom line, their business, can tackle on their own. We have had expert warnings, even a decade ago, just on the instance of these fires which have hit the industry, that these seasons would become longer and more intense, exacerbated by the forces of climate change.
The government's own official emissions data last month confirmed that Australia will not meet our Kyoto commitment to cut emissions by five per cent. We are clearly not doing enough. Industry is clearly looking to government to show leadership in this. Industry sees what's happening with climate change. They see the risks to their industry; they see the risks to production; they see the changing nature of production that climate change will have. This is so true for the wine industry, where grapes are completely dependent on climatic conditions. A change in the climate has a significant and direct impact on the wine industry and on our growers.
I do support these measures. I think they're practical and good steps. But if the government are serious about supporting our industry into the long term, beyond these measures, in addressing the serious challenges that are in front of the wine industry with respect to climate change, they need to do more. They need to join groups, old friends of theirs—BCA, BP, BHP, Telstra—and come onboard with net zero emissions by 2050. They need to come forward with a target, and then they need to develop a meaningful plan which will take on climate change. This is something business needs. It's something our wine industry needs. Our wine industry cannot fight this fight on their own. They need government. We need to be setting a strategic direction. Our wine industry and the wine we produce are high-value products. They are known worldwide and their quality is known worldwide. We need to protect this industry. We need to protect those products and we need to do everything we can to ensure that they can focus on fighting the fights they need to do. They need to focus on building their business and growing their business, and we need to take leadership on climate change. We need to take leadership on one of the biggest threats to their business going forward into the future.
Of course, as I have said throughout my speech, we also need to do so much more over the next few years to support this industry, especially in South Australia and especially in the Adelaide Hills, where the impact of the recent bushfires has been truly devastating. We need to support the industry there not just now, not just in the next few months, but in the years ahead, because for our wine industry that is when the impact is going to hit. That's the kind of lead time we're talking about in terms of the damage to their vines and their product getting out to market. We need to show them our support over the next few years. They need to see a plan from us for this. They need to see a plan long term on the critical issue of climate change, an issue which keeps them up at night in terms of how they're going to protect their businesses and products going forward. That is what they are looking for from us, so I am pleased to support this bill before us. I welcome it and I welcome the practical steps it's taking to support our wine industry, but let's not lose sight of the bigger picture and the bigger discussion we need to be having in this chamber on how to support our wine industry post the bushfire and on how we can support our wine industry by tackling the issue of climate change.