Wednesday, 9 December 2020
Wine Australia Amendment (Label Directory) Bill 2019; Second Reading
Our wine is some of the best-quality wine in the world and brings tremendous economic opportunities in our already-strong agricultural sector. I have a lifelong passion for and interest in the winemaking industry, with my family roots in the proud grape-growing region of Victoria's north-east, which locally some people call 'God's country'. My family have lived there for six generations. The winemaking industry is a major contributor to the Australian economy and is consistently growing, particularly in Asia. We need to raise international awareness of our quality wines in order to grow the industry and safeguard the reputation of our wine producers aboard. The wine export label directory is essential for this. I commend this bill, the Wine Australia Amendment (Label Directory) Bill 2019, which allow a wine export label directory to be established by Wine Australia to assist brand owners to protect their intellectual property rights.
In my maiden speech in this place, I noted that my uncle on my mother's side is the great Mick Morris, of six generations of Rutherglen winemaking fame. He notably produced the first dry red durif in 1954, making him a pioneer of the variety in Australia, which was otherwise known as petite sirah. My uncle once described durif as 'shiraz on steroids'. My cousins and other extended family members continue the proud tradition of winemaking in the Rutherglen region in northern Victoria today. In my electorate of Higgins, there are many great restaurants and bars, as well as wine cellars which stock and serve high-quality wine from all over Australia. With winemaking in my blood and in my constituency, I commend the label directory.
The government wants to support winemakers and that's because we recognise the importance of the Australian winemaking industry and its importance to our economy. It contributes in the order of $45 billion. We've invested $50 million in the Export and Regional Wine Support Package. This money will be invested over four years to grow Australia's wine exports and showcase wine tourism in the US and Asia markets—two key target markets. A key component of this package is to develop wine producers to participate in international wine activities, as well as provide marketing and advertising materials for markets abroad. This allows winemakers to get a jump start on exports to the US and Asia. For example, David Ritchie of Delatite Wines in Victoria says that the funding has allowed his business to conduct tastings and dinners with exporters in Shanghai.
The minister for trade, a proud South Australian and long-time advocate for the Australian wine industry—and I note the member for Sturt is here in the chamber, and he also has a keen interest in the wine industry—was touting the global opportunities that lie ahead for the industry in his recent address at the National Press Club. The Morrison government is currently negotiating an Australia-UK free trade agreement and it is hoped this will directly benefit the winemaking industry.
The label directory builds on the government's commitment to the industry. It will provide a public-facing online database of all Australian wine labels for export that can be used by wine brand owners to search for copycat labels. It will require all Australian wine exporters to submit images of their labels prior to obtaining export certification, and they will be uploaded to a searchable directory. The label directory will be supported by our commitment of $417,000 in funding, plus additional contingency funding. Wine Australia has indicated that the wine directory will be built into their wine export approval system, which is currently being upgraded. This is necessary because growth in international demand has also driven counterfeit Australian and other premium wines around the world. For example, the iconic Penfolds brand, which is very popular in Asia, has some exported vintages that can fetch over $400. This presents a large mark-up for counterfeits. In recent years, we've witnessed a number of copycat wine scams in Asia which have been exposed by police. This has seen thousands of fake bottles seized. It is estimated that counterfeits will cost the global industry and Australian winemakers dearly. According to Frontier Economics, an international research firm, the global economic value of counterfeiting and piracy could reach $2 trillion by 2022.
This bill is critical to allow brand owners to protect their intellectual property rights and the export value of their wine. It will ensure that customers, both here and abroad, can be confident they are getting a safe and genuine product. It means they're going to get what the label on the bottle says. This will help continue to build trust in Brand Australia, a very good brand. This bill will also ensure that Australia is playing a leadership role in the global winemaking industry by spearheading protection for the labels abroad, which will promote trust and confidence in international markets.
In closing, protecting our winemaking industry is an economic imperative. This bill will create a label directory and is a key component of the government's ongoing support for such an important industry. It builds up the Export and Regional Wine Support Package and our pursuit of freeing up global export opportunities for the industry. As a recent member of the Joint Standing Committee on Trade and Investment Growth, I'm very proud of this initiative. It will protect the intellectual property rights of our winemakers and combat the growing market of counterfeit wine abroad. It will ensure confidence in the quality of our wine and will continue to support an important industry. I commend this bill to the House.