House debates

Wednesday, 9 December 2020


Wine Australia Amendment (Label Directory) Bill 2019; Second Reading

5:59 pm

Photo of Mike FreelanderMike Freelander (Macarthur, Australian Labor Party) Share this | Hansard source

I rise today to speak on the Wine Australia Amendment (Label Directory) Bill 2019. I stand in the support of the legislation before the House, which seeks to amend the Wine Australia Act 2013 to enable Wine Australia to establish and maintain a publicly available directory of grape product labels intended for export. I confess that I am a wine lover. I'm no certified expert, but I have no hesitation in saying that Australia produces some of the finest wines in the world. Australia's wine products have become highly sought after globally, and now when people think of notable wine-producing regions, such as the Rhone Valley or Bordeaux in France or Veneto and Tuscany in Italy, they also think of Australian regions, including the Hunter, the Barossa, Margaret River, emerging areas, such as the Orange area in New South Wales, and also Tasmania. Australia's wines are something that we ought to take great pride in, and this viable export market ought to be strengthened at every opportunity. It's important to note that some iconic Australian labels, such as Penfolds Grange vintage and Henschke's Hill of Grace, can fetch well over $1,000 a bottle, and there are others in the Australian market which are very valuable export commodities. But make no mistake: this market faces many, many challenges, and the government ought to commit itself to protecting Australia's wine producers at every opportunity.

The bill before the House primarily and rightfully seeks to assist wine producers in protecting their brand from copycat behaviours. However, it's worth noting that this sector also faces significant challenges that the government appears intent upon ignoring altogether. Climate change, in particular, is one issue that's greatly challenging Australia's beloved wine industry. This sector deserves assurance that the government is adequately protecting their interests by taking the threat of climate change seriously and acting meaningfully to protect and defend our agricultural sector. The devastating 2019-20 bushfire season demonstrates quite clearly that climate change poses great challenges to our wine industry.

The Grape and Wine Association recognised this challenge throughout the crisis, pinpointing a number of regions that are key to our wine production that are at risk of or have already faced devastating impacts from bushfires and from climate change. The Adelaide Hills is one are which was greatly impacted by the fires. A number of grape growers and wine producers were directly impacted by the fires, losing vineyards, buildings, equipment and stores of wine. A significant number of our producers were impacted across Australia. The flow-on effects, in particular, have been devastating through communities. These are losses directly as a result of the fire front. We also cannot understate the effect of the loss of tourism in iconic destinations such as Kangaroo Island, the Barossa Valley et cetera. The drought has also had devastating impacts upon our wine producers, with reports indicating that some vineyards have had yields reduced by as much as 75 per cent as a result of the drought.

One cannot deny the devastating impacts of climate change on this vital sector. Climate change poses a significant risk to the industry on an ongoing basis. The grapes used to produce wine, it is said, need to be grown in an environment between 25 degrees to 32 degrees Celsius. Who could forget the temperatures that we faced last summer and will face this summer from the increasing temperatures due to climate change? That's without considering the devastating effects of climate change-induced natural disasters such as bushfires, floods and drought.

As has been indicated, Australian wines are a high-value product. Their high quality is renowned around the world, and they contribute significantly to our export market. If we are to retain our standing internationally and continue producing high-quality wines domestically, this sector requires meaningful action to mitigate the effects of climate change. I welcome the steps taken by the Australian wine producers to protect their own products, and I encourage the government to listen to the industry and take heed of their concerns on climate change.

I want to also take this opportunity to raise some concerns that I have in terms of health. I have encountered far too many cases of foetal alcohol syndrome in my paediatric career. This is certainly a devastating condition. The reality is that it's more prevalent in some areas of our society than others. Foetal alcohol syndrome arises in children who have been exposed to alcohol in utero throughout their mother's pregnancy. It can result in a number of abnormalities, including central nervous system, cardiovascular, and other changes. It's important that this is recognised by the appropriateness of labelling on wine labels about alcohol content and the risk of foetal alcohol syndrome. As with many social issues, education is the important thing, and I encourage wine producers to take this in hand.

I congratulate the government on these wine label changes. I encourage them to do more to protect our wine industry, in particular in terms of our trade, and encourage them to look for a diversity of export markets. As we know, we've been impacted by the China trade, and it is important that we diversify our markets. But it is also important that we repair the trade relationship with China, which takes a large amount of our high-quality Australian wine. I'm confident this can happen provided we pay attention to the China trade difficulties. I commend this bill to the House.


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