House debates

Wednesday, 9 December 2020


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

6:05 pm

Photo of James StevensJames Stevens (Sturt, Liberal Party) Share this | Hansard source

In 1836 the colony of South Australia was settled. The first European settlement was in 1836. In 1844 Christopher and Mary Penfold arrived in the new colony of South Australia and in my electorate of Sturt. They established their home. They built a cottage called Grange Cottage and they brought with them some vines, which they planted. Of course, that is now the famous Magill Estate vineyard, and Grange Cottage has eponymously given its name to what's now known as Penfolds Grange. We used to call it the Grange Hermitage. Now, of course, it is Penfolds Grange.

In this debate, both speakers that have preceded me have singled out Penfolds as beyond question the great iconic amongst many premium Australian wines that are produced not just for our enjoyment domestically but, of course, to be exported around the globe. A few years ago I was in Thailand, and our ambassador there indicated that Penfolds was the most recognised brand of any Australian brand in Thailand. It was his view that that was probably the case in quite a few other countries throughout Asia. I'm confident it's the case that Penfolds is a very-well-recognised brand in most of the premium wine markets across the planet. So I'm very proud that the winery not only was established in my electorate but we still, in the absolute middle of my electorate, have Magill Estate. A lot of their production now is equally drawn from regions like the Barossa, of course, and most South Australian wine regions—the McLaren Vale, the Adelaide Hills, the Clare Valley; they make wines from grapes sourced from all around South Australia and even Tasmania now and other parts of the country—but their spiritual home beyond question is in the middle of my electorate, which is why I'm so passionately in support of this legislation before the House.

Penfolds have been one of the most significant victims of counterfeiting of their wine in overseas markets. This, of course, is designed to put a little bit more robustness around the intellectual property that brands like Penfolds have, particularly by having such a clear, publicly accessible database. They will be in a position—and Australian authorities such as Wine Australia and others that are in charge of protecting brand integrity in this country and in other countries with markets that we're exporting to will have a much clearer ability now to point out where someone is clearly trying to represent their product, piggybacking off the brand strength and significance of a brand like Penfolds to sell an inferior wine at a much higher price.

That obviously has two impacts. It means that someone can take an inferior wine—a much cheaper wine—and, if they're successful in tricking the consumer, sell it for a much higher price. That's one issue. The other is, of course, that, when someone consumes this inferior wine and they think it was, for example, a Penfolds Grange, a Henschke Hill of Grace or a Rockford Basket Press and they have a disappointing experience, that has the secondary damage to the Penfolds brand. Potentially, if this is going on fairly significantly and widely, which we understand it is, then that is going to have a significant impact on the brand integrity and the brand value that's been built up, in the case of Penfolds, over almost 175 years. Clearly, the, we have to do all we can to protect these great, iconic Australian brands, this great, iconic Australian product that we're sending around the world, and do all we can to make sure that the value they rightly deserve is protected not only in this market here in Australia, where we don't have these issues, but of course in other parts of the world.

It's important because it is quite difficult, particularly in non-English-speaking countries, for people to be expected to discern between something that's a Penfolds and something that's a 'Penbolds'. You'd have to be quite sophisticated with the English language and you'd have to be looking for the trickery. Particularly at the consumer level, I don't think you could reasonably expect that most people are going to assume that what they are receiving has to be validated or needs some kind of certificate of authenticity to make sure that they're purchasing what they think they are.

I'm not suggesting that consumers in some of the major Asian cities are going to start going onto the Wine Australia website when they're in the bottle shop and checking off labels. At the next level up—for example, the people who are importing, the people who are selling the product, the people who are running the retail outlets, the people who are in charge of distribution in these markets et cetera—if they value their reputations and they want to make sure that what they're passing off as a genuine product can be confirmed to be so, I think this would be a very valuable tool. Obviously it also puts Wine Australia in a much stronger position to be out there proactively looking for breaches.

We have an enormous number of wine labels in this country. Penfolds is fairly straightforward. I don't think many of us who know the brand well would struggle to identify a counterfeit or fraudulent label. But of course there are so many—which is a great success story—Australian winemakers who are exporting. It's very difficult, without a proper, centralised, publicly accessible database, to know what's accurate and what's fraud, so this is a very important reform.

It couldn't have come at a more important time for the industry. Of course, we've had some issues in recent weeks with our major export market, being China. This underscores the need for us to diversify into other markets even more and find growth in markets we were already exporting into—India is an excellent example. There are other parts of the world that we have barely entered whatsoever, so we want to broaden the number of markets we're sending our product to. That's going to increase the risk of counterfeit even more and the difficulty in policing it.

I know the industry has been calling for this register and is strongly welcoming and looking forward to having it up and running. I'm grateful that we're passing it through the chamber now, because the sooner we can get this adopted and Wine Australia can put this in place the sooner we're going to have great outcomes and integrity around the wines that we're so proud to export around the world. I commend the bill to the House.


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