House debates

Monday, 18 March 2024

Private Members' Business

Wine Industry

6:40 pm

Photo of Brian MitchellBrian Mitchell (Lyons, Australian Labor Party) Share this | Hansard source

I thank the member for Barker for this opportunity to speak about Australia's wine growers, and it'll probably be no surprise that I'll spend my time talking about the situation in my electorate and across Tasmania. It is a serious issue. Australia is the fifth-largest wine producer by volume in the world, and the hundreds of dedicated producers and the 160,000 people who work in the industry produce excellent product. It's some of the best wines in the world, in fact. In Tasmania, we have more than 200 individual vineyards, and the industry more broadly supports 3,600 full-time equivalent jobs. You may recall, Deputy Speaker, that I just gave my 90-second statement and congratulated Bangor on winning gold in the Australian Tourism Awards for the amazing work that they do with their very high-quality vineyard down there in Dunalley.

A report commissioned by Wine Tasmania at the end of last year found that Tasmania was the only state whose grape-growing workforce grew over the past decade, and it was up by 74 per cent. The same study reported the state's wine industry was tracking to grow to $2 billion annually by 2040. In 2022, the average value of Tasmanian wine grapes was a record-setting $3,237 a tonne, compared to the national average of $630 per tonne. Of course, as the member for Barker has indicated, many growers are now getting much less than that—indeed much less than the cost of production—for what they're growing. But in Tasmania it's a success story.

I'm always pleased to be able to celebrate the success of the industry in my home state, but we aren't being honest. We aren't being honest about the challenges the industry has been facing over recent years. The total value of Australian wine exports declined by 2.4 per cent to $1.9 billion in the year to December 2023. But the 2023 figures tell only part of the recent story, with exports down by one-third compared to 2021. The decline in exports has been caused, in large part, by ongoing trade disruptions in some of our major overseas markets.

The member for Barker doesn't want to hear it, but it's a simple fact that there has been major trade disruption. There are also other shifts occurring, with ongoing changes in consumer preferences having a major impact on prices for the traditional red grape variety that's prevalent in our inland grape-growing regions. It's also a simple case of supply and demand. There's a hell of a lot of supply and there's not the demand to feed the supply. It's basic economics.

But the government's primary focus is to support the industry to build long-term sustainable demand for Australian wine, through market diversification and expansion. Introducing and establishing Australia's world-class wine into new markets will help address the imbalance between supply and demand over the long term. There is no short-term fix, and I'll tell the member for Barker that there is no silver bullet. It's a long-term complex problem. Like in all agricultural industries, trade will continue to be critical for the future of our wine industry.

The government is helping industry to grow long-term sustainable demand for Australian wine, through improving market access and trade diversification. The Agricultural Trade and Market Access Cooperation program assists the industry to build long-term sustainable demand, with $3.3 million, through three grants, to Australian Grape & Wine and more than $1.1 million, through two grants, to the Australian Food and Wine Collaboration Group, which includes Wine Australia.

The government also continues to pursue ambitious free trade agreements and supports greater demand for Australian wine. The Australia-United Kingdom Free Trade Agreement entered into force on 31 May 2023, for example, eliminating all tariffs on Australian wine. Similarly, an Australia-India economic cooperation trade agreement entered into force on 29 December 2022 lowered tariffs significantly and established a joint dialogue, and the government is negotiating a more comprehensive agreement with India, which of course is a massive potential market.

Closer to home, the Wine Tourism and Cellar Door Grants program supports cellar-door operators to upgrade infrastructure, regional employment and increased demand for Australian wine. Round 5 of that program provided $10 million to 209 wine and cider businesses across the country, of which $500,000 was awarded to Tasmanian operations, including several in my electorate—Derwent Estate, Freycinet, Nocton, Pooley, Stefano Lubiana and Josef Chromy.

We are doing a lot to support the industry. We acknowledge the serious challenges the industry is facing. But we are there, standing with them, to shoulder the burden.


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