Wine industry under Senate microscope

Opportunities offered by new trade agreements and more favourable exchange rates will go begging if the Australian wine industry doesn’t address some key issues.

Senator for South Australia Anne Ruston said that with wine grape growers receiving prices barely covering their costs of production this year, the industry needed to re-focus on exports.

"The industry needs a bit of a shake up," Senator Ruston said. "It needs to drive demand for its product overseas if it is to have a sustainable future.

"Australia is an exporting country and we aren’t going to get rich selling to ourselves. This is very true of the wine industry. With new free trade agreements in place and a falling Australian dollar, now is the time for the industry to get out there in international markets and spruik our premium wine."

Senator Ruston, with Senators Nick Xenophon, Bridget McKenzie, Peter Whish-Wilson and John Madigan, will tomorrow move to establish an inquiry into the Australian wine industry by the Senate Rural and Regional Affairs and Transport References Committee.

Senator Ruston said the inquiry would examine issues such as legislation and regulation, potential market failure, representation and levies, the power of large retailers and the wine equalisation tax (WET) rebate.

"The WET rebate in particular has been a contentious issue with New Zealand wine producers receiving it, but also because it takes the industry’s focus off exports," she said.

The Senate committee is scheduled to report in November.

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