Do more to assist WA’s wine industry
Last weekend the WA wine industry gathered for the Cullen Awards for Excellence, which recognise and reward people who have made a positive contribution to the promotion of WA wines.
Given the strength and international reputation of WA wines, it is hard to believe it was only 50 years ago cardiologist Tom Cullity planted the first vines on 3.2ha of land in Cowaramup called Vasse Felix, which marked the commercial beginnings of the Margaret River wine industry.
Along with Vasse Felix, which has been owned by the Holmes a Court family since 1987, wineries such as Leeuwin Estate, Voyager Estate, Moss Wood, Cape Mentelle and Cullen, to name a few, continue not only to produce world-class wines, but also to set the stage for wineries as destination venues for interstate and international tourists.
This is but one story of WA’s wine industry.
Later this year, with the launch of their book on the beginnings of our State’s wine industry, Ray Jordan and Peter Forrestal will tell a second — that of then-minister for industrial development Sir Charles Court’s push for this emerging area of the agriculture sector to become a valuable export product.
It was Sir Charles’ enthusiasm for export markets which spurred the interest of a young Denis Horgan.
Horgan took his Leeuwin Estate chardonnay to blind tastings in Europe, where it successfully competed against some of the top French wines at the time.
Leeuwin now exports to more than 30 countries.
Despite difficult economic times, the WA wine industry continues to thrive, expand and develop, creating jobs and attracting young people to this exciting and dynamic sector, which is one of the greatest employers of the region.
But the industry is not without its challenges and there remains an injustice faced by the WA wine industry which continues to stifle further growth of this important sector. Given wine in Australia is taxed on its value and not according to its alcohol volume, the Margaret River region is the most highly taxed wine region in Australia.
This has been a significant issue in this sector because there is a fair argument the tax should be on the volume of alcohol itself and not the labour and associated high-value costs that go into a premium product.
While the issues relating to alcohol taxation are being fought by my Federal Liberal colleagues, there remains an opportunity also to assist at a State level. Combined with the removal of the State Cellar Door Rebate, as well as the recent changes to the Federal Wine Equalisation Tax rebate scheme, many of the advances made in WA’s regional wine tourism may begin to diminish.
The small businesses and family-run wineries may be forced to withdraw their investment in existing and future wine tourism activities.