Do more to as­sist WA’s wine in­dus­try

Augusta Margaret River Times - - Letters - Libby Met­tam Mem­ber for Vasse

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.

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