Following the unanimous vote of support at the special general meeting on September the 8th we are moving toward the transition over to “WGGA trading as Australian Vignerons”. There has been a delay in starting this work due to the commitment that has been necessary on attending and contributing to the national consultation on Wine Tax, with Senator Ruston. While it was heartening to receive such support for the proposed changes, it is also recognized that change often brings with it unease and resistance. I think that it is universally agreed that it would be preferable not to be in a position where the national advocacy body was in a position where such drastic changes are needed, but there is no escaping the fact that this is the case.
While we are in a transition period there may be some confusion of identity while we “bed down” the changes, hence the “joint branding” of this announcement. There is much to do, including the commitment of willing and able supporters, the securing of funding to ensure a viable future, agreement among intending members on a voting model, and the establishment of an independent skills- based board. We will continue do our utmost to keep everyone informed and involved along the way.
Australian Vignerons was invited by Minister Anne Ruston to attend the national consultation sessions in Melbourne, Hobart, Sydney, Perth and Adelaide. It is fair to say that there was a lot in common between those attending the industry sessions in regard to problems with the eligibility criteria that were handed down in the budget, and concerns about reduction in the cap. Andrew Weeks was there to represent the views of vignerons nation wide. The resulting feedback to the Minister was as close to a consensus position as it is possible to get, and it was a very tiring but rewarding session to experience.
The commitment made by Minister Ruston is acknowledged and warmly appreciated. There was widespread industry unrest at the proposed eligibility criteria unveiled in the federal budget this year, and concern at the likely impact of those changes. The final session crystallised all of the thoughts and proposals from wine regions across the country, including the state wine industry associations and the Winemakers’ Federation. The resulting proposal is strongly integrity-based, as the government desired, with less negative impact on the industry. It must be made clear that at this stage this is an offer for the Department of Treasury to consider, and is in no way set in stone. There is a chance that this proposal will not gain acceptance, but it is a great improvement from the situation where the industry was following budget night.
During these sessions we have made it clear that vignerons across the country have many different business models. Some growers have felt the need to make wine in order to defray losses or due to a failure to secure a fruit sale with wine companies. These businesses will be affected by the proposed removal of rebate for bulk wine. Growers and winemakers across the country, however, are negatively impacted by the status quo. On balance, Australian Vignerons has supported a position that it genuinely believes is in the best interest of the wine industry as a whole, both in terms of restoring integrity and also in terms of minimizing unintended consequences for valuable regional businesses.
Our thoughts are with those battling the after effects of the storms that have swept through S.A and other parts of Australia in the past few weeks. There have been many stories of flooded vineyards and houses all over the various forms of media.
There may be many impacts from these events, from damage to emerging shoots from wind or hail, through to increased likelihood of disease due to the prolonged wet conditions. Growers are strongly urged to contact local agronomists and advisers to discuss what measures may be required. For many it will be a challenge just to be able to access vineyards to be able to spray. We wish everyone patience and success in dealing with the aftermath during the next few weeks and hope that the remainder of the seasons is much less challenging.
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