Policy and Issues » Hot Issues
Advocating for a fair and balanced mandatory pregnancy warning label is a high priority for Australian Grape & Wine. On Sunday 27 October 2019, we lodged our submission on the proposed label design with Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ). We were delighted that so many members, and state and regional associations also lodged submissions and made sure their state health and agriculture ministers understood the major problems with the FSANZ design.
While the consultation process is complete, in many ways the hard work is now ahead of us. We are not in any way attempting to roll-back the Ministerial Forum on Food Regulation’s decision to mandate a pregnancy warning label. However, our view is that FSANZ’s proposal is a clear example of regulatory over-reach. It provides little evidence to suggest the proposed requirements will lead to behavioural change or increases in awareness beyond what we’ve seen as a result of current arrangements, including the voluntary DrinkWise labelling initiative. While the benefits are unknown, it is absolutely clear that the proposed warning label will increase costs and set an unwanted precedent for future labelling decisions (think cancer warning labels next, larger warning labels in the future).
Australian Grape & Wine is working to ensure Ministers understand the ramifications of their decision and we encourage all of you to take any opportunity you have to raise this issue with your Federal, State or Territory political representatives.
Geographical Indications and Grape Variety protection
Australia - EU FTA GI objections for Prosecco
Following the end of the public consultation period on 13 November 2019, we understand that Australian Wine producer submissions have been very well received by government. There were submissions from individual businesses, regional associations, state associations, legal and academic experts, all objecting to the protection of prosecco as a GI in Australia. We have been informed that the number and quality of Prosecco submissions received was the highest of all food and spirit products. Some producers received personalised responses directly from the Trade Minister Simon Birmingham. While this effort was great and achieved its objective, we need to keep up the pressure. Australian Grape & Wine will continue to press publicly and directly to politicians and negotiators to ensure the Australian Government keeps Prosecco on its mind as negotiations continue in 2020. The next negotiation is scheduled for February 2020. Look out for our “Prosecco GI Lie” article in the summer edition of the Wine and Viticulture Journal and our next Prosecco parliamentary event planned for early 2020.
EU-New Zealand FTA - Public Consultation on Geographical Indications
New Zealand have just announced a further public consultation process concerning the protection of European GIs in New Zealand under their FTA negotiations. As you will recall Australian Grape & Wine provided an extensive submission to the previously released European GI list in the initial consultation. This latest consultation is concerning the proposed legal framework which New Zealand should adopt if it were to protect GIs. Australian Grape & Wine will make a submission to this process and will collaborate with New Zealand winegrowers on the approach. This is a very technical area that concerns the rules around protection for all food products in New Zealand. It is critical for us to influence the rules for protection in New Zealand as will directly impact on future trade with New Zealand.
China-EU GI Agreement finalised
As you may be aware, in 2017 Australian Grape & Wine objected in China, to the registration of three compound terms (Conegliano Valdobbiadene - Prosecco / Montepulciano d'Abruzzo / Vino nobile di Montepulciano) that the EU was seeking to protect as European GIs. The basis of the objection was that the terms contained the grape variety names “Prosecco” and “Montepulciano”. In November this year China and the EU announced the finalisation of their GI Agreement and that 100 EU GIs would be protected in China (including the three we had objected to, noted above). We understand that the Chinese have agree to protect the compound terms “as a whole term” . We believe this means the grape variety names should still be available for use by Australian exporters, and we are also seeking clarification through the Australian Embassy in China.
National Alcohol Strategy (NAS)
The National Alcohol Strategy 2019-2018 has been endorsed by Federal, State and Territory Health Ministers and was released on Monday 3 December 2019. On balance, the strategy reasonable – recognising that trends in dangerous drinking are heading in the right direction, and focusing on options governments can consider to prevent and treat alcohol related harms. Importantly, please note the strategy does not impose binding commitments on any government, but it can provide the political impetus to pursue some of the options in the plan.
While Minimum Unit Pricing is put forward as an option for governments to consider, along with changes to a volumetric tax system, the Minister for Health, the Hon. Greg Hunt MP, said in his press release that “The Morrison Government considers Australia’s current alcohol taxation setting are appropriate and has no plans to make any changes” and “pricing mechanisms such as a Minimum Unit Price on alcohol are a matter for the States and Territories.” A Minimum Unit Price for alcohol would be damaging for the sector, and early indications from the Northern Territory’s experiment with such measures suggest it is leading to perverse outcomes. We will continue to watch this space and advocate against the introduction of Minimum Unit Pricing in Australia. On a more pleasing note, the strategy also suggests that Responsible Service of Alcohol (RSA) arrangements be standardised nationally, which is an issue many members have raised with us. Australian Grape & Wine will use this as a basis for pursuing reform in this area in the coming year, although we expect getting the states and territories onto the same page will take time.
Maximising your global market export opportunities.
Australian Grape & Wine will continue to ensure barriers to trade are removed or reduced where applicable, and will continue to actively advocate for fair trade arrangements for all Australian winemakers.
Minimising the risk of biosecurity incursion through a coordinated industry response.
Australian Grape & Wine provides industry leadership to ensure effective management in biosecurity, safeguarding Australia’s wine industry and associated businesses.
Wine Equalisation Tax (WET)
Australian Grape & Wine leads the industry position on WET, including the provision of information for the sector on the changes to current legislation and how the changes will affect Australian wine making businesses.
Industry Leadership & Collaboration
Australian Grape & Wine have been seeking input on the new sector vision and strategy we are developing in partnership with Wine Australia. One of our major weaknesses in our advocacy with government in recent years has been a perceived lack of an overall vision and strategy for the sector. This piece of work is designed to fill that gap, and enhance our ability to garner support from the Government and demonstrate our right to operate and generate value to the Australian community. The Discussion Paper outlines the thinking and provides an overview of the issues and challenges facing the sector.
This process has been very rewarding, with a great deal of engagement from all regions we have visited. Written submissions closed on 11 October 2019. We aim to finalise this strategy by the end of November, to enable us to feed into the budget considerations of the Federal Government, and seek to build a compelling case for the government to recognise the value of the sector and the benefits that could arise from a relatively modest government investment.