The Clayton’s Report

On first read of last week’s Senate Inquiry Report into the Australian Wine Industry, it was a challenge to find the good news! For many, the report was a Claytons, the report you have when you’re not having a report! It contained 12 recommendations, including Recommendation 4, that Australia Post should review its approach to wine delivery in each Australian State and Territory!

The November 2015 inquiry was an opportunity for the Australian Wine Industry to speak with one voice in a forum with the capacity to make strong, unambiguous recommendations to our Federal Government around reforms that would move our industry forward. Talking to Australia Post might help but it’s hardly a game changer! Many have been striving for more than a decade to convince anyone who will listen that the wine market is a global market and Australia is a small player.

To become a BIG player and grow our share to 5% or 6% or more of the global industry and if we want Government to help facilitate that outcome we must speak with just one voice instead of many! On second reading of the document it was clear that if we can’t pull ourselves together and speak with one voice we will continue down the pathway of self-harm.

To avoid that outcome there must be active listening and compromise on all sides. The Australian Wine Industry is only partly about individuals and international businesses. For all those who have their own ‘hard earned’ invested it’s about communities in regional Australia; it’s about jobs; it’s about exports; it’s about generating wealth for all those who put their livelihoods on the line and for all the extras who are employed, mainly in regions across the country.

Unfortunately in reading the report it paints more of a picture about big business, big egos and shareholder dividends, at the expense of innovative vineyard businesses, and wineries that embrace the imperative to be sustainable, innovative and competitive. As an industry the Australian Wine Industry is already very efficient and competitive.

To maintain our Australian Standard of living and to be more competitive we must continue to grow through innovation and excellence. That means research and development. Thankfully Recommendation 6 urged the Government to continue to match the grape research levy and the wine grapes levy income collected by AGWA.

Recommendation one about the WET rebate was not what the industry had asked for almost 12 months ago but it was pleasing to see, that after the undue time spent debating it, at the expense of other key issues, at least it made the grade as one of 12 vague recommendations. If anything the report sends a signal to all stakeholders to work as a unit, actively listening to each other and going to Government, only when policy changes are necessary, with clear messages about sustainability and competitiveness.

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