Mitchell: We must support the Australian spirits industry

As some of you may know, I, along with Senator Perin Davey, am the co-chair of the Parliamentary Friends of Australian Spirits. In the first sitting week of the year, we here at Parliament House celebrated Spirits of Australia Week. Stu Gregor, President of the Australian Distillers Association; Greg Holland, Chief Executive of Spirits & Cocktails Australia; and their teams spent a very busy week here at Parliament House. We celebrated the launch of the Parliamentary Friends of Australian Spirits with a fantastic event on the Queen's Terrace. The sun was shining, the speeches were short, and our member distillers had some very delicious samples on offer for members and staff. A big thank you to all the producers who provided their valuable products for the launch and especially to those who made the trip to Canberra: Granddad Jack's; The Gin Boutique; Drinks Network; Manly Spirits; Larrikin Gin; Spring Bay Distillery, from Tasmania; Killara Distillery, also from Tasmania; Bellarine Distillery; CAVU; Lark Distillery, from Tasmania; Bundaberg; and Stephen Parry—also from Tasmania, and a former President of the Senate—from Pattex, the makers of Section 44 gin. We won't go into the origins of the name! Of course, it wasn't all gin and whiskey. The ADA and Spirits & Cocktails Australia were here to make their case for reform to the spirits excise-tax regime.

Australia has the third-highest spirits tax in the world, and excise on alcohol is increased twice a year automatically. The industry is asking the government to align the spirits tax rate to the brandy rate and freeze spirits and brandy CPI indexation for three years. It's a revenue-positive $1.4 billion impact over the forward estimates, and we would all welcome budget revenue measures. For parity with the local wine industry, the industry is asking for a rebate on its first $350,000 of excise paid—a very worthwhile measure. Reducing tax and allowing spirits manufacturers to retain a greater margin to reinvest will provide an incentive to expand operations, employ more people and support more local businesses throughout the supply chain and, for local distillers, market abroad and consider their export potential. It's a big opportunity for the regions in particular. I have written to the Treasurer to urge him to implement these reforms in the May budget. We need to support our spirits producers so they can continue to grow their contribution to Australia's agriculture, tourism, manufacturing and export industries.

I'd just like to briefly mention Adams Distillery, an award-winning distillery located in Perth in the northern part of my electorate. Two weeks ago, there was a fire in the distillery. It caused almost $2 million worth of damage and left one of their employees, Greg Longmore, with serious injuries. All the best to Greg and his family as he continues through his recovery. There's been a massive fundraising drive for Greg, with nearly $100,000 raised so far. All the best to the entire team for the future.

February 22, 2021