Federation Chamber - PRIVATE MEMBERS' BUSINESS - Taxation: Distillers

I thank the previous speaker for his contribution and I thank the member for Clark for bringing this motion on. I am the co-chair of the Parliamentary Friends of Australian Spirits, so I am here with a vested interest. I'm a big supporter of the measures that the member for Clark is calling for. But I just want to give a brief history lesson. I have spoken on this matter in the parliament before, but it's always good to repeat history, in case it's forgotten. It was a Tasmanian Labor politician, Duncan Kerr, the former member for Denison—in fact, the predecessor of the member for Clark—who was responsible for bringing in Australia's spirits industry. As history shows, about 28 years ago, Bill Lark, who everybody knows is the godfather of Australian spirits, whispered in Duncan's ear and said, 'Did you know distilling is illegal in Australia for craft distillers?' and Duncan said, 'Really?' All that was needed was a regulation change by the government. Duncan went to see the then customs minister, Barry Jones, and, with literally the swipe of a ministerial pen, the law was changed—it didn't even have to go to the parliament—and that brought in craft distilling in this country. Three hundred distilleries later and many hundreds of millions of dollars and thousands of employees—all thanks to a great Labor legacy of Duncan Kerr, Barry Jones and, of course, Bill Lark. It would be remiss of me not to mention that Bill Lark was inducted into the inaugural Hall of Fame by the Australian Whisky Awards on the weekend. Congratulations to Bill.

Normally, I would get to my feet and talk about the many distilleries in Lyons. There are well north of 20, perhaps 30 by now. Every hour there's another one opening up. They're all wonderful in my electorate and many of them win awards. I've used up my time, so I can't list the awards. Distilling in Tasmania has a special place in every Tasmanian's heart. We are a world leader in gin and whisky and, as the member for Clark said, vodka. I'm very proud to be co-chair of the parliamentary friends, along with Senator Perin Davey from New South Wales. We had our launch at the start of this year. It was a fantastic evening. We had Stu Gregor and Greg Holland there from the industry—two leading lights really putting the case forward.

But the reason I'm on my feet today is to talk about the very serious issue of tax reform for this industry. It's been put to me that spirits in Australia are now about where wine used to be. When wine taxation was reformed, it led to an explosion in the industry. It just blossomed. That's what we want to see happen with spirits. They've done pretty well over the last 28 years, I have to say. Despite the incredibly onerous taxation on them and the excise requirements, they have done pretty well at growing the industry, but they won't reach their potential unless there's further reform. We're after a number of reforms, but the most critical is the $350,000 rebate. If they can get that in the upcoming budget, that would be a terrific start. We want wider reform, and the member for Clark has spoken eloquently about that, as did the member for Mayo. The critical, No. 1 issue that I would like the Treasurer to give attention to is to lift the rebate so that it's on parity with wine. They're not asking for anything different to other industries. They're asking for parity and to lift the rebate to $350,000. That's the most urgent thing the Treasurer can do. It's easy to do. It could be done in the budget. I reckon the industry would be pretty happy with that as a start. That would allow more investment in the industry and would allow many more people to be employed. Particularly, this is an industry that has suffered quite dramatically from COVID, as we know. It's not just a retail operation. It relies pretty heavily on tourism and cellar-door operations, and those sales absolutely crashed, particularly for the high-end product. I have figures here. There was a 21 per cent decline in sales volume for bottled spirits and a decline of up to 80 per cent at the cellar door because of the drop. This is an industry that really needs assistance. It's an industry that has fantastic potential. It's an industry that's well loved, not just by Tasmanians but by all Australians— and, as it sounds, by the member for Goldstein in particular, doing his bit for Australia. I urge the government to listen to the industry, listen to the sector, grow jobs and reform the excise.