Following the announcement of proposed changes to WET legislation in the 2016 Budget, Wines of WA and Regional wine associations consulted widely with WA wine producers to determine the likely social and economic consequences of the changes.
A survey of producers managed by RSM Australia on behalf of the WA wine industry provided detailed information clearly outlining that a “perfect storm of unintended consequences … and extreme rationalisation” would occur if the proposed changes were to be implemented as outlined in the Budget.
Wines of WA requested urgent consultation with Government to present this information and further discuss how WET legislation could be amended to achieve revenue savings while tightening eligibility criteria and returning the Rebate to its original – to support regionally based small and medium wine producers.
Federal members Nola Marino (Forrest), Rick Wilson (O’Connor) and WA Senator Dean Smith invited Senator Anne Ruston, Assistant Minister for Agriculture and Water to visit WA wine regions to discuss the issues with WA producers. Senator Ruston accepted their invitation.
From Tuesday to Thursday this week, the Senator toured WA wine regions, conducting town hall meetings in Mt Barker, Pemberton, Busselton and the Swan Valley. Producers’ shared their views on the proposed changes and outlined how these would affect their businesses and regions. Summarising the common themes, Wines of WA President, Redmond Sweeny said’ “producers are extremely concerned with the proposed definition of an eligible producers (who can receive the WET Rebate) and the stepped reduction in the amount of Rebate a producer can claim each year. In dollar terms, the effect of the two issues combined would be the direct removal of up to $17 million dollars per year from regional WA towns. In social terms, the flow on effects to jobs and other businesses will be significant. Further work is being done to determine the extent of this impact.”
Senator Ruston spoke to producers across scale of production representative of the WA wine industry. On conclusion of the tour she said, “I have heard their concerns. The industry now needs to work together to gain consensus on how WET legislation should be amended. I can then come back and formally consult on the eligibility and Rebate Cap issues. In caretaker mode during an election, I can only promise to do so if re-elected. I have committed to this if the coalition is re-elected and I maintain my position as Assistant Minister.”