Wine Tax - Adjournment Debate

Mr KNOLL ( Schubert ) ( 17:32 ):

I rise today to talk about an issue that is very pertinent to my electorate and to one of the biggest industries in South Australia and one of the most celebrated industries in South Australia. As the member for Schubert, I am, by definition, a supporter of the wine industry. It is one of our great success stories and it melds the strengths that South Australia traditionally has in agricultural production with advanced manufacturing.

My electorate is named after Max Schubert, whose stewardship and invention of Grange has spurred Penfolds to recently be named as the world's most admired wine brand. Indeed, Ray Beckwith, in my electorate, was a great pioneer in the stabilisation of pH, which is one of the reasons we are able to have such a successful wine industry and which exports wine products globally.

So, when I see information in the media and groups who put forward proposals that would do undue harm to my electorate, that would, in essence, shut down my electorate, I feel compelled to speak out. A couple of weeks ago in the media changes were reported that would see wine taxed at instead of the current wine equalisation tax but would change to a situation where the cost of a $15 to $20 bottle of wine would increase by $3.80. We would be looking at 20 per cent to 30 per cent increase in the cost of wine.

This proposal comes from a group called the Foundation for Alcohol Research and Education (FARE), which has said that reforming the alcohol tax system should be a no brainer, which I dispute and I dispute heavily. I would like to quote the executive director of FARE, a guy called Michael Thorn, who was on FIVEaa recently, and I would like to read some of what he said. He said:

Medical research is becoming clearer about alcohol's impact on brain development.

Penberthy in response said:

"That's if you drink heaps of it."

And his response was:

"All alcohol causes harm."

Penberthy said:

"One glass?"

He said:

"All alcohol causes some harm. It increases your risk of disease."

Penberthy said:

"That's highly contested in the medical community."

And he said:

"No, it's not. Its not contested at all."

Penberthy then said:

"Why is it that every couple of weeks we seem to see a report coming out saying that a glass of red three or four times week won't actually hurt you? It indeed could help you."

He says:

"I think you're making that up, I don't know where you' re seeing those reports. They don't come out every two weeks. We often see the alcohol industry promoting those sorts of lines and these are the sorts of issues we need to deal with in our community. There are lot of myths about this and a sense that our drinking is not a problem and yet you go to hospital emergency department s, you go to our drug and alcohol services, you see the consequences."

What I would also like to point out is that a part of the submission that this group FARE has made to the liquor licensing review, point 15, wants to amend the Liquor Licensing Act to disallow persons under the age of 18 from entering premises licensed to sell takeaway liquor. When I look at the proposal to basically stop any family coming in to any cellar door in my electorate or indeed any electorate across South Australia, I get worried.

When I see reports in the media that all alcohol causes some harm, I think we are talking about a group that is not looking in a balanced way at the issues before us. To refute the idea that all alcohol causes harm and that indeed Penberthy was just making it up when it came to reports that moderate consumption of wine could actually be a good thing, I would like to point FARE to the Harvard Medical School's T.H. Chan School of Public Health which recently put out a report that says:

Moderate drinking seems to be good for the heart and circulatory system, and probably protects against type 2 diabetes and gallstones.

I would call Harvard Medical School a fairly reputable source. FARE would have you believe that alcohol problems are getting worse in this country, but I would like to point FARE to the National Drug Strategy Household Survey detailed report from 2013 that said that 12 to 15-year-old drinking has halved and, indeed, teenage drinking overall has dropped quite considerably; again, something that is part of the Australian government and what I would consider a credible source.

We then go on to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, which shows that in pure alcohol terms the per capita consumption of alcohol has dropped by about 15 per cent in only the past five years, from 5.68 litres of pure alcohol per year down to 4.01; and of wine, from 3.78 down to 3.64. What these reports say is that there is a reducing issue when it comes to dangerous alcohol consumption in our community but also that moderate consumption of wine is indeed part of a healthy and balanced lifestyle. Indeed, this from DrinkWise Australia, which I would consider would be a fairly good authority when it comes to these issues. It says on their website:

When enjoyed in moderation, alcohol can form part of a healthy lifestyle that includes good diet and exercise. On the other hand, excessive drinking can have harmful effects to your health.

That is a fairly balanced statement and something I think we can take heart from, but the idea that all alcohol causes harm is extremely scary. I am not somebody who wants to see harm caused by excessive alcohol in our community but this idea that we need a blanket approach to stop any family from going into a cellar door and that to stop anyone from drinking alcohol at any time ever is a decent way to deal with this issue; instead, we need to be targeting problem drinkers.

We are already seeing reductions in drinking across the board and we have evidence here that I presented today that shows that underage drinking is also reducing. This type of proposal, the proposal to increase tax on wine, would have a disproportionate devastating effect on South Australia. We are over 50 per cent of the nation's wine industry and this type of proposal, the increase of 20 to 30 per cent taxation rate on alcohol, would be nothing short of devastating.

This is an industry that in 2013-14 contributed $1.77 billion, most of which is reinvested in regional South Australia. IBISWorld also says that in 2014-15, their estimate of $1.6 billion should be used. This is an industry that is supporting our regional communities; this is an industry that is supporting our export economy and deserves better than glib statements like, 'All alcohol causes harm.'

This is an issue for my electorate, but this is a big issue for electorates all across South Australia. This is an issue in the electorate of Chaffey; it is an issue in the electorates of Hammond, MacKillop, Mawson, Kavel, Stuart and, indeed, in the electorate of Frome with the Clare Valley. This is an issue across most of regional South Australia and when I see groups like FARE being unchallenged in the media, I feel compelled to speak out.

Reasonable drinking is part of South Australian culture. It has been part of Australian culture since the arrival of the first settlers; it has been part of western culture for hundreds and hundreds of years. Indeed, the first settlers of the Barossa Valley, who came out from Prussia, brought with them a responsible, moderate drinking culture and they brought it here to South Australia.

What worries me is that we now have a group, the Foundation for Alcohol Research and Education (FARE), which is the equivalent of the modern prohibitionist movement. They are a modern temperance movement. Their stated aim, as you can see by Michael Thorn's comments in the media, is to shut down the alcohol industry. Over 50 per cent of the value that my electorate contributes to the South Australian economy comes from the wine industry. A concept such as FARE is pushing would close down my electorate in a way that losing Arrium would be to Whyalla or losing Nyrstar would be to Port Pirie.

This type of proposal would do nothing short of shut down my entire electorate and I will not stand here and let it go idly by. This is a modern prohibitionist movement that left unchecked works against common sense, it works against the ability of the vast majority—99 point something per cent of the population—who have the ability to sit down and enjoy a drink in moderation. This type of proposal works to threaten the jobs of many who work in this great industry, many who live in the great electorate of Schubert.

I appreciate the opportunity to bring this issue to the house. I will certainly be making sure that the opposite views are heard and that the sensible common-sense voice is heard and that in this debate we can have some clarity, some common sense and some rationalism to counterbalance the views of some extreme elements who are seeking to shut down one of the greatest assets that the South Australian economy has.