The federal budget revealed the Government intended to reduce the rebate amount and tighten eligibility to the scheme, in an effort to stamp out rorting and return the rebate to its original focus of boosting regional employment.
But a suggestion winemakers who don’t either own a winery or hold a long-term lease on one would be excluded from the scheme has cause wide-spread concern among some of the industry’s emerging crop of winemakers.
A growing number of entrants to the industry are adopting a more flexible approach to winemaking, they’re leasing spaces at neighbouring wineries and sourcing fruit from a range of grape growers in their region.
Their wines are nabbing top prizes, appearing on lists at Australia’s top restaurants and garnering export interest, even bringing some “sex appeal” to the regions according to Winemakers Federation of Australia’s acting CEO Tony Battaglene.
Yarra Valley based Journey Wines managing director Damien North said he was supportive of the budget reforms to the industry, but feared winemakers like him have been overlooked.
“The idea of taking the WET rebate off the bulk and unbranded wine we think is completely correct, it’s never what it was intended for.
“But we just feel like some very small businesses like ours are going to be collateral damage in these reforms.”
To allay concerns about the changes, the government has announced an industry consultation period that would ensure the legislation for the reforms would exclude illegitimate claimants of the rebate and make sure genuine winemakers were not left behind.
But the Government will run a consultation period in the coming months, that will seek industry feedback on the tightened eligibility criteria.
In a joint statement, Assistant Treasurer Kelly O’Dwyer and Assistant minister for Agriculture, Anne Ruston said the Government “recognises that there are a wide range of production models in the industry, including grape growers who have a real investment in the industry, but may not own equipment for crushing and fermentation”.
For more information visit Ein News Desk website.