Winemakers say industry needs reform ( ABC News )
The Rural and Regional Affairs Transport Reference Committee has been hosting Australian Grape and Wine Industry hearings around Australia as part of an inquiry into the wine industry.
The winemakers' federation was joined in the Swan Valley by Wines of WA and other industry representatives.
Winemakers' federation CEO Paul Evans said the group was seeking to discuss issues relating to profitability, marketing, and supply and demand.
He said the future of the Wine Equalisation Tax was an important area of discussion.
The tax, known as WET, is based on the wholesale value of the wine.
Winemakers can claim a rebate of up to $500,000, which is intended to benefit smaller producers, but the tax and its rebate are under review by the Federal Government.
Mr Evans said money saved by any reform of the tax should be reinvested to boost marketing overseas.
Winemakers say something has got to give
Great Southern winemaker Kim Tyrer said the cost of production put Australian winemakers at a global disadvantage.
Ms Tyrer, who is also president of Mount Barker Wine Producers Association, said Australia spent "very little" on marketing overseas.
"Our competitors in the same market spend a lot more both time and money marketing their own respective wine industries," she said.
"So we're very much behind the eight ball."
Ms Tyrer said Australian winemakers needed support to operate in a premium market because of their high cost of production.
"We can't be competitive at the lower end of the market," she said.
"And if you think about the premium end, that's pretty much the French — so that's a pretty dominant brand."
Grant Brinklow, from Sandalford Wines in Margaret River and the Swan Valley, said government assistance was fundamental for Australian winemakers to remain competitive.
Mr Brinklow said marketing wine overseas was critical to success.
He said the promotion of the Federal Government's Brand Australia program was well recognised, but he said most promotion of industry came from industry itself.
"Australia hasn't collaborated to the same extent from a government perspective as other producing countries," he said.
Mr Brinklow said many producers struggled to remain profitable in their business, despite the high value of the product.
He said most producers did not have surplus funding available for marketing, which was why he believed government support was essential.