Media conference at Murrumbateman, NSW

4 April 2022

TIM KIRK: Well, hello everybody. Welcome to Clonakilla. We're sitting here on a gorgeous autumn day in the Canberra district and it's a beautiful time to be making wine here in Canberra and, you know, we're celebrating now 50 years as an industry. So we're one of the younger branches of the Australian wine industry but it's full of enthusiastic and passionate people. Can't wait to take our great Canberra wines to all the wine lovers of Australia and all around the world. It's good to have you here today.

TONY BATTAGLENE: Yes, good morning everyone. I'd just like to say a few words about the Agri-Business Expansion Initiative. The Australian grape and wine industry has been lucky enough to receive a grant for this last year. We received around $998,000. This money was used for a program designed by the industry for the industry. It's come at a time where an industry that's suffering from the loss of the China market. A $1.2 billion market doesn't come back overnight. But this initiative's been very important in helping recover some of that ground in the medium and longer term. In particular, we've put ambassadors on the ground in Japan and South Korea. We've done a lot of market access work, so we've identified some of our key trade barriers which we need to now bring in initiatives to cope with. So we're really confident that the money we've used already within this grant has been really- delivered us some long term direction where we can make this industry bigger and stronger. We've got a couple of tough years to come, but I think we're now in a position- and particularly with the announcement the Minister will make shortly, I think we're in a great position to springboard off that. Thank you.

DAVID LITTLEPROUD: Well, thanks, Tony. And can I say firstly that the wine industry in Australia was impacted greatly by the coercive actions of China, $1.2 billion lost overnight. But it was the leadership of Tony Battaglene personally and as an industry that not only has given us a pathway forward, but I think the whole Australian agricultural industry needs to stop, reflect, and appreciate the strength of leadership that the wine industry showed. Otherwise those actions would have gone well beyond wine, well beyond barley, meat, even rock lobster. It was the leadership of Tony Battaglene and the wine industry that put a stop to those actions by China in trying to have influence on our democracy. So I don't say that lightly. I say that in a passionate way, in an honest way, and I think to you, Tony, and your industry, Australian agriculture owes you a debt of gratitude.
You've lost $1.2 billion overnight and it was your leadership now in partnering with us to make sure that we can get that back on track. We produce the best wine in the world right here in Clonakilla, and I've been known to have one or two of those on a Friday night. But can I say our investment now is about making sure that we get a return on investment to Australian wine producers to get us back on the international stage. And yesterday you saw the benefits of having free trade agreements, where we're signing a new interim deal with India, means that we're going to see tariffs go from 150 per cent down to as low as 25 per cent. We're going to open up new markets for Australian wine industry with the loss of China. There's 1.3 billion people that'll now get cheaper wine from Australia, high quality wine from Australia, that they'll be able to enjoy because of that agreement. But what we need to do is put the framework and environment around that and Canberra is not the, best solution to that. The wine industry is. And so today, we're announcing a $1.8 million on top of the $989,000 in our first phase to partner with the wine industry to open up those new markets, business to business level, putting wine ambassadors on the ground, making sure that the world knows what we produce here in Australia is the best in the world and we can get that around into new markets. We're diversifying away from that concentration of the China market. Now we're giving the rest of the world the opportunity to pay that premium that China was prepared to pay, and that builds on the UK free trade agreement. It builds on the free trade agreements that we've got in 13 other countries. So this is an important step in making sure we get the tactile results now on the ground in these countries, in these new markets, opening them up, but being led by industry, not by bureaucrats in Canberra. So we'll continue to build on this. And as well today, we're announcing $989,000 in terms of market traceability. This is part of the $5.4 million from the ACCC Inquiry around perishable goods in making sure that producers are paid a fair price. They're not looking for charity. They're not looking for a free ride. They're simply looking for a fair price. And what we need to do as a government is to make sure if the marketplace is distorted and the farmer and the producer out on the ground isn't getting a fair go, that we square the ledger for them. We make sure that there is traceability. We understand the price pressures that are there. They are transparent to everybody. The quantity of production is transparent to everybody so that informed decisions can be made and so that the policeman on the beat, the ACCC, can do their job.
So this grant today, again, has been led by the industry - making sure that Government gets out of their life, but puts the framework, the regulatory barriers around them to ensure that they aren't they aren't mistreated. And that's effectively what we are trying to do today.
But effectively, today is a good day for the wine industry. This is about rebuilding, giving it hope and prosperity into the future. And to those that have persevered over the last eighteen months or so, can I say thank you? But every Australian can show their gratitude with just one thing. Every day that they go to the Bottle-O, just pick out an Australian wine, buy one extra bottle and help Australian wine producers here in Australia, and we'll do the rest overseas. But you can help your fellow Australian by just buying that extra bottle and drink responsibly, obviously.
Do we have any questions for Tony and I?

QUESTION: So would you have to talk about some of the challenges over the past few months?

TIM KIRK: Around?

QUESTION: Around just being in the wine industry and, yeah, some of the challenges you've faced.

TIM KIRK: Well, winemakers, of course, are farmers so we live and die by, like all farmers, by the weather. And we've had some pretty tough years. In 2020, of course, the Eastern Seaboard was on fire, it seemed - bushfires everywhere. And the issue there for the winemakers here in many places in New South Wales was smoke taint. So here at Clonakilla, we actually had to go through the fairly tragic experience of cutting our grapes and throwing them on the ground. So, that was the drought and the fires of 2020. And then of course the reverse happened. We had La Nina, and it's been raining and raining and raining. 
But the great challenge of winemaking, of course, is to work with what the season gives you. And we've had to kind of really pay careful attention to the forecast, choose our picking dates very carefully, keep right on top of the technology around spraying schedules and things like that. But we've ended up making some fantastic wines in these difficult seasons, and that's the challenge of winemaking. We're a farming community and we live and die by the weather.

QUESTION: How significant is this funding?

TIM KIRK: We are grateful for the work that's gone on with all those- can I start again? Australian Grape? Okay. We're certainly grateful for the work that Tony and Australian Grape and Wine have been doing behind the scenes to really engage with Government, and to lead a real movement towards focusing on sharing with the world just how great Australian wine is. There's no question that we make some of the greatest wines in the world. 
The challenge is not the quality of what we produce; the challenge is getting the message out into those export markets and that's where this money will be really useful I think, and very, very important for the industry to see that the Government's getting behind us and that taking the message that Australian wine really is amazing and the world can celebrate it with us.

QUESTION: Thank you. I'd like to ask Tony a question. So, you have to talk a bit about how you have been working with the Government. And why it was so important to have representatives from the industry?

TONY BATTAGLENE: Yeah, so we've worked very closely with the Government of the day particularly on trade and market access issues, but also on agriculture in general. So, quite clearly, we've had a really tough few years. We had- We've had drought and then we had rain. We had smoke, we had fires. And as it is- it is an agricultural industry, so we run through those and we're used to those. 
Externally, the closure of the China market had dramatic impacts on our industry, which we're still seeing today. And we'll see those medium-term impacts of China closure for some time to come. So it's really important we diversify those markets. So we've worked really closely with the Minister to look at what we can do to help the industry. These grants are a really good example.
If I can talk about the market transparency grant, what this will do is help grape growers. So grape growers are the ones who suffer most when we're in oversupply or where we have market situations. They're the ones who will bear the brunt of the issues. This is going to help them make decisions, and this will help transparency in the marketplace. So we're very excited about the fact that we can help growers survive.
On the other grants, clearly we've got a big job to do. The announcement yesterday about India, it was a really good announcement for us. It's a long-term play, India. We export $12 million of wine to India now. we exported 1.2 billion to China. Clearly, India is no China. But over the next 10 years, we can build that market and make it an important market for us. So this sort of- The way we're working with the Minister for Trade and the Minister for Agriculture, in particular, has been really, really beneficial, I think, for us as a sector. They understand our issues, they work closely with us to try and resolve those issues, and I think it's been a great partnership.
Thank you.