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Wine industry united against perceived WET tax inequity

WA wine executives Geoff Cook and Denis Horgan are among high-powered industry delegates meeting in Canberra to push tax reform ahead of the forthcoming federal election.

After years of bickering among themselves, winemakers have found common ground with a proposal to make the first 600,000 litres of wine sales in Australia exempt from the Federal Government’s Wine Equalisation Tax.

And they plan to exploit this united front by taking their concerns to the electorate.

The Australian Regional Winemakers Forum held its regular meeting in Canberra on Tuesday, followed by a Winemakers Federation of Australia meeting in the national capital yesterday.

Mr Horgan said the group would be telling anyone who would listen that the wine industry wanted the WET re-moved for smaller producers.

He confirmed that the industry wanted to make it an election issue.

“Without a shadow of a doubt,” Mr Horgan said.

He said the situation was critical for small wineries, which represented an important

element of regional Australia.

Mr Cook said the industry would be making it clear that politicians opposing the proposal would face the wrath of wine producers.

Speaking from Canberra, Mr Cook told Business News significant progress should be made by today.

A successful value-adding export industry, which offers alternative employment and agricultural production in struggling rural districts, the wine industry has a significant voice, reaching from the bush to blue-ribbon city seats.

In South Australia, several Federal Cabinet Ministers could face threats to their seats if the wine industry shifted support to opposition parties.

According to the WAWIA, the wine industry argument is that the WET, introduced with the GST, was not revenue neutral as promised and cost the industry an extra $87 million.

By introducing an exemption, only 32 wineries nation-wide would pay WET. Those wineries already pay 85 per cent of the WET collected.

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