Australian protectionist bill dropped

  • Wednesday 25 February 2009

A South Australian MP has dropped his plan to introduce a private member’s bill urging Australians to drink Australian wine, following widespread condemnation.

'I think it's high time that some of us stood up and said, "hang on, we're not prepared to sit quiet while our industry's going through some pretty tough times where families are really hurting",' said Barossa-based MP Ivan Venning last week on ABC News.

'If it means us deliberately buying a bottle of Australian wine rather than a bottle of imported wine, we should.'

However, Venning’s constituency office told decanter.com he has abandoned the bill after a backlash from the wine industry. His media officer admitted he had ‘decided to recall the statement due to the upset it had caused’.

'The Australian wine industry does not support or encourage protectionism,' said Paul Henry, head of Wine Australia.

'We would rather defend and grow our own market share through smart collaborative marketing, demonstrating competitive advantage and delivering greater consumer benefit.'

According to the Australian bureau of National Statistics, domestic wine sales dropped in 2008, against a 50% rise in imported wine sales driven by New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc.

'In tough times, protectionism rears its ugly head occasionally,' Philip Gregan, CEO of New Zealand Winegrowers, told decanter.com.

'I am sure the idea was well intentioned, but it is very misplaced. South Australia is a huge exporter of wine so it would be somewhat two-faced to support protectionism at home, while still wanting to grow exports at the same time.'

Penfolds winemaker Peter Gago agreed, suggesting that 'Australia should work on increasing per capita consumption to increase both domestic and foreign wine sales.'

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