Federation Chamber Speech - Craft Beer Motion - Monday 19 June 2017

I love it when we have bipartisanship in the House of Representatives. 

I welcome the member for Goldstein's unqualified support for the motion moved by the member for Grayndler, and I invite all other members who might be speaking in the House tonight to join with us to express their support for what is a very reasonable, very innovative and very worthwhile motion.

I congratulate the member for Grayndler. As he indicated, I was very pleased to be able to join him at a roundtable in his electorate where we had an enormous number of brewers—a somewhat greater number than I have in my own region—join together to make their point not only about the beer excise and the unfairness of it but also about red tape and more particularly local government planning challenges which pose a real hurdle for growth in the sector.

I said to those in the chamber that if Coca-Cola's coke in Australia attracted a 10 per cent GST, but an Australian-made cola—which was just as good, if not better—attracted a 14 per cent GST, there would be a collective outrage at that proposition: that the Australian cola was at 14 per cent GST while the American company's Coca-Cola was at 10 per cent. That is what is happening with our microbrewers. That is what is happening in the craft brewing sector. If you are putting your beer into a 50-litre or greater keg, you pay one level of excise, and if you are putting it in a smaller container, you are paying up to 40 per cent more excise than your big competitors. We are not asking tonight for any particular advantage for craft brewers; we are just asking for a level playing field. But it is not just about the tax, of course. As the member for Grayndler indicated, this is a job-creating proposition, and, importantly for me, a regional job-creating proposition.

Since the member for Grayndler encouraged me towards this project I have made a habit of visiting craft brewers—sadly not yet in Scottsdale, but I am sure I will make my way there at the earliest opportunity. Around the country, I make a point of going and talking to local craft brewers about the challenges they face. What I have learnt as an old bloke in this place is that the habits of young people are very different from the habits of the generation of me and the member for Grayndler. I like my VB, and that is all I want, but younger drinkers are not interested in over consumption, as we were when we were younger I must admit. They are more discerning. They are looking for a new experience.

They are looking for the beer that they can only get at the Thirsty Crow, in Wagga Wagga. They can only get it at the Thirsty Crow. When asked by their friends whether they went to the Thirsty Crow to try a particular beer, the answer is there for them because it is the only place they can do it.

In my own region in Hunter wine country, we are enjoying new economic diversity. They once just came to sample wine at the cellar door. Then we opened restaurants, so they came for our restaurants as well. Then we moved on to concerts, weddings and balloon rides. Increasingly and very quickly, we are now moving on to beer tasting. That is the sort of diversity you want in any region to cushion you against the shocks.

Just in my own backyard, I have the IronBark Hill Brewhouse, the Hunter Valley Beer Co., the Lovedale Brewery, the Hope Brewhouse and the Matilda Bay Brewhouse Hunter Valley. Once it would have been sacrilegious to have beers, a brewery and a pub, if you like, in the heart of the Hunter wine country. It is making an enormous difference. It is creating jobs. I learned with the member for Grayndler the great potential for beer tours, which they are already having in his part of the world. It is already happening in Newcastle, not so distant from me. I have no doubt that those tours will make their way up to the Hunter as well.

This is a growth industry. It is a popular industry. It is a job-creating industry. It is an industry that brings happiness to people in many ways. Why wouldn't we be addressing this inequality? Why wouldn't we be addressing this mistake of governments past? We all know that the differentiation between the taxes was a fix put in by the Howard government to make sure that, when they introduced the GST, beer in pubs would not unnecessarily increase. If it is good enough for the pubs, it is good enough for our microbrewers as well, and it is good enough for the jobs that rely upon it.

It intrigues me now that you can go and get a paddle with a range of craft beers on it so you can taste each one out of those very small glasses. I did not think I would see that in my lifetime, but I welcome it because it is creating jobs in my electorate. It is creating jobs right across this country. Every member in this place should be supporting this initiative.


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