I’m pleased to rise today to speak on the motion from the member for Kennedy, who, like me, is an independent member who proudly and passionately supports regional and rural Australia. Like the member for Kennedy, I support Australian agriculture, and I want to see government policies that support the Australian agricultural sector, policies that better educate and inform consumers about where their producers come from and what goes into getting it from the paddock to their plate.
In Indi we have a diverse range of agricultural industries, including beef and dairy farming; fat lambs; wool; fruit such as cherries, berries, apples; and more. I will focus on a different element of labelling from that which the member for Kennedy is focusing on. I want to tell you today that, when it comes to Australian wine, what’s on the label matters. An incredibly important part of our agricultural industry in Indi is viticulture, with major wine regions in the King Valley, Rutherglen, Beechworth, the Alpine valleys, the Strathbogie Ranges, Glenrowan and the upper Goulburn. But a major part of our viticulture industry is facing a very serious challenge, and I’m calling on our government to do all it can to protect this vital part of our economy.
As I know you understand, Madame Deputy Speaker Sharkie, the Australian government is negotiating a free trade agreement with the European Union, a development which I support and hope will bring significant benefit to Australian farmers, including those farmers in Indi. But, through that agreement, Italy wants to restrict the use of the name prosecco to wine that comes only from a specific area of that country. Now, Madam Deputy Speaker, I know that you know, but other members may not, that 57 per cent of Australia’s prosecco comes from the beautiful King Valley in the electorate of Indi. It was in the King Valley that Otto Dal Zotto planted the first prosecco vines in Australia, inspired by remembering his childhood in Valdobbiadene in Italy. I look across the chamber and I see my colleagues nodding and I see the co-chair of the Parliamentary Friends of Viticulture, who saw and met with the people from the King Valley just last week here in parliament.
Now, in just a few short years, prosecco has grown to be worth $205 million a year in sales alone, with even more value added through the significant tourism that this great wine creates in our region. That’s a massive increase from the $60 million in sales in 2017. Even with the challenges created by the COVID-19 pandemic, prosecco is growing, innovating and finding new markets. This is exactly what we want to encourage in Australian agriculture; we don’t want to stifle this. If the use of the name prosecco were to be banned for Australian grapegrowers and winemakers, it would have a devastating impact on the wine industry in Indi and across the nation and it would have a chilling effect on the industry more broadly. It would threaten wine sales domestically and internationally, affecting jobs across Australia.
It needs to be said that it was only in 2009 that Italy changed the name of the grape variety to glera and registered prosecco as a geographic indicator in the European Union. In 2013, the Australian wine industry successfully challenged a previous application by the European Union to claim prosecco is a GI in Australia, with recognition that prosecco is a grape variety. If GI status were to be granted to prosecco, it would create a concerning precedent. In recent European Union trade negotiations with China, Japan, Mexico, Brazil, Argentina, Paraguay, Uruguay and New Zealand, attempts were made to protect an expanding list of grape varieties, including prosecco, fiano, montepulciani, barbera, nero d’Avola, alicante, dolcetto and others, as GIs. All of these varieties are grown across Australia’s 65 wine regions.
Last week, representatives from Brown Brothers, Pizzini Wines and Dal Zotto Wines travelled to Canberra to ensure that the government knows just how important it is that the use of the name prosecco is not traded away. I am very grateful to the Minister for Trade and Tourism, Don Farrell, and the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry, Murray Watt, who heard their stories and listened to why prosecco is so important to Australian viticulture and Australian agriculture.