Hunter Valley Wineries

I will speak about an issue currently faced by vignerons and cellar door operators in the Hunter, who have been fighting a number of fights on a number of fronts for some time. Several years ago Cessnock council sought to take away the funding that helped them to promote tourism in the area. Then the high Australian dollar made their exports unprofitable. They have competed with the mining interests which keep on getting closer to their doorstep. More recently, there have been discussions around the new State Environmental Planning Policy for coal seam gas, which may or may not come through our vineyards. Further, the Government recently removed the cellar door subsidy. That action has taken about $3 million out of our local area and was meant to re-establish some of the bigger cellar doors so that they could sell their product at a price comparable to the bottle shop.

A new frontier has now been added to their challenge, and it harks back to the price of wine at the bottle shop. The local Aldi store at Cessnock is now selling wine. That may be fair and reasonable in most areas, but it is not acceptable in an area where wine and viticulture is a major local product. The cellar doors just cannot compete with Aldi in dollar terms. On any given day a person can walk into an Aldi store and buy a bottle of wine for $4 or $6. We know that BWS, Liquorland and other stores have sold bottles of wine for anywhere between $6 and $12, but Aldi has gone past that. A bottle of wine can regularly be bought at Aldi for $4 and at times wine is on sale for $2 a bottle.

Mr Troy Grant: It is no good though.

Mr CLAYTON BARR: I would like to think that the wine is no good. I am not much of a wine drinker but, unfortunately, I have heard feedback that some of these $2 or $4 bottles of wine are quite palatable. I would have thought that they would be terrible and taste like vinegar. The problem is that the vineyards are peddling their wares and trying to sell their bottles of great, award winning wines at the cellar door at modest prices of between $15 and $30 and up to $70 or $100—maybe $100 is not such a modest price. The point is, how can these sellers be expected to compete?

We have seen an increasing number of tourists come to Cessnock and stay in our pubs and motels in town. They go out to the vineyards to do their wine tasting during the day, but they do not carry bottles of wine back into the city centre. Instead, they go to Aldi to buy their $2 bottles. Our industry just cannot compete. My neighbour Minister George Souris, the member for the Upper Hunter, might be able to deal with this problem in his role looking after gaming and liquor and associated ministries. Or it might have something to do with the Department of Fair Trading or the Department of Primary Industries. A strong contingent of this Coalition Government is made up of members of The Nationals who have vignerons in their electorates. I call on the Government to let us work together to find a solution to this situation. The wine industry in Australia is facing so many pressures. The sale of $2 and $4 bottles of wine at the Aldi store right in the heart of Cessnock is only making things more difficult. We must work together in a bipartisan way to find a solution. Otherwise we will find ourselves without any local wine industries of note.