Australian Grape & Wine is calling on the Australian Government to give Australian wine businesses a temporary break from paying the Wine Equalisation Tax (WET) to make sure there’s enough money in the bank to pay wages and suppliers and give them some hope for the future.

“2020 has seen drought, fire, smoke and now COVID-19 place unprecedented pressure on the profitability of Australian grape and wine businesses,” said Tony Battaglene, chief executive of Australian Grape & Wine.

“Any one of these issues has the potential to send a business to the brink, but taken together, the impacts will likely be too much to bear for many businesses unless there is swift and decisive government intervention.

“Removing the requirement to pay the WET, even for 12 months, would be a game changer for many businesses currently looking at how they can retain their staff, pay suppliers and stay afloat in what is likely to be a very difficult environment.”

In the absence of immediate relief, Australian Grape & Wine fears a large portion of Australia’s 2,500 wine businesses and 6,000 grapegrowers will exit the sector.

“This would have enormous flow-on effects in rural and regional communities across Australia,” Mr Battaglene said.

“As I said yesterday, we’re deeply worried that an increase in the restrictiveness of COVID-19 measures could shut down the 2020 vintage.

“And on top of this, businesses are staring down the barrel of tourism, winery events and cellar door sales drying up completely.

“We need to act right now to keep these businesses up and running, and giving business owners a tax break is a quick and effective way to do this.

“If we do not act now, we fear Australia’s world-renowned and celebrated grape and wine sector will change drastically in the coming three years.

“We need to fight to secure the future of grape and wine businesses right across Australia.”

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