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Candidates asked to show support

Murray Valley Winegrowers (MVW) has written to the five candidates for the new NSW electorate, asking them to show their support for wine grape growers prior to the March 28 state election.

Following an electoral shuffle, the new seat of Murray encompasses the large Riverina wine region as well as the local government areas of Wentworth, Balranald and Wakool shires which fall within the Murray Darling and Swan Hill wine regions.

With the inclusion of the Riverina area around Griffith, the new Member for Murray will be the parliamentary representative for the two largest wine regions in NSW – Murray-Darling and Riverina. The NSW portion of the Murray-Darling accounts for around 30 per cent of the state’s wine grape production while the Riverina is responsible for around 50 per cent.

All five candidates – sitting Member for Murrumbidgee Adrian Piccoli, ALP candidate Max Buljubasic and Independent candidates Dr Atul Misra, Brian Mills and Helen Dalton – live in or near Griffith.

The five have been asked to state their views on unresolved issues that were highlighted in the 2010 NSW Legislative Council committee report Wine Grape Market and Prices. The report found there was “disturbing evidence about the conduct of some wineries in their dealings with growers”, that there were “significant imbalances of market power between wineries and growers”, and that there was evidence “growers were afraid to speak publicly about issues in the wine industry for fear of losing their contracts”.

“In 2011, one year after the Legislative Council committee issued its report, the NSW Government responded formally, but dismissively, to the 11 recommendations,” Mike Stone, MVW executive officer, said. “The committee recommended that the NSW government investigates measures to ensure that a winery had made full payment for grapes before accepting fruit in the following year, and wanted the government to also look into establishing an independent dispute resolution body should the Australian Wine Industry Code of Conduct remain on a voluntary footing.

Stone said there has been no word on the code of conduct matter, and on the recommendation that it investigate, preventing a winery from accepting grapes if full payment has not been received for fruit delivered in the precious year.

“The government said such action would be anti-competitive,” Stone said. “This was disappointing and appeared to ignore that growers remain unprotected if a wine business goes into liquidation, and that the Code of Conduct lacks broad industry support.

“Given the importance of the wine industry to NSW and regional economy in the new seat of Murray, candidates should be keen to state their views on key issues affecting the wine grape sector.”

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