By James Atkinson
Excise reforms together with the rollout of the National Broadband Network (NBN) have delivered a major fillip for Australia's microbreweries, according to Greens leader Senator Christine Milne, who will deliver the opening address at next Thursday's Beer & Brewer Conference.
Craft brewers this week paid tribute to the role Milne played in getting the excise reforms for microbreweries across the line.
"I haven't had a chance to speak to any of them because I've been flat out working on my Budget reply," she told TheShout exclusively today.
"But they certainly know I've been working on this issue for some time for them, so I'm really delighted."
Milne said it had been crucial for the craft brewing industry to develop a united front in order to make headway on the excise issue in the face of "push-back from the competition, the big guys, the old vested interests".
"The vested interests of the old order tend to be the people who have lobbyists in Canberra, who have powerful peak groups, and they are not open to the new competition," she said.
"They see the rollout of the NBN for example as a real threat because now microbrewers will be able to market their high value, low-volume type product so much more easily online to consumers."
"It's a big threat to the old way of doing business, but an enormous opportunity for microbrewers."
Milne this week said the removal of the cap on the amount of beer a microbrewery can make without losing any excise rebate assistance will help craft breweries grow and compete "without this arbitrary handicap".
"The lifting of the 60 per cent excise rebate cap from $10,000 to $30,000 is also welcome, but given that alcohol excise increases twice a year every year with CPI and had not increased for over a decade, does not go far enough."
"The Greens will keep working on this issue to secure indexation of the $30,000 cap on excise rebate, to make sure this fairer threshold doesn't once again become completely out of step with regular excise increases," she said.
She told TheShout that as well as helping microbreweries to create important regional jobs, the excise changes are great news for beer consumers.
"One thing I'm really encouraged by is the number of people who've gone from consuming the same beer all the time to actually being quite picky and going and choosing products from different small brewers," she said.
"I think there's a bit of a change in the brewing culture where people are seeing this as an opportunity to experiment and go with higher quality product."
Christine Milne will deliver the opening address at the Beer & Brewer Conference next Thursday May 17 at BMW Edge, Federation Square, Mebourne.
Click here to book in as a delegate.