By James Atkinson
The Federal Senate has passed amendments to the Wine Australia Act that remove the onerous requirement for liquor retailers and wholesalers to keep detailed records of the Australian wine they sell.
Designed by the old Australian Wine & Brandy Corporation (AW&BC), the Label Integrity Program provisions were introduced in September 2010 with the intention of protecting the integrity of Australian wine overseas.
By documenting the quantity of a particular grape variety by vintage and geographic origin and requiring liquor retailers and wholesalers to keep records of what they sold, the LIP aimed to take a 'cradle-to-grave' approach to ensure a wine's authenticity.
But the proposal was fraught with issues, not least the fact that barcodes on mainstream wines do not currently distinguish between each vintage.
Retailers and wholesalers who did not comply with the provisions were in breach of a Federal Act of Parliament and potentially subject to stiff financial penalties and up to two years imprisonment.
The Australian Liquor Stores Association (ALSA) coordinated the industry opposition to the provisions and led the negotiations to have an amnesty against prosecution while it lobbied to have the Federal Labor Government accept the need for amendments to the Act.
"The original LIP provisions introduced without consultation in September 2010, were unworkable," said ALSA CEO Terry Mott.
"Without millions of dollars of expenditure by winemakers, wholesalers and retailers, plus new systems throughout the entire wine marketing and wholesaling distribution system, the recording provisions were unable to be complied with and nor would they have achieved the targeted objectives they had been designed for."
Mott said the amendments to the Act – which shift the onus of label integrity back on to the manufacturer – were drafted with ALSA and other industry input in 2011.
They were introduced and passed by the House of Representatives in the first half of last year, but they had been shelved for a number of months awaiting an opportunity to get passed by the Senate.
"After almost 2.5 years, this week we finally saw the LIP retailer recording provisions amended and liquor retailers, pubs, clubs, restaurants and wholesalers able to undertake their normal liquor retailing activities without threat of prosecution under this legislation," said Mott.