The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK (14:28): I seek leave to make a brief explanation before asking the Minister for Agriculture, Food and Fisheries a question about the Wines Grapes Industry Act.
The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK: In the early 1990s, the Wine Grapes Industry Act was created to protect growers from unscrupulous dealings with winemakers. The difficult vintage of 2011 has placed significant financial pressure on wine grape growers across the state, and this hardship has been made worse by a number of fly-by-night and established wineries refusing to pay money owed to growers for their fruit. Despite this being a clear breach of the act, I understand that there is yet to be a single prosecution.
According to the Wine Grape Council of South Australia, growers are either too scared of being blacklisted by the wineries as troublemakers or put off by the prohibitive cost of litigation to try to recover their money through the legal system. My questions are:
1.Has the act been reviewed under this Labor government and, if not, why not?
2.As ministerial approval is needed for prosecution under the act, has the minister been asked to approve any such prosecutions?
3.Given that the statute of limitations for offences is 12 months, will the minister offer assistance to the large number of wine grape growers who have not been paid from their 2011 vintage?
The Hon. G.E. GAGO (Minister for Agriculture, Food and Fisheries, Minister for Forests, Minister for Regional Development, Minister for Tourism, Minister for the Status of Women) (14:29): To the best of my knowledge, I am not aware that the industry has raised this issue with me. I am happy, though, to check my files. I meet with a lot of different industry groups, and I meet with them fairly frequently. My door is always open, though. If people request to see me I make every attempt possible to ensure that I do meet with them, and, when I am not able to do so, I ensure that either an adviser, someone from the agency or someone appropriate to their issue of concern does meet with them.
My door is always open. It is something I feel very strongly about. To the best of my knowledge this issue has not been raised with me, but, as I said, I am happy to check my files. I take on board the issue that the honourable member has raised with me, and, to the best my knowledge, this is the first time that she has raised this issue with me. She has not written to me or wanted to meet with me to discuss it.
The Hon. J.M.A. Lensink interjecting:
The Hon. G.E. GAGO: The point of writing to me is that I always respond, and the Hon. Michelle Lensink knows that I have always been extremely responsive to any issues that she has raised with me. I have always responded in an extremely timely way, and I have always been willing to meet with her or to have officers meet with her to brief her. She knows that very well. Anyway, she wants to do a bit of grandstanding in here today; that is fine. As I said, I am very sensitive to the issues that the industry raises with me. I am happy to go back and check this and see whether there are any matters that need further addressing.