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AUSTRALIA: Winemakers attack alcoholism and high taxes

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Australia's winemakers are establishing a $A3m fund to help fight alcohol abuse among Australia's indigenous Aboriginal people, appointing the country's Prime Minister as patron.The Winemakers' Federation of Australia (WFA) is simultaneously creating a $A600,000 fighting fund in an attempt to force the Federal Government to repeal its Wine Equalisation Tax which has led to Australia having the highest wine taxes of any producer country.Details of the funds were given to a Victorian Wine Industry Association conference in Melbourne last week by WFA Chief Executive, Ian Sutton.The attack on alcohol abuse will be funded from the production and sale of 60,000 magnums of a 1999 Shiraz-Cabernet Sauvignon blended from wine collected from every wine producing region in the country.About 70 barriques or hogsheads will be collected and the wine blended under the supervision of a panel of lead winemakers.The wine will be sold back to producers at $50 a magnum and to the public for $100 a magnum. Federal Government departments and diplomatic posts will also buy the magnums for use at official functions.The profits will be invested in a fund, the interest from which will be used to finance anti-abuse projects.Australia's Aboriginal population is severely disadvantaged with the nation's worst health, housing, employment and imprisonment rates. While a smaller proportion of Aboriginal people drink alcohol compared with the general population (33% and 45%, respectively), a far greater proportion of Aboriginals who drink consume at dangerous levels (21% of males and 9% of females compared with 8% of males and 3% of females in the general population).Sutton said that the four major wine companies, Southcorp, BRL Hardy, Orlando Wyndham and Mildara Blass had each given WFA $100,000 to fund a campaign against the taxes.A further $200,000, via a $1 a tonne levy on wine grapes, was being sought from all other wineries.


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