Give us a fair go

Microbrewers (from left) Simon Walkenhorst, John O’Callaghan and Rod Williams are calling for “a fair go” on excise tax.Microbrewers (from left) Simon Walkenhorst, John O’Callaghan and Rod Williams are calling for “a fair go” on excise tax.

By Kath Gannaway
BREWERS of boutique beers in the Yarra Valley are pushing for a change to Federal Government excise taxes to give microbrewers “a fair go”.
Simon Walkenhorst of Hargreaves Hill Brewing in Yarra Glen said small breweries were being strangled by the tax, which sees anything from 20 to 25 per cent of total revenue going out the door on a weekly basis.
Mr Walkenhorst is president of the Victorian Association of Microbrewers. He said state associations were working with the national body on a campaign calling for the same deal small wineries received when the Wine Equalisation Tax (WET) was introduced in 2000.
With the Federal Budget set down for May, a petition has been circulated to raise awareness and support for theVAM pre-budget submission.
Under WET smaller wineries can claim back taxes they pay on their wines up to $500,000.
While microbreweries make up less than one per cent of the beer market, brewers like Walkenhorst, Rod Williams of Coldstream Brewery and John O’Callaghan of Buckley’s Beers in Healesville, say their profile is growing in regional areas where, like the wineries, they go hand in hand with the tourism industry.
Breweries are able to claim a 60 per cent rebate, but it only applies where the amount brewed is under 30,000 litres, and then there is a refund cap of $10,000 on it.
“The minute you go over that 30,000, the refund stops. When I went from producing less than 30,000 to just 35,000, I didn’t qualify for any rebate,” Mr Walkenhorst said.
Coldstream Brewery has been in operation for just a year and Mr Williams said they just qualify, but he is looking at growing the business, and a cap of 30,000 litres was not viable.
He said the rebate had not been updated for 10 or 15 years, while the WET has had several reviews.
“We’re not arguing that we should pay no tax,” Mr O’Callaghan said, “but the precedent has been set by the wine tax and that’s the way we would like to see things go for microbrewers.”
The men argue also that the tax break would allow them to employ more people and have some assurance that the investment they are making, in money and in personal commitment, to producing quality, craftsman-made beers, is sustainable.
The petition, which closes at the end of January, will go to the Parliamentary Petitions Committee to be presented to the House of Representatives.
Copies of the petition are available Hargreaves Hill Brewing and Coldstream Brewery. Details of the petition are also available at