Alcohol Beverages Australia, Celebration of Industry Dinner – Keynote Address




Thank you Andrew.

I’d first like to acknowledge the traditional owners of the land upon which we meet and pay my respect to elders past and present.  

It’s hard to tell the story of this great and quirky country without mentioning alcohol.

The first convicts were partly paid with rum.

So were the sailors who brought them here.

The soldiers in charge of them also ran the local sly grog racket.

When the Yanks rebelled against the British they tipped tea into the harbour.  Not us.  When we had a rebellion we went straight for the hard stuff.

Incidentally, the victim of the Rum Rebellion, William Bligh, is a long distant ancestor of our Prime Minister Malcolm Bligh Turnbull.

Of course the two are nothing alike. 

Bligh was arrogant and short tempered and thought he was better than everyone else.  As a result his people mutinied against him twice – first on the Bounty and then the Rum Rebellion.

Malcolm is totally different.  He has only had one mutiny.  So far.

Our first bushranger was an escaped convict named Black Caesar. 

He caused such mayhem Governor Hunter issued a reward of five gallons of spirits to anyone who captured him – dead or alive.  He was dead two weeks later.

Our first hospital was built with rum.  Sydney Hospital which still stands in Macquarie Street in Sydney was financed by giving the builders the exclusive right to import 60,000 gallons of rum.

We are great inventors.  We have invented a lot of incredible things – the Bionic Ear, the Black Box Flight Recorder, Wi-Fi, the Pacemaker, Spray on Skin.  We also invented cask wine.  That shiny little silver bladder wrapped in card board.  Invented right here.

This is a part of our history. 

A bit weird, a bit quirky, but very Australian.

We like a drink, and there’s nothing wrong with that – unless you don’t know when to stop or you can’t stop.

Then it is a problem.

I’ve seen that… in my own family. 

One of my grandfathers used to run pubs. 

The other one spent too much time in them. 

We joke in my family that when he died and was cremated it took three days to put him out.

But that conceals much a darker story.  One I experienced as a kid – and it terrified me.

But that’s not the story of most Australians and it’s not what this industry is about.

This is a great industry with a bright future.

You employ lots of Australians – more than 400,000 – a lot in our great pubs and clubs.

And you can find the brands in this room in shops and bars and restaurants all around the world.

China is now the biggest alcohol market in the world – and one in four bottles of imported wine drunk in China is made here in Australia.

25 percent of the Chinese market – that’s the sort of market share most industries could only dream of.

Last year we exported nearly 77 million bottles of wine to China – 86 percent of it red wine.

A lot of those were bottles of Grange and some of it was even mixed with Coca Cola.

There is also a big beer market out there for the taking.

The Chinese beer market alone is expected to be worth $35 billion by the end of this decade.

That’s why Little Creatures has set up micro-brewery in Hong Kong – and has just set up a bar in Shanghai.

Temple Brewing – a craft brewer from Melbourne – has also set up operations in Shanghai.

They are not the only ones.

And it’s not just beer and wine.

Four Pillars, a Gin company in the Yarra Valley, set up four years ago by three blokes including my mate Stu Gregor who is here tonight, is now exporting to about 15 countries, including the UK, the US and Singapore.

Three years ago Tassie Company Sullivans Cove won the best single malt at the World Whisky Awards in London.

We are kicking goals.

That means more jobs.

But not just that.

If someone from China or Hong Kong or the UK or anywhere else has one of your products and likes it, I reckon they will be more likely to try something else made here in Australia.

To try other Australian products they find in the supermarket or on the menu, or even buy a ticket, jump on a plane and knock on your cellar door.

You are helping to put Australia on the map.

And selling us to the world.

And for that I say thank you and good luck.

Have a great night.

Thank you very much.