2nd Parliament · 3rd Session
Mr. Speaker took the chair at 3.30 p.m., and read prayers.
– I wish to know from the Minister of Trade and Customs whether, in view of the proximity of Australia to countries which are sources of infection in regard to plague and other diseases, and having regard to the varying provisions of the laws of the Stares relating to quarantine, the Government are prepared to make arrangements for the exercise by the Commonwealth Parliament of its power to make laws with respect thereto?
– It is the intention of the Government to deal with the matter at the earliest possible date. A Bill has been drafted ; but it is not yet quite ready.
– I wish to know from the Minister of Home Affairs whether he Kas observed a professed correction of the population statistics Qf Victoria, which is said to affect the representation of New South Wales to an extent disentitling the State to another member? Has he noticed that the correction has. been arrived at by adding to the population of Victoria the percentage which has hitherto been deducted for unrecorded departures, and that no such addition has been made to the populations of the other States? Will he promise before using any statistics such as those which the Statistician of Victoria has prepared on this new basis to see that the calculations made in respect to all the States are on the same footing? .
– I do not know why the figures referred to should be used by the Commonwealth. I saw it stated in this morning’s newspaper thai: certain figures have been prepared, and reference was made to another set, appearing in an earlier issue, which I have not yet seen. I shall look into the matter, but can assure the honorable member that figures used for Commonwealth purposes will be prepared on an absolutely uniform basis. So far, only such figures have been used as may be used according to the definite rules laid down by the Representation Act, and no figures will be used by the Department in this connexion unless they are authorized by law.
– - I beg to lay upon the. table the following paper: -
Memorandum relating to the proclamation of the Papua Act, together with a draft letter proposed to be sent to the members of a Royal Commission to be appointed.
In view of the interest taken in this question in both Houses, as shown by the motions which have been tabled this session, I wish to mention a few facts, although the papers speak for themselves. The proclamation of the Papua Act will take effect on the 1st September. On that date there will be added to the Executive Council three representatives of the settlers - Mr. William Whitten, storekeeper, of Samarai; Mr. Frederic Weekley, miner, of Woodlark Island ; and Mr. William Little, miner, of the Northern Division. Our officials in Papua will retain their positions pending the report of the Royal Commission. If we had been able to secure the services of Sir William McGregor, a veteran administrator in tropical countries, possessed of marked ability, long experience, and special knowledge of Papua, this step might not have been necessary ; but, in view of the facts set out in the papers, and, especially as the present Administrator has asked for . an inquiry into his administration, no other course is open to us. The Commission will consist of Colonel J. A. K. Mackay, CB., M.L.C., ‘ of New South Wales, formerly Vice-President of the Executive Council of the State, and representative of the Government in the Legislative Council ; Mr. W. E. Parry Okeden, I.S.O., formerly Principal UnderSecretary and Commissioner of Police, Queensland ; and Mr. C. E. Herbert, Government Resident and Judge of the Northern Territory. These gentlemen are charged with the task of inquiring into, and reporting before the end of the year, upon the best method of improving the conditions of settlement iri Papua, and of recommending any changes in its Administration they maythink necessary. Having received that report. I trust that we shall be in a position to place the affairs of the Territory, upon a business footing, and provide for the best utilization of a country which, from the time of its annexation, has had to contend with a whole series of misfortunes and difficulties which are being gradually surmounted..
– Is the Constitution of Papua to be hung up pending the report of the Commission?
– No. It will come into force on the 1st September.
– Has the honorable and learned gentleman received any communication from the residents of New Guinea as to the acceptability of the proposed appointees to the Legislative Council ?
– Only in their favour. I move -
That the papers be printed.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– I desire to know whether the Postmaster-General would have any objection to lay upon the table of the Library the report of the Acting Chief Clerk, Mr. Russell, with reference to the work of the clerical staff in the General Post Office, Sydney.
– I shall be pleased to give the honorable member an answer to-morrow. Sometimes departmental documents contain confidential information which it is’ not desirable to disclose. If the report referred to does not contain anything of a confidential nature, I shall have pleasure in making it available to honorable members by laying it on the Library table.
– I wish to know when the Postmaster-General will be in a position to give a decision with regard to the applications made for the extension of telephonic communication to Lake Wangary, Warrow, or Coulta and Sheringa, in South Australia.
– I hope to be able to give the honorable member an answer to-morrow.
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
South Australia open and close half an hour earlier than in the principal Eastern States to synchronize the various times, and that Saturday closing at 5 30 p.m. was merely advancing the time in accordance therewith from the State closing time of 6 p.m.?
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
John Potter, of the firm of Birt, Potter and Hughes, is associated with the new Mail Contract ?
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Minister representing the Minister of Defence, upon notice -
John Russell, of the Perth Highlanders, was so expelled, and further, as shown by the Court records, evaded payment of a debt of some £400, why has his Commission not been can celled?
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: - 1, 2, and 3. The matter of the expulsion of Lieutenant Russell from the Perth Stock Exchange has been referred to the Military Commandant, Western Australia, for further report, pending receipt of which it is not considered desirable to take any action.
asked the PqstmasterGeneral, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
In several cases arrangements are in progress to raise offices to the staff status.
Import and Excise Duties on Spirits.
Consideration resumed from 2nd August (vide page 2276), on motion by Sir William Lyne -
– Iwish to make a short explanation with reference to the proposals relating to the import and Excise duties on spirits. I need scarcely say that I have been deluged with letters from various persons, most of whom wish that certain alterations shall be made in the proposals now before the Committee. As I stated previously, the proposals embody the recommendations of the Tariff Commission, with certain modifications. I also mentioned that the duties proposed by the Tariff Commission had been increased, in order to prevent a loss of revenue. An estimate has been prepared by the officers of the Customs Department, who believe that if the duties were altered in the manner suggested by the Commissdon, 204,000 gallons of imported spirits would be displaced by spirits of local production, and that£60,000 would thus be lost to the revenue. They estimate, further, that a. loss of £14,000 per annum would result from making a rebate of duty in respect to spirits under proof strength. In connexion with spirits for fortifying wine, there would be a reduction of revenue amounting to£6,500, the drawback allowed upon spirit used in wine afterwards exported would amount to £4,000, and the abolition of the duty on methylated spirits would involve a loss of £6, 000. It is estimated that the total loss of revenue would amount to , £90,500, and that would be a very serious matter. I should have preferred to accept the recommendations of the Commission, with some slight modifications, but the Treasurer naturally objects to the loss of revenue that would be involved. It is a great pity that the Treasurer cannot get along without any revenue, but he is deserving of every credit for endeavoring to maintain the returns;, so that he may be able to hand over to the States as large a sum as possible. The object of increasing the duty upon imported spirits from 14s., as recommended by the Commission, to 15s., is to obviate any loss of revenue. Honorable members will notice that the second paragraph, under the head of “ Excise duties, “ reads as follows: -
I am satisfied that the proposed duty does not bear a fair relation to the duty of11s. per gallon proposed to be levied upon brandy distilled wholly from grape wine. These duties have been fixed upon the recommendation of the Tariff Commission, and I shall presently read extracts from the evidence upon which the proposals are apparently based.
– They must have been the result of a mistake?
– The first paragraph in the proposed Excise duties reads -
Brandy distilled wholly from grape wine by a pot-still or similar process at a strength not exceeding 35 per cent: overproof, matured by storage in wood for a period of not less than two years, and certified by an officer to be pure brandy, per proof gallon us.
Then comes the second proposal, under which a duty of 12s. per proof gallon is levied upon brandy which is distilled partly from .grape wine and partly from other materials, and which contains not less than 25 per cent, of pure grape wine spirit. I am urged that to make the comparison complete the duty of 12s. per proof gallon ought to be increased to 14s., because three-fourths of the brandy which is distilled partly from grape wine and partly from other materials is composed chiefly of spirit made from molasses. That is an inferior spirit, and its presence has the effect of making the whole of the brandy thus distilled inferior to brandy which is distilled wholly from pure wine spirit.
– Has the Minster any evidence to support his statement?
– Yes, I have. Further, the second proposal relating to excise offers an inducement to distillers to use spirit other than that which is distilled wholly from grape wine, because it can- be produced for about is. 6d. per gallon, whereas the better and the purer spirit cannot be produced for less than 3s. 6d. per gallon.
– Molasses spirit can be produced for 6d. per gallon.
– I dare say that the honorable member is referring to a recent report from the United States, where it is stated that spirit from molasses is being produced for 4d. per .gallon, and used for purposes other than human consumption. However, I am not prepared to deal with that matter at the present time. I mention it because I wish it to be thoroughly ventilated. It is a matter of very great importance that the public should be supplied with pure spirit, and it is the public interest which I regard as paramount in this connexion. Within the last few days I have had an opportunity of visiting various distilleries in South Australia, and I must say that- I have gained a very great deal of knowledge in regard to this particular question. Upon the present occasion I am simply giving the facts as they present themselves to my mind. Before we finally dispose of these resolutions, I think it will probably be found that it is advisable to make some variation in the duties proposed. That is why I emphasize the fact that the Government have submitted these resolu tions in their present form, because they embody the recommendations of the Tariff Commission. They were arrived at upon the evidence of officers - I cannot give the testimony of each officer - in the Department of Trade and Customs. Those officers were: - Messrs. H. D. Brown, Inspector of Excise, New South Wales; T. H. Norrie, Analytical Chemist, Customs Department, Sydney; W. E. Burrell, Senior Inspector of Excise, Queensland ; E. P. Clarke, Senior Inspector of Excise, South Australia; P. Awcock, Inspector of Excise and Distilleries, Western Australia. There were other outside witnesses such as Mr. E. W. Knox, general manager of the Colonial Sugar Refining Company, Sydney - there is no doubt that he is interested in the production of spirit from molasses - Dr. Fiaschi, and Mr. A. B. Holmes. In Victoria, the following gentlemen gave evidence: - Messrs. H. Brind, distiller, Warrenheip ; S. Joshua, managing director of Joshua Brothers Proprietary Limited, Melbourne; J. M. Joshua, C. P. Preston, Australian Distillery Company, South Melbourne; H. A. Preston, distiller, Abbotsford; and W. P. Wilkinson, Government Analyst for the State of Victoria. These were the principal witnesses who gave evidence before the Commission. After having analyzed their testimony very thoroughly during the past few days, it seems to me that the recommendations of the Commission are based upon, I will not say a mistake, but upon a miscalculation. But there is no doubt of one thing, namely, that the Treasurer cannot afford to lose all the revenue that would be sacrificed if we adopted their recommendations. Therefore the Government are compelled to submit proposals which otherwise they would not have made. I hope that honorable members - many of whom have particular knowledge of this question - will give this matter their very close attention. This morning I have been in consultation with the Comptroller-General, who has gone through these resolutions, and he is now framing certain alterations which he thinks ought to be made in them. These I hope to have in my possession before the debate closes.
– Has the Minister no proposal to make now ?
– I had npt much time to go into the matter this morning, but certain alterations are being drafted at the present moment ; and I should like to see them either in print or in typewritten form before I submit a definite proposition.
– Then we had better postpone the consideration of the matter.
– No. I think that honorable members had better proceed with the debate, because I fancy that a good deal of information has been given to some of them concerning these questions, and it is just as well to have the matter threshed out.
– We shall simply be beating the air.
– I intend to proceed with the resolutions now, but at a later stage, when I have received the recommendations of the Comptroller-General, I will submit them to the ‘Committee if I consider that they are of a justifiable character.
– - I congratulate the Minister of Trade and Customs upon having brought down a set of proposals in which “he does not believe, and upon having thrown them on the table in much the same way as a man throws a bone to his dog. I have not the slightest intention of commencing to gnaw that bone myself. I prefer to wait until the Minister has brought down his mature and definite proposals, so that honorable members may discuss something of a tangible character. I have certainly never known a Minister who was engaged in formulating proposals as important as these are - they affect our revenue to the extent of millions sterling, so far as their total yield is concerned - to frankly tell the Committee that he has no definite propositions to submit, and to ask honorable members in the meantime to discuss something before the Chamber, but to which his own knowledge led him to believe he could not subscribe. That is an unheard-of position of affairs, and one that I venture to say will find no parallel in any of our State political arenas in connexion with proposals made by any of our State Ministries.
– Could I do anything which would please the honorable member ?
– It is not a matter of pleasing me or any other honorable member upon this side of the Chamber. The position is that the Minister, who is responsible for the conduct of his own Department, and who is the custodian of the Customs and Excise revenues of the Commonwealth, should know what he ought to do under a given set of circumstances. After having received the mature opinions of the Tariff Commission, which have spent many anxious months in the consideration of these matters, he ought to have made up his mind as to what would be his final attitude in regard to them.
– It is the report of the Commission which makes the trouble.
– It appears to me that the trouble of which the Minister speaks has only arisen since his visit to South Australia. May be if he paid a visit to New South Wales in connexion with this matter his opinion might be again varied. I hope, at all events, that the further proposals will not be like the lame, silly speech which the honorable gentleman made at Adelaide on Saturday night last. Perhaps it was because his mind was preoccupied with these more important matters that he then delivered the disjointed speech which we read in the newspapers.
– Has that speech anything to do with the proposals now before the Committee?
– It has, since, among other’ statements which the honorable gentleman made at the meeting in question, was the assertion that he believed in protection, and not in Excise duties. Are we to understand that when he spoke in that way he was referring to the spirit duties? I should say that he will have to believe in Excise duties in relation to spirits, whether or not he likes them in connexion with other matters. But I am not going to discuss this Question at the present stage; I prefer to wait until the Minister brings down his definite proposals.
– If the honorable member does not discuss them now, he may have to wait some little time for another opportunity.
– I am not particularly concerned in that regard. I point out that the Minister now seems to be in a most casual mood. He appears to be proceeding in the most leisurely way in regard to these matters, which were t at one time said to be of pressing urgency and importance. . We have heard times out of number of the way in which our Australian distillers have been and are being punished by our mangling and strangling Tariff. It seems now, however, that the nearer we approach the general election the less urgency there is in relation to Tariff questions. Here we have another illustration of this fact. The Minister of Trade and Customs is in the most casual and leisurely mood, and does not care whether or not he proceeds with the consideration of these matters. If he cares nothing about them, I fail to see why the Opposition should trouble very much. I rose only to protest against the Minister’s method of proceeding with important matters, since he has indicated to the Committee that he has another set of proposals which may radically differ from those now before us, and which he will bring down on a subsequent date.
– I said nothing of the kind.
– Has not the honorable gentleman indicated to the Committee that he is going to make some alterations ?
– I said that there might be some alterations suggested in regard to one or two of the clauses.
– If the statement of the honorable gentleman that as soon as he had looked further into these matters he found some serious faults with them does not indicate the necessity for serious consideration, I should like to know what does. At any rate, his tentative, timid attitude serves only to make the position more serious. Other honorable members mayproceed, if they desire to do so, to discuss these questions, but I propose to wait until the Minister comes down with matured and connected propositions which the Government are able to stand by - subject, of course, to reasonable discussion in Committee - in other words, until Ministers have finally made up their minds as to what they propose to do with regard to the spirit duties.
.- Some time ago the Prime Minister, in referring to the report of the Tariff Commission with reference to spirits and the distillation question, expressed his gratification that the report was a unanimous one, being signed by all members of the Commission, and said he thought there would be very little difficulty in dealing with it at a single sitting.
– Hear. hear.
– The honorable and learned gentleman also said that he scarcely anticipated that the occasion would be availed of by the members of the Tariff Commission to fight the question over again. As a member of the Commission, I can give the Committee an assurance on behalf of my brother members and myself that we have no desire to thresh out this question any further than we have done.
– Hear, hear.
– We have done our duty to the best of our ability, and in the light of the information which we have gathered from all parts of Australia. We have heard all sides and every possible phase of this great and important question. Our conclusions are based, not upon any personal predeliction, sympathy, or tendency, but strictly upon the evidence- given on oath before us. They have been arrived at after very careful, thoughtful discussion and consideration, and we have done our very best. If they do not please the Minister or the Committee, or the1 country, we are very sorry, but we cannot help it. It is not my desire to occupy the time of the Committee to any extent in. appearing before it in the capacity of an advocate or pleader on behalf of the report of the Commission. That report speaks for itself, and I hope honorable members will not think that I or my honorable colleagues desire, whilst giving explanations of it, to appear in the character of partisans or advocates. We are quite prepared to listen to arguments or to offer explanations ; in the last resort, of course, the consideration and determination of details, depends upon the Committee. I should like to say, however, that it would be rather unsatisfactory to the members of the Commission who have been -investigating and considering this question for upwards of fifteen months if the conclusions which they have reduced to writing and submitted to Parliament were lightly or care- lessly thrown .aside in response to clamouring letters in the press, to clamouring deputations to the Minister, or to representations made to him, and, it may be, to other honorable members., by those who are not quite satisfied with some of the details of the report. It will not be satisfactory to us, and I do not think that justice will be done to the great cause, if honorable members allow themselves to be lightly or hastily influenced by letters in the press or communications addressed directly to them, or if our deliberations be disregarded in favour of suggestions made either by letter or in the course of an interview.
– The letters in the press are often unsigned.
– That is so. The members of the Commission are absolutely disinterested, but would like the Committee to do them the favour of considering their report and reading the evidence upon which it is based, before they denounce their work and reject it as useless. I was rather sorry to hear the Minister launch the debate this afternoon in such a light-hearted way, to hear the almost disparaging terms in which he referred to the report of the Commission, and to notice the way in which he seemed to brush aside some of its recommendations. No doubt those remarks would, to some extent, prejudice the case at the very outset ; but I point out to the Minister that he, at any rate, cannot claim to have given this subject, which is, to some extent, scientific and technical in many of its branches and phases, the same amount of consideration and thought that members of the Tariff Commission have given to it over a long period of time. None of their conclusions are hasty ; none, I think, can be regarded as conclusions based on anything like party considerations. As honorable members well know, these are the considered conclusions of both parties - both sides of the House - in fact, all round the House. The Labour Party and the Free-trade Party are both well and ably represented on the Commission, and I need not say anything in regard to the Protectionist Party. All classes and all sections of the House are represented, and every one has had a fair hearing; so that it would be very unfair to this great work if honorable members were to allow themselves to be deluded by fugitive correspondence and letters in the press. In this great question, as in all other great questions, there are several aspects to be considered. Many of these aspects are local ; there is a South Australian aspect, and also a Victorian and a New South Wales aspect.
– And there is a Joshua Brothers’ aspect.
– There is also a Commonwealth aspect.
– The Minister of Trade and Customs says that there is a Joshua Brothers’ aspect.
– Messrs. Joshua Brothers have been communicating with us.
– So far as the Tariff Commission is concerned, we have endeavoured to view everything from an Australian stand-point, and, so far as we could, to be fair, and do justice all round ; and it may be that there is complaint for the reason that we have not been able to please everybody. It is impossible to please everybody, and those who attempt to do so must fail. So far as Joshua Brothers are concerned, I do not think that they are satisfied, because Mr. Joshua was, I believe, the first to complain. I have seen him buzzing about the precincts of the House for a considerable time past, and I know that he has been writing letters on this subject ; indeed, from what I can hear, he is one of the most dissatisfied. At any rate, he sent letters to me expressing dissatisfaction ; and the fact that there is dissatisfaction all round may lead honorable members to the conclusion that there are many aspects to be considered, and that, after all, it is not what Messrs. Joshua or Mr. Penfold may think that has to be taken into account, but what this House thinks on the whole question, after giving due attention to all its phases. I do not propose at this stage to enter into the details of the scheme submitted, because I think that would be anticipating many stages through which we have vet to pass. But, with the permission of honorable members, I shall, at various stages of the discussion, say a few words on particular branches of the question. It would be of no use to cover the whole ground at the present stage, and to deal with a lot of technical matters which might be lost sight of when we come to consider the question in detail. But, before passing away from a few general observations. I should like to quote one or two letters I have received - I suppose other honorable members have also received them - giving a general idea of the position of the distilling industry in Australia in relation to the reports of the Tariff Commission. Messrs. Joshua Brothers, in a letter dated 7th July, say : -
The report, as a whole, is highly satisfactory to us, and we think also that it is of great satisfaction to Australian distillers generally. What we regard as flaws in it are quite subsidiary, but might, nevertheless, prove disastrous if allowed to go unchallenged. We desire to point out that our letter of 21st February, which you have been good enough to print as an appendix to the report, sets forth that our malt whisky and wine brandy have been distilled up to a maximum strength of 35 o.p. Spirits required to blend with these, in order to make the popular tasting liquors-, require to be distilled up to a higher strength.
That is the first letter they wrote, and it was written under a misconception. A few days ago Messrs. Joshua Brothers sent the following telegram : -
Misled fragmentary press reports your complete proposals now before us amply satisfied if passed in entirety, sole exception, clause allowing 75 per cent. molasses whisky, as pointed out our letter to you yesterday. Compliment you and members whole report. - Joshua Bros.
It may be that some of the dissatisfaction expressed in other quarters at the present time may be based on a similar misapprehension ; it may be that others have been misled by the fragmentary reports in the press. This may arise, perhaps, through no fault of the press, but owing to the piecemeal manner in which the report of the Tariff Commission was submitted to the House.
SirWilliam Lyne. - How could the report of the Tariff Commission be submitted in any other way ?
– I was not suggesting that the report could have been submitted in any other way ; but my own opinion is that either the whole report ought to have been submitted to the House at the time, or that it should have been withheld.
– And every night honorable members clamouring for the report.
– I am only referring to the result of the piecemeal manner in which the report was submitted. I know of no report of a Royal Commission having been similarly treated, namely, the body of the report separated from the recommendations - the body of the report submitted at one stage, and the recommendations submitted at another stage, and both afterwards forming two separate parliamentary documents. That was hardly fair to the Royal Commission, and no wonder misapprehension arose, as in the case of Messrs. Joshua Brothers, who admit that they were misled by the fragmentary manner in which the reports were circulated.
– Did the Government receive the two parts together?
– Most decidedly; the report and the recommendations were submitted in one document, signed at one time by the members of the Tariff Commission.
– Then it was not the Tariff Commission, but the Government, who separated the documents ?
– Most decidedly. Do honorable members think that the members of the Tariff Commission would be so unbusiness-like as to submit their report in two parts? The report was submitted as a whole. I am not making any particular complaint on this score, but pointing to the fact that misapprehension has arisen. I should now like to read a communication sent by Mr. H. A. Preston, of the Abbotsford Distillery, giving. , his opinion on the work of the Commission. Mr. Preston said -
I have the honour and pleasure of saying that the best thanks of the distillers and the general public are due to. you and the members of the Commission for your recommendations, and, if passed by Parliament, Australia will have the most scientific Tariff in the world with regard to spirits. Britain and France are both demanding such a one at the present time. It would have the threefold incidence of protection - against the world’s cheap and inferior spirits - for the local distiller who wishes to make a good article, as against the one who may not ; and, lastly, for the consumers, in that they will know what they are getting, and have a better article cheapened to them by way of difference of duty. I particularly desire to emphasize the fact that neither whisky for blending purposes, pure malt whisky, nor grape brandy, should be distilled above 40 degrees overproof, and all distillation should be through pot-stills only. In conclusion, I trust that Parliament will see fit to indorse your recommendations by passing them into law as nearly intact as is possible.
Mr. Chas. P. Preston, of the Australian Distillery, South Melbourne, writes me a letter to similar effect substantially. I received another letter from Mr. Henry Brind, one of the oldest and most experienced distillers in Australia, of the Ballarat Distillery. In this letter, which is dated 16th July last, Mr. Brind says -
Your most arduous duties as Chairman of the Tariff Commission, having now been lightened, we feel it our duty to thank you and your brother Commissioners for your recommendations re the spirit industry, which we think to be most equitable and scientific alike for the people of the Commonwealth and the distillers, enabling the latter to make a pure, unadulterated article, and the public to know what they are buying. We sincerely hope that your report will be adopted without any amendment. We also thank you for your desire to have the measure brought before the House at an early date.
I also received a telegram on 8th August from Mr. Jas. Thornton, the president,’ and Mr. John Ashton, the general secretary of the United Licensed Victuallers’
Association of New South Wales, as follows: -
This Association thoroughly indorses the recommendations of the Tarin Commission in regard to our trade.
The only discordant note in the correspondence I received was a communication from Mr. Cleland, the secretary of the South Australian Wine Growers’” Association, in which the following passage occurs : -
My association is of opinion that the term “ brandy “ should only be allowed to apply to spirits distilled exclusively from fermented grape juice, and that in view of the large and increasing proportion of brandy in use for medicinal purposes, its purity should be upheld and guaranteed by strict Government supervision.
That is the only communication by way of protest that I have received, apart from some references to small matters of detail, such as the degree of alcoholic strength of distillation. These matters of detail are fairly open to consideration. They are matters upon which, even members of the Commission have no very pronounced views. Whether distillation should be at an alcoholic strength of 35 per cent, or 45 per cent, over-proof is not a vital question, but it is vital that unless these spirits are distilled at a certain defined strength over-proof, they shall not receive the preference and advantages which we have recommended.
– Why did the Commission propose to let the distillers introduce 75 per cent, of spirit distilled from other material.
– That is but one of the immense number of details involved in the scheme. I shall deal with it later on, but I am now giving an explanation of some of the ‘ leading points at issue. I should like to say that the ‘general principle of the scheme of Excise duties on spirits recommended bv the Commission is that certain concessions and advantages should be granted to spirits of Australian origin, distilled under the supervision of the Excise authorities, and complying with certain Excise conditions. Apart from any question of free-trade or protection, the members of the Commission reasoned the matter out in this way : If we were to recommend Parliament to impose certain stringent conditions for the production of spirits, certain improvements in production by pot still, patent still, or other methods, a certain strength of production, a certain time for maturing, and the use of certain materials, we could fairly recommend
Parliament to grant concessions and advantages to the manufacturers who produced spirits in compliance with those conditions. That is the basic principle of the whole scheme. We therefore proposed a scheme of Excise duties upon spirits based upon the following principles of classification : - First, with respect to materials of origin, such as grape wine brandy, barley malt whisky, blended brandy, blended whisky, rum from molasses, gin from barley malt or other grain, and, finally, spirits, n.e.i. These ave the materials of origin indicated in the Commissions report, and with reference to them, it was felt that there might be, instead of a uniform Excise duty, a graduated duty, because it was. thought that a spirit produced from barley malt or grape wine at a cost of from 3s. to 4s. per gallon should not bear the same Excise duty as a cheap spirit produced at a cost of only is. per gallon. Hence the graduation of the duties recommended was based to a large extent upon the cost of production.
– Then the Commission propose to allow distillers to add 75 per cent, to 25 percent, of grape wine spirit?
– If honorable members desire to have anything like a clear statement from me, they had Letter not interrupt my speech. The material of origin was the first consideration, the second consideration was the method of distillation and- the initial alcoholic strength. The third was detention in bond for a specified period in order to secure age and maturity. The fourth was compliance with the directions of the excise officers and strict excise supervision, and, finally, the coping stone of the whole scheme was that no spirit should be entitled to the proposed differential advantages and concessions, unless they were certified by a Commonwealth analyst to comply with the conditions named, were good and true to name, and produced in accordance withthe regulations. Honorable members will see at a glance that, even though we may not have been successful, we, at any rate, endeavoured to base our scheme of classification on something like logical and reasonable grounds. We say in our report -
On these lines we recommend the adoption of the following duties of Excise on spirits :
Then follows the scheme, and as elaborated in detail in the report, it is substantially, although not quite expressed in the resolution now before the Committee. I have certainly been somewhat surprised, however, to find that the Minister, having considered our scheme, having practically adopted it, and having embodied it in the resolutions submitted to the House, should now, because of some cry he heard in South Australia, or some other place, wish to abandon his own resolution, arrived at, it is to be presumed, after some consideration, and to disorganize the whole scheme.
– No; I said when I submitted the resolutions that I put them in that form, because thev were submitted in that form bv the Tariff Commission.
– I see. Then I must say that the honorable gentleman has hardly grasped- the scheme yet, and it might have been wise and prudent on his part to take a little more time to consider it before he came down to denounce it, and to say something so disparaging concerning it as to be calculated to destroy it. If the Minister begins in this way, in all probability the scheme might as well be thrown into the waste-paper basket, unless honorable members generally rise to the occasion, take the matter into their own hands, and work out the problem for themselves, apart from the Minister’s advice. I ask honorable members to consider the first item -
Brandy, distilled wholly from grape wine by the pot-still or similar process at a strength not exceeding 35 per cent, overproof, matured by storage in wood for a period of not less than two years, and certified to by a Commonwealth analyst to be pure brandy - per gallon 10s. (4s. less than import).
That is now altered to ns.
– The certificate referred to would be equivalent to a standard?
– What is meant is, that it is to be certified by a Commonwealth analyst to be true to name,- and true in respect of compliance with the 1 statutory provision. Everything in that item is based upon evidence given on oath before the Commission, and that is the best specification for the production of a true brandy that we were able to devise. It might be called a scientific stipulation as to the mode in which it is to be made in order to secure the preference of 4s. If the distillers comply with those conditions and requisites, they are to get that preference, but not otherwise. The next point is a blended brandy, and I believe it is in connexion with the blending that the whole controversy has arisen. I admit that on this question, there was a regular battle before the Commission between practically two great parties. One contended for a brandy which is to be composed of grape wine spirit exclusively - that is, without the introduction of any other kind of spirit - while the other party contended that whilst it was true that originally the true brandy was a spirit distilled from grape wine, in the course of time another kind known as the brandy of commerce came into use, and that the base of that brandy is grape wine spirit with which has been mixed a blending spirit composed of, or derived from, other material such as grain, potatoes, rice, or molasses. The whole contention is as to whether we are to recognise a blended brandy - the brandy of commerce - or as to whether there is to be a brandy known only as grape wine brandy.
– That is not the point of difference I think.
– Yes; that is the material point. I know what the case of my South Australian friends is. I heard the whole case fought out, and I think) that I ought to understand something about it by this time. I had no preconceived . opinions upon this matter. I approached it with an open mind; and now that I have indicated the battle-ground, let us see what the evidence is, apart altogether from the letters which have appeared. The first piece of evidence to which I would invite the attention of honorable members is that of Mr. Saul Joshua, given at Melbourne on the 17th February, 1905.
– He was an interested witness.
– I shall quote the evidence given on both sides ofl the question. Mr. Saul Joshua gave the following evidence : - 876. Would you describe genuine brandy as a brandy made from a spirit distilled from grapes? - It is described in that way by some lexicographers; but as a fact there is very little brandy of that description in the world. I have before me the figures showing the production of France. 877. What would you describe as a good brandy fit for human consumption? - I should say a blended brandy, such as is understood in the trade as the brandy of commerce. 878. But have you not just told us that the brandy of commerce may mean a brandy which is the product of distillation from potatoes, beet,, and other things? - It could be. 879. What is the blend that you speak of a» a good, wholesome spirit? - Wine spirit with grain spirit, or malt spirit, or sugar spirit. Blended together, as made in France.
In reply to question 882 he gave figures - which were challenged at first, but which were confirmed afterwards as absolutely true - as to the production cf brandy in France. He gave statistics showing that in a period of eleven years, the average quantity of brandy produced from grape wine was 2,500,000 gallons, and yet. in lhat period, France, he went on to prove, purported to manufacture, consume, and export, 45,000,000 gallons, the obvious inference being that the 45,000,000 gallons of so-called brandy was a blended brandy, and could not possibly have been made exclusively from grape wine, because only 2,500,000 gallons of grape wine spirit were produced annually in all France. That is all the ‘evidence I shall quote from Mr. Saul Joshua, as some honorable members seem to think that he is interested. T shall now quote from the evidence of Mr. Daniel Ferguson, a disinterested witness, who is Chief Inspector of Distilleries in Victoria, and a thorough expert. He did not take sides between the distillers. In reply to the honorable member for Perth, he gave the following evidence: - 2106. Is wine invariably used for the production of brandy? - They have first of all to use wine. 2107. Is any brandy made in Victoria from material other than wine? - The foundation of brandy is grape spirit, but other spirit may be added to it.
– Does the honorable and learned member call 25 per cent, of grape wine spirit the foundation of brandy?
– Some of the witnesses think that that is a very fair foundation, but I would remind the honorable member that it is the minimum.
– It suggests the idea of a pyramid standing on its apex.
– It could . be higher than 25 per cent., but that is the minimum. 2108. Why? - For reasons affecting the article, and to give the brandy a distinctive taste. The public do not like a pure grape brandy, because there is too much of the wine taste in it. Hence the distillers try to produce an article which will -suit the public taste. 2109. At one time, when people drank brandy, thev drank what was undoubtedly the product of the grape? - They may have done that years ago. 2110. Is the taste for grape brandy modified with other spirit a correct taste? - That is for «he public to decide. If I wanted brandy purely as a beverage, I would prefer that to which a little spirit had been added ; but if, I wanted it purely as a medicine, I would desire pure wine brandy.
– What does he mean bv the addition of a little spirit?
– A little white, or highly-rectified, spirit. The next witness to whose evidence I invite attention in justification of this differentiation is Henry Duncan Brown, the Chief Distillery Officer in New South Wales, a very able and disinterested man. His evidence is as follows : - 18662. Do you think that the name “ brandy “ should be restricted to spirits produced from grape-wine, or grape materials? - There is a great difference of opinion on that subject. For my own part, T do not think that a mixture of pure grape-spirit - that is, brandy, as some wish it to be called - with silent spirit would be unwholesome. I doubt very much whether such a mixture would not be better for drinking purposes than is a pure grape brandy. 18663. Such a mixture might be wholesome, but it would not be brandy? - That is so. 18664. Should it not be called by its true name - a blend ? - Yes ; but the difficulty is that brandy can be imported without any restriction. 18665. Certainly, but the same system would have to be applied all round? - That is where the difficulty would arise. 18666. Could not such a provision be applied to the imported article? - No; for a reason that I shall explain. If a blend consisting of a pure grape spirit, and a silent were imported, an analyst would not be able to say what it contained. He would only find spirits derived from grape brandy. If an imported article consisted of a blending of potato spirit and pure grape spirit, and were labelled “ Pure grape brandy,” the analyst would not be able to detect the fraud.
He pointed out that, while true brandy is produced from grape wine, what is called a blended brandy has come into use, but he would confine the term brandy to brandy made from grape wine spirit, labelling the mixed spirit known as blended brandy in such a way that the public would be aware that in purchasing it they were buying, not true brandy, but a blend. I will quote another short passage from his evidence - 18994. Do you think it would be right to require that brandy shall not be mixed with alcohol derived from any other source than grape wine? - I do not see any objection to the blending of brandy with silent spirit, and calling it a commercial brandy. 18995. Do vo” see any objection to requiring such brandy to be labelled “blended brandy”? - I am decidedly in accord with that.
– Perhaps some of the imported brandy is not made wholly of grape wine spirit?
– The witness pointed out that a great deal of imported brandy may contain other than grape wine spirit, but that the presence of that other spirit could not be detected, and, therefore, imported blended brandy could masquerade as true brandy, whereas local brandy made under the supervision of the Excise officers could not contain any but grape wine spirit.
– Therefore, the local article would be under a disadvantage.
– Yes, unless a corresponding burden were placed on the imported article. The witness seemed to think that brandy produced from grape wine spirit should be exclusively entitled to the name, and that any compound should be termed blended brandy.
– Did any analytical chemist say that the proportion of rectified spirit in a brandy could not be distinguished ?
- Mr. Wilkinson, the analytical chemist of Victoria, said that when spirit is rectified to a high degree it can not be distinguished.
– But spirit rectified to a high degree is not brandy.
– There might be 25 per cent, of true brandy of a strength not exceeding 35 or 40 degrees., but the amount of silent spirit in addition to the grape spirit could not be detected. Mr. Charles C. Tucker, a Sydney merchant, who represented the Sydney Chamber of Commerce, and is a thoroughly competent man, gave this evidence - 19927. You have told us that you would not allow the word “ brandy “ to be applied to spirit other than that distilled from grape wine? - Yes. 19928. Would you allow the term “ blended brandy “ to be applied to a mixture of grape spirit and grain, or some other spirit? - Yes. I believe that in England they allow the term “ blended brandy “ to be used.
I ask the representatives of South Australia to note that I have now read the evidence on which the recommendation of the Commission was based. It shows that an article called blended brandy is known to commerce.
– The honorable and learned member promised to read the evidence given on the other side; but he has not done so.
– I think that I have read enough to support my own case. Evidence was given in South Australia byMessrs. Cleland and Reid, who fought most strongly for the view that the term brandy should be confined exclusively to spirit obtained from grape wine, and that no consideration) whatever should be given to other spirit, under the name blended brandy, distilled partly from grape wine spirit, and partly from other materials. The Commission used the words “other materials,” however, because we did not feel bound to restrict the makers of blended brandy to grape spirit and grape wine spirit. To do so would not be fair to our distillers, because it would restrict their choice of material, and prevent them from using barley, oats, rye, maize, beet, and other produce, the growers of which hope to profit by any increase in Australian distillation. The distillers claim the right to make their blends of such materials as they may see fit to use, instead of using only grape wine spirit distilled at a strength of 35 or 40 degrees overproof together with a highly rectified grape wine spirit. On the other hand, the South Australians - and it is to their honour and credit - have developed a first class brandy, which, I believe, is the best in Australia. I do them the justice of saying that.
– And the proposed new duties will destroy their industry.
– They will do them no harm whatever. The South Australian manufacturers of brandy have been carried away by panic - a panic which has been based upon ai misconception. In the same way, Messrs. Joshua Brothers were acting under a misapprehension. The South Australian manufacturers desire that the word “materials” shall be struck out, and the words, “ other grape wine,” or “ other grape refuse,” inserted. We could not comply with their request, because we could not see our way to limit the blenders of brandy to the use of grape wine spirit. If we had done so, we should have acted in absolute contradiction to the knowledge and experience of the whole world with respect to blended brandy. Although in ancient days brandy was understood to be made wholly of grape spirit, we have moved forward since then, and the public taste has undergone a modification. As is shown bv the evidence, a large section of the public do not like brandy made wholly of wine spirit, because of the wine t’aste imparted to it. They want brandy made partly of some other spirit. This mav be a vitiated taste, but the distillers say that’ they have to cater for the public requirements and to study the public inclinations, and that they cannot be tied down to the manufacture of brandy out of wine spirit pure and simple.
– In other words, they find it necessary to adulterate?
– The use of the word “ adulteration” is also founded upon a misapprehension. That term can be applied only when spirits are blended with the object of deceiving the public. In cases, however, where the spirit is honestly described, and the brandy is sold as blended brandy - in cases where, as we recommend, the description is affixed to the bottles and the packages - no one can ‘be deceived, and it is wrong to apply the word “adulteration.” I appeal to honorable members to say whether brandy sold under an honest description, and certified to by the Excise officers as having been distilled in a certain manner, and blended in a certain manner, can be called adulterated spirit. In such a case, the term adulteration is a misnomer. It is a purely hackneyed cry that has been raised to serve a certain purpose.
– A spirit may be adulterated, notwithstanding that the bottle bears a description of the contents.
– I contend that the spirit is not adulterated, if it is sold under am honest description. If a blended brandy is sold as pure grape wine brandy, there is deception; but if customers wish to buy a bottle of blended brandy, and the word “ blend “ appears on the bottle, no deception is practised upon them. The word “ blend “ is frequently used to indicate that the liquor is made up of spirits that are not of uniform character.
– In many cases, the public will not know what is meant by the word “blend.”
– They will, because, if the recommendations of the Commission are carried out, each bottle will bear upon it a description of the materials of which the spirit is made. The whole of the objections to these proposals are due to an alarmist cry that has been raised in South Australia, and, if honorable member’s would calmly consider the whole matter, they would not be so ready to condemn the recommendations of the Commission. We cannot fly in the face of the public taste, or preferences. The South Australian manufacturers complain of the pro posal that distillers should be permitted to apply the term “ brandy “ to any liquor that is blended with other than grape spirit, and it seems to me that that is a most unreasonable view to take. Blended brandies have been in existence in Australia, France, and Great Britain for years past, and we cannot fly in the face of custom and the public taste. In paragraph 2, honorable members will see that a definition of blended brandy is given. The whole of the objections that have been urged against the recommendation apply to the inclusion of the word “materials.” If, however, that word were struck out, the whole virtue of the definition would be destroyed.
– It might also inflict injury upon the farmers.
– It would be more likely to injure the Colonial Sugar Company.
– We propose to establish a standard for pure brandy, and a standard for blended brandy, and it is intended, in paragraphs 2, 3, 4, and 5, to extend certain exclusive rights, privileges, and advantages to those who comply with the conditions laid down. If the brandymakers of South Australia maintain their present high standard, and make brandy exclusively from grape wine spirit, they will have the sole right to describe it as pure Australian standard brandy. No other persons, unless they produce brandy of a similar character and composition, will be entitled to use that name. The makers of pure brandy will have a Commonwealth certificate to the effect that their spirit is of a certain standard, and no one else will be able to compete with them, unless their spirit possesses the necessary qualities. I contend that that is the most important protection.
– The South Australia brandy-makers are to go down in a blaze of glory.
– Those who make blended brandy will not be permitted to call it the Australian standard brandy, but must describe it as blended brandy. I believe that, asa matter of fact, there is a greater demand for blended spirits than for high standard spirits, such as pure grape brandy. That may be regrettable, but it is a fact, and the distillers have to manufacture spirits that will sell. Coming now to the question of preference, honorable members will see that grape wine brandy is to have a preference of 4s. per gallon, whereas blended brandy will have a preference of 3s. per gallon. The preference of 3s. per gallon given to blended brandy is based upon a minimum percentage of 25 per cent, of pure grape wine spirit. That is to say, the blend shall consist of not less than 25 per cent, of pure grape wine spirit. But most manufacturers of the blended brandy will, in the course of practice, use more than 25 per cent, of pure grape wine spirit. Many will probably use 50 per cent., and some, perhaps, 75 per cent., of pure grape wine spirit.
– In other words, they will use the dearer article?
– They may do so for the sake of producing a better blend of brandy. In all probability it will be to their interests to use more than 25 per cent, of pure grape wine spirit in producing their blend, in order that they may give it more body, more tone, and more quality, and thus make, upon the whole, a superior article. That is the reason why the Commission could not distinguish between fractions of a shilling. We could not say that a duty of a shilling should be split up in accordance with the proportionof pure grape wine spirit which is contained in any blended brandy. We could not say, for example, that 25 per cent, of pure grape wine spirit in a blended brandy should give the distiller an advantage of 3d. per proof gallon, that 50 per cent, should confer an advantage of 6d. per proof gallon, and that 75 per cent, should confer an advantage of9d. per proof gallon. We had to make allowance for the fact that in all probability the manufacturers of blended brandies would use at least 25 per cent, of pure grape wine spirit, and that others would require to use, perhaps, 50 or even 75 per cent, of that spirit.
– Is it not as easy to specify 50 per cent, as it is to specify 25 per cent. ?
– The Commission recommended that a blended brandy should contain not less than 25 per cent, of pure grape wine spirit. It is claimed that our proposal constitutes a preference to the blended article as against the pure article. I fail to see it. If anybody thinks he can make a better differentiation, I should like him to try. Of course, any persons can say. “Let us destroy the scheme,” but my reply is, “ Let them suggest something better.” The members of the Commission have done their best. We could not favour the distillers in South Australia as ‘against the distillers in other States.
– It is not a question of favouring South Australia.
– There are distillers of blended brandy in other parts of Australia.
– The whole proposal is in the interests of Messrs. Joshua Brothers. The whole thing was engineered by Mr.. Joshua from the beginning.
– I am surprised at: the honorable member always jerking out assertions in reference to Messrs. Joshua; Brothers, as if they had “bossed” the Commission.
– They are the only persons who will be benefited under these proposals.
– The honorable member should recollect that the report of the Commission was signed by four freetraders as well as by four protectionists. It is high time that he dropped his allusions to Messrs. Joshua Brothers. The Commission had to consider the whole of Australia. In Western Australia some distillers intend to go in for the manufacture of a blended brandy. It may not be to their interests to use the lowest percentage of pure grape wine spirit - namely, 25 per cent. - in the production of that article. If the higher percentage of grape wine spirit be used, the preference will probably parr out at about 2s. 6d. instead of 3s. per gallon.
– Is the honorable and learned member aware that Joshua Brothers have just ordered 10,000 gallons of white spirit from the Colonial Sugar Refining Company ?
– I know nothing about the matter, except what has been given in evidence upon oath, and I do not. want to know. The honorable member can pry into the private affairs of that firm-
– The information was supplied to me without any prying upon my part.
– Perhaps it has been supplied by a rival in the trade. I am not dealing with trade rivals - I am endeavouring to do justice all round. The members of the Commission did their best to reconcile conflicting interests without doing injustice to anybody.
– I am not reflecting upon the honorable and learned member.
– I need not take up the time of honorable members by referring at length to the duties upon malt whisky, and upon blended whisky. The same principle which we adopted in reference to the duties upon brandy produced from pure grape wine spirit and upon blended brandy applies to the rates which we recommended should be levied upon malt whisky and upon blended whisky. The same principle of classification, differentiation and gradation, is applicable in each case.
– Except that there is more whisky consumed, and that, therefore, if we omit the words “ other materials, ‘ ‘ greater injury will be inflicted upon the farmers.
– The honorable member reminds me of a complaint which is urged on behalf of the whisky distillers in regard to the blended article. The fourth proposal before the Committee reads -
Blended whisky, distilled partly from barley malt and partly from other materials, containing not less than 25 per cent, of pure barley malt spirit, &c.
I am told that the whisky distillers desire the word “materials” to be eliminated, with a view to inserting in lieu thereof the word “grain.” They urge this alteration in order to exclude the possibility of a blended whisky being composed partly of barley malt spirit and partly of molasses spirit. In regard to that suggestion I am quite willing to keep an open mind. I am prepared to hear arguments from both sides. The Commission inserted the word’ “ materials “so as to make the proposal harmonize with the proposal which is contained in their second recommendation, thus giving the distillers discretionary power to produce a blend out of a basic spirit - in one case that spirit being pure grape wine spirit, and in the other a malt spirit - mixed with pure and highly rectified spirits made from other materials, subject to the veto of the Excise officer. If the latter found that the materials so used were injurious to the public, he could veto them. Some slight alteration has been suggested in regard to other matters, which I need’ not occupy time in debating. I have merely put before the Committee sufficient material to launch the discussion, with a view to affording honorable members an opportunity of considering some of the leading points.
– What is the explanation of the ninth proposal which levies a duty of 40s. per proof gallon upon spirits n.e.i. f
– I cannot understand that proposal. There must be some explanation of it, but at present it is unfathomable to me. Before resuming my seat, I should like to say one or. two words upon the revenue aspect of this question. Honorable members will observe upon page 4 of the Commission’s report, the following :-
We recommend- no change in existing rates of duty on imported spirit; but if the foregoing set of excise duties be adopted, we recommend that bulk spirit imported into the Commonwealth, and imported bulk spirit reduced and bottled in bond within the Commonwealth, shall be entitled to an allowance for under proof similar to the allowance of excise duty on spirits produced in Australia upon evidence being given to the satisfaction of the Minister that a period of at least two years has elapsed since the distillation of the same, provided no such allowance shall be made on any strength less than 16.5 under proof.
Upon a full consideration of the whole of these proposals, we arrived at the conclusion that whilst we were justified in recommending certain reductions in the Excise duties upon spirits, we could not - and we deliberately refused to do so - recommend any alteration in the import duty. We worked out a scheme designed to give certain advantages and concessions to the local manufacturer, but we desired that those advantages and concessions should be plainly and clearly expressed upon the statute-book, without any reservation or condition - without anything arising indirectly, and producing results which we did not anticipate or did not desire to express. We arrived at the conclusion that, provided that the conditions I have mentioned were complied with, grape wine brandy was entitled to a clear advantage of 4s. per gallon ; that blended brandy should have an advantage of 3s. per gallon; malt whisky, 4s. per gallon ; blended whisky, 3s. per gallon ; rum and gin, 2s. per gallon, and so forth. In arriving at this decision, we did not wish in any way to alter the existing import duty, nor to cause any disturbance in trade in regard to the ordinary wholesale or retail selling prices. Under the Commonwealth Tariff, during the last five or six years, there has been in operation an import duty of 14s. per gallon. That has led to certain selling rates in the Commonwealth, and it was thought that if there were an increase in the import duty it would disturb the existing selling rates, and, perhaps, to some extent, prejudicially affect the wholesale as well as the retail trade. We intended no such disturbance; we intended to give a certain clear positive advantage without upsetting existing trade arrangements and methods of selling in the wholesale or retail trade. We also felt justified, for certain special reasons which I shall proceed to mention, in refraining from recommending an alteration in the import duty. Those special reasons are, shortly, that under the Commonwealth Tariff, there has been an enormous expansion in the production of spirits in Australia. That is proved by the following figures: - In 1899 - which was a normal year before _ the adoption of the Commonwealth Tariff - there were distilled in all the Australian States 737,200 proof gallons of spirits, whereas in 1905 the production jumped up to the enormous quantity of 1,506,339 gallons, showing an increase of 769,I39 gallons since 1899. The increase in the main was in the production of spirits from molasses in New South Wales and Queensland. By the establishment of Inter-State freetrade, those spirits obtained free access to the whole of the Australian markets, and an enormous impetus was thus given to the industry in Queensland and New South Wales.’ Prior to Federation, those cheap spirits would have had to pay high duties, and, consequently, they were shut out of the other Australian markets. But, as the result of the abolition of the Inter-State duties, the trade in molasses spirit received a tremendous impetus, and their production jumped up from almost zero to 700,000, 800,000, or 900,000 gallons a year. That is a very large expansion. There is also the expansion in the. Australian production of brandy, which accounts altogether for the total increase I have mentioned. In the distillation of whisky, however, there was an absolute and complete collapse, resulting in the closing of all the whisky distilleries in Australia.
– Has the honorable and learned member any figures showing that during the same period there was an increase or decrease in the local output of pure grape brandy ?
-There was a very considerable increase.
– There was a tremendous increase in South Australia.
– The figures I have quoted show an enormous increase in production, and, of course, that increased production meant increased revenue from excise duties. In 1899 the total amount received by way of excise on spirits produced in the Australian. States was only £I47>935 - a comparatively small sum. In the year 1905, however, the excise collected on spirits, under the Commonwealth Tariff jumped up to the large sum of ^£267,454,- showing an increase, as compared with the return for 1899, of ^119,519. The following figures, as to imported spirits, are interesting. In 1899, 2,504,926 gallons of proof spirit were imported into the various Australian States; whilst in 1905, 2,560,813 gallons were imported, showing an increase of nearly 60,000 gallons. I may say that, in the interval, there had been a big jump in the quantity of spirits imported, but that it fell away apparently to the normal figures of some 2,500,000 gallons. There was thus a slight increase on importations and an enormous increase in local production, and in the amount received from the accompanying excise duties. The result is that from imported, as well as from locally - made spirits, there has been a very large increase in revenue since the establishment of the Commonwealth - an increase amounting, probably, to ^200,000. When the right honorable member for Adelaide submitted his scheme of duties on spirits, he based it, no doubt, on certain revenue expectations. These expectations have been more than realized. The revenue has been increasing, by leaps and bounds, and this is particularly so in the case of the revenue from, excise duties, for there has been every year since 1899 a gradual ascent in the returns. In view of these facts, the Commission arrived at the conclusion that, althoughthey were about to recommend a reduction in the’ excise duties, they need not necessarily recommend any increase of the import duty. The total amount of revenue from spirits as a whole was so great - so far beyond expectations, and above all necessity that we felt we could reasonably reduce the Excise duties without recommending any increase of duty on the imported article. I am of that opinion still, and I see noreason to alter it. I have not had time to examine the figures quoted to-day, though I mav, perhaps, find an opportunity during the debate to do so, and see whether there is anything to be said about the estimated loss of the £70,000, the ,£80,000, or the £90,000. Assuming the estimate to be true, this expanding revenue from spirit is so great that there is no necessity to have any additional duty, in order to repair the loss.
– The expansion was much greater in 1901 thai* it is now in the matter of imports.
– I have mentioned that in the interval between 1899 and 1905 there was a big jump, but that since then matters have come to their normal level. I did not want to bother honorable members with the figures in full. The real reason the Tariff Commission did not recommend any change was that the revenue was of such a character that burdens might be struck off those suffering from the Excise duties, without imposing further import duties with, of course, a corresponding rise in Excise duties. I intend to support the recommendation of the Commission that there be no increase in the import duty. I see no justification for any increase; the time has arrived when we may fairly say that £2,000,000 is enough to receive from the spirit duties.
– I think we may fairly compliment the honorable and learned member for Bendigo on his very careful exposition of the position- from his point of view, and on the exceedingly good work he has done as Chairman of the Tariff Commission. Many of us must have been struck by the almost stupendous labours which the honorable and learned member and some of his colleagues have had to face in the work not only of taking evidence, but of afterwards reducing to synthetic expression the clashing opinions submitted to them. That is certainly a discharge of patriotic duty, which we, as members, can keenly appreciate. I can quite understand, at the same time, the anxiety of the honorable and’ learned member for Bendigo that the recommendations of the Tariff Commission should not be disturbed. We all, of course,” have a little liking for our political offspring, no matter what it may be. It is a sort of reflection on our discretion or judgment - sometimes it touches our amour propre-if even the Ministry propose to interfere with recommendations, especially after such an elaboration of purpose and adjusting of evidence as we have ‘had in this instance. At the same time, I admire the wisdom of the Ministry in seeking new light on the duties proposed. I fully appreciate the view that resolutions, illegal in themselves because they have to be hurriedly introduced, are, to a certain extent, tentative. They have to be quickly conceived in order to protect the revenue, and very often the technical information that may be desirable and necessary is not available; because the Minister would have to seek expert advice from persons, who, of course, may be just those prepared to take advantage of the new schedule of duties. Without an absolute disclosure of the Ministerial proposals, any man, not a fool, could very well gauge what duties were likely to be brought down or increased from the questions submitted to him by the Minister seeking his advice. I can well understand, therefore, that the resolutions tabled about a fortnight ago by the Minister in regard to spirits, are, to a large extent, imperfect, and subject to such alteration as the Ministry may see fit in the course of the debate to make. Considering that we are still seeking light, I shall not do more than indicate the supreme importance of these proposals to South Australia, and also, of course, to the Commonwealth. This is not a South Australian matter purely. That State is very largely concerned, but the question of the purity of the spirits used in the blending of brandy is one that concerns the States as a whole. South Australia, it happens, however, is keenly interested in the matter. That fact does not altogether influence me, though it may undoubtedly stimulate me; I should not be here as a representative of that State if I did not feel, when her interests are specially affected, a higher degree of stimulus than that to which we must confess when we have before us matters which concern us purely as Commonwealth representatives. We represent particulardistricts and States, and questions affecting these we view with keener interest than we do those of general Australian application. At the same time, mere local interests do not influence me if I think that the higher interests of the Commonwealth direct another stand. I need only refer to the Australian Industries Preservation Bill, in connexion with which I had to some extent to oppose some interests of the district I represent. In the matter under discussion, if I thought it my duty to support the motion, of the Ministry I should do so ; but from the best information I could get in the last few days, as well as from reading the reports of the Tariff Commission, I have come to the conclusion that we cannot accept the duties proposed by the Government. As to the effects of a blend of brandy not made purely from grape spirit - that is, 25 per cent, of pot still, and the rest rectified grape spirit - I have only to mention that last year in South Australia there was made 956,000 gallons of spirit from wine. Figures have already been quoted showing that in Australia nine-tenths of the brandy distilled is from wine. I think that the total production of wine in South Australia last year was 2,625,430 gallons - the largest quantity ever distilled in one State. A few years ago viticulture, which ought to be one of the leading industries of Australia, considering our climatic conditions and the peculiar character of the soil, had not assumed large proportions. There were then only a few thousand acres devoted to viticulture in Australia, whereas now, according to the Tariff Commission, there are about 65,000 acres thus used. The labour employed averages about ,£5 an acre, which, therefore, represents nearly ^330,000 ‘a year. When we consider that this industry, as measured by the progress of the last five or six years, is still only in its infancy, we can see the enormous possibilities, under fair fiscal treatment - that is under a differentiation that does not discourage the production of the pure article - which lie before the Australian producers. The position of South Australia is further emphasized by the fact that under the inspection duty of is. per gallon on spirits used for the fortification of wine, ^45,000 was collected in 1904-5, of which, in round figures, ,£22,000 was paid bv that one State alone. This indicates the importance of this question to South Austra-Iia, and I am pleased to see that the Government suggests the remission of this duty. From the revenue point of view, it was open to every objection that could be levelled against a pure revenue duty. It was unequal in its incidence in the different States - the figures I have given show that - and besides it was irregular in its return. Whilst the total revenue received from it was .£45,000 in 1905, the total in 1904 was under ^£5,000, So that in addition to the other reasons given by the members of the Tariff Commission - and on this point there was unanimity - the disparity of incidence upon the States, and of yield from year to year, render the duty objectionable from the point of view of revenue. Hence,
I think it was a wise suggestion on the part of the Ministry that it should be abolished.
– But the expense of supervision should be provided for.
– A suggestion has been made by the Commission as to how that is to be done. The suggestion is made, that there should be a pure inspection charge, and I suppose that solution is the correct one. It is stated in the report of the Tariff Commission on the wine industry in South Australia that -
Since the operation of the Commonwealth Tariff there has been in each year an increase in quantity of wine converted into spirits, and a decrease in quantity of materials other than wine used in the manufacture of spirits.
The report goes on to deal with matters to which I do not desire to refer at present, but on the question of purity, to which the honorable and learned member for Bendigo made so much reference, I should like to say that there seems to have been a great conflict of evidence before the Commission as. to whether spirits other than pure grape spirit used for the rectification of wine, are pure; whether, for instance, alcohol made from, molasses is absolutely pure. But I failed to observe that any doubt was expressed as to the purity of the spirit made from grapes. That is the point, and when we can have a pure spirit byrelying upon distillation from the grape itself, I do not see why we should be driven back upon a spirit of conjectural purity, in order that resort may be had to molasses, potatoes, or other articles. There is a great conflict of evidence, not as to the purity of grape spirit, but as to the purity of other spirits. The honorable and learned member for Bendigo has quoted the opinion of some experts, showing that it is possible to get a certain degree of purity in the rectification of molasses spirit. .It is said by some that ultimately all the spirits are pure from whatever material they may be produced. But we never get that ideal purity. As a matter of fact, it is never supplied, and if it were, there would be no such thing as flavouring. The flavour of brandy is not an idea - it is an element, the attenuation of the element to about its lowest state. Men in speaking of flavour in this connexion sometimes speak of it as though it were, to some extent, an idea like the flavour of smoking, but it is not. Wisely, I think, there is no proposition made to interfere with the provisions of the ‘ Distillation Act, under which wine can be fortified only by a grape spirit, but the same argument which was then urged in favour of the continuation of that provision, certainly applies with equal force to the manufacture of brandy from a pure grape spirit. At page 11 of the report of the Commission on the winegrowing industry of Australia, I find this evidence dealing with the use of various spirits for the fortification of wine. According to the Commission’s report, Mr. H. D. Brown, who was quoted by the honorable and learned member for Bendigo, thought that potato spirit, if added, would interfere with the quality of the wine. Mr. Thomas Henry Norrie, analytical chemist, said it is a distinct advantage to the wine to use grape spirit for fortifying purposes. Mr. Cleland, a South Australian, considered that grape wine spirit was the best for fortifying wine. Mr. Adrian Despeissis, Horticultural and Viticultural Expert of Western Australia, was of the same opinion. These are strong opinions in favour of the view taken by South Australians, but I again emphasize the point that there can be no doubt about the purity of brandy that is made of not Jess than 25 per cent, from pot-still brandy and the balance from rectified spirit dis-. tilled from the grape. Once we begin to blend with- any inferior spirit, we shall not be getting what Australia should desire, and that is a brandy that will bear a reputation throughout the world for purity. We heard from the honorable and learned member for Bendigo that certain brandies are so pure that they are objected to. What are the brandies that are objected to? The pot-still brandy, which has to be matured for two years, because it contains the greatest percentage of oils requiring to the oxidized to make pure ethers, is not consumed in the ordinary way by the drinking public, but is mixed with another grape spirit, so as to produce a blend, 75 per cent, of which is rectified spirit taken from the grape and 25 per cent, of pot-still spirit. That is the blend in relation to which the duties are objected to as being the same as for the blend from molasses spirit. As regards purity. I have quoted from the Tariff Commission’s report, but I find also that Mr. E. A. Mann, Government Analyst of Western Australia, as the result of recent tests of spirits made in Perth, has certified that all the Australian brandy he examined, without exception, appeared to be of genuine character. As nine-tenths of the brandy produced in Australia is made in South Australia from .grape spirit, that is a wide testimony to the value of the South Australian production. I do not think that in England they allow brandy which is not altogether produced from grape spirit to be used for medicinal purposes. I have no doubt that, in common with myself, other honorable members have received ,a letter on this subject from Messrs. Penfold and Company. I think that it deals only with the consumption for medicinal , purposes, but an extract is enclosed in the letter from Messrs. Penfold from the Licensing Review of 30th July and of 6th August, 1904, in which honorable members will find very high testimony paid to brandy, whether blended or not, produced altogether from grape spirit. I need not read the quotation, as it is in the hands of honorable members. There is another matter to be considered in connexion with this. If a blend of molasses spirit is permitted, and molasses spirit to the extent of 75 per cent, is used, it will completely displace the use of grapes for the distillation of spirit. There is no question about that. According to the best evidence I have seen, it costs about 4s. per gallon to make rectified spirit from grapes. Molasses spirit can be bought at is. per gallon. Estimates for it are given from 8d. up to is. 3d. per gallon. If the duty proposed were 12s., the position as regards the grape blend would be 12s. duty and 4s. cost per gallon, or a total of 16s., whilst the molasses would be 12s. duty, and is. cost per gallon, or a total of 13s. per gallon. In 0:her words, there is a difference of 3s. per gallon in favour of molasses. It would be impossible for the pure spirit to compete with it ; it would be knocked completely out of the market. What would that mean ? A few days ago I was in a part of South Australia - it is in my own district - where, within a radius of ten miles, between 10,000 and 12,000 tons of grapes are purchased every year for wine and the distillation of spirits. Let honorable members imagine farmers with acreages running from 10 to 130 or 140 having a ready market within a radius of a few miles for the sale of their grapes.
– There is no bonus for the production of grapes.
– Absolutely none. According to the season, these farmers get from £>2 t0 £5 a ton for the grapes. But suppose that they were paid £2 a ton, as they were last year. It would mean the purchase of 10,000 tons of grapes from the very class of men who ought to be encouraged, if there is anything in all this talk about democracy. But what is the position in that district? There are four of the leading distillers ready, in the intervals between seasons, to make advances on the crop of grapes, and without interest, I am told; so they really act as <a sort of accommodation banker to the growers. There we. have the beginnings of an ideal community. What do we get from the molasses? We get the product of the Colonial Sugar Refining Company, and that is the best output of the industry. I wonder what the planters of Queensland got last year out of a total surrender of £314,006, either directly in bonuses or indirectly through the shrinkage of duties as compared with 1901. I wonder how much the planters in New South Wales and Queensland will get this year out of bonuses which total up to £278,000. There is no bonus given on grape production; but molasses is the waste product of an industry which is already over-protected. According’ to the evidence of Mr. Joshua, the total quantity of molasses devoted to the production of spirits in 1904-5 was 7,000 tons, but the total production of sugar was 196,000 tons, so that the demand created for molasses by allowing brandy to be blended to the extent of 75 per cent, with molasses spirit is comparatively insignificant in relation to the total product of the sugar industry. I have told ‘honorable members what this .proposal will mean to the small vine-growers in a district of South Australia, and within a radius of “ten miles. But let me now push the matter home. Are we driven to leave molasses alone? Will it remain a waste product if this preference be not given - a preference which might injure the reputation of our wine or brandy? On the 28th May, the American Senate passed a Bill allowing the use of spirits made from wood, potatoes, molasses, and other such materials for industrial purposes. It provides that it is to be denatured or adulterated - both) words are used - under Government inspection, and then it is freed from excise. The matter was fully discussed in the Scientific Amencan for July and previously. A few nights ago I read the articles, which fully explained the actual cost of production, and the uses to which the spirit can be put. On that point I should like to quote the evi- dence of a periodical showing that in their experience the very best way to break down the monopoly of such bodies as the Standard Oil Company is. to encourage, by freeing from duty, the use of spirit when denatured for industrial purposes, because, for cleanliness and other qualities, it is likely to supersede for many purposes the use of kerosene and other oils for supplying light, heat, and power. The quotation, which is taken from an American trade journal of about six weeks ago, reads as follows : -
On 24th May the Senate passed by a unanimous vote the Bill which provides for the freeing from taxation, after 1st January, 1907, of denatured alcohol used for industrial purposes. The Bill had previously been passed by the House, where it was opposed chiefly by the manufacturers of wood alcohol. This substance is to be used as an adulterant, however, to make the alcohol unfit for drinking. According to the provisions of the new law, the adulteration, or denaturizing of the alcohol is to be done in the various factories under the supervision of an internal revenue officer. By removing the tax from industrial alcohol, our Government has effectually put a stop to the domination of the oil trust over the use’ of liquid fuel for light, heat, and power. In Germany and France devices for using denatured alcohol for these purposes have already been perfected, and placed in actual use, and their adoption in this country will no doubt come quickly as soon as industrial alcohol is on the market. As this fuel can be produced from many vegetable products that have heretofore gone to waste, and that, too, at a very considerably lower price than is obtained for gasoline and kerosene to-day ; there need never be any fear of lack of fuel, even should the coal measures all become exhausted, and the supply of natural oil cease. The new fuel, besides being cleaner and less volatile, will, when used in suitably-designed internalcombustion motors, develop about as much power per gallon as will the old, while for light and heat it is far superior. Its introduction will create a new market for the farmers of our country, while they will benefit directly from it also by using it themselves for the production of light and power.
– That is all dealt with by the Commission in its report on industrial alcohol.
– The quotation is not the less valuable on that account. I was going on to mention that that recommendation has been made by the Tariff Commission, so that all we have to do is to get the Minister to adopt it; and, as far as there is any necessity, therefore, to allow distillation from molasses, the spirit could be devoted to a use which would lead to a far greater consumption than one which might mean the death of the great wine spirit industry. I think I could quote from several witnesses before the Tariff Commission to show the advisability of keeping our blends pure. As to the price of the molasses, it is somewhat significant that, in speaking of a scale of protective duties, Mr. Joshua talks about a duty of 2s. per gallon on molasses spirit, but a duty of 6s. per gallon on grape wine spirit, showing a bigger differentiation in cost between grape spirit and molasses spirit than I gave for the purpose of the comparison. I would strongly put it to the Committee that, by preventing the use of molasses spirit for the purpose of blending brandy, or, at all events, by so adjusting the duties ‘that we do not differentiate against grape spirit, as is the case at present, we shall help the extension of a primary industry which ought ultimately to give a reputation to Australia. It is not a matter affecting a few men such as control the sugar industry ; in some districts there are hundreds of farmers engaged in grape-growing. I ask that reasonable opportunities be, given under the Tariff for the continuation of the development of this industry, which, during the last four years, under which the old Tariff of us. Excise on grape brandy, and 13s. on n.e.i., has made a tremendous advance, but which, if the blending provided for by the Government is allowed, will be destroyed, because growers will be unable to get rid of their grapes. That is why the representatives of South Australia are displaying an anxiety in regard to the matter which, although it may have distracted the honorable and learned member for Bendigo, is justified in view of the possible effect of the new duties.
.- Whilst, in common with the other members of the Tariff Commission, I am perfectly prepare3 to justify and stand by the unanimous report to which we agreed after the hearing of much evidence, and a lengthy and earnest consideration of all the facts, I am not willing to do so after the flaunting manner in which the Minister of Trade and Customs has dealt with the subject. A few years ago, the Prime Minister used to say that the politics of the Federal Parliament would be on a higher plane than those of any State Parliament, and I ask him if the speech of the Minister this afternoon had the effect of placing our proceedings on a higher plane than those of a State Parliament? The honorable gentleman has admitted that he has not yet made up his mind in regard to the proposals which he has placed before the Committee, and he asks us to amuse ourselves by discussing them while he finds time to consider whether he is justified in what he has done. I sympathize deeply with the Chairman of the Tariff Commission in the humiliating position in which he was placed by the Minister, and, as a member of the Commission, I feel that our report has been flaunted. The Minister, on his own acknowledgment, does not understand its nature and tenor. Apparently, he will not stand by his motion, but intends later to introduce more mature proposals. Because of some outside agitation, and because of letters written to and interviews held with the Minister by persons who had every opportunity during, several months to place their case before the Commission, the honorable gentleman tells us that he has not given the subject full consideration, and asks us to waste our time in discussing what he has brought forward, although he may later propose something quite different. I resent this treatment, both as a member of the Commission, and as a member of the Committee, and I ask the Prime Minister whether, as leader of the Government, he should not do something to place our proceedings on the higher plane of which he was so fond of speaking in years gone by, and which they do not now occupy.
– I am unable to find a reason for the honorable and learned member’s impassioned words. The Minister of Trade and Customs said that he had obtained in South Australia and elsewhere information leading him to doubt whether sufficient protection is being afforded to the manufacture of pure wine brandy. But that is a subject for future consideration. Before we can deal with it, we must dispose of the motion now before the Chair, in which it is not involved, though honorable members have the undoubted right to criticise the whole of the proposals at this stage. The Government do not desire to prolong such general criticism. They would prefer the Committee to come at once to close quarters with the motion submitted. I do not think any honorable members could take exception to the fullness with which the ‘Chairman of the Tariff Commission supported such of its recommendations as have been questioned by my honorable colleague.
– Was it fair to require him to do so at this stage ?
– I do not know that it was necessary for him to do it at this stage. I understood my honorable colleague to intimate that, while the present motion was being dealt with, he would give consideration to representations for the amendment of a later proposal which hadbeen strongly urged upon him in South Australia. It is true, as the honorable and learned member for Bendigo has said, that there is a South Australian view of the subject as distinguished from the New South Wales or the Victorian view, but the report of the Tariff Commission shows that the view of the vignerons of South Australia was indorsed by every prominent and influential vigneron in the other States.
– The vignerons of Australia are agreed on the subject.
– It is practically a vignerons’ representation. I am sorry that the honorable and learned member for Bendigo took exception to the introductory remarks of the Minister of Trade and Customs. I heard no disparaging reference to the work of the Commission.
Six John Quick. - The Minister’s re marks sounded like a disparaging reference. He adopted a sneering tone, and, indeed, has always been an enemy of the Commission.
– One has only to read the report to see how exhaustive an examination was made by the Commission, while the honorable and learned Chairman showed that he carries in his head, or has before him, all the information requisite for the detailed consideration of any proposition affecting this matter. I understood my honorable colleague to refer to comparatively minor alterations, which I do not wish to discuss now in anticipation, thus unnecessarily prolonging the debate. They cannot be dealt with until we have finished with the proposals for Customs duties, and have come to the proposals for Excise duties. The honorable and learned member, in quoting from a speech which I made at Footscray, brought together two parts of it in such a way as to alter the meaning of the second part. It is quite true that at FootscrayI said that this report, having been indorsedby both sections of the Commission, should be disposed of in a very short time - I hoped, in a single night. At that time, however, the consequences to the revenue had not been presented to us, asthey were afterwards, by the officers of both the Customs and the Treasury Departments. In response to their representations, the Government, whilst adopting in principlethewhole of the scheme of the Commission, with very great reluctance altered some of the duties. We sought, in the light of the best information available to us, to maintain the revenue at about its present level. At a later stage of my speech I spoke of those cases in which the membersof the Commission might be divided, and expressed the hope that no onewould raise thetheoretical question of freetrade versus protection - a mere abstract question for argument between those of opposite fiscal faiths. The exact words I used” were -
We want to put theoretical and doctrinaire considerations aside. In the last hours of thisParliament our business is to do business. The Tariff Commission has prepared the way. It has asked tens , of thousands of questions ; it hasexamined hundreds of people ; it has made thetour of Australia. Parliament will give its recommendations all the weight they deservein theknowledge of those facts, but Parliament is not there to re-discuss the questions of theTarriff Commission, and certainly not to invite the Tariff Commission to re-discuss them on the floor of the House.
– That was the passage to whichI objected. .
– That statement doesnot appear to me to cast any reflection upon the Tariff Commission. I said in effect that Parliament was not here to dis cuss abstract questions, nor to ask the twosections of the Tariff Commission to do so. All that we were justified in doing: was to ask the members of the Commission to give us the benefit of their practical experience. The honorable and learned member, therefore, has interpreted’ my statement in a manner that it was never intended to bear.
– I accept the Prime Minister’s explanation.
– I was quite sure that the matter would only need to be mentioned in order to show the honorable and learned member that he was mistaken.
– When a Minister sneers at the report of the Commission it is necessary for some one to say a word in support of it.
– I do not think that my honorable colleague did sneer at the report of the Commission. I commencedby saying that what the honorable and learned Chairman stated was apt and pertinent. It is true that the Minister of Trade and
Customs challenged the report of the Commission in respect to paragraphs 2 and 4 relating to the Excise duties proposed to be levied upon blended brandy and blended whisky respectively. All that he indicated was that he was rather shaken in the adherence he had given to the conclusions of the Commission that the duty upon blended spirits should be only 12s. per gallon. He stated that he thought that the question was an open one, and invited an expression of opinion from honorable members as, to whether the rate of duty should be increased.
– Does the Minister for Trade and Customs desire that the duty should be increased?
– He stated that he was not satisfied that there should be an increase ; but that his confidence in the recommendation of the Commission had been shaken. He had previously thought that the proposed duty would be effective as it stood.
– Does the Minister for Trade and Customs desire that the duty formerly levied should be continued?
– I understand that he desires that the duty shall be increased from 12s. to 13s.
– That is the existing law. What is the use of all our investigations, if that is the conclusion at which the Minister has arrived ?
– My honorable colleague pointed out that the proposed alteration would make a difference in the incidence of the Excise duties, as compared with the import duties. Then he also made some suggestions with regard to the use of the word “ grain “ instead of “ other materials.”
– I have no objection to that.
– So far as I followed mv honorable colleague, those are the only two points to which he took any exception whatever in regard to the recommendations of the Commission.
– If the protection proposed to be given to blended brandy and whisky is reduced, the whole scheme will be destroyed.
– Of course, the honorable and learned member speaks with authority on the subject. I must say that at this moment I am not prepared to argue how the manufacture of blended” brandy and whisky in the Commonwealth ought to be treated.’ Mv honorable colleague’s criti cisms were limited to two, one of which the honorable and learned member for Bendigo admits was of only secondary importance. Therefore the only exception that could be taken to his remarks is to the one suggestion with reference to the increase of the duty upon blended spirits. Surely my honorable colleague was perfectly candid in communicating to honorable members the impression that had been made on his mind bv the viva voce representations made to him.
– He had not heard the other side from the Victorian distillers’ point of view.
– And for that reason he invited honorable members to consider the whole question, and indicated that he would be glad to hear any reasons or facts that could be advanced’ to justify the Commission’s proposal. His attitude was a perfectly open-minded one, and I would point out to my honorable and learned friend that there was nothing derogatory to the Commission or Parliament in the action of my honorable colleague. After he had, with the consent of all his colleagues, adopted en bloc the whole of the recommendations of the Commission, he visited one of the greatest pure wine brandy centres of the’ Commonwealth, and heard a great many representations antagonistic to the proposals. Then finding himself unable to answer them as thoroughly as he would have liked, he appealed to the Committee to review that one question, and, if possible, meet the objections .raised. He stated that at present his confidence in the recommendations of the Commission was shaken.
– What would have happened if we had adopted the proposals without hesitation - would the. Minister have accepted that which, he did not believe in?
– We have accepted the proposals as being based, upon the recommendations of the Tariff Commission after an exhaustive inquiry. The Minister was naturally disposed to rely upon their recommendations, and now he merely challenges one of them tentatively, and asks honorable members to assist him in discussing it. He has frankly placed before honorable members the difficulty that has occurred to him. Of course, if the matter had been placed before the honorable and learned member for Bendigo, he would, no doubt, have replied as he has done to-day - he would have given, in part, at all events, the reasons which could be urged against any modification of the recommendations of the Commission. No doubt there is a great deal to be said in support of the point of view put by him, but we can fully discuss the matter when the Excise duties are dealt with in detail. We have not yet reached that stage. We shall be called upon to deal first with the proposals to substitute higher duties for those previously collected upon imported spirits. The consideration of that matter is in no way affected by the suggestion of my honorable colleague, that one of the later proposals relating to the Excise duties may require to be reconsidered to some extent. My honorable colleague did not commit himself to any antagonism to the proposal, but indicated that when the time came he would be glad to receive further information. Therefore, after the issue immediately before us has been disposed of, we shall be able to fully examine the point that has been raised, and endeavour to settle any doubt that may exist.
.- It is very good indeed of the Prime Minister to come to the rescue of his colleague, the Minister of Trade and Customs, in connexion with these remarkable proposals of the Government. Unfortunately, however, we are being asked to consider certain recommendations of the Tariff Commission which the Government are themselves unable to indorse until they have further information. It is obvious that the proper course to adopt would be to postpone this debate until such time as the Government is in possession of the information necessary to enable us to discuss the question before us in a proper way. I am quite sure that no member of the Tariff Commission would say that the proposals of that body are not open to improvement. We have given a great deal of time to our work, and have considered the question now before the Committee from every possible point of view. We are prepared, at the proper time, to vindicate our attitude, but the Commission and honorable members are placed in an entirely false position when they are asked to debate certain proposals in regard to which the Government have practically no information to offer. Surely I am asking what is reasonable when I urge that this debate should be adjourned until the Government are in a position to put before honorable members the information which they intend to obtain.
– I thought that the Government would have come forward with some proposal relating to the storage in bond of imported spirits. It is proposed - and I think very properly - to fix a minimum period during which locally-distilled spirits shall remain in bond, so that we may be assured that they possess some reasonable degree of maturity.
– After all, I think the honorable member will find that that is a matter to be dealt with by regulation.
-I donot think so.
– The object of the proposal was to prevent anybody from coming into competition with Messrs. Joshua Brothers.
– I do not think that any such blackguardly idea was present in the mind of the Minister.
– Then the honorable member is a most simple-minded person.
– Nor do I think that the members of the Tariff Commission would lend themselves to any such proceeding. The other day, I understood the Minister of Trade and Customs, in reply to a question put by the honorable member for Hindmarsh, to say that the Government were prepared to adopt some such proposal as I have suggested. He said that they intended to apply the same principle to imported spirits as was to be applied to spirits which were locally produced. In the absence of any Government proposal under this heading, I move -
That after the word “ proof,” line 16, the words “ matured by storage in wood for a period of not less than two years,” be inserted.
The honorable and learned member for Bendigo has suggested to me that the case might be provided for under the Distillation Act. But I would point out that that Act cannot touch imported spirits.
– I am endeavouring to obtain a copy of the Bill of which these resolutions will form the base. The resolutions, if passed, will be embodied in a Bill of which they will form the Schedule. As I understand the position, what the honorable member desires will be provided for in the Bill.
– The better plan would be to incorporate my proposal in the resolutions upon which the Bill will be based. We ought to insist upon like conditions being observed in each case.
– The intention ‘of the Government is either to embody a proposal of the character submitted by the honorable member for Bland in the Bill, or to bring it into operation by issuing a suitable proclamation under the existing Customs Act.
– Let us put it upon the face of the resolutions.
– It cannot be put more upon their face than it will be if embodied in the Bill itself. This proposal has been foreseen from the first. The officers of the Customs Department have called attention to the difference between the treatment which would be accorded imported spirits and that to which locally - produced spirits would be subjected under these resolutions, and they have advised that the evil should be rectified either by the issue of a proclamation under the existing Customs Act, or by the insertion of a specific provision in the Bill itself.
– If it be incorporated in the resolution it will begin to operate at once.
– How does the honorable member suggest we should act in the interval which must elapse before it will be possible, for foreign distillers to adjust their shipments to the operation of his proposal?
– The spirits can be kept in bond.
– I am not opposed to the main proposal of the honorable member. But until I have examined the manner in which it is proposed to be framed, I am not prepared to meet the objection which has been raised by the honorable member for North Sydney.
– Has the Government power to impose such a condition at any time?
– Evidently, according to the recommendation of the Customs officers.
– The sooner we stop the importation of spirits of inferior quality the better.
– We are all agreed upon that point. It is only a question of the way in which we shall effect our object. I doubt whether the honorable member’s proposal will be sufficient to cover the period which must necessarily intervene before the distillers in ‘England become aware of the restriction, so that thev may regulate their shipments accordingly.
– I am glad that the honorable member for Bland has submitted this amendment. When the Minister of Trade and Customs replied to several questions which I put to him the other day, I took it for granted that he intended to take immediate steps to place ouside manufacturers of spirits upon the same footing as, local distillers.
– That is the proposal.
– to me it is rather surprising that something in that direction was not done long since. More than two years ago I called attention to the quality of the spirits that were being imported. I pointed out that nearly all the spirits coming into the Commonwealth were being imported in bulk, also that very little case whisky was being introduced, and that the imported spirits were being sold without any real supervision being exercised over them. I stated that this was particularly the case in South Australia, where there was a conflict between the State and Commonwealth enactments in regard to the matter. I am’ rather surprised to learn that under the Customs Act it was possible to prevent these inferior spirits from being imported. I agree , with the honorable member for Bland that we ought to incorporate in the Bill some such provision as he has outlined. We have in the past trusted too much to administration bv means of regulations, which either have never been framed or have never been put into force. I do not think that it is necessary at this stage to discuss all the matters dealt with in the motion.
– The honorable member and his party have been preaching the doctrine of “ Trust the Minister “ in relation to all the legislation passed this session, and now on the question of whisky, the honorable member changes his attitude.
– Time and again I have objected to the Minister being given power to do by regulation that for which we could provide in the Bill itself.
– The honorable member for Parramatta knows that; he is a word twister.
– The honorable member voted again and again for-
– I have always voted consistently, and that is more than the honorable member has done. The honorable and learned member for Bendigo mentioned that he considered a minimum of 25 per cent, of pure grape spirit was sufficient in the case of blended brandy, but I would point out that in the old country a number of prosecutions have been instituted against persons for selling brandy that is not the pure juice of the grape. In the case of one firm which was so prosecuted, it was stated in the course of the evidence that the great firm of Gilbey always labelled brandy not derived solely from the grape as a “mixture of genuine grape brandy, and rectified British spirit.” It is recognised in the old land that brandy ought really to be the pure juice of the grape. That is the contention of the representatives of South Australia. Why should we allow pure grape spirit to be adulterated to the extent of 75 per cent, with the cheapest and most inferior spirit that one can name, and sold as brandy ? What hope has the manufacturer of a really genuine brandy in competition with such an adulteration ? . He cannot possibly live against such competition. In the case to which I have referred, an eminent legal authority gave evidence that if brandy not made of the pure juice of the grape were given to a patient, it would set up irritation, and do him injury. The authorities tell us that the ethers in brandy make it more valuable than is any other spirit. The purer the brandy, the higher the percentage of ethers, and the greater its value from a medicinal stand-point. The highest medical authorities tell us that the giving of a mixture of pure grape brandy and some other spirit, to an invalid, is likely to be dangerous. If it be dangerous to give brandy so adulterated to a sick man, it cannot be desirable to give it to a healthy individual. As we shall have another opportunity to deal with this phase of the question, I shall not, at this stage, make further reference to it, but I trust that the Government intend immediately to subject imported spirits to the same conditions as are applied to those made within Australia. The whole purpose of the inquiry by the Tariff Commission has been to seek a means to protect our existing manufacturers and to encourage others to enter the industry. There is room for great expansion in this industry, but if we deal with it in the slipshod way that has characterized our actions for some time, we shall afford it but little protection.
.- Whilst I agree with the honorable member for
Bland, that the same conditions should apply to imported spirits as are imposed with respect to those produced within the Commonwealth, I would point out that in the question now under consideration, something more is involved. The basic principle underlying the taxation of spirits is that since they have a deleterious effect upon those who indulge in them, and their consumption leads to increased cost in civic government, high duties should be imposed. I view this question, however, from the stand-point of revenue. . Whether spirits be manufactured within or outside the Commonwealth, the effect of their use is to increase the cost of government. Looking over the returns published by the Commission, I find that there is nothing in them to warrant an increase in the import duty on spirits, and, as a matter of fact, no increase is recommended. The revenue derived from the import duty has decreased in proportion to the increase in the consumption of locally-made spirits, but, unfortunately, the cost of government has not been decreased by their use. In 1899 737,000 gallons of spirits were produced in Australia, whereas, in 1905 1,506,000 gallons were produced, the figures showing a large expansion in the local industry. On the other hand, although there was an increase of nearly 60,000 gallons in the quantity of spirits imported in 1905 as compared with the quantity introduced in 1899, the imports -last -year -were considerably less than those of a few years ago.
Sitting suspended from 6.30 to 7.30 p.m.
– When we adjourned for dinner I was pointing out that, in my opinion, the proposed duty of 15s. per gallon on imported spirits would be detrimental to the revenue ; and I am supported in that view by the figures presented to us by the Tariff Commission. I find that in 1899 the quantity of spirits imported was 2,504,926 gallons, while in 1905 the quantity was 2,560,813 gallons. In. the growth of this industry we see the effect of the protective incidence of the duty of 14s. per gallon ; and I venture to submit that if we raise the Tariff to 15s., there will be a marked falling-off in revenue. In 1901, the total imports were 3,000,096 gallons, which is much larger than the imports at the present time. it mustbe apparent to any one who takes an interest in these matters that the Australian distilling industry was then subject to much severer competition from imported spirits than it is to-day. In the meantime, not because the people drink more, but as the result of increased population, local production has increased at a much greater ratio than has the consumption. As I have already stated, the only justification we have for high duties are the effects, and consequent cost in other directions, of over-indulgence in alcohol. I take it that, even from the protectionist’s stand-point, not much can be said for the distilling industry as an employer of labour; because, practically, in this connexion, it stands lowest. The marked increase in the local production of spirits in New South Wales is noticeable. In that State, the increase in the period indicated has been, in round figures, 566,000 gallons, as compared with a total increase for all Australia of 749,000 gallons. In other words, the output in this industry has been doubled in six years. Some capital has been made of the fact that Messrs. Joshua Brothers have practically closed their distillery in Victoria. This occurrence has created something of a panic in the State of Victoria, and has been attributed to the Commonwealth Tariff. The official figures, however, prove, if they prove anything, that the firm mentioned have suffered not so much from the Tariff as from the breaking down of the barriers between the States, and the consequent influx of spirit from New South Wales.
– And Queensland. .
– And Queensland.
– There is no doubt that that is responsible for the closing of Messrs. Joshua Brothers’ distillery.
– I am now quoting from the figures which have been placed before us. I have been informed that Messrs”. Joshua Brothers are large purchasers of spirits which are manufactured in New South Wales.
– Purchasers or agents? They may be acting as agents for the distribution of the spirits in Victoria.
– In closing their distillery, and attributing their action to the effect of the Commonwealth Tariff, the firm have acted very wisely from their own stand-point, as they have in that way been working up public feeling in their own State in favour of an increased duty. Personally I cannot see that there is anything to justify an increased duty. The Tariff Commission, the members of which have gone fully into the question, recommend a duty of 14s, and in order to test the opinion of honorable members,. I desire to submit an amendment reducing the duty to that figure.
– There is already before us an amendment which must first be disposed of. The amendment before us is to insert after the word “ proof “ the words “ matured by storage in wood for a period of not less than two years.”
– I am in sympathy: with the amendment proposed by the honorable member for Bland, and desire to do nothing to interfere with its’ passing, so long as I shall have an opportunity resubmit the proposal I have indicated.
.- I have already entered a protest against proceeding with this motion, seeing that the proposals of the Government are in a very crude and immature state. I again urge that we should proceed no further with this particular matter, in view of the fact that the Government are not able to explain whether they are prepared to introduce certain conditions into these specific arrangements for duties, whether they are going; to embody them in a series of resolutions, or whether, as has been suggested by the Tariff Commission, it is intended to propose modifications of the Distillation Act, the Excise Act, and other Acts dealing with this item. I may point out that the Tariff” Commission make a recommendation similar to that contained in the amendment of the honorable member for Bland, with a view to protecting the consumer against the use of immature spirits, whether locally made or imported.. Our idea was that it should be dealt with apart from the specific duties. The Government should give the Committee some definite Information as to the plan on which they propose to work in dealing with all the matters that are naturally included in the scope of this debate. On page 5 of the recommendations submitted by the Tariff Commission honorable members will find No. 8 to read as follows: -
That no spirits imported into the Commonwealth shall be permitted to go into human consumption within two years from the date of their first shipment, unless the Minister of Trade and Customs is satisfied that a period of” two years has elapsed from the date of distillation of the same.
All these matters could be much better dealt with apart from the resolutions imposing specific duties, but if we are to have- no explanation from the Government as to the method of procedure they intend to adopt, I and others will have to support the amendment of the honorable member’ for Bland. I can well imagine that if we are compelled to follow this scrappy and piecemeal method right through the proposed alterations to the Tariff, we shall have produced a very remarkable document indeed by the time we are finished. I am entirely in accord with the proposal of the honorable member for Bland. It is absolutely necessary that the health of the people who use spirits should be protected in the direction indicated. There is not the least doubt that a large quantity of unwholesome immature spirit is imported into the Commonwealth. It is not strictly relevant to this question, but I must also mention that a considerable quantity of this class of spirit that comes into consumption is produced within the Commonwealth. In this matter it is the duty of Parliament to say that those who indulge in spirits shall be protected so far as is considered necessary and reasonable by authorities on the subject. There is, .in this connexion, attached to the report of the Tariff Commission, a supplementary recommendation, signed by four members of the Commission, in favour of a differentiation of is. per gallon less than the existing Customs duty in respect of certain alcoholic liquors, admittedly of the highest quality. I should like to give the Committee an opportunity to vote upon that, but again I am in a difficulty as to where and how the Government propose to deal with such an issue. Then we have yet another issue which may probably arise, and that is the question of a preference to British goods. We have heard a great deal of preferential trade from those protectionists who have been favouring the country with their eloquence of late. I am anxious in this connexion to give those honorable gentlemen who are so loyal to the Empire an opportunity to prove their loyalty by making a differentiation in respect of spirits . proved to be of British origin. Again, I ask the Government to :aV 1 where tthat provision should be introduced ; whether it should be introduced in connexion with the imposition of these specific duties, or in the way suggested in the Tariff Commission’s report.
– Does the honorable member suggest a higher duty against foreign spirits?
– I suggest a duty which, I believe, is a right and proper one to protect the revenue under ordinary conditions, but beyond that I would give an opportunity to the Postmaster-General and other members of the Committee to show that they are prepared to make the necessary sacrifices which they have so often declared their willingness to make in connexion with goods which are entirely of British origin.
– But do foreign spirits compete in this market ? Do we get whisky from America as well as from England?
– There is no doubt that a great deal of inferior whisky, socalled, comes to us from outside the Empire.
– We prefer that the foreigner should make the sacrifice rather than ourselves.
– It happens, and this supports the suggestion I submit, that the better qualities of alcoholic liquors in the shape of whiskies that are imported to Australia are produced within the Empire, and those which admittedly are deleterious to health come from outside the Empire. The way is,’ therefore, clear for those who are prepared to adopt in this connexion the scheme of preference of which we have heard so much recently. With regard to the proposal for a duty of 15s. per gallon, I have no hesitation in saying that if it be the intention of the Government to obtain the highest amount of revenue from this source, they are going the wrong way about it.
– That is a matter of opinion.
– It was the opinion of the Government when the Tariff was being discussed.
– It is not my opinion.
– The right honorable gentleman was a member of the Government to which I refer.
– It was not my opinion then, nor is it now.
– Might I remind the right honorable gentleman that a few years ago the Government of Victoria indorsed a recommendation of a Tariff Commission that made full and searching inquiries into this question, and which was to the effect that 14s. per gallon was about as high as it was safe to go in connexion with the revenue.
– I have heard that old story before.
– They also pointed out that the higher duty had led to the use of a great quantity of inferior spirit. There was very little hesitation at that time on the part of the State Parliament of Victoria in accepting the recommendation that the duty should not be higher than 14s. per gallon.
– When Federation was established, the duty in two States was 15s. per gallon, and in another State 16s. per gallon.
– I know that in Western.Australia the dutv was 16s. per gallon.
– And the charge was is. per nobbier.
– Only on the goldfields.
– The Treasurer will recollect that at that time the State of Western Australia was passing through a period of remarkable prosperity, and that people would put down is. for the same quantity of whisky as could be obtained for 6d. in the eastern States.
– Does the honorable member mean that if the duty were higher it would reduce the use of whisky here?
– In view of all the evidence which was submitted, and of certain evidence which was not submitted I thoroughly indorse the proposal made by the Chairman of the Commission, and approved by all its members that the duty on imported spirits should not be higher than 14s. per gallon. We may each have our own idea with regard to other items in the Commission’s recommendations, some of which I intend to touch upon at the proper time, but in this particular case, in view of the evidence, the Commission was unanimously of opinion, that” it would be a serious mistake to levy a duty of more than 14s. per gallon on imported spirits.
– First, because it would entail a loss of revenue, and second, because it would lead to the consumption of an inferior quality of spirits. In view of the evidence before honorable members, and of the experience of most of the other States, especially those which have the largest population, and in which the conditions are most nearly normal, it rests with the Government, I contend, to show reason why the additional duty of is. per gallon on imported spirits should be imposed. So far, I have heard from Ministers nothing beyond a mere expression of opinion to justify the increase, and if they car, give no stronger evidence than that I venture to think that honorable members would prefer the more definite expression of opinion, based upon a consideration of the evidence, from the Tariff Commission.
.- This motion is on a par with all those other proposals which we have been accustomed to receive at the hands of the Minister of Trade and Customs. I think I am right in saying that during this session he has not brought down a single proposal which has given evidence of careful consideration, matured judgment, correct information, or even a clear knowledge of its character. We find ourselves to-day in a position in which we have frequently found ourselves. The Minister brought down a proposal, but before we had time to enter upon the discussion of it, he discovered that it was untenable, and therefore he intends to submit certain amendments. This has happened in the case of every measure he has submitted. I venture to say that in no other Parliament has there ever been such an exhibition of incapacity on the part of a Minister as that to which we have been treated toy him on this as on previous occasions. Like all other measures with which he has been associated, the main object of this proposal is obviously to benefit Victorian industries at the expense of the other States. It is a most singular thing that a Minister representing a New South Wales constituency should always have so little regard to the interest of his own State. Whenever an opportunity is offered, he invariably brings down measures which he declares are to benefit Australian industries, but which in their operation would more largely benefit Victoria than any other State. It is plainly evident that the proposal before the Committee is made in the interests of not even Victoria as a whole, but of one firm in that State, and that is the firm of Joshua Brothers. I am credibly informed that it is the one firm in the whole of Australia which goes in largely for the adulteration of liquor.
– Does the honorable member say that the Tariff Commission has leaned towards Joshua Brothers? The proposal before the Committee is practically the proposal of that body.
– The Minister’s proposal is not that of the Tariff Commission.
– So far as the amount of protection to be given to Joshua Brothers is concerned, it is exactly the same.
– Whatever the Commission may have done, the Minister, in the interests of that firm alone, has seized the opportunity afforded by its report to come down with a proposal which, if adopted, would injure similar industries in other parts of Australia.
– I am going to proceed to show how it would.
– Is not the degree of protection to Joshua Brothers the same under this proposal as under the Commission’s recommendation ?
– That has nothing to do with the point of my argument.
– Therefore, it is the Tariff Commission which is favouring the firm, if it is favoured.
– I do not care whether the Tariff Commission favours what the firm is doing or not. Had it anything to do with the Australian Industries Preservation Bill, or the Commerce Bill, or other Bills which were framed to favour Victorian manufacturers at the expense of the other States? That is what I am complaining about. We know quite well that the whole of this legislation is submitted in consequence of an agitation which has been conducted mainly by the firm of Joshua Brothers. I am credibly informed that, before the new duties were proposed. Joshua Brothers had their warehouses full of spirits which they wanted to unload on the market, but - so I am informed by local hotelkeepers - the public prefer imported spirits to those manufactured by Joshua Brothers; that, as a matter of fact, that firm’s spirits are not healthful, but, on the contrary, very injurious.
– That is not true.
– I am merely stating what persons in the business have told me. I do not profess to speak from personal knowledge, because I do not take alcoholic stimulants.
– It is not a proper thing to say. It may not be whisky or brandy, but, certainly, it is not injurious. It is good sugar spirit from the Clarence River, and that will not hurt any one.
– That is a matter on which competent authorities differ in opinion.
– Which spirit does the honorable member recommend for medicinal purposes ?
– Some of the authorities declare that no spirit other than brandy made from pure grape juice should be prescribed for medicinal purposes, and that all other spirits are injurious.
– It depends upon what the medicinal purpose is. There are two or three different kinds of spirits which maybe prescribed to patients suffering from different diseases.
– I shall come to that aspect of the question presently, and if I do not happen to forget it, I propose to quote what one verv eminent authority has said. In these matters I prefer to take thu opinion of experts to the opinions of tho”who have no claim to be experts. The honorable member for Bland, however, may be an expert for all I know to the contrary. Joshua Brothers is the one firm in Australia which would secure a practical monopoly as the result of this legislation. It must ‘be remembered that, to a large extent, it is only a distributor of spirits which are manufactured in an adjoining State. All the spirit which comes to Victoria from the Colonial Sugar Refining Company in New South Wales is sold to Joshua Brothers.
– Has the honorable member any evidence of that?
– Yes ; the evidence taken by the Tariff Commission, including that of Mr. Knox, the manager of the Colonial Sugar Refining Company.
– Mr. Joshua stated on oath that he sold that spirit on merchant’s commission.
– I am not prepared to accept Mr. Joshua’s statements as gospel. He is the gentleman who declared that every protectionist is a liar, and, as he himself is a protectionist, I should be very careful about accepting, as reliable, assertions of that sort from his lips.
– He said every moderate protectionist.
– I believe that he did make that qualification. I have been told that Messrs. Joshua Brothers have their stores full of spirit, and wish to obtain an advantage over importers of spirits in order to get their goods upon the market. Their complaint that they could not get their goods upon the market was, I understand, the excuse for these proposals.
– What evidence has the honorable member for that?
– I am entitled, as the honorable member or any one else would be, to Base my remarks on information received. The honorable member for Bass would find it very difficult to substantiate, by an affidavit, every statement he made here. The report has been circulated that, although Messrs. Joshua Brothers asked for legislation of this kind only to enable them to put their goods on the market, and conveyed the impression that they had no intention of raising their prices, they have increased the price of one brand of whisky by1s. a gallon and of another by1s. 6d. a gallon.
– The Excise duty has been increased by1s. a gallon.
– The protectionists say that the duties are paid by the foreigner, but it is the consumers of Victoria who will have to pay any increase in the price of the article put on. the local market by Messrs. Joshua Brothers. The firm has notgiven an absolute denial of the rumour ; it says, in a circular -
Whereas a rumour has been circulated to the effect that we have taken advantage ofrecent Tariff changes to raise our prices for Australian spirits, and whereas we believe the object of this rumour is to prejudice the interests of Australian distillers in the forthcoming Parliamentary discussion, we desire it to be known -
That we have made no public announcement whatever on the subject.
That we have since the closing down of our works in 1902, been selling stocks at cost price and under (and this fact is recorded in the Tariff Commission’s report) ; and
That we undertake for the future not to sell below cost price unless absolutely compelled to so liquidate. (Signed) For Joshua Bros. Ppy. Ltd.,
M. Joshua, Director.
– Must not the firm increase its prices, seeing that the Excise duty has been raised by1s. a gallon?
– Messrs. Joshua Bros, gave it out that their desire was not to increase prices, but merely to get their goods upon the market. But what I want to know is what has become of the obliging foreigner who protectionists always tell us pays all our duties ? I do not take alcoholic stimulants, and, in my opinion, it would be a good thing if the importation and local manufacture of spirits, except for medicinal purposes, were absolutely prohibited, and those engaged in the industry employed in some undertaking which would be helpful instead of injurious to the com-; munity. The plea cannot rightly be put forward that protection must be given to the distilling industry because of the number of persons that it employs, since there are fewer hands employed in that industry than in any other in proportion to the value of the output. A little time since, I went through the Colonial Sugar Company’s distillery at Pyrmont, Sydney. That is a very large place, fitted up with the latest and most improved appliances for the distillation of spirits, and having a very large output; but the total number of hands employed is only about a dozen. However, my wish is to deal with the probable effect of the proposed duties. In my opinion, the result of their imposition will be to give those who consume spirituous liquors a more impure and more deleterious rather than a purer and better article, and to bring down the standard of Australian production. So far as I can gather from the information supplied to me, the purest spirit made in Australia is distilled from molasses by the patent still process. It has been urged that the rectification of spirit gets rid of valuable qualities, but, on the other hand, experts say that the purest spirit is the least harmful from a toxic stand-point.
– That is a moot point.
– There is a difference of opinion in regard to it. The weight of evidence of experts, however, amongst whom is Mr. Wilkinson, goes to show that the purer the spirit the less intoxicating are its effects.
– French Cognac, the finest and most expensive brandy in the world, is distilled by the oldest apparatus, which allows the natural ethers to be given over in the greatest profusion.
– Would what is sold as Cognac in the average public bar be prescribed as a stimulant, in cases of sickness where pure brandy was necessary by a medical man who had any care for his reputation ?
– It is pure brandy.
– I understand that the ordinary commercial Cognac is not pure brandy. I have been told by persons well versed in the spirit trade that certain brandies are popular because of their palatable flavour. This flavour is due to the presence in the spirit of certain deleterious elements which are not extracted in pot-still distillation as they are in the process of rectification by the patent still processes. In the Colonial Sugar Company’s distilleries the spirit is distilled above 60 degrees over-proof for the purpose of getting rid of the fusel oil and other deleterious elements.
– They endeavour to produce a neutral silent spirit that may be used in the manufacture of half-a-dozen different liquors.
– It is proposed that no spirit shall be sold unless it has been kept in wood for two years after distillation, but nothing is to be gained by keeping highly rectified spirit in wood for any length of time after it has been distilled. As a matter of fact, all the impurities are extracted in the process of rectification. Spirit distilled at a strength of, say, 35 per cent, over-proof contains a large proportion of fusel oil and other deleterious elements which are nauseous, and that is the reason why it is kept in wood for a considerable time - for two, and sometimes three, years. I am informed, further, that the effect of keeping such spirit in the wood is not to rid it of impurities, but merely to disguise their presence, and make the spirit more palatable than it otherwise would be.
– - The honorable member should take a glass of good whisky, and then he would be able to speak with some authority
– My information has been gained from men engaged in the manufacture of spirit, who probably know more about the subject than does the honorable member for Bland - although I am quite willing to concede that he may be an expert. I thought that it would be a good thing for .me to visit a distillery and find out exactly what was done.
– Did not the odour of the spirit affect the honorable member?
– No. It was pointed out to me that silent spirit has no odour until it is rubbed on the hands, and the aroma is brought out by the heat caused by friction. The provision relating to the spirit being kept for two years in wood is also made to apply to gin. Those who are best qualified to speak upon the matter tell me that gin, above all other spirits. should be consumed as soon as possible afte» it has been distilled, in order that the full benefit of the juniper juice used in its manufacture may be derived by the drinker. Then with regard to rum, I may. point out that the Australian product is made from silent white spirit extracted from molasses and coloured with burnt sugar. This spirit is ready for immediate consumption, and nothing is to be gained by keeping it in wood for the period proposed. If the condition sought to be imposed is insisted upon, the Colonial Sugar Company in Sydney and a number of similar establishments in Queensland will have to be closed up, or the spirits manufactured will have to be exported to Europe. Thence they will probably be brought back to Australia in the shape of popular blends of brandy or whisky. I have a copy of a letter from the South Australian Winegrowers’ Association, in which attention is directed to the disabilities under which Australian wine-growers will be placed by the proposed legislation. I wish to refer to this letter to show that in order to benefit one Victorian manufacturer, it is proposed to place disabilities upon others engaged in primary industries connected with the same line of business. This letter, which was addressed to the Minister of Trade and Customs, reads as follows : -
In response to your invitation for suggestions from those interested in respect of the conclusions of the Royal Commission on Customs and Excise Tariffs, the Council of this Association, with the concurrence of the brandy distillers of this State, have the honour to address you in reference to the suggested definition of brandy, as set forth in progress report No. 2.
This definition will be found in the final paragraph of Section XXV. on page 35 of the report in question, where a serious anomaly has crept in - doubtless inadvertently - because “ Appendix D “ (which is quoted) is entirely at variance with that decision.
The anomaly referred to consists in this - that whereas the definition of “ whisky,” blended for commercial purposes, is that such blend shall consist of 25 per cent, of spirit, distilled from barley malt, and the remainder grain spirit to the exclusion of any spirit distilled from other sources, that of brandy is that such blend shall consist of 25 per cent, of true brandy, while the remainder “ may be patent still spirits from any approved material. (See appendix B).”
My council feel that the trade in Australian pure grape brandy is essential to the well-being of the viticultural industry of the Commonwealth, as well as to that of this State, and that if this permission obtains, the trade already secured will be seriously prejudiced, if not destroyed.
During the last fifteen years the South Aus- tralian distillers have been building up a large trade in grape wine brandies, distilled under strict Customs supervision, and a reputation for an article of undoubted purity. This trade will be ruined in many directions if future legislation permits of a liquid, 75 per cent, of which may consist of cheap spirit produced from molasses, potatoes, grain, or maize, being foisted on the public as brandy. In this connexion it is satisfactory to notice, as a result of recent tests of spirits made in Perth by Mr. E. A. Mann, the Government Analyst of Western Australia, that all the Australian brandies examined, without exception, appeared to be of genuine character.
The importance of the brandy industry to the vine-growers of this State alone may be shown by the fact that in 1904 no less than 956,000 gallons of wine were distilled, and if this industry should be destroyed by reason of lax legislation, the value of 50,000 acres of vineyards would be seriously affected.
That is a very serious matter to these vinegrowers.
– Will the condition of affairs under these proposals be worse than it was previously ?
– Undoubtedly, it will ; for instead of brandy being wholly made from pure grape juice only one-fourth of it will be grape juice.
– I do not think so.
– The South Australian vignerons say so.
– Is the honorable member referring to the production, of brandy ?
– Yes. The communication continues -
My association is therefore of opinion that the term “ brandy “ should only be allowed to apply to spirit distilled exclusively from fermented grape juice, and that, iri view of the large and increasing proportion of brandy in use for medical purposes, its purity should be absolute, and still guaranteed by strict Government inspection.
In the case of all spirits imported into the Commonwealth under the name of “ brandy “ or “ Cognac,” they should be accompanied by a certificate of origin, which should guarantee that such spirit is genuine.
The council of this association desire most respectfully to draw your attention to the evidence of Mr. A. B. Holmes, of Hunter Valley Distillery, Mr. W. A. Wilkinson, of New South Wales, and also that of Senior Inspector E. P. Clarke, of South Australia, in regard to the importance of this matter.
That letter is signed by Mr. John Creswell, the secretary of the South Australian Vine-growers’ Association. The proposals now under consideration will undoubtedly promote the production of a less pure spirit than has hitherto been placed upon the Austraiian market. Thus, instead of being supplied with brandies made from pure grape wine spirit, we shall get brandies which contain a very large proportion of spirit which has been produced from molasses and potatoes. In other words, instead of obtaining an article which will be useful for medicinal purposes, the Government proposals will tend to destroy that portion of the industry which goes in for the distillation of pure brandy, and to promote the production of impure brandy, which .contains only one-fourth or 25 per cent, of pure grape wine spirit, and threefourths of spirit which has been distilled from molasses and potatoes and other materials. As a matter of fact, I have been informed that at the end of last week, Messrs. Joshua Brothers gave an order to the Colonial Sugar Refining Company of Sydney for 10,000 gallons of white spirit, which is to be used in the production of brandy. Messrs. Joshua Brothers’ “ Boomerang” brand of brandy consists of 25 per cent, of pure grape wine spirit, and 75 per cent, of spirit which is obtained from the Colonial Sugar Refining Company.
– According to the honorable member’s theory that is the more wholesome and purer article, inasmuch as it contains a bigger proportion, of silent spirit.
– The spirit which under this Act will be used in the manufacture of brandy is to be distilled no higher than 35 per cent, over-proof, which is teo low to allow of the effective extraction of fusel oil and other poisonous elements. I am speaking of spirit which is not distilled from the pure juice of the grape, and which is not necessary to the production of brandy.
– Seventy-five per cent, of the grape spirit is also silent.
– But the important point is that the spirit itself is distilled from the pure juice of the grape. The other spirit is obtained from molasses. The Queensland distilleries and the distillery of the Colonial Sugar Refining Company in New South Wales only produce spirit from molasses as far as I know. I do not profess to be an expert upon this subject, but the complaint is made bv vignerons, and by other persons who are engaged in the trade that the effect of these proposals will be to promote adulteration, and to discourage the production of pure grape spirit. At the present time Australian spirit has a good reputation upon the European market. The persons to whom I have referred complain that under the Government proposals they will Le. placed at a disadvantage in that market, and instead of enjoying a reputation for selling only good, pure grape spirit, they will be regarded as adulterators, and will be included in the same category as persons who are engaged in some of the Chicago meat industries. In regard to what constitutes brandy, I think I may be pardoned for quoting the opinion of Dr. Henry Macnaughton-Jones, the well-known obstetrician, of Harley-street, who gave evidence in a test case which was recently heard at the North London Court. He said -
He had heard of the artificial brandy, which was derived from sources other than the grape. He would not like to surmise what would be the result if a common or artificial brandy were administered- He would not prescribe one part of Cognac and three parts of silent spirit.
In reply to the magistrate, he said -
I would not call that brandy. I would not administer a brandy that would create a burning sensation, and probably set up irritation, and a tendency to reject the intended stimulant. Pure brandy has no such tendency. It has a stimulating and sustaining effect.
If we are to engage in the liquor-producing industry in Australia we should endeavour to insure that as pure an article as possible is supplied to the public. Personally I am opposed to the liquor industry absolutely, but until we can get rid of it altogether we should endeavour to insure the least amount of injury to health in connexion with it. But if legislation of this character will have the effect of destroying the purity of the articles which are being supplied by Australian distillers, it will be mischievous in a double sense. In the first place, it will tend to destroy one set of industries for the purpose of affording protection to a single manufacturer, and in the second it will tend to still further injure - if not to absolutely destroy - the health of a great number of persons in the community.
.- Nothing could be more opposed to the true spirit of parliamentary government than for a moribund Parliament - and unquestionably this Parliament may be so described - to be called upon to deal with1 motions relating to the Tariff that may have the effect of unsettling trade and disturbing our commercial relations with other countries, and which, in the circumstances, cannot receive that consideration to which they would otherwise be entitled.
No one will deny that this Parliament is at present on its last legs, and that the Government are, as it were, simply “ sparring for wind.” The position would not be so serious as it appears if it were not that the Budget has not yet been dealt with, and that until it has, there can be no attempt to close the session. At the fag end of its life of three years, this Parliament is asked to enter upon a discussion which, affecting as it does a mat>ter of vital principle, must give rise to serious divisions of opinion. It is’ true that the motion before us at present relates to a very small part of the Tariff, but we have been told that another motion dealing with other manufactures, and particularly with the manufacture of harvesters, is to be brought forward. I invite the Government to say, even at this late stage, whether or not it is in consonance with any sound maxim of parliamentary government that we should now be asked to deal with this question. I say unhesitatingly that it is not. It is wrong that a party consisting of only fifteen or sixteen members, dominating another party of twenty-six or twenty-seven - -
– Then Ave do dominate them ? .
– I have never said that the party in question dominates the Government. the TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN (Mr. Mauger). - The honorable member is departing from the question ‘ before the Chair, which does not relate to the domination of any one.
– If you will only listen, Mr. Chairman, you will know that I have not finished mv speech.
– Order ! The honorable member must not reflect on the Chair. The question under consideration does not relate to the domination of any one.
– I am sure, Mr. Chairman, that no one thought that my remark had any reference to the Chair.
– The honorable and learned member must not reflect on the Chair.
– I have already told you that I am not reflecting on the Chair. Your utterances are a reflection upon yourself.
– Order ! The honorable and learned member must withdraw that remark.
– If the remark is offensive, I. shall withdraw it, but I do not suppose that any other honorable member thought that it was offensive.
– The honorable and learned member must proceed with his speech.
– If I am not subjected 4o interruptions, I shall be likely to complete my speech much sooner than I should otherwise do. I am unable to continue while you are interrupting me. That respect to the Chair which we have to show-
– I must request the honorable and learned member to refrain from casting any reflections whatever, and to proceed with his speech.
– Now that this little digression is over, I wish to point out) that a question of this kind ought not to be dealt with when the result of an adverse vote to the Government for the time “being must be a dissolution, and more especially: when we know that the rolls are mot ready for an election, and that, therefore, in the event of a dissolution, Parliament, so to speak, would be hung up for the time being. We know that we ought not to be dealing with a matter of this sort at the present time. In proof of that statement, I would point out that the very Minister responsible for this motion is so concerned with the near approach of the next general election that he has gone away to his own electorate to argue matters with one who is likely to oppose him.
– He always runs away from his measures, leaving the Treasurer, or the Attorney-General in charge of them.
– I should not mind his running away if he did not leave the rest of his party so tied up that they have to carry out that which he desires.
– Is not the Minister of Trade and Customs here?
– He is not. The position appears to be all the more serious when we consider what will be the result of the carrying of this motion. There is only one linn of distillers, in Australia; Victoria is the only State in which the manufacture of spirits has been permitted. The Temperance Party elsewhere are sufficiently strong to put an end to such an industry, but whilst in Victoria they talk about temperance, we find grand masters of the order always ready to vote for any proposal which would increase the difference between the import and the Excise duties to such an extent as to allow of the manufacture of spirits in this State. I believe that even the honorable member for Melbourne Ports and others have taken a most active part in bringing about this big difference between’ the Excise and import duties.
– Does the honorable member think that is fair fighting?
– I am speaking not about the Acting Chairman, as such, but about the honorable member for Melbourne Ports.
– But when he is in the Chair.
– That is hitting below the belt.
– Can it be said that I am hitting below the belt when I point out what an honorable member does in the open - that he is endeavouring to build up a drink factory here? Surely when the votes cast by him in this House show that he is always in favour of trying to build up grog manufacturing shops - that his speeches when before temperance gatherings are not to be taken as indicative of his real feelings- he is not ashamed to have these facts stated. We have to consider, not the newspaper reports of speeches showing that he is in favour of temperance, but the votes recorded by him in this House - votes to put down temperance. The honorable member is not the only one who acts in this way. I dare say that we shall find two or three others who, as leaders of temperance leagues, strongly advocate temperance, casting votes that will have the effect of increasing the difference between the import and Excise duties to such an extent that grog manufactories must spring up. How is it that this industry did not spring up in New South Wales ? Simply and solely because care was taken by temperance men, who were true to their principles, not to permit this difference between the import duty and the Excise ; what these men advocated on the platform outside, they advocated in Parliament. In Victoria, however, there has been a very different state of affairs. However strongly certain men may speak in favour of temperance outside, they support this difference in duties within the walls of Parliament. The direct effect of such a policy, according to Mr. Joshua himself, would be to build up a great grog manufactory in Australia. The only reason the manufacture of drink is allowed im most countries is that it is not known very well how to get rid of it; but with Customs duties all deleterious liquor may, by proper supervision, be debarred. As I say, under the system proposed by the Government, the only result can be to build up a great grog manufactory.
– Spirits may pass the Customs, and be adulterated afterwards.
– If so, then the States laws come into force; and that is another argument against the Government proposal. I never was a believer in prohibition, because I believe that the secrecy and the breaking of the law which result are more injurious than would be the drink traffic under proper control. In that opinion I am fortified by those who have had experience of the prohibition States of America. At any rate, the results of prohibition have not been what was expected. If the proposals of the Government be adopted, we shall simply throw away£150,000 per annum in revenue, in order to establish a big industry in the manufacture of drink. It seems almost incredible that the Prime Minister, who has prated of temperance, should have the audacity to countenance such a proposal, more especially in view of the fact that only 5 per cent, of the cost of production is expended in wages. In every other industry, I suppose, the cost of wages in proportion to the whole is at least four or five times 5 per cent.
– What about the farmers who grow the grain? Do they not employ labour ?
– We all know that the grain on a couple of farms would supply enough starchy materials for the whole output of spirits. Alcohol can be made out of any starchy material.
– A much larger proportion of spirits is made out of molasses than out of malt.
– I quite understand that it is a matter of molasses rather than a matter of grain. Even so, we are spending between£500,000 and£600,000 in order to have white people engaged in the production of sugar, and, it follows, to encourage the production of grog from molasses. Then, again, I feel sure that the members of the Tariff Commission have not quite seen the full force of one of their recommendations. Unfortunately, it was not pointed out to them that it is possible to distil off every ether in spirits until there remains an absolute alcohol, which could not make any one drunk.
– Could it not? Does the honorable member say that absolute alcohol will not make any one drunk?
– I think that, on inquiry, the honorable member will find that it is the ethers in alcohol which have the rapid effect on the brain.
– Then pure alcohol must be a good teetotal drink.
– I would not say that alcohol is quite a teetotal drink.
– How are you to prove it ?
– I have not really looked into the matter lately; I am speaking from recollection of inquiries and reading many years ago.
– Tell the honorable member for Melbourne Ports that pure alcohol is not intoxicating !
– I have no doubt that the honorable member for Melbourne Ports, if he consumed a couple of ounces of alcohol, obtained from the chemist, would walk down the street quite sober. If, however, the honorable member were given an ounce of distilled spirit, he would tumble into the gutter. All I desire to point out is that, by repeated distillation, spirits may be brought to almost any degree of purity. When a man says that he can tell whether a spirit has been distilled from this or from that, in ninety-nine cases out of a hundred he has not the faintest idea of what he is talking about. As a matter of fact, no man can tell the difference between brandy and whisky except by the amount of different flavouring matters added to the spirit. I have already adverted to the serious injury that would accrue to the community if we were to go so far as to absolutely by our legislation bring into existence a big distillery shop in Australia. We should lose that control over the liquor which we have at the present time. It would certainlypass away from the hands of the Federal Parliament into the hands of the State Parliament. This Parliament would have nothing whatever to do with it the moment it got outside the bond. ‘ In addition to that, the effect of this proposal brought forward at the present time should be considered. There is practically only one firm of distillers in Australia, and that is Joshua Brothers. They have 600,000 gallons of spirits, and the effect of the proposal giving the local article a prefer- ence of 4s. a gallon will be to put £120,000 into their pockets. I ask whether any one believes that this Parliament should legislate in such a way as to do that.
– Is the honorable and learned member referring to brandy or to whisky ?
– All spirits.
– The difference is 3s., and not 4s.
– Very well; I will accept the right honorable gentleman’s correction, and, instead of £120,000, I will say roughly that the effect would be to put into the pockets of this firm a little over £100,000. That would be an uncommonly nice Christmas present for this Parliament to make to anybody. I believe that the Tariff Commission made a mistake when they suggested that for two years no spirits should go out of bond. As a matter of fact, processes are now adopted by which by repeated distillations the immaturity of the spirit and other faults can be entirely overcome. In addition to that, by forcing a certain amount of oxygen through the spirit it can be brought to the same condition as it would be in after being twenty years in butts. I was absolutely staggered when I heard the leader of the Labour Party express an opinion in favour of the proposal.
– It should apply only to the pot-still spirits.
– Certainly, but not to the patent-still spirits. If it were to be applied to pot-still spirits I could quite understand it.
– Even with a pot still all the impurities are not got rid of.
– Of course, it does not get rid of all the vegetable impurities which are not removed by distillation.
– The object in distilling high-class spirits is to keep the impurities in.
– Sometimes that is done to meet the case of people who pride themselves on their skill in detecting flavours, but their requirements can be met much more cheaply by the addition of essences.
– The honorable member is misled by the use of the word “impure,” which is used in the strictly chemical sense.
– The honorable member will find that it is also used in the physiological sense, because, in many cases, these ethers produce very serious effects upon the brain. That is a matter of common knowledge. I do not intend to inter into a disquisition on such a subject j ust now, but I am sure that if the honor- able member will look into the matter he will find that, by making age the testof purity, we are relying upon the chemistry of half a century ago instead of on the chemical knowledge of to-day. Nothing struck me with greater surprise than to find From the evidence submitted to the Commission that three or four men who undoubtedly knew the facts, and who, if asked the question, would have given the information, never voluntarily supplied the membersof the Commission with the information they had. As a matter of fact, they neglected to give the information because none of them were asked questions which would have elicited it. That is why that evidence was not before the Commission.
– If the honorable member says that, he has not read the evidence. Those points were brought out time and again.
– The Tariff Commission acted on the evidence before them, and could not act on evidence that was not before them. I do not say it offensively, but the members of the Commission did not pretend to be chemists, and to possess expert knowledge of ethyl alcohols.
– Mr. Wilkinson, the analyst, says -
So far as scientific knowledge goes, the substances removed in rectification of spirits are more injurious than alcohol itself.
– I make this point : that at the present time this Parliament is asked to assent toa measure which will placein the hands of one distiller a direct profit of from , £100,000 to , £125,000. That should be done, if done at all, not by men who will escape punishment because they are going to be rejected by their constituents, but by a House just returned from the people with a mandate to carry out certain things.. There is no escape from the fact that we are being asked to make Joshua Brothers a direct present of the amount stated. I estimated the amount at £120,000, being 600,000 gallons at 4s. per gallon. I have accepted the Treasurer’s correction that it should be estimated at 3s. per gallon, but I think that it might have been estimated at 4s. per gallon on the class of spirits which Joshua Brothers have. In any case, the amount would be over , £100,000, and it is a monstrous thing that such a proposal should be made. It is almost beyond the bounds of credibility that any Parliament could be. so far dead to a sense of what is due to it as to accept a measure brought forward,
The only member of the Government who seems to be responsible for it is the Minister who has run away from the discussion to-night. We have had the Prime. Minister getting up and showing how little he knows about it. He told us that the Minister in charge of it had gone away to consider it, but we find that he has actually gone away to discover how the vote of his electors are likely to go at the next election. We are in this dangerous position : that if the honorable gentleman finds out that the votes of the electors of his constituency are likely to be against him he will not care what he does in this House, how he pledges his constituents, or ‘how he brings the Ministry into disrepute and contempt. There is no doubt that they will be brought into disrepute and contempt if this proposal is carried through.
-Is the honorable and learned member referring to the Tariff
Commission or the Government?
– To the Government, who are bringing the measure forward. Are not the members of the Government responsible for their own acts? Do they think so little about what they do that they put forward this proposal in a light-hearted way? If this moribund House were to accept a proposal which would encourage the creation of a big manufacturing whisky distillery, .and so on, it would not be studying the interests of the community. When we find, moreover, that it would be done at a cost of about £150,000. to be extracted from the pockets of other citizens, the proposal is seen to be still more reprehensible. When we find, further, that it would have the effect of putting between ,£100,000 and ,£120,000 into the pockets of one set of individuals, then it becomes tinged with suspicion, and we cannot but see that it is the last step which the Parliament ought to take. I cast no reflection upon the big distiller who wishes to carry on his business in that way. If the Excise duty and the import dutywere exactly the same, I would have no more objection to him than 1 would to any other citizen carrying on the business. In fact, if I had to make a choice between the two, provided that the quality was the same, I should accept the local article as against the imported article, merely because my prejudice^ - I do not say my reason - happened to run in that way. If this Parliament adopted such a proposal then, so far from blaming the particular firm to whom it had made a large grant, I should wish that I had even one-half df the money. It must be perfectly understood that we make no reflection upon the members of this firm - I do not think I have ever seen them - in their private capacity as citizens. It is only when a man comes along and says, “ I am entitled to some help as against other citizens ‘ ‘ that I object. The moment he says to me, “ I ought to have some privileges which are not accorded to others,” I object. The moment he says, “ You have a right to guarantee me the interest on my money,” I say, “ If that is so, other citizens have a right to get guaranteed work. If you make any profit it shall be distributed amongst the other citizens.” Other citizens, if they have the power, have the right to take from him in exactly the same measure as he would take from’ th’em if he had the power. I so strongly object to any one citizen or class of citizens being fostered at the expense of any other class that I oppose this proposal in toto. There is another matter, of course, to be considered, and that is, that the high duty proposed would lead to a serious loss of revenue. If that loss were to bring about a diminution of drinking, I should perhaps not abject. But when the decrease of revenue would not bring about a decrease of drinking, but would establish grog factories, of which, as his votes seem to show, the honorable member for Melbourne Ports, seems to be so much in favour, it is an entirely reprehensible proposal. We ought not to be asked to depart from the principle which we established when we fixed thedifference between the import duty and theExcise dutv at such a rate that we practically said, “ We shall have all the grog that is sent into consumption under our control.”’ Of course, we lose control of the grog immediately the duty has been paid ; but there are a hundred-and-one different: ways of getting over that difficulty. When the grog is imported, the quantity in the cask can be gauged, and the amount to be paid can be estimated. But if it were distilled here we should never be able to estimate or discover what the leakage was. Moreover, it would be the means of training scores of men in the art of distilling, and it would encourage in other ways the growth of sly-grog shops throughout Australia. Because if the industry were profitable those trained men would want to start on their own account. I trust that the honorable member for Melbourne Ports now perceives the dangerous position in which he has placed himself; that he will recognise that this is not a matter to ‘jest over, and that if he really believes in those principles of temperance which he has so often advocated on the platform, he will take care by his vote not to set them aside. During the last four or five years we have had a fairly large difference between the import duty and the Excise duty - too targe a difference in my opinion - and no explanation can gloss over the fact that the proposal of the Government, if adopted, would increase the difference so greatly _ that it would practically bring into existence places for the manufacture of grog, and grog only. If its acceptance would be attended with that result, then it is a departure from previous legislation. “Under any circumstances - good or bad - the very last House to deal with a question of this sort where the direct result would be to put so much money into the hands of individuals, and to create a big grog shop is one which is in the last hours of its existence. If, in the last session of a Parliament, we were to pass such proposals we should never know where we were, and the danger would be that in every succeeding Parliament, just as happened in America, when men thought that they were not going to present themselves for re-election, or believed that they were likely to be defeated, they would vote for any measure, however dishonest it might be, which happened to be brought forward. The acceptance of the proposal before the Committee would, in, my opinion,’ seriously jeopardize the standing which this Parliament has obtained in the eyes of the community. It would be impossible to explain to the people - in fact, nobody could explain why it had agreed to put £100,000 into the pockets of one firm of distillers.
– That is not correct.
– I assure the honorable member that if he looks at the figures he will find that 500,000 gallons of spirits-
– How much of that was distilled before Federation, when the Excise duty was more?
– That I cannot say.
– That is very important.
– It_ is not, because I am only contending that the direct effect of the acceptance of this proposal would be to give an added value of between 3s. and 4s. per gallon.
– Not at all. There is a difference of is. now.
– If the honorable member looks at the figures he will see that he has made a mistake, and that the proposal, if accepted, would make a difference of between 3s. and 4s. per gallon.
– Or. what?
– On pretty nearly all the spirits in the distillery of -Joshua Brothers.
– It is 3s. on brandy.
Mir. CONROY.- How much brandy is there in the distillery ? Very little ! For the reason .1 have already given, I put it at £100,000; 4s. would have made it £125,000. Honorable members cannot get away from the fact that, if the Com*mittee passes the motions; which have been moved, the direct result will be a difference of £1.00,000 in the value of those spirits. I am glad to have had the opportunity to draw attention to the danger of doing anything like this. Honorable members may talk as they like, but will not the inference be drawn by sensible persons that these men were able to arrange with one or two of the managers of Parliament to have passed a measure which should not be passed? Their success will lead . to attempts at the subornation of honorable members. In my opinion, we should hesitate about passing these, proposals in the very last session of the Parliament, and, no doubt, only shortly before the political end of several of us. The Minister who brought them forward does not dare to defend them. He has run away from them, unable to meet the charges which have been levelled against him. The members of the Labour Party are in a very peculiar position. The more they examine these proposals the more reason must they find for suspicion. But, while they may attempt to justify them to their constituents, I shall not do likewise, because I do not believe that they are founded on justice, or that they will lead to the sobriety of the people.
– How does the honorable and learned member’s boss stand in regard to this question?
– I speak entirely for myself. No one, I presume, would attempt to exercise control over me in regard to this matter. Whatever my opinions may be, I am free to utter them. I can speak as I think. I am not a member of a caucus, to be forced to vote one way, although I think another.
– The action of the Minister in respect to this matter is extraordinary. The Minister of Trade and Customs, in moving a motion affecting the duty on harvesters, intimated that the Government had not made up its mind as to accepting, whether with or without amendment, the proposals of the Tariff Commission. That was a perfectly legitimate statement, seeing that he asked for the imposition of the duty recommended by a section of the Commission merely to protect the revenue. The Government did not commit itself to the proposal when brought forward, but promised further consideration, and, if necessary, amendment. But the honorable gentleman told us that, having given consideration to the recommendations of the Commission in regard to alterations of the spirit duties, the Ministry had decided to introduce proposals which differed from those of the Commission. He did not say, “Accept the Commission’s recommendation until we have had an opportunity to consider the matter.” He said, “ We have considered them and do not approve of them. We therefore ask you to accept different proposals, which we put forward.” This afternoon, however, he. told us that it is likely that further proposals, at any rate in regard to Excise, will be introduced, but that he wishes time to consider this question at greater length. We are entitled to something more than mere proposals. We should have some guarantee of the correctness and accuracy of the conclusions of the Ministry.
– We are entitled to some complete scheme, because one proposal hangs on another.
– Hear, hear.
– That is so. Ministers, if they differfrom the recommendation of a Commission on whose report they are acting should give their reasons.
– Practically we do not differ.
– I shall show directly that there is a very material difference between the proposals of the Government and the recommendations of the Commission. Ministers should lay before Parliament the reasons which have induced them to cast aside the recommendations of the Commission and 10 adopt other proposals.
– The reasons have been given, but honorable members will not take notice of them.
– I have not heard reasons given. It is not sufficient to say, “ This or that will happen, we think. There will be a loss of revenue, we think.” The Committee should be informed of the facts upon which their calculations are based.
– They have treated the matter as if it were merely one of arithmetic.
– They have not given the data on which their calculations are based
– An arithmetical sum may be correctly worked, but the deductions will be wrong if the premises are at fault.
– We have good advice
– The Ministry have good advice within call.
-We have used it.
– The Minister may have used it in deciding to introduce one set of proposals, but to-day he told us that in all probability he will substitute for them an altogether different set.
– Who has given this advice ?
– Some clerks in the office.
– The advice was given by officers who know more than some honorable members.
– The Minister told us that he had taken advice before submitting his proposals, and he professed to regard the advice as reliable. But why does he now tell us that he will probably alter the proposals founded upon that advice? I may say, in passing, that it is very objectionable to have to deal with first one Minister and then another in connexion with a. measure. I realize that sometimes a Minister cannot help being called away from the House, but the Minister of Customs is continuously away when, measures of which he is supposed to be in charge are before Parliament.
– He is away electioneering.
– The honorable member’s leader is to blame for that.
– My leader is not paid £2,000 per annum to look after the public business.
– The Minister of Trade and Customs introduces measures, and when the most difficult and delicate stage is reached, he suddenly disappears. In connexion with three or four measures this session, we have had to deal first with one Minister and then with another.
Mr.McCay. - In this case, he has left the matter with some one who understands it.
– That may be. I hope that the Treasurer will demonstrate it. Then, again, it is rather extraordinary that we should be asked to delay our decision until the Minister of Trade and Customs has had time to consider certain matters which are likely to cause him to alter his opinion, and that then the Minister should go right away, and apparently abandon all consideration of the question. With regard’ to distillation generally, I am rather in favour of the policy of New Zealand, which has abandoned local distillation. It was recognised that the amount of labour employed in the industry was exceedingly small, and that not one penny more was paid for agricultural produce in consequence of local distillers carrying on business. The prices of products such as wheat and barley were ruled by the rates prevailing in outside markets, which were equivalent to those offered for grain for local distillation purposes. . It was realized further, that imported spirits were the source of such a large amount of revenue that it was not desirable to interfere with them, and it was also felt that the extra revenue that might be obtained from the duties on imported spirits, were there no distillation, could be applied in such a manner as to confer greater advantage upon the community than would be derived from the small amount of employment that might be afforded by the distilling industry. I regard the matter in very much the same light, but Ido not propose to go deeply into it now, because I recognise that we are dealing with a proposal to increase the import duties, and that the question to which I have been referring is connected more directly with the Excise duties. The Minister of Trade and Customs claimed that if the import duties were increased by1s. per gallon, no loss of revenue would result.. He pointed out that under his present proposals - we do not know what they will be eventually - there will be the same difference between the Excise and import duties as under the proposals of the Commission.
– The Government do not themselves know what shape the proposals will eventually take ; they wish to obtain a few hints as to what honorable members desire.
– It looks very much like that. The Government are, in effect, saying to honorable members, “ Gentlemen, tell usyour opinions, and we shall decide when we have ascertained the feeling of the majority.” The Minister of Trade and Customs maintains that the proposed increased import duties would not result in any reduction of the revenue. I would point out, however, that if theincr eased import duty lead to a larger consumption of locally manufactured spirit, there must be a loss of revenue. Although, under the Minister’s proposal, the same proportion is preserved between import and Excise duties as under the recommendation of the Tariff Commission, the latter stops short at the present level, so far as the import duties are concerned. Apparently, the Commission considered that if they increased the duties upon imported spirits, a reduction of the revenue would ensue. The Minister’s conclusion cannot be supported,because the increase of the import duties to 15s.per gallon may so reduce the profit of those who sell spirits, and who say that they are now very heavily handicapped, and have gone as far as they can, that there, will be a far heavier run upon locally produced spirit. Consequently, the revenue might be much more reduced underthe Minister’s proposal than under that of the Commission. I admit that it is difficult to arrive at a conclusion in this connexion; but I would point out that the right honorable member for Balaclava, who was one of the most reliable Treasurers that Victoria ever had, did not, after his experience of the 15s. per gallon duty that was levied in Victoria, share the opinion of the Minister of Trade and Customs. Although the revenue did not increase when the duty was reduced to 12s., it maintained about the same level.
– The honorable member must recollect that the times were very had.
– That may have had something to do with the result. I have looked at the figures, and I find that, although under the 12s. per gallon duty the revenue did not increase, there must have been a larger consumption of imported spirits, because the revenue was maintained at practically the same level.
– The Victorian duties were increased by 25 per cent. - from 12 per cent, to 15 per cent.
– Then the duties were reduced from 15s. to 12s., and I am speaking of the period that followed the reduction. Although the figures in. my’ possession do not show that a much larger revenue was produced, by the duty of 12s. per gallon, they do show that there must have been a larger consumption of imported spirits, otherwise the 12s. per gallon duty could not have produced practically the same amount of revenue as was collected under the 15s. per gallon rate.
– We propose an increase of only 7 per cent.
– It is not the increased consumption that we have to consider, but how far the Government can absorb the profit to an extent which can be withstood by those engaged in the trade. If it be absorbed we may be sure that they will not cease to sell spirit, but that they will be forced to sell a cheaper article. That would have the effect of reducing the revenue, even if Excise were paid upon it. The Barton Government, of which several members of the present Ministry were members, deliberately resisted a proposal to increase ‘ the duty upon imported spirits to 15s. per gallon. The reason which they urged for their action, was that such a high duty must lead to a reduced consumption of imported spirits, and consequently to loss of revenue. The present Government have abandoned the position which was taken up by a previous Administration., of which a number of Ministers were members. Now, I come to the Tariff Commission. I feel very disinclined to dissent from the decision of that body, which has taken a vast amount of evidence all over Australia, and which has given the matter the fullest and most careful consideration. In this connexion we must recollect that the Commission was composed of members of opposite fiscal views, . and, seeing that they have arrived at a unanimous decision, I am reluctant to disturb their recommendations. I recognise that upon that Commission weremembers who would give full attention to the possible financial effect of their recommendations, as well as to other considerations. I realize also that they were not of one way of thinking fiscally, and consequently were not all biassed in one direction. It is evident from their reports, too, that they had the health and well-being of the community in mind when they were framing their recommendations. Under these circumstances - unlessthe Minister can show that the Commission was absolutely wrong, and that he is right.I am very reluctant to depart from its finding.
– The members of the Commission were not bound to take into consideration . the effect of their recommendations upon the revenue.
– I am perfectly sure that they did take that matter into consideration.
– It ought to have been included in their commission, but it was not.
– Does the Treasurer mean to tell me that sensible members of this House who were appointed to the Tariff Commission simply dealt with the matter as children would deal with, it; and not as experienced members of Parliament? Does he mean to imply that they said, “ We will do this and that,” without considering the effect of their recommendations upon the revenue?
– I do not think that it was any part of their duty to consider it.
– If the honorable member had been appointed to a Commission1 of that character, would he -when it was dealing with matters affecting the finances of the States and the Commonwealth - have absolutely failed to take into consideration the effect of its recommendations upon the revenue?
– I think that I should always have been looking to that, but I say that the matter was not delegated to the members of the Commission.
– Would not the honorable member himself have taken it into consideration?
– I think that I would.
– Certainly he would. I give the same credit to those honorable members of this Committee who were members of the Tariff Commission. Other members of that body might not have deemed it necessary to give the. matter the same amount of consideration, but I am perfectly certain that those who have to deal with our Estimates and with our Ways and Means made no recommendation without first considering what would be its effect upon the revenue. The honorable and learned member for Bendigo has shown by his speech to-day, that that aspect of the question was considered. I should now like to say a few words in reference to the amendment of the honorable member for Bland regarding the Customs duties upon imported spirits. I fear that he submitted his amendment with too little consideration, and that if it be enforced at once a most serious position will arise. He practically proposes that no spirits shall be admitted into the Commonwealth unless they have been matured in wood for two years. It is really ridiculous to spring a surprise of that sort upon a trade which Parliament has had under its control for years. If the amendment were adopted, what would happen? A quantity of spirits are now in bond - not in wood, but in bottle. A large quantity are upon the sea in bottle, and a large quantity have been ordered in bottle. How can these spirits be matured in wood for two years? The Prime Minister, I think, will recognise the difficulty to which I refer. If he sees any difference between my reading of the amendment and his own, he might inform me of it. My reading of the proposal of the honorable member for Bland is that spirits must be matured in wood for two years before they are permitted to pay the import duty. How can such a proposal be applied to bottled spirit which is in bond, or- upon the sea, or which has already been ordered ?
– That is merely a. temporary difficulty. It will only continue for two years.
– I am pointing out that the amendment of the honorable member for Bland, ,if enforced immediately, would create most serious anomalies, and bring about a most improper state of things.
– I called attention to that matter when I addressed the Committee. I am now asking the honorable member if he can foresee any difficulty after the period of two years has elapsed?
– I do not see any difficulty in giving effect to the proposal then.
– Or if it is necessary?
– Or necessary. L shall refer to that in regard to rectified spirits at a later stage. In the absence of proper notice, the proposal of the honorable member for Bland would practically lead to the confiscation of the spirits to which I have referred. In reply to an interjection which I made whilst the honorable member was speaking, he stated that the spirits to which I have alluded could be kept in bond for two years. Has the honorable member any idea of the cost of keeping anything, and especially volatile articles such as spirits - which diminish by evaporation - in bond for two years? The cost would be so exceedingly heavy as to amount practically to the confiscation of a large proportion of the ‘goods from- people who had done no wrong, but who, on the contrary, had been importing their spirits for years under a different Government system, and surely ought to receive due notice before any alteration in that system is made.
– Why should they any more than the implement manufacturers, receive notice of an increase of duty ?
– I am referring only to notice of the departure from what has hitherto been the practice. An attempt is to be made to cause importers to do that which is impossible, by providing that spirits shall have been matured in wood for two years before duty is paid upon them. Spirits might come out in cases and might have been matured for four or five years, but no satisfactory evidence of that could be given to the Department, and consequently a great deal of their value would be forfeited.
– There would be no intention to do that.
– The honorable member for Bland replied, in answer to an interjection, that the spirits could be kept in wood in bond for two years.
– Rubbish ! Did the honorable member mean to say that they should be taken out of the bottles and put into wood?
– I do not know. But as, I have said, the keeping of spirits in bond for two years would be a very costly proceeding, and, before we required that to be done, we should give due notice to those Concerned. Another reason why we should be very careful in adopting this proposal, both in regard to spirits that are the subject of import and of Excise duties, is that if it were at once rigidly inforced, the revenue would go down very rapidly, since there would not be sufficient spirit available which could be shown to have been matured in wood two years.
– there is such spirit.
– I do not know of any quantity.
– There are 600,000 gallons.
– What are 600,000 gallons as compared with our annual consumption.
– But the figures I have mentioned relate to only one firm.
– That may be, but. the other spirit to which reference has been made is not that which is generally consumed.
– A chemical would be used to produce on the spirit the same effect as that which maturing in bond for two years would have.
– But the Minister would not allow such a chemical to be used. We need to look at this proposal very carefully, and to consider whence we should obtain the stock necessary to supply the wants of the community. If proof were at once required that all spirit, whether Australian or imported, had been in wood for two years, that proof would not be forthcoming.
– Does the honorable member think that notice ought to be given of the proposed two years’ limitation?
– If the change is made, notice ought to be given so as to avoid- complications which would be improperly injurious to those who have been engaged in this business for some years
– I think it was intended by the Commission that notice should be given.
– I am referring to the proposal of the honorable member for Bland, that the motion should be amended by the insertion of a provision that spirits shall have been in wood for two years before duty is paid.
– I understand that he made that proposal because the Government were not prepared with a definite proposition.
– We are awaiting definite proposals by the Government.
– In what respect?
– In regard to both the import and Excise duties. Whatever may be the intentions of the honorable member for Bland, his amendment, iri the bald form in which it is proposed, would practically be wrongfully injurious to a large number of traders. It would almost be impossible to carry it out without largely stopping the supply of spirits, and consequently reducing, the revenue to a very serious extent.
– Provided that notice were given, the proposal would be no innovation from the stand-point of a Customs Department.
– Quite so. There is another point worthy of consideration. I do not profess to know whether rectified spirit is more wholesome than is a spirit containing ethers ; but it has been stated by scientific men of high standing that the former, whether it be worse or better than that produced from the potstill, does not improve by maturing.
– That, in fact, it does not mature.’
– That is so. I saw a communication addressed to the honorable and learned member for Angas, which he has, perhaps, put before the Committee, and in which it is stated that rectified spirit actually deteriorates bybeing kept. I know nothing as to the correctness of that statement ; but, according to high scientific authorities, a rectified spirit cannot be further matured. ‘ On the other hand, it is said that the maturing of spirit containing ethers is necessary, since it would be injurious if used soon after leaving the pot-still.
– In commerce there is no absolutely rectified spirit. It is an exceedingly difficult matter even for chemists to get an absolutely rectified spirit.
– I arn not putting any dogmas before the Committee.
– The so-called rectified spirit is only partially rectified.
– Otherwise there would be no flavour.
– Flavours are often introduced to satisfy the wants of the man who desires brandy or whisky. High scientific authorities say that, whether the effect of rectified spirit, as compared with pot-still spirit, be ill or good, it does not improve by maturing.
– -Practical experience contradicts that.
– I cannot say anything in regard to that point, but Ministers, who have the departmental experts to advise them, should consider the question, and decide whether each of these spirits should be treated in the same way. I have already said that I prefer the duty of 14s. proposed by the Tariff Commission to the duty of 15 s. proposed by the Ministry. I have that preference largely because I am informed, by the best authorities I can consult - including the honorable member for Balaclava, some members of the Barton Ministry who refused to raise the duty when asked to do so, and also the Tariff Commission - that a duty of 14s. is more favorable as regards revenue than 15s., and will lead to a less use of, I shall not say inferior spirit, but, at any rate, of the cheaper spirit, which has not realized the same revenue as has the imported article.
.- I cannot help feeling that the Government appear to be treating this business in a somewhat slip-shod manner. When we are dealing with Tariff reform, surely we are entitled to the presence of the Minister of Trade and Customs, if it is at all possible for him to be here. The difficulty is that, in the absence of the Minister for Trade and Customs, we are not able to get def nite proposals from the Government.
– We are discussing a definite proposal now.
– That may be so, but I am not quite sure about it, so far as concerns anything I have heard this afternoon from the Government. Are we to take it that this duty of 15s. is a definite proposal ?
– That clears away a difficulty ; but I think that we are entitled to have some data as to what the effect such a duty may have on the revenue. We should not be left to mere guess-work.
– J can give the honorable member the information.
– And I think we ought to have it. What is the use of our having an abstract discussion ? .
– We are now discussing the amendment df the honorable member for Bland.
– We are discussing the whole question.
– The amendment of the honorable member for Bland is scarcely being discussed at all ; the main discussion is on the question of whether there should be an increase of the duty from 14s. to 15s.
– But the amendment of the honorable member for Bland comes first.
– The Prime Minister must admit that the amendment of the honorable member for Bland has not been discussed, but that, on the contrary, there has been a general discussion.
– The question was about to be put when the honorable member for Bland submitted his amendment.
– There is something in that. I think the honorable member for Bland may withdraw his amendment.
– Before we are asked to vote we ought to have some definite information.
– Certainly, and I am waiting to give it; but we have to vote on the other question first.
– I may point out that when proposals of this nature are submitted in Committee of Ways and Means, the usual custom is to have a general discussion on the first item, and afterwards to deal with special items. That custom has been followed ; but the amendment by the’ honorable member for Bland was submitted just when the question was about to be put.
– That terminated the general discussion.
– Not necessarily, because the amendment is so wrapped up with’ the general question.’
– All the proposals are linked together. ‘
– That is exactly the position which, as I point out, the Committee are in, namely, that we are discussing the general question on the first item. But the fact that we are discussing the question of whether the duty shall be 14s. or 15s. does not remove from the Government the obligation to lay before us information to enable us to realize what the result of a certain duty may be.
– The Government have not yet reached finality about their own proposals.
– As to the Excise, we cannot have a general discussion until the Government come to some decision.
– The whole scheme of duties hangs together.
– No doubt. .
– If the Excise duties are changed, the Government will have to change the figures they present to us now.
– There must be some data to enable us to come to a decision. In South Australia, for instance, until the uniform Tariff, the duty on spirits was 15s., and since then, for the last four or five years, it has been 14s.
– What was the Excise?
– The Customs duty was 15s., and the Excise duty of 9s. 4d., a difference of 5s. 8d.
– Was there much revenue in South Australia from imported spirits ?
– I cannot say offhand what was the effect of lowering the duty and raising the Excise in South Australia. That is one of the matters in regard to which the Government should furnish information.
– The result was to stop the manufacture of whisky.
– But it seems that in the wine industry there has been a considerable increase. Whether that is due to the alteration of duties, is a matter of opinion; and I do not feel disposed to enter into a general discussion until we have some data before us, and the Government submit definite proposals.
– We are unwittingly, it appears to me, drifting into a complex position. We were discussing, first of all, the general proposal to impose a duty of 15s. instead of a duty of 14s. Apparently, that discussion was closed, for the question was about to be put when the honorable member for Bland, assuming the general discussion to have terminated, or, at all events, in the exercise of his undoubted right, submitted his amendment. That amendment must be disposed of before we can reach the question whetheror not a duty of 15s. shall be imposed. I think it will be admitted that the question whether the duty shall be 14s. or 15 s. or 13s. has nothing to do with this proposal as to the time which shall be allowed for the maturing of imported spirits, in order that the same restrictions may be imposed in this connexion as are intended by the Tariff Commission, and by the Government to apply to spirit manufactured in Australia.
– The Chairman has allowed a general discussion.
– And, perhaps, quite rightly. But, at the same time, when I am asked to enter into the question of revenue, while we are confronted with the amendment of the honorable member for Bland, it appears to me that we shall only increase rather than diminish the confusion. We should not turn to the revenue phase before we have disposed of that amendment.
– There is only one resolution before us.
– But there is an amendment.
– That amendment need not diminish the discussion in any way.
– It ought to.
– Certainly not.
– When I use the word “ ought “ I mean if we adopt the best and quickest method of transacting our business.
– The Prime Minister told us that one part of the discussion was closing before the amendment was proposed.
– And so it was ; then we came on this new line of rails. I ask the Committee to deal with the amendment of the honorable member for Bland at once. If honorable members turn to the report of the Tariff Commission they will find that the eighth recommendation is as follows : -
That no spirits imported into the Commonwealth shall be permitted to go into human consumption within two years from the date of their first shipment, unless the Minister of Trade and Customs be satisfied that a period of two years has elapsed from the date of distillation of the same.
That is the recommendation of the Tariff Commission, and if the honorable member for Bland can see his way to put his amendment in that form, which is the form proposed to be adopted in the Bill, T shall be perfectly prepared to accept it here. We could then dispose of this question. I admit that it would be necessary to follow that up with some interim proposal to cover spirit already shipped. I have had some consultation with the officers of the Department, but in the meantime, in order that we may deal with one thing at a time, if the honorable member for Bland accepts for his amendment the form suggested by the Tariff Commission, we can dispose of it,, get face to face with the vital question as to whether the duty should be 15s. or 14s., and concentrate our attention upon that. That will meet the wishes of the honorable member for Boothby that we should deal with one point at a time, especially as the current discussion is quite foreign to the question of revenue or the amount of duty to be imposed.
– So long as we know what we are dealing with,.
– Just so. I understand that the honorable member for Bland consents to move his amendment in the form suggested ?
– Yes, I have no objection to do that.
– That will not deal with the difficulty.
– Tt will deal with one of the difficulties, and if we get one out of the way we shall have less to deal with.
– It will not overcome the .whole of one of the difficulties raised. There is still the question of spirits on order or on. the water to be considered.
– The officers propose that we should make provision for that in the Customs Bill which has already been drafted.
– Why touch the matter here at all if it can be dealt with in the Bill ? I should think that that is the proper place in which to deal with it.
– If it is wrong to poison people at all, why should- we poison them to-day.
– That is not the question. The honorable member’s proposal will do nothing to rid them of the poison. The question is whether a practice which has continued now for some years shall continue until due notice is given to those interested.
– In other words, we should let them bring in as much as they like for another year or two.
– Surely it is a matter of fair play.
– Does the honorable member propose to do the same with regard to the Excise?
– There is no analogy between the two cases.
– They could keep it in bond here.
– When we “are imposing new, and in some respects severe, conditions, the least we can do is to give those interested due notice. I suppose that nobody desires to deal harshly with people. After we have made their occupation legitimate no one wishes i.o abruptly deprive them of anything they are already in the enjoyment of, except in a fair and proper way. The honorable member for Bland had better leave this matter to be dealt with in the Bill to which reference has been made. I should like again to appeal to the Prime Minister to allow the whole question to stand over until to-morrow, when I understand he has in contemplation the bringing down of some amending proposal.
– If there are any to be brought down then?
– The Minister of Trade and Customs’ indicated to-day very clearly that there would be some amendments.
– There is only one of importance, affecting the Excise ; the other is, I think, a verbal amendment.
– The amendment suggested with respect to the relation of the blended article to the pure article is, I should think, an amendment of prime significance.
– Let us dispose of the amendment of the honorable member for Bland, ‘ as amended, and then we can adjourn. 3
– I do not object to that.
.- Assuming that we do carry some amendment on the lines suggested by the honorable member for Bland, of course it is right that it should only be made operative after period of two years to get over the difficulty referred to by the honorable member for North Sydney, and also to the difficulty we will have to face in connexion with blended brandy and whisky. If we adopt this amendment as affecting imports, we must retain it also as regards the Excise provisions, which prescribe, not only that pot-still, but rectified, spirit must be matured for two years. Is it clear .that we should make that provision in regard to rectified spirit at all? If the amendment pf the honorable member for Bland be carried, it will apply, not only to pot-still whisky or brandy, which requires maturation in order to eliminate certain volatile oils”, which in the pot-still process pass over into the distillate, but it will also apply to rectified spirit, the rectification of which is supposed to get rid of those oils, so far as they can be got rid of, for commercial purposes, and to secure a silent spirit, which, of course, is never really secured in the sense in which it is regarded by chemists. The morning after these resolutions were introduced, it was pointed out to me that there was not in all Australia a rectified spirit two years old.
– The honorable and learned member is not dealing with the amendment now.
– I am.
– As referring to imports?
– The honorable member for Bland is not withdrawing his amendment, but is amending it, so that its application will be postponed for two years. I understand that that is the amendment which is now before the Chair.
– I understand that the amendment is tQ be withdrawn on the promise of the Prime Minister to deal with it in a Bill under which its application will be postponed for, a period of two years.
– No. The proposal now is to adopt recommendation No. 8 of the Tariff Commission, under which no spirit imported is to be permitted to go into consumption for two years from the date of the first shipment, unless the Minister is satisfied that two years have elapsed from the date of distillation.
– The question now before the Committee is : That after the word “proof,” the words “matured by storage in wood for a period of not less than two years “ be inserted.
– It is with that amendment I am dealing, and at the same time with the suggestion that it should be amended in a certain direction to secure the application of that principle after a period of two years has elapsed. The effect of the amendment will be that before a spirit is put on the market for consumption, whether it be pot-still spirit or a blend of whisky, brandy, gin, or anything else, it must have matured for two years. The application of the principle is not to come into effect until after a period of two years has elapsed, and whether from the date of shipment, or the passing of the resolutions does not matter. A strong opinion has been expressed to me, not only by letter, but also personally by men who seem to know their business, to the effect that it is not necessary to mature anything except the 25 per cent, element, and that rectified spirit does not improve, and in some cases really deteriorates, by keeping. I am informed that gin actually deteriorates by being ( kept in wood, because it absorbs some of the tanic acid from the wood, and is also discoloured by it. For that reason, in South Australia they do not keep gin iri wood, but in some sort of metal tanks. I have no wish to trespass on the time of honorable members by 1 reading a letter on this point from a man who can speak with authority, seeing that he has been engaged in the distillation of brandy, whisky, and liqueurs for many years, and whose testimony is borne out by Excise officers. I have tested this matter, not merely bv the information of persons who might seem to be interested, but of officials connected with the Government, and thev bear out what is stated by my correspondent. I shall read a. short extract from the letter, as it puts the matter very clearly.
– That relates to the Excise.
– To the provision in the Excise as regards maturing for two years. and on the point that that provision should apply only to pot-still spirits.
– We are not on that point.
– I beg the Prime Minister’s pardon. As a complement of what we are proposing to do now we must retain the provision already in the Excise portion.
– We are not bound to retain it as applied to rectified spirit if weare satisfied as to the wisdom of the opinion the honorable and learned member is about to quote.
– I propose to quote an extract which bears upon this particular matter. I understand that the honorable member forBland very properly desired that whatever provision we make regarding Excise should be imposed upon the importation of spirit. The writer of this letter says -
The present Tariff regulations prescribe that such rectified spirit shall be at least two years old, but as there is no spirit of such age obtainable in the Commonwealth, and as very few distillers have blended more than six months ahead, it can be seen at once that the sale of pure South Australian grape brandy has been stopped.
The object of ageing spirits has a clear and distinct reason. When spirits are distilled on the pot still from either wine or malt, various volatile oils are passed over into the distillate”. During the period of maturation in wood these oils are gradually oxidized and converted into fragrant ethers. The spirituous portion itself, we desire to emphasize, does not materially change during that period. Attempts have been made at various times to place on the market a pure pot still brandy, but owing to the excessive quantity of ethers it is distinctly unpalatable, and has had to be withdrawn. In order to make the flavour of the brandy more harmonious it is blended with certain proportions of pure rectified grape spirit in the manner already indicated.
It is an indisputable scientific fact that a highly rectified grape spirit does not change or alter its chemical properties by ageing, and we believe we are correct in saying that it has not been deemed necessary by the authorities of other countries to make this proviso in their regulations.
The South Australian distillers are unanimous in their opinion that pot still spirit should be aged in wood for a period of two years before entering into consumption, but they are also strongly of opinion that no possible benefit could be derived from applying this proviso to rectified spirit.
We have ourselves been manufacturers of liqueurs and bitters for over fifty years, and as a matter of fact Seppeltsfield has been built up on the foundations laid down by these two lines. .
Pure rectified grape spirit enters very largely into their manufacture, and the two years’ proviso has, we are afraid, also effectively stopped this branch of industry.
Under the old tariff we were able to clear our spirit at11s. per proof gallon, but unless such spirit is now two years old it will have to pay a duty of 40s. per proof gallon, which of course is out of the question, more so as similar imported goods will be able to enter at 15s. per proof gallon, and put the local product out of the market.
Pure neutral rectified spirit is a regular article of commerce. It is largely used by druggists, and has moreover a widespread application. To store such spirit for a period of two years in wood completely discolours it, and as a considerable quantity of tannic acid is absorbed it becomes useless for such purposes.
That is the effect of the letter, and it is written by a man who ought to speak with authority on this question.
– Who is the writer ?
- Mr. Seppelt, who, I suppose, has one of the best distilleries in the Commonwealth.
– Why did he not give evidence?
– He did not. give evidence.
– The Commission professed to act upon a letter from his firm, which is an appendix to the evidence.
– Yes, a letter, but not evidence.
– The letter was misunderstood and misapplied by the Commission. We are told by some honorable members that we must “ bolt “ the recommendations of the Tariff Commission without examination. What are we here for except to apply our best judgment to the recommendations ? If we are to.” bolt “ them whole, we had better go home.
– Notwithstanding what the honorable member for Angas has said about some honorable memberswishing the Committee to “ bolt “ the recommendations of the Tariff Commission whole, I think it is to be deplored that it has allowed itself to drift into the present desultory discussion. I do not think that honorable members fully realize where we are. We have just listened to a most complete treatise on the chemistry of distillation, and the honorable member who has made that contribution seems to me to have lost sight of the fact that to-night the Committee is taking a step which may aim a serious blow at Royal Commissions in the future. Honorable members are talking of the Tariff Commission as if it were simply a Select Committee of the House, forgetful of the fact that the question which is being discussed, and into which I do not intend to enter, because I am not competent to discuss its merits, is really one on which the Commission has been sitting for over fifteen months. Why did the House require this and other questions to be referred, not to a Select Committee, but to a Commission composed of men who were supposed to have time and inclination to make adeep study of the questions involved, in the light of an enormous mass of evidence which was to be brought forward?
– The same thing applies to the Tobacco Monopoly Commission.
– Well, I should apply the same answer. The members of the Tariff Commission sat for over fifteen months; they sacrificed .their personal convenience, and listened to volumes of evidence from all sides; and the Committee appears to attach so little importance to the judicial aspect of their report that it is now proceeding to drift into a debate on one of the very questions which the Commission has settled. And on what testimony is it being asked to upset those conclusions ? On the one-sided testimony of a number of discontented people who had their chance of submitting all the facts, which, if submitted, were duly considered. The Minister puts the Committee in a most humiliating position. When he came forward, what did he say ? With very little ceremony - which I think should have received some notice from the Prime Minister - he moved a motion which involved a stultification of the conclusions at which the Commission had arrived. He actually said that his proposals were at the present time in an undecided form, but he would like the Committee to “thresh them out.” For what reason? Presumably that he might ascertain what it thought before he put his proposal into a definite form.
– Not at all.
– The honorable member must be absolutely wanting in knowledge of dignity and the rules of Parliament to say such a thing. « What is a Royal Commission for ?
– Dignity !
– I am not going to discuss the matter with, the honorable member. Let him make a speech after I have done.
– Do not talk of dignity, then.
– What is a Royal Commission for?
– Dignity !
– I am not dealing with honorable members with as little knowledge of the subject as the honorable member on my left.
– We are talking on a practical subject, not dignity.
– Order !
– We are dealing with a dignified body, consisting of eight men who were specially appointed by the Crown from both parties, because they were supposed to be capable and impartial.
– They are seldom here to show their capability.
– I ask your protection, sir, because the honorable member’s voice is more like a fog horn, and makes it impossible for me to proceed.
– And the honorable member’s is like a steam whistle.
– Order ! I have already called the honorable member to order, and he ought to respect the direction of the Chair.
– I do not hope to impress the honorable member ; I address myself to those who have had political experience, and recognise with me the great importance of this situation. I am much disappointed that the Prime Minister has shown so little appreciation of the seriousness of the situation as to fail to make a statement of his reasons for departing from the traditions and practices of Parliaments. I do not say that if a Royal Com-“ mission makes a demonstrable blunder, obvious to all, its recommendation should be accepted, but when a Royal Commission has been appointed by the Crown to examine difficult and complex questions, to take evidence on all sides, on oath, and bring up an impartial finding, its conclusions should not be treated in the haphazard and cavalier way in which the Minister for Trade and Customs has dealt with the conclusions of the Tariff Commission. He had not a resolution ready to place before the Committee, and, when it was pointed out to him that we were being called upon to debate something which had not been put into the form of a definite issue, he said, “Well, I should like honorable members to thresh the matter out,” presumably to give him an inkling as to the opinions of the majority, so that he may act accordingly, and so that the Government may float with the tide, instead, possibly, of struggling against it. I do not hesitate to say that if I were in the position of the honorable and learned member for Bendigo as Chairman of the Royal Commission, I should throw up my commission, because of , the contempt with which he and his colleagues have been treated by the Government. What evidence has the Minister resorted to to show that the Commission misunderstood this question ? I received today, as I suppose every other honorable member did, a copy of a letter addressed to the Minister of Trade and Customs by the South Australian Wine Growers’” Association, beginning -
In response to your invitation for suggestions from those interested in respect to the conclusions of the Royal Commission.
Those words reveal the existence of a highly reprehensible state of things. After a Royal Commission appointed by the Crown has fully inquired into this subject, the Minister of Trade and Customs - as late as the 24th July last - invited interested persons to criticise its findings.
– Why should he not do so?
– Surely, the honorable member, if he had been Prime Minister, would not have allowed his Minister of Trade and Customs to invite interested persons to put before the Ministry ex -parte statements.
– Can we have too much light on this subject?
– We can have it at the wrong time. The Commission has dealt judicially with an immense mass of evidence given on oath, and it is not only unfair, but an insult, to the Commission to put aside their conclusions because of ex parte and unsworn statements of persons who probably gave evidence which was considered of less weight than evidence in support of a contrary view. In its far-reaching consequences the want of appreciation of the dignity of the Commission shown by the Prime Minister and the Government mav be, a verv serious matter. If I, or any other honorable member, were now asked to sit upon a Commission, what would be the obvious answer? Would it not be said, “ I might give mv time, and sacrifice my personal interests, for fifteen months, or more, and, having arrived at sound judicial conclusions in regard to an immense body of evidence, might then find that a Minister bad invited interested parties, who were disappointed with the findings of the Commission, to send in objections, and on them would be ready to set aside the Commission’s recommendations “ ?
– That is what we thought in regard to the Shipping Commission.
– There was a great difference qf opinion among the members of the Shipping Commission in regard to almost every point. But the Government wish us to set aside the unanimous recommendations of the Tariff Commis sioners, who, protectionists and free-traders alike, arrived at certain conclusions.
– Are we to assume that the Commissioners were infallible?
– The honorable and learned member practically said so.
– I have not said ,. so, nor is that inference to be drawn from v any sentence I have uttered. What I say is,that it would be impossible for honorable members to deal with, in a night or in a week, the evidence which the Commission took on oath from persons of all shades of opinion, and in regard to which they made unanimous recommendations. The Minister proposes to set aside, these recommendations because of the statement of persons who are admittedly interested, and who gave evidence before the Commission. It is as if, after the parties had stated their respective cases on oath in a Court of law, and the jury had given its verdict, one of them had said to the Judge, “ I want you to hear me again, with a view to upset the verdict, because I am dissatisfied with it.” I hope that the members of the Commission will take the step which. I have suggested, so that the country may realize the seriousness of what is being done. If I were one of them, I should throw up my commission at once, and not file another report. If the Government had a true sense of the constitutional importance of the situation it would refuse to allow the Minister of Trade and Customs to practically tout for objections from interested parties against the conclusions of the Commission, and would accept the recommendations of the body which they were practically the means of appointing, and which has made practically a judicial examination of the whole subject.
.- The advice offered to the members of the Commission by the honorable and learned member for Parkes is no doubt very good, from his point of view ; but it must be remembered that a Commission may do many things that do not come within the scope of its functions. I can find nothing in the shape of an instruction to the Commissioners that they were to take upon themselves the responsibility of the Executive with regard to the probable effect of their recommendations upon the revenue.
– Why did not the Government point that out?
– I am endeavouring to indicate the scope of the functions which devolved upon the Commission. In my opinion, the members of a Royal Commission are no more competent to decide matters of importance than are any body of members in this House.
– They hear all the evidence adduced on both sides.
– I wish to give the members of the Commission every credit for having undertaken to perform an important public duty at great inconvenience, and perhaps some expense, to themselves. It is well, however, toremember that one of the ablest of British Prime Ministers stated that when the Government were in a corner, the proper thing for them to do was to appoint a Commission. It was in such an emergency that the Tariff Commission was appointed. The members of that body have worked hard, and have no doubt done their duty to the country faithfully and well, but that has nothing to do with the point to which I wish to direct attention. The commission reads as follows : -
Whereas it has been represented that the operation of the Customs Tariff of the Commonwealth of Australiahas been injurious to certain industries : Know Ye that we do, by these our Letters Patent, appoint you to be Commissioners to inquire into the effect upon Australian industries of the said Tariff, and into the working of the said Tariff generally.
There is nothing in that to indicate that the Commissioners are to inquire into the effect of their recommendations upon the revenue.
– The whole commission relates to the revenue incidentally.
– The honorable member is not quite correct in saying that. The Commissioners were instructed to inquire into the effect of the Tariff upon Australian industries, and into the working of the Tariff generally.
– Then the Government should have set the report aside as being ultra vires.
– I contend that the Commissioners should not take umbrage at the modification of their recommendations by Ministers who have considerations of revenue to bear in mind. I am sure that not a member of this Committee would say that any recommendation of the Commission, even though the result might be to preserve a certain industry, should be agreed to if it would involve a loss of revenue which we could not afford to incur.
– Does not the honorable member think that the Commission should really consider the effect upon the revenue of any alteration proposed by them ?
– If I had been a member of the Commission, I venture to say that I should have given some attention to that matter; but I contend that the Commissioners have no power to go beyond the powers conferred upon them by the terms of their commission. If it had been intended that the Commission should consider the effect of their proposals upon the revenue, that fact should have been clearly set forth in the reference to the Commission. I am not complaining of the action of the Commissioners, nor can I blame the Government for taking up the position that they cannot afford to lose the amount of revenue that would have to be surrendered if the recommendations of the Commission were adopted. But I agree with the honorable and learned member for Parkes that the Government should have laid before honorable members such facts and figures as would have afforded justification for the action they have taken. On the other hand, I think that if it is demonstrated to the Commissioners that their recommendations, however excellent, would, if carried out, result in a loss of revenue which the Commonwealth could not afford to incur, they should not object to their proposals being modified. The fact that a manis appointed as a member of a Commission does not add to his intelligence or to his ability to conduct public affairs.
– It adds to his power and his opportunities ; that is the main point.
– I do not think that any member of the Commission would set himself up as superior to the heads of the public Departments. After all, Ministers haveto fall back upon the heads of public Departments for expert advice in matters affecting their administration. I have no desire to cast any reflection upon the members of the Commission.
– After belittling them for a quarter of an hour.
– No such idea occurred to me. The Government have not vouchsafed to honorable members the information which should have been afforded as to their reasons for departing from the recommendations of the Commission, and I trust that they will realize that they cannot deal with important matters such as that now before us, in a haphazard way. They should submit the fullest information, and afford honorable members every opportunity to arrive at a conclusion that would be in the best interests of the country.
.- The honorable and learned member for Parkes has, to my mind, advanced rather a novel idea in respect of the work of Royal Commissions. I do not know whether he intended to go so far, but the plain inference to be drawn from his statement, was that we must accept holus bolus the decisions of Royal Commissions.
– I repudiated that idea.
– I can draw no other conclusion from the statements of the honorable and learned member. If he did not mean that, it seems to me that his speech was merely a beating of the air. I have as keen an appreciation of the work of the Tariff Commission as has any honorable member. I recognise that the gentlemen comprising that body have made a great number of sacrifices in performing the immense work which they have accomplished. But the value of their labours consists in a very large measure in the information which they have been able to put before the public through the evidence which has been tendered, and does not rest entirely upon the conclusions at which they have arrived. That is so in regard to all Royal Commissions. Their main object is to get information, and while I confess that much may occasionally be learned from the demeanour of witnesses - and that therefore the Commissioners are best able to judge of the conclusions which should be drawn from the testimony of witnesses - still it does not follow that they are right in every case.
– But the point of view of the consumers has to be considered.
– The Commission have considered this question from every point of view. But I refuse to believe that they have come to an accurate decision in every instance. In my view it is utterly ridiculous to extend almost the same measure of protection to blended spirits as it is proposed to extend to spirits which are made from pure grape wine.
– Does the honorable member approve of the Minister inviting interested parties to give evidence to him after they have given their testimony to the Tariff Commission?
– I see absolutely no harm in such a procedure. Anything which is done in the light of day in the way of inviting those who are interested in conclusions which may affect their businesses to a large extent, cannot possibly injure the State.
– Whilst there is a Ministerial tribunal in existence? The Government appointed the Tariff Commission specially to hear that evidence.
– But that tribunal has concluded its labours so far as the question of the duties upon spirits is concerned. It has reported, and consequently has ceased to have any further responsibility. The witnesses had no opportunity of commenting upon the conclusions of the Commission until they were invited to do so. The recommendation to which I have referred is- in itself a sufficient justification for further inquiries being made.
– By whom?
– By the Minister.
– But the Tariff Commission is still in existence.
– It has finally dealt with this particular matter. The honorable member seems to be oblivious of that fact. When once the Commission has reported, its members have nothing further to do with this question. The honorable and learned member for Bendigo, as Chairman of the Commission, stated in reply to a gentleman who wished to give further evidence in regard to its conclusions that the matter had now passed out of the hands of that body. The small distinction which has been made between the duty upon brandy produced from grape spirit, and that upon blended brandy is in itself an evidence that the Commission has not sufficiently appreciated the difference between the cost of the materials from which these two classes of spirits are distilled.
– The Commission - besides the revenue aspect of the question - took other matters into consideration, and has proposed to give a Commonwealth guarantee of the purity of spirits. Surely that is worth a good deal. ‘
– It is ; but it does not happen to touch the particular point to which I am addressing myself. The Com. mission recommend that a protection of 4s. per gallon shall be granted to pure brandy, and of 3s. per gallon to blended brandy. The difference between the cost of the materials from which these two classes of spirit are made is so great that the margin between the two rates of duty is, to my mind, insufficient. No doubt, it is a matter upon which there is room for a legitimate difference of opinion.
– The honorable and learned member for Angas has introduced evidence which was not given before the Tariff Commission.
– I regret to say that I was not able to follow the remarks qf the honorable and learned member for Angas as closely as they deserved to be followed.) ]n deference to the suggestion of the Prime Minister, I wish’ to withdraw my amendment, and to substitute for it a proposal in terms more nearly in consonance with the report of the Tariff .Commission. My only reason for submitting the original amendment was that there seemed to be no indication - at that ‘ stage of the proceedings - of a desire to impose any condition in regard to the age of imported spirits.
– The Opposition was satisfied, I suppose.
– We were relying upon the statement of the Minister of Trade and Customs that he would bring down “a set of amendments to-morrow.
– Nobody seemed inclined to rise when I did, and I submitted the amendment with a view to securing something tangible.
– The resolution has not yet been put by the Minister in its final form.
– That remark applies only to the Excise duties. The Minister has given no intimation that he intends to niter the import duties. I ask leave to withdraw my amendment.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Amendment (by Mr. Watson) proposed -
That after the word “ proof,” line 16. the words “ and when more than two years shall have elapsed, either from the date of their first shipment or from the date of their distillation “ be inserted.
– That is practically the phraseology 4 of the Tariff Commission’s recommendation .
.- Although I have no desire to be heard too frequently upon this matter, so much has been said regarding the unfortunate Tariff Commission that I am justified in making a few observations in reply. If many members of that Commission had followed their natural inclinations, they would have resigned from it long ago. Probably that would have suited a good many honorable members. Speaking for myself, and, I believe, for many other members of the Commission, I may say that we realized that we had been appointed to perform an important and necessary duty. We realized that an experimental Tariff had been in existence in the Commonwealth for a few years, and that it was highly desirable that an inquiry of a thoroughly exhaustive nature should be made into its effect. Recognising this, I accepted a position on the Commission, and, in spite of the blackguardly attacks made upon it outside the House, I made up my mind that I would see the work through. That I am determined to do, regardless of what transpires, either inside or outside the House, in the nature of attacks upon the Commission and its work. The honorable and learned member for Parkes has come to the rescue of the Commission in a way that I, for one, fully appreciate. Although this debate has been in progress for only a few hours, I have heard an insinuation of something very like corruption against the Commission, and I have also heard insinuations of ignorance and incompetence ^gainst its members. One cannot help wondering what will be the outcome if this sort of thing is to continue. Probably we shall find the members of the Commission with armoured cars and machine guns to protect them from the outraged opinions of their colleagues in the Chamber. Be that as it may, if the Committee will exercise only a little patience, and listen, to what the members of the Commission may have to say in response to Ministerial proposals, we shall be able to fully justify any recommendations that we have made. We are in the unfortunate position of having little or nothing to which to reply; we are in the position of having to prove practically a negative. It is the duty of the Government, who bring down modifications of our proposals, to show the reasons for those modifications, and, in the absence of such reasons, members of the Commission are naturally handicapped in dealing with this matter.
– And so is every other honorable member.
– Undoubtedly ; but since the Commission is being put on its defence in this House, this difficulty applies in a greater degree to its members. The honorable and learned member for Parkes referred very properly to the methods of the Minister in obtaining information from sources other than those that were open to the Commission. The honorable member for Wide Bay has also pointed out that it is the duty of Ministers to obtain all information possible with respect to the question of revenue - a phase of this question which could be touched upon only incidentally by the Commission. I agree with that, but I wish to point out that quotations have been made in this Chamber from letters which have apparently influenced the Minister, letters from individuals who had opportunities to give evidence before the Commission, but refrained from doing so. I am going to state why they did not come before us. It is much easier for these people to address to honorable members letters containing more or less mystifying and incorrect statements than to go before a Commission, which will put them on their oath, and make them responsible for their statements. We have had a good deal of technical instruction from members of the Committee regarding pure and impure spirits, and as to what constitutes genuine brandy, and that which is not genuine.
– The teetotallers seem to know most about the question.
– That is so. I am of opinion that it would have been much better for those who talk about genuine brandy to have said nothing in that connexion, so far as the proposals of the Commission are concerned. Those who make genuine Australian brandy are perhaps in a better position, under the recommendation of the Commission, than they will be when the full and fierce light of discussion is thrown on their situation in common with that of the manufacturers of other classes of spirit. We have been told that it is not fair, for instance, to put blended brandy in competition with that which is not blended. A great deal of emphasis has been laid upon the quality of the socalled pure Australian brandies. We have been told that much of the spirit required for the fortification of those brandies is highly rectified*. Why is that so? The honorable member who gave us that infor mation omitted to tell the Committee ‘that it was necessary to rectify the fortifying spirit since it is largely produced from “off” or unsound wine, and that it has to be rectified in order to avoid the deleterious effect of the sources of its origin. Then again, it is suggested that the brandy which Australia produces from the grape is the finest that can be made anywhere. I make bold to say. that there is not a single gallon of Australian brandy distilled according to the methods of that district of France in which the purest and most perfect kinds of brandy are produced ; that the method of manufacture is moreor less defective, and that if we are going to insist on a genuine brandy, we shall have to provide, first of all, that no “off” or damaged wine shall be used in its production, and that secondly, the proper method of distillation shall be observed. That method is to employ the old-fashioned potstill similar to that used in the Charente district of France, for producing the highest quality of brandy. If those two points were observed, it might be well worth our while to consider the suggestions of those who wish to protect more completely than at present brandy made from the pure juice of the grape. But . until that is done, I would suggest to those who are asking for more consideration for Australian brandy that they should ask’ themselves whether it is worth while insisting on conditions which necessarily will have to be amplified if our brandies are to be of the perfect kind indicated by several honorable members. We have been told by honorable members that highly rectified spirit does not require to be kept in order to mature. But one gentleman interested in distillation by the patent still process - I refer to Mr. Joshua - expressed the opinion, when before the Commission, that even that class of spirit required to be matured ; he advocated that it should be kept in bond for not less than two years. That is the evidence of a gentleman interested in the production of this particular class of spirit. It is undoubtedly a very technical and abstract matter.
House adjourned at 11. 1 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 14 August 1906, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1906/19060814_reps_2_33/>.