2nd Parliament · 3rd Session
Mr. Speaker took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
– I desire to ask the Prime Minister, without notice, if it is correct, as stated in the press, that the Imperial Defence Committee has no objection to the publication of its report?Ifso, will the Government make the report available to honorable members before the Defence Estimates come up for discussion.
– The statement is correct.
– I desire to ask the Prime Minister whether it is the intention of the
Government to proceed to act this session on the recommendations of the Imperial Defence Committee - recommendations which they themselves sought at considerable expense to the Commonwealth ?
– Some of the recommendations are now in course of being acted upon.With regard to other recommendations, reports are being prepared by the officers of the Department as to the extent to which it will be desirable to introduce them during the current year.
Mr. DEAKIN laid upon the table the following paper -
Report of the Imperial Defence Committee upon a general scheme of defence for Australia.
– Will the Prime Minister, before the appointment of the Royal Commission to which he referred yesterday, give the House an opportunity to discuss the policy of the Government’ in reference toPapua?
– I shall be glad to do so, if possible. It will be necessary to act promptly, because the service to New Guinea is a monthly one, the next steamer, by which I am desirous that the Commissioners shall travel, so that they may report this year, leaving before the end of this month.
– I wish to know from the Prime Minister if any of the obsolete war vessels formerly on the Australian station, which have recently been sold in England for a mere song, were offered to the Commonwealth Government?
– Not that I am aware. it
– In reference to the statement appearing in to-day’s newspapers, that application ‘has been made to the Imperial Government for the pardon of certain convicts in Western Australia, I wish, to know from the Prime Minister if such application is necessary. Has not the GovernorGeneral authority to pardon any Australian resident?
– The cases in question were brought under notice bv the honorable member for Coolgardie, who pointed out that in Western Australia a number of prisoners who were transported long years ago to that State for offences, most of which were not serious, are now serving sentences. He asked that they be pardoned. The assent of His Majesty was required for their release.
– I wish to know from the Prime Minister whether it was with his knowledge and consent that, in an action against the Commonwealth, concerning the duty on harvesters, application to the Court for a Commission to inquire in Canada into the actual cost of harvesters there was opposed on behalf of the Govern ment.
– This is apparently a personal question.
Mr.BRUCE Smith. - I addressed it to the honorable and learned member as Prime Minister.
– It would not be necessary to refer such a matter to me, and so far as I recollect, no such reference was made.
– Then I wish to ask the Attorney-General whether he was aware of, and approved, the opposition to the application for a Commission to inquire in Canada as to the real value of the harvesters.
– The question affects to some extent an action now pending in the Courts. Speaking from recollection -I may have to correctmy statements after reference to the papers: in the case - the matter was brought under my notice only prior to the appeal being heard by the Full Court of Victoria. I think that that is the case to which the honorable and learned member is referring.
– I am speaking of a new action, in which a Commission was asked to inquire into the cost of harvesters in Canada.
– It is an old action. Mr. ISAACS.- Ifthe honorable and learned member is not’ referring to something which has been done in an action in the Supreme Court of Victoria, I know nothing about the matter.
– The honorable and learned member is referring to the action in the Supreme Court of Victoria-
– An appeal was proceeded with, with my sanction, and I can give the honorable and learned member the reason for the action which has been taken. I think that it would be an unnecessary and great waste of money to have the Commission, because the defence raised upon the pleadings is that, exercising his powers under the Customs Act, the Minister of Trade and Customs has fixed the value on. which dutyis to be paid at , £65. My desire was to have the point of law thus raised decided before the enormous expense of the Commission is entered upon. If the point of law were determined in favour of the Commonwealth - as, according to my reading of the Act it should be - it would be unnecessary for either party to go to the expense of having a Commission appointed. On the other hand, if thepoint of law were determined against theCommonwealth, the Commission could proceed. It was with the desire to save unnecessary expense, not to shut out facts, that the appeal was proceeded with.
– Is the honorable and learned gentleman aware that the Minister of Trade and Customs gave it as his reason for raising the valuation of the harvesters that their cost in Canada had been misrepresented to him?
– I am afraid, that that question travels beyond the pleadings, and is irrelevant to the point first raised by the honorable and learned member. The reason that actuated me in assenting to the appeal advised by learned counsel was that which I have just given.
Mr.JOSEPH COOK.- Is the AttorneyGeneral aware that the Minister of Trade and Customs told the House and the country that he would facilitate in every way the action of the Massey-Harris Company in seeking to prove the Canadian price of their harvesters? If the Government regard the appointment of a Commission to take evidence in Canada on the subject as a waste of money, because the Minister has the absolute right to impose what duty he pleases, and take action accordingly,’ they will do so in total contradiction to the Minister’s statement.
– I do not desire to enter intoany question of factwhich may affect the trial of the action hereafter. I was asked a question, to reply to which I thought would not affect it, and I have given the answer that, on the pleadings as they stand, avery important constitutional and legal point is raised, namely, as to whether the Minister of Trade and Customs haspower, under section 160 of the Customs Act, to determine in cases of doubt what shall be the valuation for duty of any particular import.
– The Minister declared that he would not take advantage of that technical defence.
– It is very important that the point shall be determined. I am not aware that the Minister made the statement attributed to him by the honorable member, though that is not relevant to my position as Attorney-General in assenting to the appeal advised by counsel on the pleadings. I think that I have sufficiently answered the questions which have been asked, and honorable members will forgive me if I do not enter upon a matter which, if entered upon as a question of fact, might interfere with the trial of the action hereafter.
– Are we to understand that, if it is decided that the Minister has power. to increase the valuation, the Government will oppose the application for a Commission to take evidence in Canada?
– The question as to whether there shall or shall not bea Commission is entirely in the hands of the Court. I have had no notice of these questions, and the papers dealing with the case are complicated ; but, speaking from recollection, I understand that the learned Judge who granted the , Commission to some extent expressed the opinion that it might prove unnecessary, making a special order as to costs ; but, inasmuch as the plaintiff insisted on the appointment of the Commission, he did not find it within his province to refuse it. I understand, moreover, that the Full Court has refused to interfere with his exercise of his discretion, though one ofthe Judges would have been disposed to make a different order. That is’ how the matter stands. It is of the highest importance to have the point ‘of law decided whether the Minister under the circumstances of difficulty already indicatedby Parliament, can, by virtue of section 160 of the Customs Act, fix a valuation for duty which cannot be impeached or set aside as anullity.
– Has the High Court ordered the Commission?
– The Victorian Supreme Court. The matter has not come before the High Court. As things stand, the Commission will go,but in the meantime the Question of lawmay or may not be determined in another action now pending in South Australia. We desire to have that question of law determined. If the Commission goes, it will be an unnecessary expense.
– The Minister of Trade and Customs said that he would not take such action as appears to have been taken by the Government.
– I am not aware that my honorable colleague has done . so. If he has made, any such statement, the fact can be easily demonstrated. We simply rely on the pleadings as they stand. That is how the matter rests.
– Is the AttorneyGeneral aware that yesterday, in the Supreme Court of South Australia, an application was made to the Full Court to compel a defendant - the Minister of Trade and Customs - to give particulars in a similar action touching the duty on harvesters, that the Minister refused, and that the Court ordered the particulars to be given ?
– Isawsome statement in regard to the matter in to-day’s newspapers, but I deprecate the course of conduct which is now being pursued. Nothing could be more calculated to prejudice the fair trial of actions which are pending, and I must therefore decline to answer further questions on the subject.
asked the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
When will telephonic communication be provided between Robe and Mount Gambier?’
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is as follows : -
The Deputy Postmaster-General, Adelaide, advises that telephonic communication between Robe and Mount Gambier will be completed during this week.
asked the Minister of External Affairs,uponnotice -
That white workers employed by Buss Bros., atBonna, work 64 hours weekly for 18s. per week and food ; that employes of Young Bros., of Fairy mead and Avondale, receive for 58 hours’ work 20s. weekly and rations ; that the rule on these plantations is that if, owing to wet weather, the employes work less than a quarter of a day they receive no payment at all for their labour on that day ; that “ instead of the worker getting the benefit of the bounty the grower is putting a big percentage into his own pocket “ ; that “ the conditions existing on the plantations are such that noself-respecting man would stop there “ ; and that the planters in the Bundaberg district “ take advantage of the glut in the market in the off season, and they give us just sufficient to live on in the crushing season. We cannot get married, because we know we cannot live with any reasonable amount of comfort on wages like they give now. The planters are running the sugar industry as a single man industry, as no married man can work under such conditions “ ?
Also to the following telegrams from Childers, which appears in the Age on 13th instant : - “ A serious strike has occurred among Young Bros..’ cane-cutters. A considerable number of men were not cutting 2 tons a day, and the manager said they were not earning 30s. a week. The Lynwood men struck work and went to Hapsburg, where they called all the men out. All work is at a standstill, and the cane trains have stopped running.”?
Have the complaints made on oath to the Commission respecting the treatment of white labourers, of which the following are samples, been brought under his notice : - . “ The sanitary conditions were abominable, closets being placed in the vicinity of sleepingrooms.” - G. P. Barber, M.L.A.
Payment for “ wet weather was stopped out of my wages. . . No white man with any independence would put up with the treatment I met with at the Mulgrave.” - D. Lyon, general labourer, Cairns ?
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : - 1 and 2. The Commission’s report has been received, but the portions of evidence mentioned by the honorable member had not specially been brought under notice. 3 and 4. Inquiries are now being made.
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
– Inquiries are being made, and answers will be furnished as soon as possible.
– I should like to know whether the Postmaster-General is in a position to answer my question of yesterday with regard to the report upon the work performed by the clerical officers in the General Post Office.Sydney ?
– I shall be able to furnish a reply to-morrow.
asked the Prime Minis? ter, upon notice -
Has he yet ascertained from the Minister for Defence whether he will allow the vouchers for the money paid to military members of, and witnesses appearing before, the Hawker Board (referred to in question of the 7th instant), to be placed on the table in the Library for the information of honorable members?
– Yes. The vouchers have been obtained ‘from the AuditorGeneral, and are now on the Library table.
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
– Inquiries are being made, and answers will be furnished as soon as possible.
asked the Minister representing the Minister of Defence, upon notice -
– There is no information in the office of theCentral Administration relative to these matters, but inquiries will be made, and replies given to the honorable member as soon as received.
– In answer to the question asked yesterday by the honorable member for North Sydney, I desire to say that the following are the estimated numbers of letters per annum that would be affected by the proposed penny postage, namely : -
In Committee of Ways and Means:
Import and Excise Duties on Spirits.
Consideration resumed from 14th August (vide page 2771), on motion by Sir William Lyne -
imposed by the Customs Tariff 1902, duties of Customs shall from the 2nd day of August, 1906, at 4.30 p.m. Victorian time, be imposed as follows : -
Excise Duties on Spirits.
That in lieu of the duties of Excise imposed by the Excise Tariff 1902 on Spirits, duties of Excise shall from the 2nd day of August, 1906, at 4.30 p.m. Victorian time, be imposed upon spirits as follows : -
Upon which Mr. Watson had moved ,by way of amendment -
That after the word “ proof,” line 16, the following words be inserted : - “ 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.
– I regret that I am compelled to return to the discussion of the matter now before the Committee, after having taken up some little time last night. But it is the duty of the members of the Tariff Commission to meet the criticisms that have been levelled against their recommendations, more especially when certain members are under a total misapprehension as to their effect. I listened yesterday to some very elaborate, if not instructive, disquisitions upon the constituents and qualities of alcoholic liquors, and I feel called upon to reply to some of the remarks made by honorable members, because, in my opinion, they are very misleading. The trouble has arisen through a misunderstanding of the terms used by chemists in dealing with questions of this kind. We hear the word “impurities” used in a sense that is entirely misleading as applied to alcoholic spirits. There is no doubt that alcohol, by a very exhaustive process, can be made absolutely pure, and this purity is what chemists aim at securing when they wish to obtain alcohol for laboratory purposes. The alcoholic liquors of commerce, however, are distilled in such a way that they retain certain impurities - as chemists would call them - which give them their distinctive qualities, and, to a large extent, their wholesome properties. In this connexion, I may also remark that the best chemists admit th’at chemistry is, to a large extent, at fault in dealing with the analysis of alcoholic liquors. The science of chemistry has not yet reached such a stage that chemists can definitely tell us the effects of the various constituents of alcohol. They can discover these constituents, but they have ultimately to fall back upon the older experience of those who have adopted practically a rule of thumb to decide what is good and bad in alco- holic liquors. Fortunately, we are able to conclude, with a fair amount of certainty, that experience forms a safe guide in connexion with these matters. There is no doubt as to what brandy ‘and whisky were originally. Whisky was a preparation of malt spirit, distilled by pot stills, and brandy was a preparation of spirit distilled from wine by the same process. But the introduction of the patent still Kas brought about a considerable mystification, both in alcoholic liquors and in the minds of the public. I wish to refer specifically to the statements made by certain honorable members with regard to tEe manufacture of brandy. I said fast night, and I repeat, that I question whether a single gallon of brandy is made in Australia bv the methods employed in the production of the finer qualities of French brandies. I hold in mv hand a pamphlet issued as the result of an inquiry- into the distillation of brandy, and the constituents of that spirit by a Commission brought into existence in England a few years ago, at the instance of that well-known medical journal, the Lancet. This pamphlet represents the most advanced and complete views on the question. It contains distinct information as to the methods necessary to be adopted to produce the higher qualities of brandy. To begin with, it is stated -
The peculiar pleasing characteristics of genuine old Cognac brandy must be referred, not to alcohol at all, but what the French call the “impuretes” of brandy, that is to say, to the secondary products of distillation.
In another part of the pamphlet we are told how this process of distillation is conducted. The wine is, of course, heated in the usual way. The first portion that goes through the still is put aside. The central portion is also put aside, and then the third portion is silimarly dealt with. The central portion is again distilled, and the central portion of that distillation is what’ is known as brandy of the highest quality. I very much doubt whether that method of distillation has ever been practised in Australia to any considerable extent. With regard to the ageing of spirits, we have heard it stated in this House that ageing has practically no effect - that there is really nothing in it. The Lancet Commission, however, express themselves very definitely upon this point. They say -
The differences as regards chemical composition which will be seen to exist between old and new brandy are not so much in kind as degree. One effect of age upon the composition of brandy which can easily be traced is that of oxidation, a small depreciation, of alcohol occurring in favour of aldehydes and acetic acid….. This loss is chiefly alcohol ; there is a corresponding increase in ethers, in higher alcohols, and what may be called “ vinosity “ develops, coupled with “ finesse and style.
There is an indication of the distinct .difference between the new and the old alcoholic spirit. The remarks that I have quoted with regard to brandy apply also to whisky. It is a’ matter of common experience with every one in the trade, and even with those who indulge in alcoholic stimulants, that the older spirit is undoubtedly finer and more palatable than that which is new.
– Has the honorable member read the opinion expressed by the Lancet with regard to Australian brandy?
– Has the honorable member read any better opinion?
– No, I have not. I agree that the Australian brandy, as at present exported, is honest in character, that it is pure, and not blended brandy. My point, however, is that the very best methods are not yet adopted in Australia.
– And yet we produce the best brandy.
– Our brandy is, per- . haps, equal in quality to a good deal of the standard French brandy, but I am not sure that the finer qualities of French brandy are not superior, perhaps only from the epicure’s stand-point.
– The Lancet places Australian brandy first.
– I have not seen any statement to the effect that Australian brandy is equal to the finer qualities of French brandy.
– What would be the Lancet’s standard of judgment - the medical standard?
– I am quite in the dark with regard to the statement to which the honorable member for Laanecoorie refers. I am not aware that the Lancet has said in as many words that the Australian brandy is superior to the very finest products of the Charente district in France.
– They call Australian brandy the finest in the world.
– I shall be very glad if the honorable member can show me that that judgment has been pronounced. I wish now to refer to the point made by the honorable member for Bland yesterday, when he contended that the differentiation made by the Tariff Commission between the duties on pure and blended brandies was nonsensical - that it was ridiculously insufficient. I take it that members of this Par-‘ liament, who have devoted a considerable amount of time to the investigation of the question - who have gone into it thoroughly and earnestly, and with as much ability as they possess - are scarcely likely to put forward a proposition which amounts to nonsense. I am prepared upon general ^grounds to defend our recommendation in that respect, as representing a very fairaverage as between the two qualities of liquor. Anybody who has. read the evidence tendered to- the Commission will realize that I am entirely in sympathy with the development of a trade in pure brandy. I do not at all like the idea of fostering a trade in the blended article. At the same time, the Commission could not ignore a considerable volume of evidence which was submitted to it, to the effect that blended brandy is an article of commerce, and that, as a matter of fact, it is preferred by some persons to the pure article. When honorable members point out that the difference between the cost of. the production ‘of the two articles is very great, they are looking at the wrong end of the question altogether. There is no doubt that the difference between the cost, of producing the two classes of brandy is as one to four.
– The honorable member is speaking of spirit now.
– I am speaking of the difference between the cost of producingpure brandy and that of producing the blended article. But when we come to the selling price, which, after all, is what de’termines the trade in these articles, we find that there is nothing like the differ- ence which I have indicated. For example, let us take the price of a bottle of pure brandy, as against that of a bottle of blended brandy. At the very most, upon my calculations, the difference between their price would be about 4d. or 6d. When it is recollected that each bottle of pure Australian brandy will - -if the recommendation of the Commission be adopted - carry with it a Government certificate of quality, I think honorable members will realize that that fact in itself offers a considerable preference to the superior article.
– We have already seen samples with labels upon them, and I should like to know what is the good of
– The honorable member is speaking of labels which are attached to bottles under existing conditions. .
– Under conditions such as the Commission have recommended.
– No. The recommendation of theCommission, which is not included in the proposal of the Minister of Trade and Customs, extends the necessary protection to the pure article.
– There is no supervision exercised over spirit when once it has been taken out of bond.
– I would point out to the honorable member that if he were sellingbrandy it is not likely that he would take off the genuine article a label guaranteeing its quality, in order to depreciate its value. The Commission recommend that that guarantee should attach only to the superior article, and I think it’ is obvious thatnobody engaged in handling such an article would belikely to deprive it of the value which the label imparted to it. Take the position of any customer who desires to purchase a bottle of brandy. Let us assume that he enters an hotel or a shop and states his requirement. He wishes to purchase a bottle of good brandy. Let us further suppose that he is shown the pure brandy with the Government stamp of quality attached to the bottle, and also the blended article with its distinctive markupon it.
– Why does the Commission allowsuch a small margin in the case of the genuine article as compared with the blended article?
– I will deal with that matter presently. Let us suppose that the customer asks what is the price of the two articles which have been shown to him. He would probably be told that the difference between the cost of the better article and that of the blended brandy was not more than 4d. or 6d. per bottle. How many persons desiring to obtain the better article would hesitate to pay that extra price when the guarantee of quality was attached to it?
– But pure brandy cannot be produced for 6d. per bottle extra.
– Yes it can. It can be sold at no greaterincrease upon theprice of the blended article than 66. per bottle.
– The additional cost of the material from which it is distilled represents considerably more than that sum.
– I have already pointed out that when honorable members talk of the cost of producing a pure brandy they are looking at the wrong end of the question. I admit that the cost of the production of the two articles is as one to four. But when that amount is . added to the duty, and to one or two profits, and a gallon of pure brandy is divided into six parts - six bottles contain a gallon - honorable members will see that the difference between the price of the genuine as against the blended article is not more than 4d. or, at the most, 6d. per bottle. Here arises the difficulty of stimulating the production of Australian brandy with which the Tariff Commission was met. As honorable members are aware, my sympathies are all in one direction. But the evidence was conclusive that blended brandy was an article which was regularly put upon the market, and which was even sought afterby some persons in preference to pure brandy. When we came to consider the situation, most of us realized that it would be a very improper proposal to levy upon the cheaper article a duty which was altogether out of proportion to that imposed upon the superior article. In other words, it would be wrong to compel the purchaser of blended brandy to pay into the revenue of the country a contribution which was decidedly out of proportion to that paid by the purchaser of pure brandy.
– My complaint is that the Commission recommends the extension of an advantage to the purchaser of the inferior article.
– If honorable members will take the trouble to look into the matter they will see that the recommendation of the Commission would impart a considerable stimulus to the production of a pure Australian brandy. If the trade in that article has developed under the conditions which have hitherto existed, it is only reasonable to assume that it will progress much more rapidly under the stimulus which would be imparted to it by the adoption, of the recommendation of the Commission. Some honorable members apparently have not studied our recommendations, and do not realize that protection to the genuine article is part and parcel of our scheme. I think that I ought to remind those who talk so much about genuine Australian brandy that there are certain classes of wines used in the production of that article which, to put it mildly, do not make the highest classes of brandy. For instance, there is a good deal of “ off “ wine used ; that is to say, wine which has gone wrong in the process of manufacture, and which is distilled at a very high degree of rectification in order to make it less objectionable. M)[ opinion is that the public should be protected from that sort of thing.
– But we need not provide for that in the Tariff.
– That is so. Those who talk so loudly about genuine brandy will have to carry their contention to its logical conclusion. “Undoubtedly the Tariff Commission has not done so. Its members have adopted a commercial, attitude towards these matters, and it is rather discouraging to us - after due consideration has been given to these phases cf the question - to hear honorable members criticise us because of the severely commercial nature of our recommendations.
– The honorable member is too sensitive.
– No ; I welcome criticism in connexion with our recommendations.
– Then why is the honorable member complaining?
– I am complaining of the lack of consideration which has been given to those recommendations.
– What shall we do when we have to consider recommendations upon which the members of the Commission are divided ?
– No doubt the honorable member, with his keen intellect, will assess those recommendations at their proper value. Last evening I listened at tentively to the complaint of the honorable member for North Sydney in regard to the alleged hardships which would be imposed upon importers if the recommendation of the Commission in regard to keeping imported spirits in bond for two years were given effect to in the absence of fair warning. Undoubtedly, the honorable member speaks as one with considerable experience in commercial matters, but I must confess that I am not able to agree with him as to the hardship that would be inflicted. There is no doubt that a very considerable quantity of immature spirit finds its way into Australia and passes into consumption. The bonding of that spirit, until it has attained an age of two years, would not in any way damage the interests of the persons who own it. It is a well known fact that spirit acquires an added value in accordance with the length of time which it is kept in bond.
– The honorable member will see that satisfactory proof of age could scarcely be forthcoming in regard to spirit which has already been shipped, or which is now in bond, and if we prohibited all that from passing into consumption, there would be no supplies. That was the point which I endeavoured to put.
– I understand that the honorable member desires that facilities for proving the age of imported spirit should be provided before the “recommendations of the Commission are given effect to.
– I desire that notice shall be given of our intention.
– I take it that all the bonds record the time at which spirits go into the charge of Customs officers.
– I was refer- 1 ring to spirits which are on their way to Australia, or which have been in bond’ for only a few months.
– I was about to suggest that it might be advisable to make a special allowance in the case of spirits which are already upon the water, but I must say that the necessity for allowing a full two years to elapse before the recommendation of the Commission was given effect to does not seem to me to be a very urgent one.
– I did not propose that.
– Will the honorable member tell the Committee how spirit distilled by means of a’ patent still, improves with age?
– Even the best chemist in the world cannot tell that. Undoubtedly we have not sufficient chemical knowledge to enable us to enumerate all the processes which take place.
– That was the case seven or eight years ago, but it is not so to-day.
– The members of the Commission know that it is a fact, culled from the experience of those who handle alcoholic liquors, that even patent still spirit does improve with age. Those spirits undoubtedly carry with them a proportion of the secondary constituents of the wash.
– A rectified spirit does not improve with age.
– Trouble once more arises in connexion with the use of the word “ rectified.” I have already pointed out that there is no absolutely rectified spirit in commerce, although a little may be found in chemical .laboratories. What is in commerce called “ rectified spirit “ is that which has undoubtedly been distilled at a high degree of rectification, but which still contains all the essential characteristics of the product from which it has been derived.
– That is hardly correct. Spirit rectified to from 65 to 70 per cent, overproof contains practically none of the characteristics of that from which it comes.
– There is a corresponding shortage of those characteristics.
– That is so.
– It still contains a proportionate quantity of the secondary constituents of that alcohol which is distilled at a lower strength ; and none of the socalled rectified spirit known to commerce is entirely devoid of these secondary constituents. J “While, undoubtedly, pot-still whisky or brandy shows a distinct change in ageing, that change is shown - although I admit that it is in a less degree - in the case of highly rectified spirit. In this connexion I would point out that it is notorious that deeds of violence perpetrated -in the larger cities of the old world by persons under the influence of liquor are almost invariably traceable to the drinking of that whisky known .as raw grain spirit. It is a matter of common opinion in Great Britain that that spirit has a maddening, effect upon the brain, and a very objectionable effect upon the general health of those who consume it. In the case of spirit which has been kept for a few years, however, those objectionable qualities disappear in a degree corresponding with its age.
– I understand that the general contention of the honorable member for Perth is that the best classes of spirits for consumption are those which have not” been distilled at a higher strength than about 35 per cent, overproof. In support of that contention the honorable member has referred to an article which appeared in the Lancet. As laymen, we cannot pretend to set our own personal views against those of experts in chemistry ; but, at the same time, we may hold different opinions on the evidence that we have been able to gather in regard to these matters. The honorable member for Perth has just stated that patent still spirit improves with age, just the same as does a spirit-
– The .honorable member said it improved “ in the same measure,” not “ just the same as “ the other spirit.
– I understood him to say that patent still spirit is purified in exactly the same way as is spirit distilled at a lower percentage of rectification. He subsequently pointed out that patent still spirit, after being highly rectified, possesses, although in a lesser degree, the same impurities as are found in pot-still spirit.
– They are “ characteristics,” not “ impurities.”
– I use the word “ impurities “ in the sense in which it is employed in chemistry. As against the contention of the honorable member for Perth, I may say that I have made personal inquiries from those engaged in distillation, and also from experts, who have informed me that when spirit is distilled above 60 per cent, over-proof - as in the case of that produced by the Colonial Sugar Refining Company - the elements called “ impurities “ are existent in it in only the most infinitesimal degree.
– Any expert can, without analysis, distinguish between” the Colonial Sugar Refining Company’s spirit and potato spirit, even although it is 68 per cent, over-proof.
– I am informed that that is not so - that the process by which spirit 38 per cent, over-proof has been distilled cannot be detected by any form of analysis.
– I would close up a distillery which distilled spirit of that strength for human consumption.
– The honorable member may have certain information respecting this matter, but that which I have secured comes from those who are qualified to express an expert opinion. In support of the position which I took up yesterday, and as opposed to the contention of the honorable member for Perth, I propose to quote the opinions expressed before the Tariff Commission by Mr. Wilkinson, the Government analyst of Victoria, in reference to the impurities of spirits which are alleged bv many to be injurious to health. At page 15 of the digest of the evidence given before the Commission, we have the statement under the heading of “ Spirits generally - Alcohol “ - :
Mr. Wilkinson would define spirits as alcoholic liquids made from the distillation of wine, beet, cereals generally, and the by-products of sugar manufacture. - (Q, 2626-7.) From quotations read by him before the Commission, it appeared that all the alcohols, taken in certain doses, were poisonous. The least toxic was pure ethyl alcohol. - (Q. 2677.) Ethyl alcohol was the main constituent of all spirits. - (Q. 2712.) The toxicity of alcohol was correspondingly larger ‘as its chemical formula was more complex.
At page 16 of the report we find the statement that -
In the more volatile portions of the secondary products of commercial spirits, there were aldehydes. These were the products of oxidation principally from alcohol. In the higher boiling portions, there was what was called “ fusel oil.” This consisted of alcohols higher in the series, for instance, propyl, butyl, and amyl alcohols. In distillation, the impurities were in part eliminated, but they were necessary for flavour.
These foreign elements have the effect of imparting certain flavours, or a piquancy, to certain spirits. As far as I have been able to discover, that is their sole use. I have also formed the opinion from what I ha.ve read on the subject that their effect on the health of the consumers of spirits, is injurious rather than beneficial, more injurious, in fact, “than the pure ethyl alcohol.
– I admit that chemical knowledge is so defective in respect to this matter that there is room for all sort’s of opinions in regard to it.
– All the more reason “why we should not insert this provision in an Act of Parliament.
– The report continues -
A spirit containing none of them was practically featureless. It had no character, and wasneutral in taste. - (Q. 2634-6.) Mr. Wilkinson, quoted extracts concerning the toxicity of variousalcohols, and the laws of Switzerland and Belgium with respect to the limit of impurities al-, lowed in certain spirits. He summarized these articles by stating that the so-called impurities of any spirit, upon which for commercial value1 the flavour was largely dependent, possessed toxic properties greater than those of ethyl alcohol, the main constituent of all spirit.
That is the pure alcohol. According toMr. Wilkinson, all the elements which thehonorable member for Perth contends are; necessary to give added beneficial value and greater purity to spirits possess in thegreatest degree those toxic properties which* are injurious to health. The report proceeds -
If alcohol were pure, it would have no injurious effect other than that due to alcohol, nomatter its origin. - (Q. 2667.) So far as scientific-: knowledge goes, the substances removed in therectification of spirit were more injurious than,, alcohol itself.
That is a very definite and positive statement, and since it is the opinion of one. who, by reason of the position he occupies, is supposed to be an expert in such matters, it should receive careful consideration.
Mr.- Fowler. - He is an expert in>. analyses, but I do not know that he is an . expert in spirits.
– If he is an expert irc matters of this kind, I take it that he must: have studied the effect of the constituent’ parts of all spirits on those who consume them. I shall quote only one or twomore passages from this report. At page 16 we have the statement -
Mr. Wilkinson had examined some of thecheap spirits imported, and had found that they were highly rectified, and contained very few impurities indeed. They might have been of any origin. Physiologically thev could not beconsidered injurious. - (Q. 2655-6.) So far asscientific knowledge went, the substances removed” by the rectification of spirits were more injurious-‘ than alcohol itself.
Then, ‘in another paragraph, under the1 heading of “the Maturing of Spirits,” wehave the statement -
There was no proof that the keeping of spirit for a time would eliminate certain poisonous? elements.
I have quoted these statements in order that the Committee may learn the opinion held’ by Mr. ‘Wilkinson with respect to the benefit alleged to be derived from the retention of spirits in wood for a period of two years before if goes into consumption - a question which has been much discussed during this debate. The statement which I made yesterday - based on what I had read and heard with respect to this subject - was that the . on.lv result of keeping spirit in wood for a long period is to disguise from the palate of those who consume it all impurities which have notbeen removed, and which are! not so easily defected as they would be if the spirit went into immediate consumption.
– I suggest that the honorable member should experiment on himself with both new and old spirit. If he does so, he will soon ascertain the difference.
– I prefer to allow the -honorable member for Perth himself, or the honorable member for Melbourne Ports, to make such experiments. In support of what I said yesterday, let me quote the following passage from the same report, : page 1 6 : -
Medical men were very much divided in opinion upon this subject. Only an improvement in flavour would be gained.
The Government Analyst of “Victoria expressed the opinion that the keeping of spirit in woodfor a period of two years does not remove deleterious elements, though it may improve the flavour of the spirit.
– He was the only witness who took that view.
– He said-
It was a scientific fact that, no matter how long spirits were kept, the poison in them remained.
– He was contradicted by all the distillers in Australia.
– Last week, in Sydney, a gentleman who regards himself as an expert in these matters, having had to do with the distillation of spirits during the last forty years, both in Australia and elsewhere, assured me that it is a scientific fact that, no matter how long spirits are kept, any deleterious substance that may have been left in them after the process of distillation remains, although the’ flavour may improve.
– Surely we must determine these mattersby the weight of evidence.
– The statements of experts such as those which I have quoted must be taken into consideration in dealing with a proposal like that before us, and the weight of evidence must depend on the qualifications of those who give the testimony in matters of this kind.
– But to act on the opinion of one or two witnesses and against the opinions of a large body of other witnesses, would be like determining a case on the evidence of a witness in opposition to the verdict of a jury who may have heard the evidence of twenty witnesses.
– If time permitted, I might quote theopinions of other experts. We should have as much enlightenment as we can get on this subject, and I am therefore justified in placing before the Committee the views of competent authorities which have come under my notice. I admit the difficulty of laymen coming to a definite conclusion in regard to questions such as this.
.- The question is whether we shall provide that certain spirit shall not go- into consumption until is has been in bond for two years. I hope that the Committee will not require that tobe done by Act of Parliament, but will leave the matterto be dealt with by regulation, because of the great difference of opinion as to the advantages to be derived from the keeping of spirit in bond.
– Would the honorable and learned member give the Minister power to deal with this matter by regulation ?
– Yes, because any regulations that may be passed will have to come before Parliament.
– We are too much governedby regulations at present.
– No doubt that is so, though no one has listened when I have tried to impress the fact upon honorable members ; but this is a matter which -should be dealt with by regulation.We cannot shut our eyes to the possibility of chemical discovery which may show that spirit is not improved by being kept in bond: We cannot say that the work of the synthetic chemist is at an end. and that no further discoveries will be made. Consequently we should deal with this subjectby regulation, which would be capable of alteration by a very simple process, instead ofby an Act of Parliament.
-An Act of Parliament could be amended.
– Its amendment would require the introduction of a special Bill; and it isalways troublesome to get such amending legislation passed.
– Yes ; but when no great interest is at stake, it is very difficult to find time for amending legislation altering the existing order of things. Honorable members should remember that present opinions may be upset at any moment by a new discovery.
– What new discovery?
– If honorable members did a little reading they would be aware of the possibility of which I speak, though, no doubt, such a course of conduct would make many of them uneasy, because of the votes which they have given in the past. I remember that, five or six years ago, an article appeared - I think in the Lancet - in which it was pointed out that, if distillers liked to take the trouble, they could adopt processes which would give a spirit so pure that there would be no need for the keeping of large stocks for maturing purposes. These statements were, made in reference to the patent still which was then coming into use.
– Could that be done under ordinary commercial conditions?
– It was said so. I regret that there is not in our library a good work on chemistry of recent date, which would have enabled me to fortify myself - if I may use such an expression in dealing with spirits - on this subject; but an article appearing “in the Encyclopedia Britannica, published in 1898, and probably written in 1896 or 1897, practically bears out the statement to which I have just referred. It must be remembered that during the last twenty or twentyfive years synthetic chemistry has made tremendous developments, so that we may stand on the verge of great discoveries.
– Syntheticchemistry has been largely responsible for the building up of sham brandies and whiskies.
– The flavour of spirit is due to the by-products left in it.
– I have been trying to impress that upon, the Committee for the last two days. Rectification tends to eliminate these by-products.
– It has been argued that these by-products are harmful. Yesterday the honorable member for Bland asked us to provide, not by regulation, but in an Act of Parliament, that spirits shall be kept in bond for two years. One reason for not doing so by Act of Parliament
– That is not the kind of spirit we want.
– Then honorable members should not talk about wanting a pure spirit. They should confess that they want a spirit that is not rectified and is not pure, that they desire to foster a taste for an impure article. They should not talk cant upon such a question. If honorable members prefer to drink a spirit containing impurities which give it a flavour there is a good deal to be said in favour of their taste. I object, however, to their putting forward a number of statements upon the pretence that they are imparting chemical knowledge. They are doing nothing of the kind. When I saw the recommendation pi the Tariff Commission that spirit should be kept in wood for two years I looked through the report to ascertain what had caused them to arrive at that conclusion.
– We arrived at it upon the evidence.
– Judging by the evidence, the Commission were perfectly right.
– Only one witness was against adopting the course recommended.
– The other witnesses were not asked their opinion.
– Yes, they were.
– Not in a good many cases. All the witnesses whose views were in accord with the recommendations of the Commission had not devoted themselves tothe study of this particular branch of chemistry. Some of them spoke from the knowledge of fifteen or twenty years ago, and’ apparently had not taken the trouble to keep themselves up-to-date. When I read the evidence, I regretted that I had not been appointed to the Commission, so that I might have asked the witnesses one or two questions. I desire to quote a further statement from the Encyclopaedia upon this subject. It reads as follows: -
Methods foi obtaining a satisfactory potable spirit are, so far, however, only successful up to a certain point, and the distiller is therefore bound to have recourse to prolonged storage or to one of the many artificial processes of purification and maturing, the majority of which have been devised - with varying successes - during recent years. . . . By properly regulating the distilling heats, by using a well-devised still, both in the first instance and also for rectifying, a product very free from fusel oil, and especially from fatty aldehydes and volatile ethers, may be obtained. The removal of acids - objectionable chiefly on account of the unpleasant decomposition products which they form in still - is carried out by neutralizing the still contents with an alkaline medium. The alkali so used also decomposes undesirable compound ethers, and retains some of the aldehydes by converting them into non-volatile polymery. For the elimination of fusel oil, filtering through charcoal is the most common method. Luck has suggested for this purpose the passing of the alcoholic vapours through petroleum, which is said to absorb the higher alcohols much more easily than it does ordinary spirit ; and some distillers have successfully tried the method of Traube, which consists in treating the spirit with a saturated aqueous solution of various inorganic salts.
Even this work is not quite up-to-date. Some time ago I read some articles containing information far in advance of that which appears in the Encyclopaedia Britannica, but, unfortunately, I have not been able to place my hand upon them for the purposes of this discussion. I was particularly struck with the articles to which I refer, because, some twenty years ago, I took a great interest in the subject. Of course, honorable members must distinctly understand that I had only an elementary knowledge, and did not pretend to be able to discuss the matter with any man who understood his work. I had a knowledge sufficient to enable me to take an intelligent interest in the subject. I think that the articles appeared in the Lancet, but I cannot say with any certainty. I find by reference to the Encyclopedia that in 1898 - -three or four years before I read the articles referred to - premonitions were already being uttered that the old method of setting; aside the distillates for so many years, until they became rectified in some way quite inexplicable to chemists, would be abandoned.
– The only way in which they could judge was by results.
– The honorable member is perfectly right. I listened with considerable interest to his remarks with re gard to the methods employed for so many years in the Charente district of France.
– They employ the same methods to-day.
– I do not think so, because if they did, the best brandy would cost us 25s. per bottle instead of the price that we now have to pay for it. They may adopt methods which enable them to retain particular flavours, but that is all. I am not quite sure whether, so far as the physiological aspect of the case is concerned, the brandy made according to the old crude methods is not more injurious, than spirit highly rectified under the new process. But I cannot speak upon this subject as an expert. If the provision with regard to keeping spirit in wood for two years is to be retained, it would be very much better to adopt the proposal of the Government, and to deal with the matter by regulation, rather than by embodying it in an Act. As I have pointed out, a regulation is capable of amendment from time to time to suit the circumstances as they arise. Regulations have to be discussed in Cabinet and afterwards .submitted to the House.
– In that case, it would be as difficult to amend a regulation as to amend an Act - a majority of the House would be required in either case.
– No ; the preparation of a Bill is an important matter, and occupies a considerable time. Then again, a Bill has to go through three readings, and generally excites a great deal of discussion. In fact, the consideration of Bills dealing with technical matters involves a great waste of” time, because the majority of honorablemembers know nothing, whatever about thesubject dealt with. ,
– The honorable and? learned member is assuming that the Minister of Trade and Customs has1 more knowledge than other honorable members.
– I asume that the Minister acts under the advice of his officers. If honorable members are determined that spirit shall be kept in wood for two years - the matter is not a vital one - the necessary provision should be made by regulation. If ‘we embody such a provision in an Act we shall in effect declare that chemical knowledge has reached a certain point, and will never progress, that it will be impossible to produce wholesome spirit except by * keeping it in wood for two years after distillation. I decline to put any such limitation upon the synthetic chemists of theday, who thoroughly understand their work, and are making rapid strides in the acquirement of knowledge. Our knowledge is distinctly twenty or thirty years behind that of scientific men of the times. It is absolutely impossible for a man to keep pace with scientific knowledge in all its branches.
– What is the point which the honorable and learned member desires to make?
– I say that in the first place we ought not to impose any limitation of the character suggested, and, secondly, that if we do impose one, effect should be given to it by regulation, and not by an Act of Parliament. If the reasons which I have advanced are not conclusive the fault is not mine. I have merely pointed out what I believe to be right, and I feel doubly fortified in the opinion that I am right when I see so many honorable members upon the opposite side.
.- I am sure that the Committee are indebted to the honorable and learned member for Werriwa for his very able exposition of the component parts of spirit. The members of the Tariff Commission must feel the loss which they have sustained in that the honorable and learned member was not a witness before them to add to the information which they have presented to the Committee. I desire to expressmy appreciation of the labours of the Commission as evidenced in the report which has been submitted upon this question. At the same time, I hope that they will not resent criticism of the conclusions at which they have arrived. Hitherto, they have almost conveyed that impression.
– Not in the least ; we welcome criticism.
– When we come to deal with subsequent reportsby the Commission, a doubt will necessarily arise as to the particular set of recommendations to which we should pay most regard. I trust, therefore,, that the members of that body will not take offence if some of us differ from them in regard to matters of detail. I fully appreciate the labourand industry which they have brought to the discharge of their onerous duties. But upon same questions, which are comparatively matters of detail, I hold opinions which are not quite in accord with their - recommendations. I trust that the Govern ment, before they ask us to support an increase in the Customs duty upon spirits, will give us a little more information than has been vouchsafed.
– At present, we are dealing only with a proposal that imported spirits shall be matured in wood for two years before they are permitted to pass into general consumption.
– When the Minister of Trade and Customs submitted these resolutions yesterday, the Committee were fairly entitled to more information than he gave them. Of course, if the Government can support their proposal to increase the import duty upon spirits. I shall have no objection to offer. They are in a position to know to what extent the revenue would be affected by any such action. But I wish to direct special attention to one matter which has caused a falling away from grace on the part of some freetraders. Only to-day, we have heard certain honorable members admit that there are conditions under which differential fiscal treatment should be accorded to some of our products. I was more than delighted to hear the honorable and learned member for Angas express that opinion ‘ yesterday. But the point to which I wish specially to address myself has reference to the rates of Excise duty which it is proposed to levy upon different classes of spirit. The conclusions of the Tariff Commission have proved that there was warrant for the assertion which has so frequently been made that the Commonwealth Tariff has destroyed some of our industries. The very first statement contained in the report of that body reads: -
Since the passing of the Commonwealth Tariff there has been a total cessation of distillation in Victoria.
– We do not say that that is the result of the Tariff. We point out elsewhere that it is probably due to another cause.
– I did not say that it was the fault of anything in particular.
– The honorable member was making a point of that.
– I intend to continue making a point of it, notwithstanding the speeches which have been delivered between the interjections which I have been permitted to make. I repeat that in the Commission’s report is to be found ample justification for the statement that, since the passing of the Commonwealth Tariff industries have been strangled in Victoria. Mr. Henry Willis. - Those engaged in the trade in Victoria have obtained their spirit from those employed in the same industry in New South Wales.
– Read the conclusions of the Tariff Commission.
– I will. The Commission says -
Since the passing of the Commonwealth Tariff there has been a total cessation of distillation in Victoria, resulting in the closing of very large and important distilleries in which capital to the amount of£235,000 has been invested, and in throwing a number of hands out of employment.
That statement, I contend, warrants the conclusion that an industry has been strangled.
– The same number of men were employed to carry on the same amount of trade in New South Wales as were engaged in the industry here.’
– I will challenge the accuracy of that statement later on. The Commonwealth Tariff alone may not be responsible for that condition of affairs. But I venture to say that it was one of the causes. The report of the Commission continues -
One cause of the stoppage of the Victorian whisky distilleries has been the relative increase of excise duties and consequent reduced protection by 3s. per gallon on malt whisky, and1s. per gallon on blended whisky. Another factor has been the increased production of n.e.i. spirit in New South Wales and Queensland, much of which has been transferred to Victoria.
– There is the reply to the honorable member’s previous statement.
– It is part of the reply.
– The spirit used was brought into Victoria from another State.
– Yes, spirit which was produced from inferior materials. I have no objection to the distillation of that particular class of spirit, but I wish to direct special attention, to the diminished production of spirit from malt. If it were merely a question of the distillation of the cheaper class of spirit - in the production of which there- is no considerable quantity of labour employed - I should not worry about the continuance of the industry. But, seeing that the production of spirit from grape wine necessitates the employment of considerable labour the matter is well worthy of our attention. The Commission appear to have been convinced that, in order to re-establish the production of malt spirit in Victoria, it is necessary to differentiate between the Customs and Excise duties upon malt spirit, to the extent of 4s. per gallon, and upon the blended article to the extent of 3s. per gallon. I do not think that the Commission, in, their recommendation, have differentiated sufficiently as between the spirit which is distilled frombarley malt and the blended article. They have allowed a difference of only1s. a gallon between the Excise rates upon these articles. In my judgment there was warrant for the finding of the Commission in regard to the difference which it has seen fit to make between the import duty upon malt spirit and the Excise duty upon it. But I do not agree with the conclusion of its members that there should be only1s. per gallon difference between the Excise duty upon spirit distilled from grape wine, and spirit which is distilled partly from grape wine and partly from other materials. I am inclined to think that the recommendations of the Commis-‘ sion, if adopted, would prejudice the production of grape spirit in Australia.
– There can be very little doubt of that.
– I claim the support of members of the Commission even to the extent of reconsidering their determination in this connexion. They have realized the necessity for re-establishing the industry so far as the production of malt spirit is concerned. Hitherto we have produced brandy, whisky, and gin of a character calculated to build up a reputation abroad, We have the most satisfactory evidence that under what are regarded as almost lax conditions, there is being’ produced in Australia to-day a brandyequal to almost any produced elsewhere. I would remind” the Committee that in the production of grape and malt spirits a great deal of labour is involved, and that we are warranted therefore in giving the local industry the fullest encouragement. The only case in which a reduction of the Excise should be made is in relation to grape spirit. It is said that such a reduction might lead to a loss of revenue, but I do not think that there is any warrant for such an assertion. In pre- Federationdays the Exciseduty on grape spirit under the Victorian Tariff was, I believe, 8s. per gallon, whilst the import duty was 12s. per gallon. The quantity of imported and locally-produced spirits consumed here then increased practically only in proportion to our population, and under the Commonwealth Tariff we have had practically a like experience. It may appear at the first blush somewhat strange that in the three States which have given some attention to the cultivation of the grape we have had under the Commonwealth Tariff an increase in the production of brandy from grape spirit. But under that Tariff grape spirit has had a preference of 2s. per gallon over blended spirit, and my desire is that that preference shall be continued. I should like some further information in regard to the contention that that should not be done. According- to the evidence taken by the Commission, grape spirit costs something like 4s. per gallon to produce, grain spirit about 2s. 9d. per gallon, and malt spirit about 3s. 6d. per gallon–
– Molasses spirit is cheaper than any of those spirits.
– lt costs only 6d. per gallon to produce.
– According to the report of the Commission it costs is. 6d. per gallon to produce, whilst sugar spirit costs only is. per gallon.
– The manager of the Colonial Sugar Refining Company stated that it cost only 6d. per gallon to produce molasses spirit.
– The figures I have quoted are taken, from the evidence given by Mr. Henry Arthur Preston. In view of these facts, I think I am justified in asking that the difference in the excise on brandy manufactured from grape spirit and blended spirit should be greater than is recommended by the Tariff Commission.
– Has the honorable member considered whether those who buy blended spirit ought to contribute a disproportionate amount to the revenue?
– I am not questioning the findings of the Commission with regard to the rate of duty that should be imposed on blended spirit ; on the contrary, I am adopting them as a basis for the proposal that I am now putting forward. The Commission propose that blended spirit shall have a preference of 3s. per gallon over the imported spirit, but they recommend that grape spirit shall have a preference of only is. per gallon over blended spirit. I do not think that that preference is sufficient. Honorable members should not forget the advantage to the Commonwealth which would flow from the expansion of the production of grape spirit.
– The industry is native to the soil.
– That is so. There is no comparison between the labour involved in the production of grape spirit and that necessary to the production of potato or molasses spirit. According to the evidence given before the Commission, something like -/”i, 000, 000 has been invested in the grape spirit industry in South Australia. Those figures do not cover the labour involved in distillation.
– They cover all the* vineyards.
– There is a possibility of a much greater development in the production of grape spirit. On the other hand, molasses spirit is only a by-product of sugar.
– If the honorable member turns to page 26 of the Digest of Evidence, he will see that, according to Mr. Knox, the manager of the Colonial Sugar Refining Company, molasses spirit can be distilled at a cost of less than 6d. per gallon.
– That is the cost of distillation, whereas the figures I have quoted cover the cost of the material, as well as that of distillation. That would account for the disparity. I come now to the production1 of malt spirit, the encouragement of which is just as desirable as is the encouragement of the manufacture of grape spirit. In the early days of the malt spirit industry in this State, 125,000 bushels of barley were used in one year. That quantity would represent a good yield from 5,000 acres, and would involve the employment of considerable labour. In these circumstances we ought surely to consider whether it is not worth while encouraging the manufacture of spirits which have their origin, so to speak, in the products of our soil, and can be made under conditions that will enable us to place a very superior article on the markets of the world. Although this may not be the proper stage at which to discuss this phase of the question, I draw attention to it now in order that the Government’, as well as the members of the Commission, may be prepared, later on. to show whether there is any material objection to granting further encouragement to the production of pure grape and malt spirit.
– The honorable member means to suggest that he desires to increase the difference between the Excise and import duties on pure grape brandy to the extent of more than 4s. per gallon.
– Yes, that is the.only way out of the difficulty. I was under the impression that we should be able to reestablish the local manufacture of blended whisky and brandy by allowing a preference of only 2s. per gallon over the imported article, but I gather from the evidence, and the statements .made by the members of the Commission, that it would be impossible to do so. In these circumstances, I have been forced to accept the recommendation of the Commission that a preference of 3s. per gallon be allowed. But I invite the Committee to say whether a further reduction of is. per gallon should not be granted in, respect of the Excise duty on grape spirit.
– If that were done what ad valorem duty would it, approximately, represent ?
– It would not be as high as the ad valorem rate in respect of blended spirit. It has also occurred to me that it is desirable to require an increase in the proportion of grape spirit used in blended spirits. I should say that in blended brandy the minimum quantity of grape spirit should Le 50 per cent., whilst there should be a minimum of 50 per cent, of malt spirit in blended whisky. If such a provision were made, it would increase the use of natural products of our soil, and at the same time I think it would also tend towards the production of a better spirit.
– Why does the honorable member suggest that we should have a blend ?
– The Tariff Commission deals with the question ; the requirements of the people demand it.
– It is for the sake of cheapness that a highly rectified spirit is used.
– I have no quarrel with the Commission, in respect of their recommendations; but I do not think that from the stand-point of revenue any objection can be taken to my proposal. If it were adopted, it would increase the possibilities of an expansion of production, and increase the use of a natural product of our soil.
– The honorable mem. ber does not desire to reduce the proposed protection ?
– No, I think that the Commission are in a better position than I am to arrive at a conclusion on that point.
– It would be useless to reduce the protection.
– In the face of the evidence taken by the Commission, I do not ask the Committee to do so. But, seeing that under, the Tariff which has just been altered a differentiation of 2s. was made in favour of grape spirit, and the increase in the distillation of such spirit has been only slow, I think that an injustice will be done to an industry existing on the use of a natural product if the differentiation is reduced to is. I know the conditions which prevailed in Victoria prior to the imposition of the Federal Tariff, and those which have since prevailed, and I therefore . ask the Committee to reconsider the matter, because honorable members desire the development of our natural industries, and I believe that the concession sought for, while benefiting the industry on whose behalf I speak, will not prejudice any other. I hope that, as time goes on, our pure brandy and pure malt whisky will acquire a world-wide reputation, and the manufacture of such spirit will do the least amount of harm, and the greatest amount of good to the community.
.- This is a subject upon which I have little information. To my mind it is regrettable that we should have to derive so large a part of our revenue from duties on spirits, but the imposition of high duties is regarded as necessary to prevent abuse, and to discourage the importation of inferior productions. I am of the opinion of the Highlander who, after a heavy night, declared that whisky was bad, especially bad whisky. But so long as we impose these duties we must see that we get the most revenue we can from them. It is stated in this morning’s Age that -
Mr. Fowler says 14s. is as high a rate “as consumers will stand,” and that a higher duty will lead to the consumption of inferior spirit. But against this theory, the actual facts of the colonies in pre-Federation days are conclusive. Of the six colonies two had 15s- duties on spirits, and ‘one had 16s. ; and surely in such a matter as this, which is on:; of mere opinion, the Government is justified in taking what it thinks the necessary means of safeguarding the revenue.
The writer of that article probably overlooked the fact that Victoria in 1894 had an import -duty of 15s. per proof gallon, and in two years lost £300,000 in revenue, when, as the result of the investigation of a Commission, the duty was reduced to 14s. Furthermore, South Australia had a duty of 15s., with a 16.5 allowance for underproof, making the rate equivalent to 12s. 6d. Western Australia had a duty of 16s., with a 16.5 allowance for underproof, making the rate 13s. 4d. These facts seem to me to be reasons why we should not- make the duty on proof spirit as high, as 15s.
– Hear, hear. The matter of an allowance for underproof spirit has been entirely overlooked.
– I am glad to hear the honorable member say that. It affects the question very much. I hope that the subject will receive from the Committee the attention which it deserves.
Amendment agreed to.
– In order to give the Committee an opportunity to determine whether the import duty on spirits should be increased, I move -
That after the amount “ 15s.,” line 17, the following words be inserted : - “ and, on and after 16th August, 14s.”
This question has been already fully discussed, and I do not propose to travel over, ground already covered. As Chairman of the Tariff Commission I am pledged to stand by its recommendations, which were ba sed ‘ on the assumption that there would be no increase in the import duty. Last night I gave the reasons why the Commissioners thought that . the import duty should net be increased, while recommending a reduction in the Excise dutv. Under the operation of the Tariff which we are now amending, there has been an enormous increase in the revenue derived from spirits, especially under the Excise duties. As will be seen from the statement made on page 45 of our report, the production of spirits in Australia in 1899 was 737,200 proof gallons, and in 1905 1,506,339 proof gallons, so that the production practically doubled, the revenue increasing correspondingly from ^147:935 to ,£267,454. The increase in production was due chiefly to the distillation of molasses spirit in Queensland and New South Wales, and one of the reasons why the whisky distil leries in Victoria were suffering so much was that the market was being swamped with that spirit. One of the objects of the scheme of reconstructed Excise duties was therefore to differentiate between various classes of spirits according to the cost of production, and it is believed that a substantial reduction in the Excise duties without- a corresponding increase in the import duties can be brought about without injuriously affecting the revenue, or reducing it below the standard anticipated and provided for bv the Tariff launched by the right honorable member for. Adelaide in 1901. The Commissioners thought that the increase of revenue from Excise duties had been so large tHat the duties could be lowered without makins it necessary to increase the import duties, which would result in an unnecessary disturbance of the retail and wholesale trade in spirits.
– The Chairman of. the Tariff Commission has told us why that body recommended that the import duties, on spirits should not be increased, and gave what may be taken to be in part an explanation of that recommendation. Having regard to the circumstances of the local distilling industry,, their recommendations in regard to Excise duties are only natural ; but their estimates of revenue put before us seem to have been largely affected., if not entirely brought about, by the need for justifying the postulate upon which the Commission started, that there should be no increase ‘ in the Customs duties. That is no increase of import duties. Commencing with a proposition, of that kind, it is easy to see how the recommendations of the Commission were agreed to, but I submit that their calculations are to some extent biased. With them revenue was the last consideration.. When the Government took up the proposals of the Commission, their first concern, naturally, was the effect which the acceptance of these proposals would have upon the revenue. I have taken the precaution to look through the figures which the honorable and learned member for Bendigo has put forward in support of the contention that the adoption of the scale of duties advised by the Commission would not involve any -materia? decrease of the revenue, and must say that they carry no conviction to my mind. He points to aw » increase in the local production of spirits, more particularly of the cheapest kinds of spirits from molasses, and contends that the reduction of all the Excise duties will be more than compensated for by the great increase in the quantity produced. Put in that bald way, I take it that this is sun. unconvincing statement. I should be very sorry to see a greatly increased consumption of spirits in the Commonwealth, but, leaving that consideration on one side for the moment, would point out that there is nothing to lead us to suppose that the increased local production would be so great as to make up for the inevitable loss of revenue that would result from the substitution of Australian spirits subject to the payment of Excise duty for imported spirits, which bear a much higher impost.
– The experience of Victoria shows that a great loss resulted from the increase of the duty upon imported spirits.
– That is the only experience of the kind that can be quoted, and in the light of my knowledge of the circumstances, it has no weight, with me.
– In 1897, we increased the import duties in South Australia, with the same result.
– Possibly. I am not acquainted with the circumstances of SouthAustralia, nor with the extent to which the revenue declined in that State; but I am acquainted with the circumstances of Victoria when the revenue derived from spirit duties fell off., and know that a similar decline could be shown to have taken place in respect to all luxuries and to a considerable degree in respect to necessaries also. The circumstances of the time were severe and unprecedented, leading to a remarkable effort - which was superbly successful - madeby the whole community to economize at every point in order that liabilities might be discharged and obligations might be met. . There was consequently an immense falling-off in the revenue.
– Not many persons retrenched so far as the consumption of spirits was concerned.
– They did- they retrenched in every respect.
– There was not the same falling-off in the revenue of New South Wales at the same time.
– The circumstances of the two States were not similar. The land boom in New South Wales collapsed at an earlier date than did that of Victoria, and the banking crisis in New South Wales was met in another way. Having the direct personal knowledge of one who lived through that period of trial and stress in Victoria, the falling-off in the revenue to which reference has been made conveys to me no such lesson as is sought to be deduced from it. I have made inquiries, and find that the experience of Victoria in that connexion is the only one of the kind that can be quoted. We have to remember that at the time Federation was brought about, two States were levying a duty of 15s. per gallon upon imported spirits, and that Western Australia was collecting a duty of 16s. per gallon.
– In the latter State, an allowance was made for under-proof spirit, which brought the duty down to about 14s. per gallon.
– I do not think that any allowance was made for under-proof spirit.
– I may point out, further, that New Zealand still retains a duty of 16s. per gallon upon imported spirits.
– That Colony has . no local production of spirits.
– New Zealand still retains the import duty of 16s., and her revenue has not been reduced.
– Her case is very different to that of South Australia. There was a very great falling off in South Australia owing to the increase of the import duties.
– That was because of the difference between the Excise and the import duties. It was because of the wide discrepancy there between the two duties that the local spirit distilling industry was fostered. Where there is no local distillation,’ as in the case of New Zealand, the same comparison cannot be made. High duties, such as we propose, prevail in South Africa and elsewhere, and I have yet to find a well established authentic case in which such an increase of the import duty on spirits has led to a decline in the revenue. It is only an advance of 7 per cent. Therefore, I have no reason to suppose that the proposed increase will have any such effect. I am not offering my own opinion, but have read the papers placed before meby the officers of the Treasury and Customs Departments, which support the view that the increase of the importduty to 15s. will not have the result predicted. Moreover, after having made an independent examination as well as a joint examination of the whole case, and having reconsidered the whole matter, the officers of the Departments mentioned assure me that they are more confident than ever that the acceptance of the proposals of the Tariff Commission to reduce the Excise duties, while retaining the present import duties, would result in a loss of from £60,000 to £90,000 per annum. It is estimated that this loss would result from the substitution of locally manufactured spirit for imported spirit. On the other hand, they think that any change that might take place under the Government proposals would be of a gradual character, extending over a considerable term of years. I need not remind honorable members of the serious effect that any reduction in the revenue would have upon the finances of the Commonwealth, and also at present upon the finances of the States.
– The effect would not be nearly so bad as that which would be brought about under the Government proposal to give away £200,000 per annum in ‘ connexion with the penny postage system.
– I do not wish to argue that question, merely pointing out that in the reduction of the postage, we should get a substantial return, whereas we should obtain no recompense for the reduction of duty. That constitutes the difference between the two cases.
– By making the proposed reduction we should afford protection to local industry?
– Yes; and that is very valuable. Our object, however, should be to protect local industry without incurring any loss of revenue.
– Is the Prime Minister anxious to foster the establishment of grog shops, in our midst ?
– No, I am not.
– The Prime Minister must be, because that would be the direct result of the Government proposal.
– No one with even an elementary sense of chemistry or logic - of which the honorable and learned member is so fond of speaking - would make such an assertion. I should be very loth to support any proposals of a financial or other character that would lead to an increase in the consumption of spirits. I prefer a policy which, while the present consumption is maintained, will cause a larger proportion of the spirits to be supplied by local producers, thus maintaining the revenue at its present standard. If we accomplish that, we shall have done all that we can expect. The figures supplied have been sifted over again from a fresh point of view, and further questions have been submitted to the Customs and Treasury officials. Having recast their calculations, and investigated the matter from a different point of view, they are quite clear that, putting aside any extraordinary and unforeseen departure one way or .the other, and assuming that trade will follow its natural course, the proposals made for reducing the Excise duties would involve the grave loss to which I have already referred - from £60,000 to £90,000 a year. This would be a very serious loss for us to incur at this, or at any other time. I do not wish to enter into other financial questions, but may point out that the Budget this year not only excluded from consideration the possibilities of any alteration in the revenue, arising from the adoption of the recommendations of the Tariff Commission, but also omitted the cost of any new proposals in connexion with a report of the Imperial Defence Committee laid on the table to-day, or any other proposals in connexion with-the Defence Department. With the probability of these additional undertakings demanding immediate attention, making,,’ a further inroad upon our funds, and with the possibility that there may be other unforeseen calls upon us, it would be in the highest degree unwise to pass measures which would involve such a huge reduction of the revenue as would be forced upon us if the proposals of the Commission were carried into effect.
– What about the loss that will be incurred in connexion with the penny postage proposals ?
– As I have already stated, I think that in that case we shall receive a quid pro quo, whereas we shall have nothing to gain by the reduction of the duties proposed by the Commission. I had before me this morning the very figures which the honorable and learned member for Bendigo has. just quoted, and most of which are included in his valuable report. I have examined the explanation which is given of the reasons for the proposed decreases of Excise, and they appear to be very, reasonable. I see no- thing in them, however, to. support the theory that the great change proposed can be made without a very serious loss of revenue - a loss against which we ought to protect ourselves. On the other hand, we believe that if we retain the proportion which the Tariff Commission has recommended between the Import and Excise duties, while increasing both classes of imposts, we can fairly expect to hold our own. We might fall a little short, or we might obtain an extra ,£20,000 - the latter is a sanguine estimate. So far as the officers of the Departments can judge, it is not likely that, with the duties we propose, we shall realize ‘ more than £20,000 under favorable circumstances, or that we shall lose more than ,£20,000 under unfavorable circumstances. Examined from all points of view, the calculations made by the officers appear very fair. We have tested the matter by working out the figures on various assumed increases and decreases of Excise and Import duties, and in every case the same result has been arrived at. If honorable members resolve to make this very serious departure, I hope that they will do so with their eyes open. They may feel called upon to sanction it - they may think that the benefits to be gained from it are such that the immense sacrifice is justified. But I do not think that they can afford to set aside the warnings of both the Customs and the Treasury Departments in this connexion. After the fullest inquiry, the opinion of the expert officers of. those Departments is that the sacrifice which the proposal would involve is very great - so great that I db not think honorable members would be justified in authorizing it. I hope that upon consideration, even those who realize - as the Chairman of the Tariff Commission does - that the imposition of the increased import dutyproposed will complicate the existing relations between the wholesale and retail dealers, and to some extent affect the dealing of the retail publicans with their customers, will recognise that these things must be faced, rather than that we should suffer such a dangerous depletion of our Commonwealth revenue. My honorable colleague, the Treasurer, in his Budget statement, estimated the surplus that would be returnable to the States during the current year at ,£310,000. If that amount be reduced by* ,£90,000, we shall only be able to return to them a little more than £200,000.
– The adoption of the recommendation of the Commission would involve a loss of only half of ,£90,000.
– Even ‘ a loss of half that sum would be a serious matter. Before the session closes, there are other matters which we shall require to take into account involving expenditure. Under these circumstances, I ask honorable members whether - in order to place the Excise duties upon a fairer footing relatively to the import duties, as the Commission’s recommendation certainly does - it is wise to make this great sacrifice? It appears to me that the members of the Commission have discharged their duty 0 very thoroughly by taking fiscal questions into consideration. They seem to have worked out the chief problems submitted to them very carefully, and the Government in their proposals are preserving the same proportions throughout. But to say that in order to obtain the end in. view we ought to part with ,£60,000 during the first year of the operation of the new duties-
– The members of the Tariff Commission do not think that the revenue would lose that sum.
– We have had* the estimates of the Commission, such as they are, carefully checked by our expert officers, and, of course, the latter’s calculations were made very much mere close Iv than were those of the Commission. The Commission, having decided that they would not recommend any increase in the import duties upon spirits, and realizing what ought to be done to relieve an industry which had been injured by the operation of the Commonwealth Tariff, naturally looked with a favorable eye upon anything which confirmed their theory that the alteration recommended could be effected without very great injury to the public. I cannot get away from the revenue aspect of this matter. I am sure that to take the step which has been proposed would constitute an act of extravagance in which we are not warranted.
– I shall support the amendment of the honorable and learned1 member for Bendigo, who is the Chairman of the Commission which was specially appointed to inquire into this matter. I say at once that if I am called upon to make a choice between the evidence which that body has collected and the opinions which have been expressed by officers of the Customs Department, I shall not have the .slightest hesitation in giving my adherence to the testimony tendered to the former upon oath. I will give the reasons why I make this, decided preference in favour of the (Commission. My experience of the high officers of the Victorian Customs Department is that they are saturated with political notions. I regret to have to make this statement, but it is nevertheless a fact. More than once the representatives from the other States have been made only too well acquainted with this unconscious bias on the part of VicQtorian officials in regard to their own industries. For instance, only to-day I saw a letter emanating from the Customs Depart:ment, and addressed to a firm in my own State, in which it’ was pointed out that certain articles - the duty upon which was in dispute - were being made in Victoria, and in, which the question was asked why the firm could not obtain its supplies from this State. Is that the function of these officers - to attempt to dictate to a firm where it shall obtain its supplies? I say that it is a piece of right-down rank impertinence on the part of this Customs official.
– Who did that ?
– The letter -which I saw was signed by Dr. Wollaston. It pointed out that the commodity - the duty upon which was in dispute - was made in Victoria, and inquired why the individual in question could not secure his supplies there.
– That is pretty strong.
– It is about as strong as anything of which I have heard. That is the’ attitude which these departmental officials assume towards many indus: trial questions. They allow their bias to colour and affect their decisions in regard to the payment of duty. For these reasons, and because of other experiences which I nave had in connexion with former discussions upon the Tariff, I do not hesitate to prefer the’ opinions gathered by the Tariff Commission. It is an unfortunate circumstance that these officials should acquire unconscious bias. Above all other things, they ought not to be politicians. Thev ought to have nothing to do with the question of how the imposition of duties will affect industries. That is for this House to determine. Thev have merely to see that the revenue is protected. It is their function to endeavour to interpret the Statutes which we pass,, so far as their judgment will allow them to do so. That is one of the reasons why I unhesitatingly prefer to abide by the recommendations of the Commission. Another reason is that I believe more revenue will be collected Under a dutv of 14s. per gallon than would be received under a 15s. per gallon impost. Further, I am of opinion that a duty of 15s. per gallon would lead to adulteration, and we certainly ought not to induce that by reason of our Tariff decisions. There are three things that we ought to bear special lv in mind in dealing with the dutv upon grog. In the first place, our desire should be to insure the supply of as pure an article as possible; in the second, we should endeavour to make it as mild as we can in the interests of those who will persist in drinking it ; and lastly, we should try to derive from it as much revenue as it will honestly and legitimately yield. I believe that the ,14s. per gallon rate represents that point in connexion with the importation of ardent .spirits. So far as the fiscal aspect of the question is concerned, I decline to consider it at all. We ought not to consider it in respect of this matter, which has such a very material and moral bearing upon the welfare of the -people as a whole. There are other considerations which weigh with me. I think that the liquor trade is one of those that we -ought not to be anxious to build up in Australia from the point of view of providing employment for our people. For instance, I am told that the total number of hands engaged in’ the distilleries in Victoria is 143. That number includes clerks, travellers, coopers, bottlers, and carters. In view of the small amount of labour which this industry employs, we ought not to be so seriously considering the fiscal aspect in connexion with the imposition of duties. I was surprised to learn from the Prime Minister to-day that an increase of duties will not necessarily lead to a decreased importation. That is the only conclusion which can be drawn from the attitude which has been assumed by the Government on the present occasion, and it is one which is directly opposed to the theory which they so constantly advocate, namely that if we increase the dutv upon any article we . shall keep out importations. Apparently the Government hold that that theory applies to every other article, ex- cept grog. Why it should not apply I am unable to understand, particularly when the duty proposed is of so serious a character as it is in connexion with spirits.
– That is not my argument.
– It is the conclusion which must be drawn from the estimates which have been brought forward.
– The conclusion to be drawn is that we should import a less quantity of spirits under the duty proposed by the Government, and consume a larger quantity of locally-produced spirits. Mr. Kelly. - But at a lower price.
– The lesser quantity which we should import would pay1s. per gallon more.
– That would not affect the consumption of locally-produced spirits in the slightest degree.
– The importers would be required to pay 15s. per gallon upon a smaller import of spirits.
– I am quite content to leave that matter, because to my mind none of these fiscal considerations are worth pursuing. All that we should inquire into is the effect of the consumption of the grog itself, and the effect of the Government proposals upon the revenue of the country. These are the only considerations which ought to weigh with us. My own opinion - and that of the Commission - is that a duty of 15s. per gallon will mean a loss of revenue to the Commonwealth, and will not mean the importation of as much good spirit as the imposition of the lower rate would induce. I think that the more we can insure the supply of pure grog to the public the more we shall be making a stride in the direction of genuine temperance refrom. If people will drink grog - and they unfortunately continue to drink it, notwithstanding all the effort which is going on in Victoria and elsewhere - it should be our aim to insure that theliquor supplied to them shall, be of the purest possible character. I believe that a great deal of the drunkenness in the community springs from the impurity of the stuff which men pour down their throats. I am quite certain that the imposition of high duties such as those proposed by the Government will have a tendency to induce adulteration. Some time ago I met a publican who told me that he was! about to retire from the business. He was an individual with whom I used to work many years ago. I asked him the reason for his action, and he said that his rent was high, and that other considerations made it almost “impossible for him to supply the peoplewith good liquor, and that he would refuse togive them an article which he did not. regard asof good quality. The higher the duties that we impose upon spirits, the more likelihood is there that adulteration will be practised. As has been pointed out, the difference between a duty of 14s. per gallon, and one of 15s. per gallon upon imported spirits; may mean a difference of 2s. per gallon to the individual who sells them. Thepublic will still desire to obtainthe samequantity of liquor for the same amount of money, and consequently the publican, to make the profit which he has hitherto made, will be tempted to adulterate it.
– With water?
– If a publicandilutes with water the grog which he offers. for sale, he is prosecuted for making it” more harmless than it would otherwise be.
– Evidently that is a bads law.
– That is, atall events, the law in New South Wales. Men. are constantly being prosecuted for simply watering spirits offered by them for sale.
– For trying to “ do good by stealth.”
– If spirits are tobe diluted it would seem that something: more harmful than water must be used, and that in all probability in such circumstances adulteration must take place. Theaim of all our legislation should be to cut down adulterationto a minimum, and asfar as possible to abolish it. In this connexion, I think that the inquiries of theCommissionmay have a good result. They propose, for instance, to set up a certificated standard of pure Australian brandy and whisky. These spirits are to subscribeto the chemical test, which they consider ought to be made in a prescribed way, and’ which will presumably result in the production of as pure a spirit as human ingenuity can devise. As far as they go inthat direction the Commission are on right lines. If we could induce the people todrink pure instead of adulterated grog we should be taking a step in the directionof temperance.
– Are not more peoplelikely to drink spirits if their purity beinsured ?
– No. I am told that blended grog is more largely consumed than is pure spirit - that grog is blended to hit the public taste.
– The palate is developed bv blending.
– That mav be; but whether the taste to which this blending ministers is an acquired or a natural one I am not in a position to say.
– I was speaking of adulteration as opposed to blending. I understand “blending” to mean the mixing of spirits distilled in two different ways.
– We have the statement made yesterday by Mr. Joshua that very little pure brandy is drunk in Australia.
– Verv little pure grape brandy
– The people ask for blended brandy.
– They do not ask for it.
- Mr. Joshua says that he makes brandy from other things than go to make pure wine brandy.. I understand that he largely uses molasses and a mixture of other things, and that he rectifies his spirit, and makes it something that is certainly not pure wine spirit. I am told again that so-called pure grape brandy is not in itself anything like a pure spirit - that certain ingredients are retained which in themselves are not beneficial, but add a flavour to the standard brandy. I am bound to say that I sit at the feet of the Chairman of the Commission. He tells us that after fifteen months spent in making a strict and close inquiry into the whole process of the manufacture of Australian and other spirits, the Commission, have come to the conclusion that an import duty of 14s. per gallon is as much as the trade can bear, consistently with providing a pure article for consumption. Believing that. I shall vote with him when we proceed to decide this question. The Prime Minister stated that in New Zealand an import duty of 16s. per gallon is operating to-day. I understand, however, that there is no local distillation there.
– There is no local distillation, except that which, per haps, is carried on illicitly. It is said that prohibition leads to a certain amount of illicit distillation, but on that question I am not competent to express an opinion.
The result of the use of adulterants in this trade is doubtless much like that which follow* the adulteration of other articles. If, for instance, the coinage of a country be debased, the inferior article usually drives out the superior one.
– I do not think that the same law holds.
– It seems to operate on the same plane. If the people can obtain an inferior article at a very much cheaper rate than that at which a superior article is offered, there is a tendency for the inferior to drive the superior article out of the market. That is the position with regard to many things, and it seems to me that the remark will apply te spirit. Inferior spirit would seem to be able to drive superior spirit out of the market. It is more easily and cheaply produced, and can be so blended as to hit the popular taste. But I was going to point out that in New Zealand there ls no’ locally produced spirit to compete against the imported article; consequently, as they have to rely upon imports for the whole of their requirements, the people must pay the dutv of1 16s. per gallon, or go without their supplies. All the evidence we can obtain shows that if the import duties go beyond a certain point in countries where spirits are distilled, inferior local distillations creep in and drive the superior article out of . the market. That is made very clear in the report ot the Royal Commission which was appointed when the right honorable member for Balaclava was Premier of Victoria. That Commission pointed out, as the Prime Minister has said, that the depression which then existed was largely responsible for the falling away of the revenue of Victoria, but that there was something’ more -
We regret to say that we regard the fact to be proved that a very inferior quality of spirit is vended, and that this state of things has been fostered by the high duties.
It would therefore appear that, in this respect, spirits are like many other things - the moment one begins to debase them that moment the inferior article becomes popular, and tends to some extent to take the place of the superior one. I am not going to pursue this question further. We have already devoted a day and a half to its consideration, and we ought to be able verv soon to make up our minds with respect to the import duty to be’ imposed. I should like to hear from the Prime Minister whether the Government have any further proposal to make in the way of a modification of- the schedule. Has the honorable gentleman any proposal to make as affecting the excise duty ?
– One proposal.
– Such a proposal unless it referred only to the relation which blended spirit bears under the Excise duties to pure spirit, might affect the question of the import duties to be imposed. I do not know whether the Minister intends to deal with that matter.
– There is one proposal only.
– It perhaps would not affect to any appreciable extent the question of the ‘import duty.
– I think not. ,
– It might affect the question, since if a difference were made in the Excise duty on blended spirit it would establish a different relation between the Excise duty and the import duty on that article. Therefore, the two questions are to some extent interwoven. I thought that the Prime Minister would to-day bring down the further proposals of the Government, so that the Committee would know exactly what they were before being called upon to decide any of these questions. I still think that it would be preferable to have the whole of the facts before us before we are asked to decide any of these “ questions.
– We should have all the facts before us before we are asked to vote on any of these questions.
– I am quite willing.
– It would help the Committee to make up its mind.
– The Minister of Trade and Customs, on his return from Corowa, may have some further information to lay before us. That is usually the result of his tours.
– That is so. The honorable gentleman’s week-end perambulations in South Australia seem to have considerably modified his opinions, and possibly when he returns from Corowa and other wine-producing districts, he will have further modifications to propose. Although the honorable gentleman has shown that he is susceptible to some change in his opinions concerning these matters, he has not stayed here to give us the benefit of his altered views. He said that there was something wrong, and by way of interjection ‘declared that he thought there was “ Too much Joshua” about the proposal of the Commission. But, having made that statement, he betook himself from the Chamber, leaving the Prime Minister to bear the brunt of the whole proceedings. As I said yesterday, the action of the Minister in leaving the Chamber when proposals of this kind are under consideration is most reprehensible. I certainly think it is extraordinary that any Government should treat as lightly as the present Ministry appear to b-i doing, the recommendations and findings of the Commission. If there be . any serious blot on the findings of the Commission - if there are any serious amendments to propose - it would be only an act of courtesy on the part of the Government to ask the Commission to give further consideration to its recommendations. That would be a courteous way of treating the Commission. It has not yet been disbanded, and I suppose that its members would not close their minds to the reception of further evidence placed before them for consideration. If it is thought that their proposals should be drastically amended, they should be given an opportunity to reconsider them. The only further knowledge available seems to be the statement of the Customs officers, whose tendency is too- much to consider local industries, instead of giving impartial reports such as should’ emanate from high officials who have no concern with party politics. For the reasons which I have given, I prefer the recommendations of the Commission to those of the Customs officials. The experience available for our guidance shows that the higher the import duties are made, the greater are the temptations placed in the way of the adulteraters and blenders of liquors. Our aim should be to obtain the most revenue we can from the duties on spirits and similar luxuries, and to make it as difficult as possible for those connected with their distribution to do wrong. In my judgment, the increasing of the import duty will offer a distinct temptation to the adulteration of liquor, and will not increase the revenue. I shall, therefore, vote for the amendment.
– I followed the speech of the honorable member for Parramatta verv closely, and regret that I cannot accept his reasoning. He made what was, in my opinion, a somewhat unfair aspersion upon the officers of the Customs Department.
– He has the letter.
– I have not got it., butI saw it to-day.
– I do not excuse the writing of that letter, and, if the factsare as the honorable member has stated them to be, it will be for the Minister to deal with the case. That sort of thing should not be permitted, no matter what position an officer may occupy. I allude to the honorable member’s suggestion that our Customs officials have a predilection for bolstering upVictorian industries.
– That is the case I rely upon.
– The honorable member cited their report to the Minister, with its examinationof figures and conclusions, as an attempt to assist Victorian industries.
– I said that my experience of them is that they are unconsciously biased in that direction.
– In that case, they would better serve the end which the honorable member says they have in view by supporting the recommendations of the Tariff Commission. I think that, from a protectionist’s point of view, it would be better to lower the Excise than to increase the Customs duties. But the Government and the officers of the Customs Department are the guardians of the public revenue, and in that position must be very vigilant. It reflects the highest credit upon them that they are at all times ready to protect the revenue, and to warn Parliament of actions likely to be detrimental to it. Some honorable members seem to think very lightly of a loss of revenue amounting to between £60,000 and , £90,000 a year, but I am not one of them. I consider it a very important matter. I am not anxious, as some honorable members seem to be, for the imposition of direct taxation by the Commonwealth Parliament.
– Why did the honorable member, when in the Victorian Parliament, vote for the reduction of the duty on spirits ?
– The honorable member is now talking very ancient history.
Mr.Poynton. - The honorable member did so in order to increase the revenue.
– I may have done so; my object now is to save the revenue.
– Is it not to make an unproved assumption to say that it will increase the revenue to raise the import duty ?
– I am not making that assumption. It is a question, not of increasing the revenue, but of preventing the loss of revenue.
– The honorable member says that, if the duty is not raised, there will be a loss of revenue amounting to at least £60,000.
-Ihave not said so; but it is reported by responsible officers of the Customs Department that if the Excise duties are lowered as recommended by the Tariff Commission, there will be a loss of revenue amounting to between £60,000 and £90,000.
– Does the honorable member think that that loss will be prevented by increasing theCustoms duty by1s. per gallon ?
– I have not said so, and I do not think that the Customs officials say so.
– Then why make the increase? If we shall not prevent that loss by increasing the Customs duty by1s., why should we increase it?
– If the honorable and learned member had listened to the report read by the Prime Minister, he would know that the Customs officials say that the present revenue will be about maintained, but not increased, by raising the Customs duty by1s.
– The question is, which will return most revenue, a duty of 14s. or a duty of 15s. ?
– There is a very simple answer to that question. It will depend upon the quantity imported.
– Afact which the Departmental officers seem to have forgotten.
– I do not think so. I had a slight association with them for a brief period.
– I had a still slighter association with them for a still briefer period.
– No doubt the honorable and learned member’s association with them was sufficiently long to give him a high idea of their patriotism and capacity.
– I do not think that they are infallible.
– Nor do I. We have before us the proposals of the Tariff Commission and those of the Government, and I intend to support the latter, accepting the statement of our responsible officers that the adoption of the Tariff Commission’s proposals would mean a loss of revenue of between ,£60,000 and ,£90,000 a year. In my opinion, the importation of liquor should be discouraged as much as possible. I am not in favour of the unrestricted use of spirituous liquors, and should like to see spirits used as little as possible. The re,duction of the excise duties, while benefiting local distillers, will encourage the increased use of liquor, and I shall oppose it on that ground. For these two reasons, which I think are sufficient to justify such action on the part of any one who thinks as I do, I shall vote against the amendment.
.- The honorable member for Laanecoorie seems to be uncertain as to whether the increase in the import duty proposed by the Government will make the revenue larger or smaller.
– It will maintain it at about what it is now.
– The honorable member did not inform the Committee why he thinks that a higher duty will lead to equally larger importations. As a general rule, the higher the duty, the smaller the importation of the article to which it applies. In this matter, I propose to accept the verdict of the protectionist Commission which reported to the Victorian Parliament in 1895 in the following terms -
In regard to the import duty on spirits, the revenue of Victoria therefrom has been as follows : -
Making every allowance for the decrease of duty caused by depression in the colony, and for the disturbance of trade at the time of the increase of duties in July, 1892, we think that the higher rates have resulted in a very marked decrease of revenue.
– I entirely disagree with that. ‘
– The honorable member for Laanecoorie has explained that he supports the proposals of the Government for two reasons - that they will result in the maintenance of the revenue, and that they will tend to bring about temperance. The report which I have read completely discounts his assumption in regard to the maintenance of the revenue, while, as to the encouragement of temperance, which the honorable member finds it convenient to advocate at the present time, I think that the temperance people are not anxious that we should devote ourselves to the building up of an industry in which they do not believe. If the honorable member is really desirous of assisting the temperance cause, he will have to vote later on for increasing the Excise duties.
– In order to benefit the revenue, and to prevent the fostering of an ignoble industry.
– Is it not better to have the industry in Australia under proper supervision than to rely on importations?
– The honorable member is now shifting his ground. He told us a few moments ago, with his hand on his heart, that his object is to prevent the sale of grog, but, when I accuse him of wishing to foster the distilling industry, he says’ - still with his hand on his heart - that he does so only because it gives an opportunity to control the manufacture of such spirits. The attitude of the honorable member member has varied as I have described. He knows that he advocated, these proposals on. two grounds : in the first place, because of the protection that they would afford to the revenue; and in the second place because he was anxious on temperance grounds to see a decrease in the consump-tion of spirits.
– I never mentioned temperance.
– Then I have unwittingly done the honorable member a wrong, i’ shall refer to Hansard to see whether he did not refer to temperance. I desire to direct attention to the conclusions arrived at by the Victorian Tariff Board with reference to the deterioration in the quality of spirits brought about by the increase of duties in that State. The Board say -
On this important subject we heard the evidence of every branch of the trade and of some disinterested persons. On the main point, viz.,, that the spirit duties should be reduced, there was a perfect unanimity of opinion.
An importer of wines and spirits, who represented the importing trade, placed before us some very instructive figures in regard to the effect of the late increases of duty on the revenue. The duties, import and excise together, collected in Victoria in 1891-2, the year before the increases of rate were levied, were, he said, £806,622. In 1892-3, in the early part of which year the higher rates came into force, the amount was £472,805, showing a decrease of £333,8r7.
During the same years he pointed out that the revenue in New South Wales, where both import and excise duty is 14s.. per gallon, with an allowance for under-proof spirits, had not fallen in anything like the same ratio, the decrease being from £860,134 in 1891-2 tc» £746,743 in 1802-3, equalling £r 13,39^ This greater proportionate decrease of the revenue of Victoria was attributed partly to the depressed
A little later on they remark- -
We gather from the evidence that the high duties have fostered corruption in the trade, and led to much business immorality. Although we have no direct evidence, we firmly believe, and indeed the records of the Excise Department show, that inferior spirit is constantly sold fraudulently under the cover of good brands. The blending of colonial spirit with imported we believe to be general, and we further think that the blend is sold as imported spirit. One witness told us that he had endeavoured in vain to find out where the large amount of colonial spirit produced was vended.
The high duties have also, we believe, fostered illicit distillation. Several illicit stills have lately been discovered, and a Melbourne merchant told us that he had reason to believe there were many others, and that illicit distillation was on the increase.
These statements of the Board gave rise to protests on the part of the distillers of Victoria. The Board again looked into the matter, and subsequently reported as follows : -
Although the duties on spirits, wine, and beer were dealt with fully in the first report, at the urgent request of representatives of the distilling industry, we took further evidence upon the subject. A large amount of additional interesting information, which we do not think it necessary to recapitulate, will be found in the minutes of’ evidence. No material facts of sufficient importance to induce us to alter our principal recommendations were, however, brought to light. Much of the evidence has, on the other hand, tended to show that our proposal for the alteration of the duties is moderate and equitable and necessary in the interests of the revenue.
This matured verdict of the Victorian Tariff Board effectively disposes of the claim that a duty of 15s. is necessary in the interests of the revenue, and also shows that a high duty will inevitably lead to deterioration in the quality of the spirit supplied, and to the introduction of corrupt practices into the trade. In this Parliament we have always professed to be solicitous for the moral and material welfare of the people whose interests are committed to our charge. We have very properl v insisted upon the temperance traditions of the Papuans being thoroughly maintained, and we have decreed the abolition of military canteens. Even the private privileges of honorable members were
.- I intend to support the recommendation of the Commission that the duty be maintained at 14s. I am prompted to do this in the interests of the revenue. I find that the local production of spirit has increased by 50 per cent, during the last few years, and that it is at present nearly equal to half the total consumption of the Commonwealth. This development has taken place, whilst there has been a margin of only is. between the import and Excise duties, and we may assume that if further protection is granted to the local distillers the production will very largely increase, and that in the very near future the whole of our requirements will be met by the local distillers. Within six years the production of spirits in the Commonwealth has been increased from 700,000 gallons to 1,500,000 gallons, whereas in four years the importation of spirits has decreased from 3,000,000 to 2,500,000 gallons. I should think that the Prime Minister and the Treasurer would be alarmed at the prospect qf a greater margin being allowed between the import and Excise duties, because a great shrinkage of revenue must take place. If we insist, however, upon raising the import duty to 15s., our position will be worse still. I would point out to honorable members that we pay se. very high price for the maintenance of the local distilling industry. Even assuming that there is no increase in the local production, we shall, under the Government proposal, lose 2s. upon .every gallon of spirit locally produced, and will thus pay £150,000 per annum towards the support of the Australian industry. These figures are enormous when we consider the very small advantages that are conferred upon the community. Very few hands are engaged in our distilleries. Messrs. Joshua Brothers, who, perhaps, have the only uptodate distillery in Australia, admit that they do not pay more than about £100 per week in wages. Mr. Joshua told the Tariff
Commission that he could, in the very near future, supply the whole of the spirit required for consumption in the Commonwealth. Joshua Brothers’ distillery is really the outcome of London enterprise, because 78,000 shares in the company are held in London.
– Seventy-eight thousand sovereigns were spent in Victoria.
– It is proposed to allow a very big margin between the Excise and import duties, for the advantage of a London company, which threatens in the near future to deprive the Commonwealth of a great amount of revenue by displacing imported spirit with their product.
– From what article are they making spirit?
– From the refuse of sugar.
– That is not correct.
– Sugar spirit is largely used in the manufacture of Joshua Brothers’ brandy. According to the evidence of the manager of a mill in New South Wales, this firm was the biggest purchaser of the spirit which was distilled from morasses.
– They do not say that in respect of brandy. The spirit to which the honorable member . refers was- sold for methylating purposes.
– At any rate, it is largely used in the production of blended spirits.
– Last year half of it was used for industrial purposes.
– In my judgment, the Government proposal represents protection run mad. If we allow that we are losing 2s. per gallon by differentiating between the import and the Excise duties upon spirits, it represents a sum of ,£156,000 annually.
– That money is spent in the country.
– We could obtain a large amount of labour for that sum. If we allow a difference of 3s. per gallon as between the import and the Excise duties upon spirits, it means a loss’ of revenue of £225, 000 annually, and in my opinion 3s. per gallon more nearly represents the loss which we incur than does 2s. I shall vote for the imposition of a duty of 14s. per gallon.
– I intend to support the proposal of the Government. I can understand the honorable and learned member for Bendigo submitting an amendment in favour of levying a duty of 14s. per gallon upon imported spirits, because in its admirable work the Tariff Commission framed a complete scheme.
– Why should that body recommend the imposition of a particular rate ?
– That is its concern. It is not necessary for us to accept the duty which the Commission has recommended. The only argument which has been advanced against a rate of 15s. per gallon is that it would mean a considerable loss of revenue. I do not agree with that statement. But even assuming that we lost considerably by levying a duty of i5st per gallon upon imported spirits, we should obtain an infinitely larger revenue from other sources. The adoption of the Government proposal would mean that more work would be provided in the industry in the Commonwealth, and thus the revenue would be more than recouped. It has also been said that the industry affords very little employment. Some honorable members appear to think that the only labour which it employs is that which is directly engaged in distillation. That is not so. We have to consider all the subsidiary industries connected with it. I need scarcely point out that at the present time we do not print the labels or manufacture either the bottles or the corks which are used in connexion with a large quantity of the spirits which are imported. Then it has been urged that the effect of the Government proposal will be to reduce the quality of the liquor which is supplied to the public. I maintain that there is nothing whatever in that contention owing to the operation of the Food and Drugs Acts in the various States. If honorable members will turn to progress report No. 2 of the Tariff Commission they will find that in 1905 the quantity of spirits imported into the Commonwealth exceeded that which was introduced in 1899 by 55,887 gallons. But there was this difference : That the value of the spirits imported in 1905 was less than the value of the importations of 1899 by £40,315. These figures seem to point to a very great deterioration indeed in the quality of the spirits which are imported. I think that the spirits which are introduced into the Commonwealth from abroad have already reached bed-rock so far as quality is concerned.
– That was the case when the duty imposed was a high one.
– It is the case under the operation of the present duty. At any rate, I am quite prepared to try the experiment proposed by the Government. The States will then be compelled to legislate to insure the supply of pure liquor to the public. In discussing this matter we must consider whether the loss of revenue which will flow from the adoption of the Government proposal will not be more than compensated for by the increased revenue which will be obtained from other sources as the result of increased employment being afforded to our own people.
; - I listened with interest to the remark’s of the Prime Minister, and I gathered that his object in opposing the amendment of the honorable and learned member for Bendigo was to encourage the local production of spirits. He admitted that, under the Government proposal, there would be a falling off in the quantity of spirits imported, but he urged that there would be a larger production of locallydistilled spirits. I am given to understand by those who are engaged in the business that Australia is well catered for, so far as the quality of the spirits which are imported is concerned. I gathered from the Prime Minister’s remarks that he favours placing upon the Australian market a locally-produced article, in preference to the pure spirit which is imported. When I was at Kilmarnock I was informed that Walker’s firm was not in the habit of sending to Australia whisky which was under’ ten years of age. In Ireland I was the recipient of similar information respecting Robertson’s whisky. These facts go to show that we are well catered for in the matter of high-class whiskies. It seems to me that the Prime Minister’s desire is to keep these whiskies out of our market. By so doing, he maintains that we shall obtain more revenue from the raw, immature spirit which will be produced locally, and the consumption of which will be likely to increase.
– The honorable member has not read the Tariff Commission’s report.
– I am quoting the observations of the Prime Minister.
– The honorable member is not. Every recommendation of the Tariff Commission requires that spirits, whether imported or locally distilled, shall be matured in wood ‘for two years.
– How does such a recommendation compare with whiskies which have been matured for ten years ?
– It is only a few minutes ago that I was handed a telegram in which the importers protest against the recommendation of the Tariff Commission being adopted, upon the ground that it would be impossible to comply with it-
– I doubt whether there is very much whisky consumed in Australia which has been matured for ten years. .
– Undoubtedly there is a large importation of inferior spirits, in addition to the well matured whisky I have referred to, as can be readily understood from a perusal of the different prices which are charged for them. When in Western Australia a short time ago, I was struck with the ..number of fresh brands of whisky which are upon the market there. Upon making inquiries I found that it was impossible to introduce into that State a whisky which was not well matured, and which would not compare favorably with the .productions of such well established firms as Walker and Robertson.
– The inspector of Excise in Western Australia says that amongst all the samples which he has examined he has scarcely found a pure article.
– It is quite beyond the province of the honorable member to say that. Of course, I recognise that there is a very large quantity of inferior spirit imported into the Commonwealth for various purposes. One has only to take the catalogue of a wine and -spirit merchant to note the marked difference between the prices of various brands. If a merchant were asked, the question he would probably tell his customer that he could g’.t .” Bulloch Lade” whisky for half the price which is charged for Walker’s “ Red Collar “ brand. It is perfectly true that prior to the enactment of the Federal Tariff, very good whisky could be purchased in Victoria. But as soon as InterState free-trade was established, one large firm here practically closed its works, and imported from New South Wales a cheap spirit made from molasses - a spirit to which it previously had no access. That is the spirit which is upon the market at the present time, and which the Government apparently wish to bring into general consumption. On behalf of the drinkers of whisky, .1 urge that we should insist upon the public being supplied with a pure article which has been matured by age in wood. I have seen experiments conducted with all kinds of spirituous liquors. When I was a young fellow, it was quite a com;mon thing for experiments to be undertaken with highly rectified spirit ; and I recollect that it was possible to convert that spirit :into almost any liquor that one desired. This result was accomplished by a process of flavouring and colouring.
– It was done with spirit taken out of the same bottle?
– Practically. The spirit was taken out of the same bottle, colouring and flavouring properties were added, and thus one was enabled to produce almost any liquor desired.
– These things, like margarine in butter, need an expert to detect their presence.
– That is so, but an expert can at once detect the difference between whisky made from highly-distilled molasses spirit, and that made from malt. If the honorable member has been through the gap of Dunoe, and has had an opportunity to taste the whisky illicitly distilled there and supplied to travellers-
– And distilled at a low alcoholic strength, which is characteristic of all those distillations.
– It is a very fiery liquor. One dose of it is sufficient to lay one up. I believe that illicit distillation is being very largely carried on in all parts of Australia. Spirit so produced is mixed with the best imported spirits, and the agents for the latter have travellers constantly visiting hotels and making tests for the purpose of detecting any such adulteration. This adulteration of imported whisky with inferior Australian whisky is largely practised. The Prime Minister, in opposing the proposal of ti the Chairman of the Commission, is actuated by a desire to discourage the consumption of the imported’ article, and to secure an increase in the consumption of that made locally, which is chiefly the product of Joshua Brothers’ distillery. Joshua Brothers openly assert thai they use a cheap Australian spirit in the manufacture, not only of whisky, but of brandy, and that they desire to discourage the consumption of pure brandy made exclusively, as in South Australia, from grape spirit. Twenty years ago, when Australian grape brandy was placed on the market, it was generally recommended by the medical profession as suitable for fever patients. As a pure brandy, it was preferable to imported brandies, since it contained the ethers so necessary to bring about a reduction of temperature with the least possibility of danger to the patient to whom it was administered. The tendency of the Government proposal is rather to encourage the consumption of inferior spirits to the disadvantage of some of the high-class whisky and brandy - which is chiefly importer! - sold in the Australian market. That being so, I feel it my duty, in the interests of a pure liquor supply for the people, to support’ .the amendment moved by the honorable and learned member for Bendigo.
.- The proposal of the Government that the import duty on spirits shall be increased to 15s. per gallon has been put forward on the ground that it is necessary from the stand-point of the Treasury. It has been pointed out by the Prime Minister that, after the sudden disappearance of the Minister of Trade and Customs, he caused inquiries to be made by competent officers, with the result that they arrived at the conclusion that the Government proposition is one which, because of revenue considerations, should be adopted. I did not have an opportunity to hear the speech delivered by the Prime Minister, but I gather that he failed to put before the Committee the grounds upon which these officers arrived at the conclusion that if the proposition of the Tariff Commission, that a duty of 14s. per gallon be imposed, were adopted, it would result in a loss of revenue. It must be patent to any one having a fair knowledge of this question that when the duty on spirits is increased from 14s. per gallon to 15s. per gallon, it becomes, not a revenue, but a protective one. From that point of view, I can understand such a proposal as that emanating from the Minister of Trade and Customs, as the representative of a protectionist Administration.
– Does a difference of is. per gallon convert a revenue duty into a protective one ?
– I think that it does. The honorable member for Wentworth has quoted statistics showing that the result of an increase in the spirit duties imposed under the Victorian Tariff was an immediate reduction in the revenue. We may reasonably expect ‘that if the Government proposal be adopted there will be a reduction of revenue, and that the duty will have a protective incidence. Since it appears that the Government have not proved their case, and as the honorable and learned member for Bendigo, as representing the Commission, has moved that the duty Le 14s. per’ gallon, I think that honorable members would ‘be well advised in voting for the amendment. The Government have been, referred! to more than once during this debate as the custodians of. the revenue, but thev have failed to put before the Committee any satisfactory reasons for their proposal from that stand-point. All that they tell us is that, “ Having referred this question to competent officers, we have arrived at certain, conclusions.” They have given the Commission and honorable members generally no opportunity to examine the grounds on which that decision is based. ‘We know that the effect of an increase in the import dutv on spirits under the Victorian Tariff was to decrease, not to increase the revenue, and that being so, I appeal to the Committee to support the amendment. It is also clear that high duties have a strong tendency to lead to the introduction of spirits of an inferior character. A consideration for the health of the general public is one of the principles on which the recommendations of the Commission are based: We came to the conclusion1 that a duty of 14s. per gallon was the highest that could be recommended, consistently with a desire to conserve the revenue, and to secure the sale of as good a liquor as possible. Whit is the great Australian industry which it is said would’ be built up by this increased duty? It has been pointed out that labour is a very small factor in the distilling industry. I have not the exact figures by me, but I know that the proportion of the labour to the output is the smallest that any of the great industries of Australia show. Mr. Joshua, when giving sworn evidence before the Tariff Commission, distinctly admitted that the distilling industry would have but little effect on the farming industry. It has been said that if this industry were successfully established it would be of immense benefit to the farming community, but even if the whole of the spirit consumed in Australia were made out of the products of our farmers, the effect of the industry upon the farming community would be so small as to be hardly worthy of consideration. Other cognate trades in connexion with the distilling “industry have also been mentioned, but, viewing this matter from even the stand-point of the protectionists, I hold that the industry gives so little employment, and is of such small moment to the farming interests of Australia that it is not worth so big a price as we are asked to pay for it. Having gone fully into this question, I would strongly recommend the Committee, in the absence of the information which we are entitled to expect from the Government as to the grounds on which they have based their conclusions, to vote for the amendment.
– I am at a loss to follow the free-trade and protectionist aspects of this question as put by honorable members. It seems to me that it is purely a question of revenue, and that it has been so put before the Committee by the Government. The intention is that the same difference between the Customs and Excise duties shall be maintained, whether the Customs duty be fixed at 15s. or at 14s. per gallon, and it is on that understanding that I intend to vote in the way I shall indicate. I do not feel that the information which has been submitted by the Government would justify me in departing from the considered recommendations of the Tariff Commission. The Commission have given this matter their very careful attention, and their report is one of the comparatively few unanimous reports that we shall receive from them. In their recommendations they certainly propose a considerable difference in favour of the local manufacturer which would have a result that I, for one, am not going to quarrel with, and there has been no evidence of a satisfactory character submitted bv the Govern- u ment to suggest that the change of the import and Excise duties from 14s. and 10s. per gallon respectively to 15s. and 1 is. per gallon would prevent that decrease of revenue which the Treasurer desires to avoid. If I had been satisfied that the prevention of a decrease of revenue would have been brought about bv an increase of both duties without a deterioration in the quality of the liquor, the position might have been different. Bi’t if spirits are to be consumed, I think it is desirable that they should be of good rather than of inferior quality. 1 certainly do not wish to see as the result of any alteration of duties an inferior quality of liquor brought into consumption. Holding these views, it seems to me that, looking at’ the matter purely from a revenue stand-point, the Government have not justified the variation from the report of the Tariff Commission which they propose. I therefore intend to support the recommendation of the Commission, but on the understanding that the difference between the Customs and Excise duties is maintained, as suggested bv that body, and as is proposed’, bv the Government.
Sitting suspended from 6.30 to 7.30 -b.nl.
.- Last evening I took occasion to draw the attention of honorable members to the wording of the commission under which the proposals which we are now discussing have been recommended. I then expressed the opinion that the scope of the commission was an exceedingly confined one, and the more I consider the matter, the more am I convinced that that is so. In my opinion, the Commissioners, in recommending an actual schedule of duties, have exceeded their powers.
– How does the honorable member prove that?
– -71he commission contains no words conveying the power to make such a recommendation. This is a point with which the Committee should not deal lightly. I presume that the powers of Commissioners are strictly limited to those specifically delegated to them in their commission, and in the commission issued to the Tariff Commissioners I can find no terms empowering them to recommend a schedule of duties. The Commissioners were appointed “ to inquire into the effect upon Australian industries of the said Tariff.”
– And into the working of the Tariff generally.
– That is so.
– For what purpose, if not to make recommendations ?
– I have n0 objection to their making recommendations j but they had no power to bring down a schedule of duties. The Commissioners were appointed by the Crown to report to the GovernorGeneral, and are not responsible to Parliament. They have prescribed certain rates of duties, which mav or may not be sufficient for carrying on the services of the Government.
– They have only suggested to the Governor-General the adoption of such rates.
– The Government have laid their proposals on the table, and these proposals are now in the possession of the Committee. Although the members of the Commission displayed great ability and assiduity in the performance of their duties, thev have not complied with their instructions. It is clear that they should have reported upon the good as well as the bad effects of the Tariff, but I cannot find that any evidence was taken regarding its good effects. Therefore, the Commissioners have only partly carried out the task allotted to them, although thev have exceeded their powers by submitting a schedule of duties.
– To do what the honorable member suggests would probably take them twenty years.
– I should have no objection to the appointment of a permanent Commission, to take evidence and make recommendations in regard to the working of the Tariff, but I should not allow such a Commission to submit schedules of duties. The Government have a double responsibility. They are the responsible advisers of the Crown, and are also responsible to Parliament for the proper administration of the Public Service, for which they have to provide sufficient funds. In my opinion, the Tariff Commissioners were not empowered to recommend a schedule of duties. Moreover, they have had regard, in considering these questions, only to the effect, of the Tariff on certain industries, and, while they may desire the imposition of higher duties for the protection of certain industries, the effect of alterations of the Tariff can be dealt with properly only by responsible advisers of the Crown, whose duty it is to provide funds for the administration of the public sendees of the country.
– There is no reason why any one should not make recommendations or suggestions.
– I do not object to any member of the community making recommendations to the Government; my point is that a body appointed by, and responsible only to, the Crown, should not say what are the proper duties to impose.
– They were appointed specifically to do so.
– I contend that they were not. They should have avoided recommending specific duties, because the responsibility of administering the government of the country rests, not upon them, but upon the Executive.
– Their recommendations would have lacked definiteness if they had not done something of this kind.
– They would have been valueless.
-The more indefinite they were, the better it would have been. They would have been able to say, “ We have carried out our instructions, and have inquired into the effect of the Tariff upon Australian industries. We find that one industry has suffered, and that another has prospered greatly under the present duties.” In making such a report, they would have been carrying out the whole of their allotted task, whereas, as I have pointed’ out, .they- have left part of it undone. I make no complaint about that, because I agree with the honorable member for Parramatta that they have not had time to do more than they have done. The Commissioners were appointed also, as the Chairman has reminded me, to inquire into the working of the Tariff generally. -Prior to their appointment many complaints were made regarding the administration of the Tariff, but, in my opinion, the power to inquire into the working of the Tariff generally did not give the Commissioners the right to bring down ‘proposals for specific rates of duty. Nothing could be more mischievous in the public interest than to have questions such as those involved’ in the arrangement of a Tariff decided by a Royal Commission.
– The Tariff Commissioners can decide nothing; they can only recommend.
– The leader of the Opposition has declared that he will support the Government in reference to any recommendations as to duties upon which the Tariff Commissioners are unanimous, so that the result is that a body not responsible to Parliament is actually determining what shall be the rates of duty imposed on certain articles, and is interfering in a most important part of the government of the country, namely, its financial part. It has been said’ by a high authority that finance is government, and government is finance, and we are having a Tariff settled., by a number of persons who, however able and desirous of doing their duty, to the Commonwealth, went beyond their powers in this matter.
– If the honorable member’s view is correct, and the Tariff Commissioners had adopted it, our work would have been very light.
– I put forward my view with the greatest deference to those who differ from me, but I submit that it is not too late to begin again on the right track. We are only at the commencement of the history of Commonwealth government, but, if we start on the wrong track, we do not know what mischief may follow.
– This is a very old Parliament, and the Constitution is now very old. All sorts of evils have grown up in connexion with it.
– My ideas with regard to age do not coincide with those of the honorable member for Parramatta. At the outset of our career as a Parliament we ought to be exceedingly careful not to tread any path likely to lead us into difficulties, or to result in our establishing precedents that would be dangerous in the future. I think that the Commission would do well to content themselves in the future by indicating that certain industries, for example, had been injured by the operation of the Tariff, and recommending that more protection should be granted in. order to place them- on a footing equal to that which they occupied under State legislation. Any such report would cover the whole of the ground, and would not in any way weaken the recommendations of the Commission. In the same way, if they found that certain industries were prospering under the Federal Tariff to a higher degree than previously, it would be their duty to bring that fact under the notice of Parliament. , I submit that this is an important matter, and that I am not exceeding my public duty when I ask the Government to give it their attention, especially when the Chairman of the Commission indicates that the duties of himself and his colleagues would be very much lightened if an understanding in the direction I have indicated could be arrived at. I believe that good results would follow from the appointment of a permanent body of experts for the purpose of taking evidence, and reporting to Parliament _ with respect to the operation of the Tariff in regard to various industries. No one would suggest that such a Board should recommend the adoption of specific duties in any case. They would merely direct the attention of the Government to the fact that an industry was failing for want of sufficient protection, or for some other reason, and leave it to Parliament to decide whether, and in what manner, relief should be afforded. I do not know of any Commission having recommended the adoption of specific duties. If, however, other Commissions have done so, they have, in my view, taken a wrong course. Only one body of men, namely, the Executive, are responsible to this Parliament for carrying on the services of the Crown. They are in duty bound to shape the financial policy of the country, subject to the review of Parliament, and they should be subject to no undue influence on the part of an outside body such as the Tariff Commission.
– The honorable member is laving down a very strange doctrine - that a Royal Commission may inquire, but not make recommendations.
– I do not object to their making recommendations.
– That is all that the Tariff Commission have done.
– What I object to is the fact that thev have recommended the adoption of a definite scale of duties. In doing so, I contend that they have exceeded the order of -reference. Even if they have not exceeded the order of reference they have presented their report in the veryworst possible form. I may point to the fact that the first unanimous decision of the Commission with regard to the imposition of new duties was made public before the Government became aware of it, and certain persons were thus enabled to rob the Commonwealth. Even though the Commission mav be acting within the order of reference in recommending the adoption of specific duties, they are certainly not doing that which is best calculated to conserve the interests of the country. They should make general recommendations and allow Parliament to decide what the amount of dutv shall be.
– Is the honorable member in favour of an import duty on spirits of 14s. or 15s.?
– That is a trivial matter, compared with the one I am now discussing.
– It may be, but it happens to be the question before the Chair.
– I am discussing the form in which the Commission have presented their recommendations, and am pointing out that if they persist in their1 present line of conduct, they may create a difficulty with the Executive which may exist for all time, and may establish an exceedingly bad precedent.
– The Commission are following in a well-beaten track.
– This is the first occasion upon which such a recommendation as that now before us has been made to this Parliament.
– That is because this is the first time that a Tariff Commission has reported to us.
– Does the honorable member think it desirable in the interests ofl the country that a Commission appointed by one Government should recommend the adoption of specific duties by another Government holding views entirely different from those of their predecessors with regard to fiscal matters?
– The Commission were not appointed in the interests of any particular Government, but were appointed bv the Crown.
– I am using the term “ Government “ as applied to responsible Ministers of the Crown. I have no legal acumen to bring to bear upon the discussion of this question, but I am endeavouring to take a common- sense view of it. I think it would be wise for the Tariff Commission to content themselves by stating ‘in future reports that certain industries have been injured by the Tariff, and that in their opinion relief should be given by an increase of duty.
– The honorable member has been out of order for twentyfive minutes.
– I could easily have raised a point of order, but I did not desire to do so. Moreover, I do not wish it to be supposed for a moment that I ana discussing this matter upon party lines. It seems to me that a serious innovation has been made, and that the Tariff Commission should in future reports adopt a line of conduct approaching that which I have suggested
– The honorable member for Wide
Bay appears to think that because the late Government appointed the Tariff Commission thev should not make any recommendations to the present Government.
– I did not say anything of the kind.
– That is how I understood the honorable member. I would point cut that the Tariff Commission which reported to the Victorian Parliament in 1894 adopted exactly the same course that has been followed in this case. The Victorian Commission were asked to inquire into the effect of the Tariff upon local industries, and they made fifty or SixtY recommendations, in each case mentioning the rate of duty that they considered should be imposed. The honorable member contended that there was no precedent in this Parliament for the- action of the Commission. There could not very well be a precedent for their action, for the reason that this is the first occasion upon which a Commission has been called upon to report to this Parliament on the subject of the Tariff. Of what use would be a Commission if it could not give us the benefit of its conclusions in. a specific form? The report before us cannot be regarded as being framed in the interests of any particular party. The Commission comprises members sitting on both sides of the Chamber, who have presented a unanimous report with regard to the question before us. I think that the Commission would have failed in their duty if. after having taken such a large amount of evidence, and having worked so hard for man v months, thev had not made a definite recommendation.’ We are not bound to carry out their suggestions, and, as a matter of fact, the Government have not accepted them without modification. We have every reason to be thankful to the Commission for having expressed themselves so definitely upon the important question now under discussion, and I hope that the honorable member for Wide Bay will recognise that his contention is not borne out bv the practice followed in other Parliaments.
.- I am certainly unable to follow the reasoning of the honorable member for Wide Bay, who no doubt had devoted a great deal of’ consideration to this question prior to presenting his views to the Committee. To my mind, the only object of appointing a Royal Commission to investigate any matter is that it may be in the position - after ex haustive inquiry - to advise the responsible Ministers of the day as to the path which they ought to pursue. I listened with very great interest to the exceedingly thoughtful addresses which were delivered last evening; by the Honorable and learned member for Bendigo, and by other members of the Tariff Commission, and I am of opinion that the recommendations of that body are deserving of every consideration at our hands. If there were any point at all in the objection which has been urged by the honorable member for Wide Bay against the recommendation of specific rates of duty by the Tariff Commission, it could only apply if the Ministry sought to give effect to their recommendations. But, as a matter of fact, the Government have submitted different proposals, and, personally, I am not disposed to agree with the alterations which they suggest. They propose to increase the duty upon imported spirits from 14s. ta 15s. per gallon, but they have not given us any proof that their proposal is a proper one under the circumstances.
– We have given the best proof that is available. No better could be obtained.
– That proof has not convinced me that the Government proposal ought to be accepted.
– We have had no experience of the operation of a higher duty since the. Commonwealth was established.
– Exactly. I quite understand that the Government must experience a difficulty in accurately estimating the consequences which would flow from accepting the recommendations of the Tariff Commission. I hold that a duty of 14s. per gallon is quite as high an impost as we ought to levy upon spirits.
– The experience of Victoria shows that a duty of 129. per gallon produced more revenue than was collected under a duty of 15s. per gallon.
– I do not think that the question of revenue is the only one, as I think it is very desirable to extend consideration to our home industries, and I hold that Australia should be able to produce spirits which are equal - if not superior - to the imported article. But, . in my judgment, a case has not been established for departing from the scientific recommendations! made by the Tariff Commission after an exhaustive study of this question. Therefore, I intend to vote for the retention of the existing duty. The only question upon which 1 shall probably disagree with the recommendations of the Tariff Commission has reference to the duty which should be levied upon blended brandy.
.- I desire to say a few words in reply to a statement which was made by the Prime Minister this afternoon. I gathered from his remarks that he does not attach very much importance to the fact that when an increased duty upon spirits was imposed in Victoria, the revenue from this source declined very considerably. I need scarcely point out that there are others who attach a good deal of importance to that significant fact, and who also urge that the effect of thehigh duty was to lower the quality of locally-produced spirits to the detriment of the health of the community as well as to cause a serious diminution of revenue.
– The honorable member must recollect that upon the occasion to which he refers the increase represented an advance of 25 per cent. upon the previous rate of duty. Our proposal represents an advance of only 7 per cent.
– But I think it may be accepted as an axiom of political economy that, speaking generally, the effect of raising duties is to lower the amount of revenue derived from them. In 1892, at the instance of the right honorable member for Balaclava, who was then Treasurer of Victoria, the Customs duty upon spirits was increased from 12s. to 15s. per gallon. What was the result? In 1 901-2 the revenue from this source was £806,622, but the following year it fell to £472,805- a decline of £333,817. The right honorable member for Balaclava, in explaining the loss, said - .
The depression accounted for some falling off of Victorian revenue, but the real reason was the existence of a low quality spirit which took the place of the imported.
Then the Tariff Commission recommended a reduction of the duty to 13s. per gallon. It confirmed the view which was held by the Treasurer as to the causes which had contributed to that very serious decline in the revenue. In its report, it stated -
We regret to say that we regard the fact to be proved that a very inferior quality of spirit is vended, and that this state of things has been fostered by the high duties.
In connexion with the lowering of the quality of the liquor supplied to the public, I may mention that after the raising of the duties, prosecutions for breaches of the law under this head increased to double their former number. The fines for such offences rose in one year from £3,000 to £6,000. Inview of these facts, I think we have every reason to apprehend that similar results will flow fromany increase in the rate of duty at present operating.
Question - That the words proposed to be added be so added - put. The Committee divided.
Majority … … 16
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Amendment agreed to.
.- I should l ike to know what the Government intend to do with regard to the insertion of a proviso in paragraph b.
– The proviso as to the maturing of spirit will be unnecessary, as I propose to introduce in the Bill a special clause dealing with that matter.
.- I would point out to the honorable member for Bland and others that it would be on every ground advisable that the proviso in question should be inserted in this paragraph.
– The honorable member for Bland is not pressing hisproposal.
– It would be much better to insert it in this paragraph than in the Bill itself.
.- I would suggest to the Minister that it is necessary to amend paragraph’ b in the same way as paragraph a has been amended, by providing that the duty on and after 16th August shall be 14s. per gallon, instead of 15s. per gallon. The same words will apply.
-That is so.
Amendment (by Sir John Quick) agreed to-
That after the amount “ 15s.,” line 19, the following words be inserted : - “ and on and after 16th August,1906, 14s.”
– I move -
That the following new paragraph be inserted after paragraph b, line 19 : - “ (c) Spirits, n.e.i., per proof gallon 40s., on and after 16th August, 1906.”
This amendment is designed to bring the import duty into line with the Excise duty.
– I should like at this point to ask why this exceedingly high rate of duty is proposed ?
– It is intended to practically prohibit all spirits other than those enumerated.
– If that be the intention, why do we not distinctly prohibit them?
– The provision can afterwards be embodied in the Distillation Act.
.- Some of the spirit now in bond has undoubtedly been held for more than two years, but I would point out that possibly certificates to that effect could not be at once produced.
– That point will be coveredby the Bill.
– I should like to know whether the item on which the Committee is nowengaged is one on which the Tariff Commission was unanimous?
– It is.
– I do not know whether the Ministry have satisfied themselves that this exceedingly high duty will not interfere with the introduction of spirits for perfectly legitimate purposes. I would ask the Prime Minister to give the Committee an assurance that he is satisfied from inquiries by his officers that, as the result of this duty, there will be no unnecessary interference with spirits that ought to be admitted. But for the fact that the proposal has suddenly been made, I should have made independent inquiries with respect to its probable effect.
– This proposal is rendered necessary, not by anything contained in our original proposition, or known to the officers of the Department, but owing to the introduction in paragraph a of the limitation as to spirits being matured for two years. That provision might let in spirits that are not two years old, or leave them unprovided for. The question will be dealt with satisfactorily in the Bill, but at present the amendment might permit the clearing of spirits that do not exceed a certain proof strength, and have not been stored- for two years. It is necessary to protect the Department for the time being.
– The intention of the Government in proposing this amendment is not very clear to me. _
– We. have inserted an amendment in paragraph a.
-Over-proof spirits will bear aduty of 15s. per gallon.
– That is so, but there are certain spirits which do not comply with therequirements of paragraph a as amended. This amendment is designed to protect ourselves until we deal with the matter in the Bill itself.
– The Government desire to prevent any spirit which is over-proof being taken out of bond.
– No; our desire is to prevent the free introduction of spirit which does not comply with these provisions.
.Iinvite honorable members to consider what will be the effect of this amendment on the importation of absolutely rectified spirit whichmay berequired for medicinal purposes, although it cannot be shown that it has been held in bond for two years. Rectified spirits are being imported.
– Thev are over-proof.
– I* will take them at 30 per cent, over-proof. It appears to me that, under the resolution, if a certificate cannot be produced in regard to such spirits, their importation will be prohibited. Does not the Minister think so?
– No. We are dealing now with import duties, but the honorable member will see a similar provision in paragraph 9 of the Excise duties.
– What comes under the definition of spirits, n.e.i. ?
– All spirits which do not come within the meaning of paragraphs a and b.
– Practically all the spirit imported comes under those paragraphs.
– This is only a provision to meet contingencies.
.- I understood the Prime Minister to say that provision would be made in the Bill for the admission of rectified spirits for industrial and manufacturing purposes.
– There will be such provision.
– Just as there is provision made under the Excise proposals for the placing on the market of locally-made spirits for purposes other than human consumption.
– What -will prevent persons from drinking such spirit?
– It will be for the officers of the Customs Department to see that the spirit is used for the purposes for which it is allowed to be imported, or produced locally. So far as my knowledge goes, verv little rectified spirit is made in the Commonwealth for industrial purposes, with the exception of sugar spirit, which is not so suitable for certain uses as is other spirit, such as potato spirit. Although I should like to see a much heavier duty imposed upon SUCH spirit than on spirit imported for drinking purposes, I do not think that its importation should be prohibited by the imposition of a duty of 40s. I suggest to the Government that they make provision to meet this case.
– There seems to.be no provision for the importation of methylated spirits.
– The provision in the original Tariff remains unrepealed.
– What about the importation of spirit for fortifying Australian wine?
– I do not think that spirit is imported for fortifying Australian wine, because our vignerons get local spirit free of duty.
– Does not the Minister propose to give them the same opportunity for getting imported spirits?
– No ; that is not necessary.
– Methylated spirits will continue to be imported at the present rate?
.- The motion in regard to import duties on spirits is in substitution of only paragraphs a and b of item 2 of division 1 of the schedule to the Customs Tariff Act. The other paragraphs, numbered c to k, remain unimpaired. They relate to the duty on amylic alcohol and fusel oil, collodion, methylated spirit, and perfumed and bay rum, and to bitters, essences, fluid extracts, sarsaparilla, ginger wine, tinctures, medicines, infusions, and toilet preparations of different strengths.
Amendment agreed to.
– The Committee having altered the import duties from 15s. to 14s., it will be necessary, to maintain the ratio between Excise and import duties recommended by the Tariff Commission, to reduce the proposed Excise duties by is., and the Government are prepared to do so in regard to all the classes of spirits named in the schedule, with the exception of blended brandy, the rate on which we are advised should remain at 12s. The Chairman of the Tariff Commission, speaking last night in regard to the Excise duties, said -
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, overproof is not a vital question, but it is vital that unless these spirits are distilled at a certain denned strength overproof they shall not receive the preference and advantages which we have recommended.
Our officers suggest that brandy and blended brandy should be distilled at. a strength not exceeding 40 per cent., instead °t 35 Per cent., as set down in the schedule, and that whisky, blended whisky, and rum should be distilled at a strength of 45 per cent., instead of at the respective strengths of 35, 25, and 35 set down in the schedule. These are technical alterations which their experience of the trade leads them to recommend. In paragraph 4 we propose to substitute for the words “other materials” the word “grain,” so that it shall read, “ Blended whisky distilled partly from barleymalt and partly* from grain.”
– Does the honorable and learned gentleman intend to make that alteration in regard to blended whisky only ?
– I understand that in regard to blended brandy it is to be proposed that it shall be distilled partly from grape wine and partly from “ other approved materials.”
– That would leave the matter at the discretion of the Executive.
– Our officers have made no recommendations in regard to blended brandy. We propose to retain the duty on blended brandy at 12s., in order to increase the difference between the duty on brandy distilled wholly from grape wine and the duty on blended brandy.
– Do the Government intend to propose a similar arrangement in regard to whisky ?
– I am not advised that it is necessary. Brandy distilled wholly from grape wine will then have a protection of 4s., that being the difference between the import and Excise duties, while blended brandy will have a protection of only 2s. Whisky distilled wholly from barely malt will have a protection of 4s., and blended whisky a protection of 3s.
– What will be the duty on molasses spirit?
– If it is spirit for industrial or scientific purposes the duty will be 13s.
– But molasses spirit may come under the duty provided in paragraph 2.
– I propose to exclude it.
– I think that the Government will do well to increase the alcoholic strength of the spirits mentioned in paragraphs 1 to 5. I wish to know what the position of molasses spirit will be. To substitute “approved materials” for “other materials” in regard to blends will not do what is necessary, and even if it is provided, as I believe is intended, that “other materials” shall not include molasses, we should know under what heading molasses will come.
– It will pay duty as rum.
– Some of the spirit made from molasses will pay duty as rum, but molasses spirit is used for other purposes as well. I wish to make sure that the differentiation in regard to molasses spirit shall not be as low as1s. ; it should be at least 2s. If molasses spirit has to pay a duty of 13s. as spirit, n.e.i., matured by storage in wood, the difference will be only1s.
– That is sufficient for molasses spirit, which can be produced very cheaply.
Mr.GLYNN. - But the difference in favour of grape spirit will be only1s.
– No; it will be 3s., the Excise duty on grape wine spirit being 10s., and the importduty 14s.
– Well, I should like to know, if molasses spirit is excluded from paragraph 2, under what heading it will come? The question is between the Excise rates on the two blends.
– The Government do not propose to exclude molasses spirit from paragraph 2.
– But that is to be proposed.
– At present molasses spirit would be covered by paragraphs 7 and 8, but I shall be quite prepared to consider the provision in regard to that kind of spirit. when we have disposed of the items now under discussion.
.- I desire that some more definite distinction should be made between pure grape brandy and blended brandy.
– I would point out to the honorable member that in the Bill which has already been drafted to give effect to the recommendations of the Tariff Commission, special provision is made that the spirit referred to in paragraphI shall be called standard brandy, and shall be so labelled, and that blended brandy shall be so described. The two classes of spirit will be separate and distinct, and will have distinguishing official labels.
– I wish to have a broader distinction even than that provided for.
Amendment (by Mr. Glynn) agreed to -
That the figures “ 35,” paragraph 1, line 38, be left out, with a view to insert in lieu thereof the figures “ 40.”
Amendment (by Mr. Deakin) proposed -
That after the figures “ ns.,” paragraph i, line 43, the following words he inserted : “ and on and after 16th August, 1906, 10s.”
.- The amendment raises the whole question as to how far the recommendations of the Tariff Commission shall be adopted. I understand that the Prime Minister proposes at a later stage to depart from the differentiation made by the Commission between brandy distilled wholly from grape wine and blended brandy. The Commission recommend that there shall be a difference of is. in the amount of duty levied upon the respective spirits. The Government now propose, and I think they are right, to differentiate between the two classes of spirit to the extent of 29. per gallon. The members of the Commission state that a differentiation of 2s. between these two spirits will not be sufficient to re-establish the manufacture of pure brandy in Australia. That is the reason why I stated earlier in the evening that I proposed to move that brandy distilled wholly from grape wine should be subject to an Excise dutv of only 9s.
– That would involve the sacrifice of more revenue.
– I stated that my proposal was intended to give greater encouragement to an industry that is natural to our conditions.
– That would be equivalent to 5s. per gallon protection.
– According to my experience, a difference of 4s. between the import and the Excise duty would afford ample protection to the pure grape spirit, but I do not think that 2s. difference would be sufficient to assist the grape spirit as against the blended spirit.
– There is a difference of 2s. between the pure grape brandy and the blended spirit, and also a difference of 2s. between the proposed duty upon blended brandy and imported spirits.
– The Commission proposedand I think they should insist upon their recommendation - that the blended brandy should be subject to an Excise duty of us., and that is why I take this opportunity of bringing the -case from my point of view before the Committee. There would be no difficulty, so far as I am concerned, in accepting a differentiation of 4s- as between the import duty and the Excise duty on pure grape spirit. But a difficulty will occur if the blended spirit is brought within is. of the pure grape spirit.
– The Government purpose to differentiate between the two classes of spirit to the extent of 2s. per gallon.
– But we know what became of the last Government proposal, and I want to safeguard the position’ so far as it relates to pure grape spirit.
.- I quite agree with the amendments suggested by the’ Prime Minister upon matters of detail which involve no .serious or vital principle. But I am sorry that the honorable gentleman wishes to reduce the amount of protection proposed to be granted to blended brandy. The Commission unanimously recommended that the preferential advantage given to manufacturers of that class of spirit should be 3s. per gallon, and now the Prime Minister proposes t® reduce the preference to 2s. per gallon.
– The manufacturers previously had a preference of only is. per gallon.
– I am quite aware of that. The Prime Minister now proposes to give effect to what was suggested by the Minister of Trade and Customs last night. I cannot say that the Prime Minister is responsible.
-I am responsible.
– The Minister of Trade and Customs last night gave away the whole position, and prejudiced the case against blended spirits by imparting an adverse tone to the criticism directed to that class of product.
– The officials have advised us that the course we propose to take is the proper one.
– I do not believe in government by officials. This is a matter which should be decided by responsible Ministers. I do not know that the officials are competent to advise Ministers upon fiscal questions. They mav furnish estimates of revenue and so’ on, but it is not their duty to advise Ministers upon questions of fiscal principle. I protest against the proposed alteration, which would impair the unity and consistency of the scheme recommended by the Commission. That body includes free-traders and protectionists, and now a so-called protectionist Ministry intends to give away the protectionist recommendation of the Commission.
– I have listened with very great attention to the Chairman of the Commission, from whom I should like to hear some arguments in favour of the recommendations of the Commission.
– The honorable member will find them in the report.
– Yes; but some very strong reasons can be urged in favour of a greater differentiation than is. per gallon between pure grape spirit and the blended article. I take it that we are all anxious to encourage the drinking cf Australian wines in preference to more ardent spirits. I should be willing to do this at any time, and should think I was promoting the greater temperance and morality of the people as a whole. I think it would be an excellent thing if we could substitute light Australian wine for the ardent spirits new consumed by the people, and I should regard any movement in that direction as of a distinctly temperance character. I should like to make a quotation from a statement contained in a letter written by Penfold and Company, of South Australia.
– I suppose that a representative of the firm gave evidence before the Commission ?
– Here is the case which ‘Messrs. Penfold and Company put. They point out that it takes five gallons of sound wine to make one gallon of. grape brandy.
– Did they not make those representations to the Commission?
– I do not know whether they did or not. They put a case which seems to me to require an answer. Thev say that the cost from the still is at least 4s. per gallon. They further say -
The cost of molasses spirit is at present about lod. a gallon. Thus four gallons of pure grape brandy would cost 16s. to produce, whilst three gallons of molasses spirit and one gallon of grape brandy would cost 6s. 6d. The difference in Excise on the four gallons is only 4s. in favour of true brandy, leaving a margin of 5s. 6d. on the adulterated article, which means is. 43d. a gallon.
– Will they not- obtain a higher price for the pure article?
– I am afraid not. I do not think that the prices as between these articles will be differentiated at all. If we are to make any movement, I think it should be in the direction of encouraging the production of pure grape brandy in. preference to that of the more ardent and fiery spirit.
– Of which only 25 per cent, need consist of grape spirit.
– Exactly. Ihave already pointed out that there is a differentiation in favour of the blended article as against the pure article of is. 4 1/2 d. per gallon., or 5& 6d. upon a four-gallon cask. That is a case which ought to be susceptible of answer by the members of the Commission. I am aware that it is contended that the pure brandy will have a label attached to it which will give it a commercial advantage as against the blended article; but I doubt whether any label which can be attached tothe pure article will command a sufficient price to compensate for the difference towhich I have referred. So far as I am concerned that is about the only point connected with the recommendations of the Tariff Commission in regard to the spirit duties which seems to be open to criticism. But I cannot shut my eyes to this great’ difference in favour of the inferior, or adulterated or blended article.
– The honorable member cannot call it an “adulterated” article.
Mr. -JOSEPH COOK.- The pure grape spirit is adulterated by the addition of something which is not pure.
– The honorable membermight as well say that a piece of bread’ is adulterated because it has butter uponit.
– Not at all. I speak of adulteration only in. the sensethat the blended article differs from, and’ is not so good as, the pure grape brandy. I believe that the best medical evidence is to the effect that there is no spirit which is as good as the pure grape brandy spirit.
– But according to his bread and butter argument, the honorable and’ learned member for Corinella considers that molasses spirit is as good as grape spirit.
– I am not anadept iri these matters, but I am very anxious to extend a preference - if we must offer any preferences at all - to pure grace brandy as against the more ardentand fiery spirit. I would extend it a preference in the interests of the. morality of’ the people, ‘ and of the greater diffusion of temperance, and for the purpose of in- suring fair play between the distillers of these various compounds. I shall be bound to support the Government proposal unless the members of the Tariff Commission can answer the case which I have put, and which seems t<5 me to extend a preference to the adulterated article as against pure grape brandy.
– I would have preferred that the debate upon this question should have been postponed until the particular item was reached. But even in the light of the remarks of the honorable and learned member for Bendigo I cannot understand why it is proposed to extend so great a preference to the production of blended brandy as against that of pure grape brandy. It seems to me that in view of the comparatively low price at which the former article can be placed upon the market it is ridiculous to suggest such high preferential treatment in connexion with our Excise duties. Hitherto blended brandy has enjoyed a preference of is. per gallon, as against pure grape brandy, but under the recommendations of the Commission that preference will be trebled. I do not see the necessity for that. Rum or sugar spirit is one of the cheapest spirits which can be produced in Australia. It is so cheap that the Tariff Commission itself has recommended that the Excise should be withdrawn from methylated spirit. It points to the immense quantity of molasses which are going to waste in Australia, and which can be converted into spirit with sufficient economy to allow it to compete against the use of petrol “ for industrial purposes. I quite agree with that suggestion. To my mind, it is rather a reflection upon our intelligence that we did not foresee the possibilities of its use in that direction five years ago.
– They were only recognised in America on the 25th May last.
– Then there is some excuse for our inaction. I think that everybody will agree that the suggestion of the Tariff Commission in this particular connexion is a very wise one indeed. But the very fact that that body points to molasses being used for methylating purposes indicates that for the purpose of blending with grape wine spirit the spirit could be produced equally cheaply. Consequently it does not require the amount of protection that it is proposed to extend to .it. I do not for a moment suggest that molasses spirit is not wholesome, but I do contend that it is not right to give to it a greater measure of protection than the circumstances of the case demand, or to allow if to be sold as “blended brandy “ in the local market. To my mind, the term is a misnomer. It should be called blended rum, instead of blended brandy.
– What is the good of providing for 25 per cent, of pure grape spirit in any article?
– I cannot say. The presence of that quantity of pure grape spirit in an article may have the effect of imparting a certain flavour to it.
– It may be its foundation.
– It may be a foundation, but it is rather too flimsy a foundation upon which to erect a superstructure which is worth anything. I think that the proposal of the Government has much to commend it to the common sense of honorable members. To extend to this class of spirit twice as much protection as it previously enjoyed is fairly liberal treatment, and I am prepared to go so far. But if we allow the Excise upon this so-called blended brandy to approach within is. per gallon of that which is levied upon pure grape brandy the distillers of the latter article will be placed at a great disadvantage in fighting the former upon the Australian market. In other words, we shall discourage the use of grape spirit, and I do not know whether honorable members can contemplate that state of affairs with equanimity. I admit that the honorable member for Moira has suggested that to overcome the difficulty we might reduce the Excise upon pure grape brandy, so as to allow it a preference of 5s. per gallon as against the imported article. But I am of opinion that by levying these comparatively low Excise duties, and by retaining the import duty at 14s. per gallon, we shall commit ourselves to a sufficiently heavy loss of revenue.
– How does the loss of revenue come in ?
– The loss will be consequent upon the larger consumption of spirits which are locally produced, and upon which a lower rate of duty will be collected. I intend to support the Government proposal.
.- I have always heard it stated that this Parliament enjoys the reputation of being the most sober, deliberative body in
Australia. But I will undertake to say that no body of men could display the same knowledge of the chemistry, flavour, and uses of liquor that has been exhibited by honorable members during the course of this debate. I do not, unfortunately, share that knowledge myself, and there- fore I should like to know more clearly exactly where honorable members are. I am one of those who are anxious to stand up for the recommendations of the Commission, so long as I am satisfied that they have been unanimously arrived at. I understand, however, that upon this particular point there was not unanimity on the part of its members.
– We were not so enthusiastic upon it.
– We all signed the recommendation.
– I was anxious to know whether the members of the Commission were unanimous upon this question. In my judgment it is unreasonable for this Committee to set itself up as a tribunal equally competent to the Commission which investigated this difficult subject. We have had a very good instance of that afforded us by the honorable member for Parramatta, who offered as a reason for the view which he entertains upon this question the fact that a certain firm had made a particular statement in a letter to him. We have only to consider his position for a moment to realize that he is on very unsafe ground in this connexion. Need I remind him that the Tariff Commission have had scores of men like Mr. Penfold before them upon oath? No useful purpose canbe served by any honorable member declaring that a particular witness has said so and so ; because it is quite possible that the statement which he makes in written communications with an honorable member is entirely different from that which he made upon oath before the Commission, and when he was subjected to cross-examination.
– The statement is the same in each case.
– I did not know that it was. I hope that the honorable member will bear with me; I am speaking only of the practice.
– The Prime Minister checked the statement as I read it.
– I am not speaking particularly of the case mentioned by the honorable member. If in an action at law ten witnesses had been heard on each side, it would be unreasonable to urge that the verdict of the jury should be upset because it appeared to be contrary to something said by one witness. That is an illustration of the position in which we find ourselves. The Commission examined and cross-examined some scores of witnesses on oath : and if I have read the evidence aright many of those witnesses broke down under cross-examination. They are now flooding the House with circulars which possibly - I do not say probably - differ entirely from the evidence they gave before the Commission. Only yesterday Messrs. Joshua Brothers issued to honorable members circulars in which they made certain statements protesting against the findings of the Commission. Sideby side with the distribution of those circulars we had a letter produced by the chairman of the Commission, in which the same firm complimented him upon the findings of that body, and said that they were perfectly satisfied with them, or words to that effect.
– Theyalso said that their first circulars were founded on a misapprehension.
– Quite so. I am not in any way interested in this matter. I am not a heavy drinker,nor have I that fine sense of flavours which some! honorable members seem to possess. We are proceeding, however, on an entirely wrong basis. We are in the position of one of the parties to a law suit, who appeals to a Judge to upset the verdict of a jury on the ground that it is not in keeping with the evidence given by himself. We ought not now to take notice of unsworn statements of anywitness examined by the Commission.
– Who said that we ought to do so?
– The honorable member himself, urged us to do so.
– I did not.
– The honorable member, if he will allow me to say so, afforded me an illustration by falling into the error of selecting a circular sentout by one solitary witness - a circular containing statements whichmay or may not agree with his evidence. Even if it did agree with his evidence-in-chief, it might not agree with that drawn from him under cross-examination.
-But he substantially agreed with the findings of the Commission.
– Then I fail to understand why the honorable member for Parramatta should have quoted’ the circular in support of a proposal to disagree with the recommendation of the Commission.
– The honorable and learned member is twisting out of recognition the statement that I made. It is not fair for him to do so.
– I notice that honorable members on this side of the House are most anxious to listen to me when I adopt their own views with respect to any question, but that as soon as I begin to express views slightly out ot harmony with their own they interrupt me more frequently than do honorable members opposite.
– We interrupt the honorable and learned member when he is talking ridiculously.
– The honorable member is forgetting himself; I merely say that he is wrong in his method.
– I say that I am not.
– The honorable member is at liberty to say so, but I repeat that he is wrong in his method.
– I say that I am not.
– I presume, Mr. Chairman, that the honorable member is not justified in contradicting me each time I make the statement that he is wrong in his method. I shall repeat my assertion, and show what ground I have for making it. I hope that the honorable member will see this time that he is in error.
– I can see very clearly that the honorable and learned member is making an ass of himself.
– I am sure that the honorable member will withdraw that remark.
– Most decidedly, sir.
– We expect a little more than the usual courtesy to be shown bv a leader, especially when he is addressing a member of his own party. If honorable members of the Opposition are not to have freedom of expression, I for one should have to draw off from the party a little more than I have been doing.
– That would be a great loss.
– I am not going to be diverted from the point that I wish to make. Every honorable member ought to remember that a vast number of witnesses on both sides have been examined and cross-examined by eight men representing the two fiscal parties. I presume that the Commission heard the evidence of these witnesses dispassionately, and arrived at their findings apart from party feeling. No honorable member is logically justified in coming to a conclusion, different from that of the Commission merely on the evidence of one witness, unless he is also prepared to review the whole of the evidence which led the Commission to arrive at their conclusion. I wish to know a little more about this matter, and should like the chairman of the Commission in the first place to give us the reasons which he considers would justify us . in again vindicating its action. I am sorry to again call upon him to speak; I regret that after the able way in which he has discharged his duties as a member of the Commission, he should be called upon so frequently in this Committee to vindicate the judgment expressed by that body. The Government have come forward with a proposal different from that recommended by the Commission, and the only statement which they make in justification of it is that, “ The officers say this,” or “ The officers say that.” I have the greatest respect for officers in the abstract, but I am bound to say that a good many things done bv some of them in the Customs Department of the Commonwealth have very much shaken my confidence in them. That being so, I think that the Minister should fortify himself with the reasons which the officers have in mind in making these recommendations. It is scarcely sufficient for him to say that the officers of the Department advise that this or that be done. If it were, we should be governed’ by officers. I should like the officer in question, through the Minister, to tell us why he thinks that we should depart from the conclusion arrived at by the Commission after examining all the witnesses and subjecting them to the test of criticism usually applied by such a body. The Prime Minister has taken up the part of the Minister of Trade and Customs, and has not ‘given us his- reasons for departing from the recommendation of the Commission. Since the recommendation is one upon which the Commission were unanimous. I think we are entitled to have those reasons stated. That having been done, I shall ask the Chairman of the Commission to give those of us who are anxious to uphold the Commission the reasons which he thinks would justify us in helping him once more in this Committee to vindicate its action.
.- The honorable and learned member for Parkes has described the Commission as a jury, and has declared that its findings, based on the evidence which it has heard, ought to be accepted as final by the Committee. I would point out, however, that the Commission was. not appointed to prepare a Tariff; it was appointed to take evidence, to report, and to make certain recommendations which would be considered, and, if thought fit, adopted by the Committee. The fact that it has made certain recommendations should not be sufficient to induce the Committee to abrogate their functions as a jury. We are responsible to our constituents and the country, and we must discharge those functions by examining the evidence. If we think that the Commission has made a mistake, it will be our duty not to adept its recommendations, but to act according to the best knowledge that we possess.
– Suppose that they do not agree ?
– The fact that the members of the Commission are unanimous lends additional weight to their recommendation, but it does not remove from us the necessity of deciding for ourselves whether that recommendation unanimously arrived at is a wise one. The Tariff Commission has undoubtedly carried out a monumental work, and I feel under a debt of obligation to it.
– Hear, hear.
– At the same time, thev cannot call upon us - nor do I think they ask us - to refrain from exercising our own individual judgment on the facts which they have elicited. I certainly think that they have not recommended the best course to be pursued in regard to the differentiation in favour of pure wine brandy. It is admitted that absolutelypure brandy made from wine is perfectly wholesome, and that the encouragement of its manufacture must have a beneficial effect on the primary producers of the Commonwealth. There are something like 56,000 acres under vine cultivation in South Australia, and I understand that in Victoria alone there are some 3,000 wine growers interested in this question. The number in South Australia is probably much greater, whilst the number in Western Australia and New South Wales is largely increasing.
– I hope that the honorable member will not forget the consumer.
– I have just said that it must be admitted by members of the Tariff Commission, and others, that pure brandy made wholly from grape spirit is the most wholesome. It is recommended by medical men, and also, I believe, by the analytical chemist, to whom reference was made by the Chairman of the Commission. That gentleman said that he would prefer grape brandy for medicinal purposes. Since grape brandy is the purest, and the encouragement of its production will be most beneficial to the primary producers, it seems to me that we should strike a serious blow at the development of the industry if we adopted the recommendation of the Tariff Commission. The only argument that I have heard advanced against a differentiation in favour of pure grape brandy spirit is that the manufacturers will benefit by being able to place on ‘their labels a statement to the effect that their product is pure. Will that compensate them for the direct encouragement that is to be offered to distillers to use a cheaper article, from which they can make the most money ? Certainly not. The fact that a bottle is labelled “ pure brandy “ will have little effect upon purchasers. At the present time brandy which used to be labelled “ Boomerang Australian brandy “ is now labelled merely “ Boomerang,” but I am certain that not one out of every hundred persons who purchase that spirit has noticed the omission of the words “Australian brandy.” Indeed, I know that one of the largest wine and spirit merchants here had not noticed it until his attention was specially directed to it, although he has been dealing constantly in the spirit. It is a good thing to encourage the consumption of the purest and ‘the most wholesome brandy, and we should therefore see that the distillation of pure brandy from grape wine only is not discouraged by there being a greater profit in the distillation of a blended brandy from grape wine and other materials. It is at present to the advantage of distillers that as little grape wine spirit as possible shall be used, because spirit distilled from other materials’ is so much cheaper. The Chairman of the
Tariff Commission says that they will go on using 50 per cent, or more of grape wine spirit, but the temptation to make a larger profit by using other spirit will soon prove too strong to be resisted, while there is also the popular prejudice in favour of blended brandies to be reckoned with. Therefore, in view of the advantage of encouraging the consumption of the best and purest article, and in the interests of an industry which is of great importance to Australia, I hope that a greater differentiation will be made between pure and blended brandy.
– I consider that the Tariff Commissioners have devoted a considerable amount of attention to the matters they have had in hand, and that the reports which they have submitted for our guidance are very valuable. But, while I am prepared to give due consideration to their recommendations, I am not prepared to follow them blindly. If they are not such as I can accept, or if I think that points have been overlooked, I shall require further information before supporting them. There are one or two points affecting the proposals now under discussion, in regard to which I require some elucidation. We are dealing with brandies of two descriptions, pure brandy distilled wholly from grape wine, and blended brandy distilled partly from grape wine and partly from other materials, such as molasses. In dealing with the subject, it must be borne in mind that the cost of producing spirit from grape wine is very much greater than the cost of producing spirit from molasses, which is a by-product. I agree with the honorable member for Bland that the term “ brandy “ was originally applied to spirit distilled from grape wine. But it has become customary to place on. the market under that name spirit distilled from grape wine blended with spirit distilled from other ‘ materials, such as molasses, potatoes, and wheat. This blended brandy. being cheaper than pure brandy, has competed very seriously with it. It is thought, therefore, that in framing the Tariff V distinction should be made between brandy and blended brandy, and I hold that view. I also agree with the honorable member for Bland that only spirit distilled wholly from grape wine should be allowed to be sold as brandy, other spirit being sold as blended brandy, so. that the public mav not be imposed upon. The recommendation of the Commission in regard to distinctive labels is an admirable one, so far as it goes, but, as the honorable member for Boothby has shown, purchasers do not pay much attention to labels. Behind the proposals to differentiate between the dutv on brandy and the duty on blended brandy is a large producing interest. We have been told by a circular that there are something like 56,000 acres under grape vines in South Australia, and large areas are being, cultivated in Victoria and New South Wales for the production of grapes. The Committee will therefore do well, in adjusting the Customs and Excise duties, to pav attention to the interests of that industry. It seems to me that if the re? commendation of the Tariff Commission is accepted there will not be a sufficient margin in favour of pure brandy to encourage its production, seeing that 75 per cent, of the spirit in blended brandy is distilled from materials other than grape wine, and that there is a public demand for blended brandy. The circular to which I have referred contains the statement that a difference in duty of 2s. in favour of pure brandy will be barely sufficient to give a living wage to those employed in the growing of grapes, and that a difference of 3s. would be better. I shall support the recommendation of the Commission in regard to the labelling of spirits, because, if carried into effect, it will achieve a good end : but I feel that a larger margin than they recommend should be made in favour of pure brandy, to prevent its production from being crushed out by the competition of blended brandy.
– There is a good deal of protection about that suggestion.
– I do not look upon it from that stand-point. The proposal appeals to me as being intended to accord fair treatment to the pure brandy distilling industry, and I think that we should do everything we cam to encourage manufacturers to place upon the market an article of superior quality. We should remember that the amount of labour employed in the industry in connexion with which the superior article is produced is much greater than that engaged in the production of the blended brandy. I should like to hear what the members of the Commission may have to say in support of making an even greater distinction between the pure grape brandy and the blended article.
Mr. ISAACS (Indi - Attorney-General think the Committee should adopt the proposals of the Government. It is proposed to fix the Excise duty upon pure brandy - - real brandy - at ios., and to impose a duty of 12s. upon what is called blended brandy, but which consists of some product blended with real brandy, and is not a pure brandy. This proposal would tend in the direction not only of encouraging a primary industry of very great magnitude and importance to Australia, but would also promote honesty in trade, and confer a benefit upon the consumers of spirits. The Government proposal is, in accordance with the recommendation of the Commission, to impose an Excise duty of ios. upon brandy distilled wholly from grape wine, and to levy a duty of 12s. upon what is called blended brandy, but which may contain only 25 per cent, of brandy, the remainder being spirit made from some material other than grape wine. Before these proposals were made, how did matters stand? Protection to the extent of 3s. per gallon was granted to pure brandy, and the proposal is to increase the preference to 4s. The increase will, therefore, be equivalent to a 33 per cent, advance upon the previous protection. With respect to the so-called blended brandy, it is intended to double the protection by increasing the preference from is. to 2s. per gallon. Therefore, the proportionate protection: proposed to be given to the inferior article is very much greater than that to be extended to the pure article. I think that the ‘ Government proposal has everything to commend it. Upon this occasion I find myself in practical accord with the honorable member for Parramatta, and I hope that we shall have many other opportunities of agreeing with each other.
.- I have been rather amused by the remarks of some honorable members, who appear to think that, if the proposals of the Commission are adopted, the pure brandy trade of Australia will be ruined. That industry has by no means been failing* even under the present disadvantageous conditions, and I think that it must be obvious that the recommendations of the Commission would, if carried out, bring about a decided improvement. If the pure brandy trade has prospered under existing conditions, it is reasonable to suppose that it will assume still greater proportions in the future. The whole question resolves itself into whether blended brandy may be re garded as a legitimate article of trade. Whilst my sympathies ran in another direction, I must confess that the evidence given before the Commission compelled me to join in the recommendation placed before Parliament. There is very little doubt that blended brandy is a recognised standard article of trade, and is even asked for by people of a particular taste - a taste which may or may not be vitiated. If blended brandy is to’ be regarded as a legitimate article of trade, it was obviously the duty of the Commission not to attempt to impose upon the consumers of that product any greater burden by way of duty than upon the consumers of pure brandy. That was what prompted me to give in mv adhesion to the recommendations of the Commission. At the same time, I recognise that, looking at the matter from the national stand-point, tha pure brandy industry is entitled to the utmost consideration that we can give it. Under the circumstances, I shall vote in favour of the recommendation of the Commission j but I quite realize that other honorable members may have the fullest justification for voting otherwise.
– - I am quite tired of hearing the honorable and learned member for Parkes urge that we should swallow holus-bolus the recommendations of the Tariff Commission. The Commission were appointed to take evidence and report to Parliament, and it is for us to consider the results of their inquiries. The Commission apparently recommended that the protection previously accorded to the South Australian and New South Wales pure brandy industry should be increased bv 25 per cent., whilst the blended brandy industry of Victoria should have extended to it protection three times as great as that now enjoyed by it. The Government, however, propose that the increase of protection shall be doubled instead of trebled, and the members of the Commission have taken offence because honorable members have ventured to question the justice of their recommendation.
– Surely the members of the Commission have shown no indication of having taken offence.
– The honorable and learned member for Parkes has repeatedly lectured honorable members upon the necessity for swallowing the report holus-bolus, and everything he has said has been loudly applauded by members of the Commission.
– The honorable member should not say that. We have not applauded everything he has said.
– I have heard members of the Commission interjecting, and assisting the honorable and learned member in his arguments. I cannot call to mind one case in which the report, of a Royal Commission in England has been wholly adopted. None of the proposals of the Local Government Commission were adopted in their entirety, whilst the recommendations of the Royal Commission on Coinage were rejected. It is our duty to deliberate upon matters such as those now submitted to us, and I think that we should give the greatest amount of preference to those who manufacture the pure article. The letter read by the honorable member for Parramatta was very much to the point. Messrs. Penfold and Company stated in that communication that five gallons of wine would produce only one gallon of brandy, and that the cost of the spirit from the still was 4s. per gallon. Messrs. Joshua Brothers could obtain is. worth of pure brandy, and blend it with 75 per cent, of other spirit, costing, say, is. 6d., and thus gain an advantage of is. 6d. per gallon over the manufacturers of pure grape spirit. Under the circumstances, I prefer to support the proposal of the Government. Messrs. Joshua Brothers closed down their distillery because they could not manufacture spirit at the same low cost for which it could be produced in New South Wales and Queensland. They threw 140 me.n out of employment, because they found that it would be more to their advantage to import molasses spirit from New South Wales and Queensland, and no doubt they have done a good stroke of business. It must not be assumed, however, that the number of men engaged in the industry has been reduced, because an additional number Have found employment in New South Wales and Queensland by reason of the closing down of Joshua Brothers’ works-
– From the point of view of the consumer it is desirable that the Government proposals should be accepted. The consumer requires protection, and I am very glad that a number of honorable members are determined that he shall have it. We can best serve the interests of the consumer by offering to the producers of pure spirit a decided advantage over those who produce blended spirit. The honorable member for Perth has spoken of the necessity which the distillers are under to produce a spirit which will suit certain palates. I am afraid that the palate is more likely to get down to the level of the blend than the blend is likely to rise to the level of the palate. As a result, we shall probably develop amongst our people a taste for spirits which “ bite all the way down “ - in other words, for blended spirits. A spirit such as would be , recommended by the medical profession does not “ bite all the way down,” but gets in its work in the way that it is intended to do, and is of great value. But it would be very difficult to trace the effects of a compound which consists of only onefourth of spirit from .the pure juice of the grape and of three-fourths of some unknown spirit. Blending may be necessary to suit certain palates, but I. think that that process is introduced for the purpose of enabling a compound, which will command a certain sale, to be placed upon the market at a cheap price.
– But must not the spirit be pure alcohol, no matter from what material it is extracted?
– I may tell the honorable member that I recently heard of a whisky which was manufactured in Germany, and which was placed upon board ship for 9d. per bottle. This stuff was shipped to South Africa, and we can easily imagine the evil effects to the inhabitants of a tropical climate which would result from the consumption of a spirit of that character.
– That class of spirit would not be blended with pure grape wine spirit.
– This is the only opportunity that we have of dealing with the local manufacture of spirits. It is the function of the States to legislate regarding the food and drink of the people. This is the only way in which the Commonwealth Parliament can endeavour to insure to the consumer a really pure spirit.
– As there seems to be a fairly general desire to differentiate between pure grape spirit and spirit which is distilled partly from grape wine and partly from other materials, I think that we ought so to arrange these Excise duties that a preference shall be extended to the former as against the latter article. Pot-still brandy, so far as my information goes, is not brandy which passes into general consumption. . Only last night I read a letter which showed that in South Australia an attempt was made to get it into general consumption, but the effort failed.
– That was because the distiller did not understand the process which should be adopted in its distillation.
– Perhaps after fifty years’ experience a man like Mr. Seppelt, who has one of the best establishments in the world, from the point of view of its up-to-dateness, does not know his business. It is possible that some of the old concerns, such as I have seen in the south of France, may have appliances superior to those which he possesses. My point is that we have expert testimony that brandy distilled by means of the pot still does not pass into general consumption in Australia, because the public will not have it. The brandy which is put upon the market as a blended brandy is made up of 25 per cent, of pure grape spirit, the balance being rectified spirit of the grape. What we want to do is to preserve a distinction between the brandy which is so made wholly from the pure wine spirit and that which consists of only 25 per cent, of pure grape spirit made by the pot still, the balance being composed of the rectified spirit of other materials. I suggest that we should retain the duty upon spirit n.e.i. at 14s. per gallon. The honorable and learned member for Bendigo argues that if we fix the Excise duty upon brandy which’ is distilled wholly from, grape wine by a pot still or similar process at us. per gallon, and that upon blended brandy at 12s. per gallon, and if we levy an Excise of 14s. per gallon upon spirit n.e.i., which will include molasses, we shall be charging the last-named the same rate that is imposed upon imported spirits. If ‘we wish to overcome that difficulty, I suggest that we should fix the Excise duty upon brandy distilled wholly from grape wine at ios. per gallon, that upon blended brandy at us. per gallon, and that upon spirit n.e.i. at 13s. per gallon. We shall thus differentiate sufficiently in favour of pure grape spirit, and attain the object of the honorable and learned member.
– The suggestion of the honorable and learned member himself would afford no protection whatever to any article but grape spirit.
– My main point is that we must offer a preference of 2s. per gallon to brandy which is distilled from pure grape wine as against brandy which is distilled chiefly from molasses.
.- I have listened to the debate very attentively, and I am not clear upon one or two points.. I therefore rise for the purpose of obtaining information either from the Chairman of - the Commission or from the representative of the Government. I desire to know what is the meaning of the words. “ or similar process “ which are used in connexion with distillation by means of the pot still?
– They mean a mechanism or apparatus which yields substantially the same results as does a p°t still.
– As the officials of the Customs Department will have to interpret this Tariff, I thought it was advisable to obtain an authoritative statement upon the matter.
– The .Customs officials approve of the use of those words.
– I understand that the Coffey patent still will give practically the same results as does the pot still under certain circumstances?
– It will if it is properly supervised.
– 1 understand that the object of inserting this provision in regard to the pot still was to insure that whisky which is rightly rectified in the patent still shall retain a certain quantity of the impurities which give Lit its characteristic flavour. Therefore, I apprehend that the aim of the Commission and of the Government - in using the words “ or similar process “ - is that if the patent still produces practically the same results as does the pot still, the spirit obtained from the former will be charged the same rate of Excise as spirit obtained from the latter.
– I am very reluctant to depart from any unanimous recommenda-tion of the Tariff Commission, and would only do so if I thought that the case made out for an alteration of any such recommendation had not been sufficiently answered. So far I do not think that we have had a sufficient reason given for the different treatment which the Commission recommended should be accorded to brandy distilled wholly from grape wine and brandy which, is distilled partly from grape wine and partly from other materials. If it be a fact that the former article is a more wholesome one, in addition to being a more legitimate article, I would extend a preference to it much more readily than I would offer a preference to one particular set of manufacturers as against another set of manufacturers. I would grant a preference for purity and wholesomeness much more readily than I would a mere protective preference. If it be admitted - and the Tariff Commission appears to acknowledge it - that pure grape brandy is a better article than is blended brandy, there is good reason why we should make a distinction which would encourage its consumption. The distinction which existed when the Tariff Commission dealt with this matter was greater than that which would be made under its own recommendations. For instance, the Commission recommends a reduction of the Excise duty upon spirits distilled wholly from grape wine of is. per gallon as against a decrease in the Excise duty upon blended brandy of 2s. per gallon. That is a difference of 100 per cent. Unless reason can be shown to the contrary, it seems to me that the effect of adopting the recommendations of the Commission would be to discourage the use of the purer and more wholesome article. The honorable member for Parramatta stated - and I think that the honorable and learned member for Parkes took him up wrongly in this connexion-
– What does the honorable member mean by “ wrongly “ ?
– The honorable member for Parramatta merely quoted the letter of Mr. Penfold, for the purpose of accentuating his belief that there was a great difference between the cost of production of the two articles. He did not quote that gentleman’s communication as the reason why he held that view.
– I referred to the matter only as an illustration of what I considered a wrong method.
– I think that the honorable and learned member misunderstood the honorable member for Parramatta, who believed that there was a marked difference iri the cost of production, and used the figures in question merely to support that opinion. The evidence and the knowledge that I have obtained from other sources leads me to believe that the cost of producing pure grape wine brandy is considerably higher than is the cost of producing the blended article. If that be so, and any encouragement is to be given to the pure article, a sufficient margin must Le allowed’ between the Excise duty on the two. It has not been proved to my satisfaction that that encouragement will be given if the difference that has previously existed be reduced. I am anxious to support the recommendation of the Commission, but if I cannot be convinced on that point, I shall have to support the proposal of the Government to allow a greater difference. I do not think that sufficient reason has been shown for reducing the Excise on grape brandy by is. per gallon, and reducing the Excise on blended brandy bv 2s. per gallon..
Sir JOHN QUICK (Bendigo) [10.1 81. - I wish to deal as briefly as possible with one or two points that have been raised. In the first place, the honorable and learned member for Parkes asked why the Commission had recommended a protection of 4s. per gallon in respect of brandy distilled wholly from grape wine, and of 3s. per gallon in respect of blended brandy. The reason is that the blend was to consist partly of grape wine spirit and partly of spirit obtained from- other materials, but was to comprise mot less than 25 per cent, of pure wine spirit. As a matter of practice, a blend may consist of spirits derived from molasses, grain, or other distilling material. Too much stress has been laid upon the fact that cheap molasses costing only 9d. a gallon is, or will be, used in blending. As a matter of fact molasses spirit is not exclusively used for that purpose. According to the evidence it is sometimes used, but grain spirit is also employed. Honorable members will see on turning to page 24, paragraph 3, of the report, that the grain spirit which mav be so used costs from 2s. 9d. to 2s. nd. per gallon. That being so, the average cost of spirit used for blending, instead of 9d. per gallon, is more likely to be is. 6d. or 2s. per gallon.
– How does that compare with the cost of crape spirit?
– Grape spirit costs about 4s. per gallon. When, we require that for blending purposes 25 per cent, of grape spirit shall at least be used, and that the rest of the blend shall comprise spirit made from grain or molasses, we must recognise that the cost of the blending material will certainly be more than 9c!. per gallon. The Commission thought that a fair, rough and ready calculation showed that it would be sufficient to give blended spirit an advantage of is. per gallon less than that enjoyed by the pure article. In dealing with a question of this kind the measure of protection cannot be indicated with mathematical or logical certainty. The calculation made by the Commission was a rough and ready one, based upon the difference in the cost of the materials used, and upon the supposition that sometimes 50 per cent, or 75 per cent., instead of 25 per cent., of grape spirit might be employed. I submit that our estimate that a difference of is. is sufficient to allow is just as likely to be correct as is any other estimate that has been put before the Committee. It is based upon evidence, but it appears that our conclusion is to be rejected. If it is we shall not be responsible, but shall bow respectfully to the decision of the Committee. I should like to point out further that the recommendation to allow a difference of only is. and a protection of 3s. per gallon, as against the protection of 4s. per gallon in the case of the pure standard brandy, is based upon evidence that the raw material out of which the blended brandy is to be made may not average od. per gallon, but more like 2s. per gallon. I think’ that is sufficient to justify our recommendation. However, the question is an arguable one, and its final decision rests with the Committee. Ap’parently under the guidance of the Committee the House will propose to reduce from 3s. to 2s. per gallon! the protection which we recommend should be given to blended spirit. In reply to the point raised by the honorable member for Coolgardie, I should like to mention that the words “ similar process “ were inserted after the words “brandy distilled wholly from grape wine bv a pot still,” so as not to exclude the Coffey patent still which is used in some of the great distilleries in the States. They were designed to allow the use of the patent still, provided it be so managed as to yield results substantially similar to those obtained from the use of the pot still. Bv means of the pot still spirit is distilled in such a way as to retain the natural ethers or the natural volatile elements and characteristics of the true brandy or whisky. It was admitted by most of the witnesses that when run at high pressure and strength, the patent, still will not yield that result, but that it may be so managed that it will do so. We do not wish to exclude the patent still. In settling the wording of this clause, 1 consulted a trusted Excise officer who assured me that these words will not exclude the patent still provided that it is so managed as to yield results substantially , similar to those obtained from the pot still.
.- I desire to briefly state my views with respect to this question. There should be no conflict of opinion as to the difference between brandy made from wine and that made from other materials to which reference was made in the evidence given before the Habitual Drunkards Board appointed by the Victorian Government in 1898’. Among the witnesses examined by the Board were Mr. Daniel Ferguson, Chief Inspector of Distilleries, and Mr. Archibald Wm. Smart, senior landing surveyor, the one having thirty-five years’ experience and the other an experience extending over something like twenty-one years. It was shown clearly by those witnesses that only one-third of the whiskies and. brandies then imported into Victoria were the pure spirits their names represented them to be; that another third consisted of a mixture of brandy and whisky with silent spirit ; and that the remaining third consisted qf silent spirit blended with essences which, in their concentrated form, were generally virulent poisons. What is protection to the manufacturer is protection to the consumer, and the Government deserve the support of every loyal protectionist in their attempt fo protect the consumer by giving an impetus to the manufacture of brandy from wine and of whisky from malt. Mr. Smart, when giving evidence before the Habitual Drunkards Commission, said -
The cheap spirit can be made from anythingthat contains saccharine. I think it is made from sugar, molasses, and all kinds of grains, including maize. Sometimes rice and potatoes are used. It is not manufactured here into different spirits bv the addition of essences; it is brought out as whisky, rum, and brandy. About one-third of the whisky imported is the plain spirit flavoured, and possibly about another third is mixed with a real whisky.
The recommendation ‘ made in one of the minority reports was that -
The sale of cheap spirits flavoured 1o taste like brandy, whisky, gin, &c, should be prevented, as expert evidence shows that alcohol, and even Glasgow whiskies, costing11d. a gallon, are sold as the best spirits.
I maintain that such spirits are sold tinder a fraudulent term -
The two Government Custom House officials examined showed that of the whiskies and ‘ brandies imported and sold in this colony, onethird only are the pure spirits their names represent them to be, another one-third being plain or silent spirit, and the remainder a mixture of brandy and whisky with silent spirit.
It may be mentioned that expert analytical chemists state the silent spirits to be the purest of alcohol ; if that be so it would be more honest that they should be sold under their proper names.
The honorable member for Bland said that we ought to have discovered that cheap spirit could be made from molasses, and an honorable member in the Opposition corner interjected that it was only known in America a little while ago that cheap spirit could be so produced. In 1898, one of the experts of the Victorian Customs Department gave evidence before the Habitual Drunkards Board that “ molasses spirit is made here, and is mostly all methylated.”
– I think it was stated by way of interjection that the Excise duty on methylated spirit was being reduced because it was coming largely into use.
– My only desire was to show that we have been fully alive to the fact that spirit can be produced cheaply from molasses. The honorable member for Perth interjected, when the honorable member for Laanecoorie was quoting the Lancet as an authority upon the purity of brandy distilled from grape spirit, that the brandy produced in that district of France from which we. obtain the Fin Champagne is equal to the best that is made in Australia. I would remind the honorable member, however, that the price of such brandy practically prohibits its use in hospitals and like institutions.
– I recognise that.
– That being so, it is not fair to compare the brandies of France with those of Australia, which are made from the pure grape spirit. I would point out also that the spirit exported from other countries is not subject to the care and supervision which that sold within those countries receives.
– The people of those countries will not drink the rubbish that they export.
– There is a good deal of force in that statement. A body of experts has expressed an opinion favorable to Australian brandy as against that produced elsewhere. When the authorities of the British Army obtained samples of brandies they were unable, of course, to think of purchasing the high-priced French brandy to which I have just referred. Those brandies could not compete with Australian brandies. In the country 7s. 6d. a bottle is charged for Hennessey’s brandy, though no one will say that it is a spirit distilled wholly from grape wine. On the other hand, there can be obtained in Bendigo, at 3s. 3d. a bottle, a brandy distilled wholly from grape wine, which any medicalman would say is far more valu able for medicinal purposes. In America, according to the expert whore evidence I have just quoted, spirit which is to be used medicinally must have been matured for at least two years. It will be admitted that blending leaves the door open for adulteration, and no honorable member desires that either the food or the drink of the people shall be adulterated. I should like to see a greater amount of protection given to the distilling of pure grape brandy and pure malt whisky ; but, as that cannot be obtained, I shall, as a protectionist, accept what the Government offer. I wish to pay my meed of praise to the Tariff Commissioners, who have devoted great energy and talent to the task intrusted to them. A long experience of Commissions in Victoria leads me almost to support the view of the German cynic, that, if the Lord had placed the making of the earth in the hands of a Commission, it would never have been made, or, if made, would have been a botch. I have no fault to find with the present Commission ; but I wish to point out to its members - and I hope that they will take the remark in good temper - that they cannot be allowed to “ boss “ the Committee. It is within the region of possibility that, to suit a certain type of politician - such as, thank Heaven, we have not yet produced in Australia - a Government may appoint a Commission to give a one-sided report, and, if such a Commission were allowed to dominate Parliament, it would be a very serious matter. Therefore, I shall resent very strongly any attempts to force the opinions of any Commission on honorable members.
Amendment agreed to.
.- I ask the Government to make paragraph 2 read -
Blended brandy distilled wholly from grape wine, containing not less than 25 per cent, of pure grape wine spirit (which has been separately distilled by a pot still or similar process at a strength not exceeding 35 per cent, overproof) the whole being matured by storage in wood.
– This is a new scheme.
– I wish to provide for the use of wine spirit only.
– Is there much difference between highly rectified spirits derived from different materials?
– That is the point which, we have been arguing for two days past.
– The honorable and learned member asks for a reduction in duty and the exclusion of molasses spirit.
– I wish, for the exclusion of molasses spirit. The duty on pot-still brandy has been fixed at ios., but that spirit is not an article of consumption as drink.
– Why not?
– I understand that it is too highly flavoured.
– According to the Tariff Commission’s report, a pot-still brandy is made in France.
– Yes, but, as the honorable member for Melbourne has shown, it is so highly priced as to be really not an article of general consumption.
– What spirit would the honorable member use for blending ?
– Rectified grape spirit. I think that 25 per cent, of grape wine spirit distilled by a pot-still at a strength not exceeding 35 per cent, over-proof and 75 per cent, of more highly rectified grape wine spirit should be used.
– If rectified spirit ,is not injurious, why not allow brandy to be made wholly of rectified grape spirit, instead of requiring 25 per cent, of grape spirit distilled by a pot-still to be used ?
– It is the unanimous testimony of experts that, if a brandy does not contain 25 per cent, of grape wine spirit distilled by a pot-still, it will not be a marketable commodity, because it will lack the necessary flavour.
– Does the honorable member wish to prohibit the use of rectified grain spirit?
– The honorable and learned member is going too far. Grain spirit costs 2s-. 6d. to produce.
– I understand that it costs from 2s. 6d. to 2s. nd. If the Committee will not agree- to prohibit the use of grain spirit, no more need be said on the subject.
– Grain spirit is not a cheap spirit.
– Will the honorable and learned member accept an amendment that will have the effect of providing that the blended brandy shall consist of not less than 25 per cent of pure grape spirit made in a pot still, and 75 per cent, of rectified spirit distilled from grape wine or grain, and that the duty be 11s., making other blends 13s. per gallon?
– Will the honorable and learned member also agree to provide for a dutv of ios. per gallon upon pure potstill grape wine spirit?
– I am willing to agree to that.
.- I do not think that the compromise suggested by the honorable and learned member for Angas will carry him any further forward. If the duty upon blended brandy is reduced to lis., we shall not provide for a sufficient differentiation between pure grape wine brandy and blended brandy. It would simplify matters very much if a special paragraph were inserted, dealing with brandy made from grape wine spirit, as contrasted with blended brandy made of grape spirit and of spirit distilled from other materials. I cannot agree to accept a reduction of the duty upon blended brandy to 11s., because that would place the manufacturers of pure grape wine brandy at a disadvantage.
– I wish to move -
That before the word “ materials,” line 45, the word “ approved “ be inserted, and that after the word “materials,” line “45, the words “ not including spirit made from molasses,” be inserted.
If honorable members will look at the report of the Commission, they will find the following statement: -
With reference to the constituents of blended brandy, we are of opinion that no spirit should be regarded as a blended brandy unless it contains 25 per cent, of true brandy, the product of grape wine, the result of a separate distillation at a low alcoholic strength; the balance may be patent-still spirits from any approved material.
Honorable members will see that the Commission recommend that spirits used for blending shall be made from approved material. They apparently came to the conclusion that certain kinds of spirits should not be used for blending with brandy. I fully agree with that view. No doubt the Commissioners had it in their minds to preclude the use of cheap spirit made from molasses. I am afraid that if manufacturers were permitted to use molasses spirit for blending purposes the distillers of pure brandy in South Australia would be entirely shut out of the market. Spirit made from molasses should be used only for making rum, or for the purposes of methylization In the United States the bulk of the molasses spirit is methylated, and nearly onehalf of the molasses spirit produced in the Commonwealth last year was similarly treated.
– That was not because it was bad spirit.
– No, but because it could be more profitably used for industrial purposes. If we were to permit the use of molasses spirit for blending purposes, pure grape brandy would be entirely shut out of the market. ‘ The manufacturers of brandy would have to buy cheap spirit for blending purposes, and would have to turn out an inferior article. In fact it would destroy the trade entirely, and that is the reason why I propose to exclude molasses. It would mean not only that the manufacturers would have to sell inferior brandy, but that a very large acreage which is under vines at the present time would be rendered practically valueless. It would mean the ruin of some hundreds of vignerons, and great injury would be done to thousands who are engaged in the industry. I should like to point out to honorable members that we have not merely to consider the persons who are actually employed in the processes of distillation. The industry indirectly employs many hundreds of growers, harrowers, pickers, and carters.
– The growers get only about £2 per ton for their grapes, so that they would not suffer any very serious loss.
– They would suffer a verv serious loss. The honorable member must recollect that this trade is capable of enormous expansion. Personally I do not wish to see saw spirit excluded other than molasses. Under my proposal in the absence of the word “ approved,” it would be open to distillers to make use of potato spirit. I find that Mr. Cleland, in his evidence before the Tariff Commission,, stated that he could purchase brandy f .o.b. in Europe for 7s. per dozen bottles.
– The honorable member is referring to imported brandy.
– Exactly. My point is that if brandy can be made in any part of Europe for that amount it can be produced in Australia. But under my proposal the Minister would see that spirit of that character did not go into consumption.
– Before the honorable member actually submits his proposal, perhaps he will allow me to make a suggestion which may simplify our procedure. I have been consulting the Chairman of the Tariff Commission and various other honorable members upon this matter, with a view to solving the difficulty which confronts us. The suggestion which has been made, and which the officers of the Department regard as quite a workable one, is that we should introduce another item relating to brandy between items 1 and 2. In the first place, it is suggested that upon brandy which is distilled wholly from grape wine by a pot still the Excise duty shall’ be 10s. per gallon. It is then suggested that we might introduce into these resolu-tions a blended brandy which has been distilled from grape wine “ containing not less than 25 per cent, of pure grape wine spirit, which has been separately distilled by a pot still or similar process at a strength not exceeding 40 degrees over-proof, the whole being matured by storage in wood for a period of not less than two years, and certified bv an officer to be brandy so- blended and matured.” The duty upon this article might be 11s. per gallon. Honorable members will notice that the whole of this blended brandy would have to be distilled from grape wine, though only 25 per cent, of it must be distilled bv means of a pot still. Then it is suggested that blended brandy distilled partly from grape wine and partly from grain should bear a duty of 12s. per gallon.
– How would the Prime Minister describe the item which he proposes to introduce to differentiate it from blended brandy, which is distilled partly from grape wine and partly from other materials ?
– That is merely a question of nomenclature. Then upon spirit n.e.i. it is suggested that a duty of 13s. per gallon should continue to be charged. We should thus have Excise duties of 10s., 11s., 12s., and 13s. per gallon in successive steps upon brandies of different degrees of purity.
– Under the item of “ Spirit n.e.i.,” could a blended brandy containing one-quarter of pure grape spirit and three-quarters of spirit produced from inferior materials be labelled as a genuine brandy, and sold as such ?
– No. In the Bill in which these resolutions will be embodied we make provision for specially authorized labels, which can only be attached to the classes of spirits made as prescribed.
– If we allow a whisky which is composed of 75 per cent. of grain spirit to be called a blended whisky, I cannot see any reason why . we should not allow a whisky which contains 75 per cent. of molasses spirit to be designated by the same term.
– There is no provision as to the percentage of spirit which shall be contained in any article under the item of “ Spirit n.e.i.” The suggestions which I have made seem to me to offer a solution of the difficulty which confronts us.
– I should like to know whether, under the suggestion of the Prime Minister, spirit made from molasses could be used as a blend in brandies which are placed upon the market?
– Not in brandies which are labelled by the Commonwealth.
– But we should not permit this cheap spirit to be put into anything which is called brandy.
– If the honorable member wishes to prevent that, he must accomplish his object in the Bill in which these resolutions will be incorporated.
– If honorable members will look at progress report No. 2 of the Tariff Commission-
– Under the Government proposal, molasses spirit could not be called brandy. It can merely be sold as spirit, and it will have to pay an Exciseduty of 13s. per gallon. Surely that ought to satisfy the South Australians.
– It does not satisfy me. If honorable members will turn to progress report No. 2 of the Tariff Com mission, under the heading of “ Spirits and the Distillation of Spirits,” they will find that brandy which is made entirely from wine spirit is to have an advantage conferred upon it by being labelled “ Pure Australian Standard Brandy.” If honorable members turn to the next paragraph they will see that another class of brandy, which is to be blended with a different spirit - and this is why I wish to prevent the use of molasses spirit for blending purposes - is tobe labelled “Australian blended brandy.” That will be very confusing. If we are to allow a blend containing only 25 per cent. of grape spirit to be placed on the market we should not permit it to be described as brandy.
– I fail to see what difference it makes whether the spirit mixed with pure grape spirit is distilled from molasses or grain.
– If the honorable member were engaged in the industry he would quickly recognise the difference. There is no reason why we should allow anything but pure grape brandy to be labelled “ brandy.”
– Quite so; but if we do allow a blend to belabelled “brandy,” why not allow a blending of grape spirit with any spirit to be labelled “Australian blended brandy”?
– I object to molasses spirit being used in blending. If a blend containing only 25 per cent. of pure grape spirit is to be labelled “ Australian blended brandy,” it* should bear a statement to the effect that it contains only 25 per cent, of pure grape spirit. The public would then know what they were buying, and a blend so described would find but few purchasers. I do not think that honorable members recognise the full significance of the Prime Minister’s proposal. His object is a good one, but I do not think that he proposes to go far enough. There is no reason why we should permit a blend which contains only 25 per cent. of pure grape spirit to be labelled “brandy.”
.- The view of the honorable member that grape spirit only should be used in the production of brandy is worthy of commendation ; but whilst I think that the nature of a blend should be clearly stated on the label, I have vet to learn that it is undesirable to be able to obtain a good article at a low price.
– But this is to be a nasty thing sold cheaply.
– I have been searching for any evidence that molasses spirit is bad. It is not as good for certain purposes as a spirit made from the grape, but-
– Why should we allow a blend to consist of 75 per cent. of rice spirit if we are not going to permit the use of molasses spirit for blending purposes ?
– I do not think we should be justified in excluding one particular spirit.
– Not if it were equally wholesome.
– Quite so. I fully recognise the care which the Commission has bestowed on its work, and the extent of the expert evidence given before it; but I think that it is, to say the least, singular if the opinions of its members can be swayed by the fact that certain honorable members have not risen to protest against the exclusion of molasses spirit. If the Commission are sure of their facts, surely it should make no difference to them whether 10 or 100. men oppose their proposal. It has no evidence that is opposed to the manufacture of spirit from molasses, and I hold that we should not penalize such a spirit because of its cheapness.
– My point is that if spirit produced from grain, molasses, or any other material containing sugar is declared to be unwholesome we ought to exclude it,’ but that we ought not to exclude a spirit which is not less wholesome than any grain spirit which may be blended with grape spirit and sold as brandy. I agree with the honorable member for Hindmarsh that if we decide that brandy shall be only that which is the product of the grape, we should exclude grain and all other spirit ; but since we are prepared to allow a mixture of grape spirit with spirit distilled from wheat or any other grain to be described as “blended brandy,” I fail to see why we should exclude the use of molasses spirit for the same purpose, unless it can be shown that it is less wholesome. There seem to be only two logical courses open to us. We must either provide that nothing shall be labelled as “ brandy “ except thathich is the product of the grape, or if we are to allow a blending of grape and other spirits to be described as blendedbrandy, we should not prevent any spirit being so used except on the ground of its being deleterious.
– The honorable member has been good enough to indicate the difficulty which he feels in regard to these proposals, and I move -
That the following new paragraph be inserted after paragraph1, line 43 : - “‘Blended wine brandy distilled from grape wine, and containing not less than 25 per cent. of pure grape wine spirit (which has been separately distilled by a pot still or similar process at a strength not exceeding 40 per cent. over-proof), the whole being matured by storage in wood for a period of not less than two years, and certified by an officer to be brandy so blended and matured, per proof gallon,11s.
I propose that paragraph No. 2, which will become paragraph No. 3, shall relate to “blended grain brandy.” That being so, there will be no doubt as to the class of brandy to which it refers. In the first paragraph we shall deal with pure brandy, in thesecond, with blended wine brandy, and in the third, with blended grain brandy in which not more than 25 per cent. of grain spirit may be used. These will be the only brandies.
– It appears to me that while the Prime Minister’s proposal will in part meet the difficulty as to the want of further classification, it will not meet the criticism offered by the honorable member for North Sydney.
– It is more clever than equitable.
– All three of these classifications exclude molasses.
– So they should.
– If molasses are unfit for the production of brandy it is proper to exclude them.
– They are not unfit for a blend, but they are unfit for brandy proper.
– This classification excludes them altogether. The whole question is : ought molasses to be excluded from the making ofbrandy ? I take it that the principle of this classification is to exclude spirit made from molasses as deleterious.
– Oh, no ; it would not have the right to bear any of these special names, that is all.
– Iam afraid that the result will be that the more cheaply produced stuff will compete with the other, and the general public will not trouble much what it is distilled from. They will only, know that it is called brandy, without troubling much whether it is made from grain, grapes, or anything else. The evidence given before the Tariff Commission shows that the public taste is hit by a blend more than by the genuine stuff. The popular brandy is a blended brandy, and it is just possible that we may have a blended brandy that will taste just as well as a better’ kind. The more logical course to take would be, if we intend to exclude brandy made from molasses from being officially called brandy, to prevent it going on to the market, as a drink at all. If it is vicious stuff, exclude it from consumption! ; rule it out altogether. If the Government intends to adopt this classification it certainly ought to go further, because, as now proposed to us, it seems to me that it will only be making things worse. The stuff which is not genuine brandy should be ruled out of the market as a drink altogether.
– I feel, of course, that we are submitting a proposal which requires a good deal of further consideration. At present we are dealing with a schedule, which, if agreed to, becomes a schedule to a Bill yet to be submitted. If on further examination honorable members think that there is any imperfection in the proposal, they will still have it in their power to remedy it. The Committee can add just what it pleases. We are dealing here with the titles which we propose to confer upon certain liquids. We refer to blended wine brandy and grain brandy. But other brandies are not excluded.
– Why not also say “ blended sugar brandy “ ?
– That can be done, but it will not be possible for manufacturers to apply those names which are appropriated by Act, and for which labels are assigned, to other brandy. Outside these brandy may be made from any spirit whatever, if it is matured for two years in the wood. There is nothing but the taste and judgment of the public to guide them as to which liquor they will consume. We start with brandy at ios., wine brandy us., grain brandy 12s. ; and then we come to all the other brandies or whiskies from whatever they may be manufactured.
– Can they be called brandies?
– They can be, but the manufacturers cannot use the labels that will be specified in the Act. They can use any other names of their own. There will be a label which can be applied only to the compound to which it is assigned.
– I can conceive of nothing which will tend so much to the popularization of inferior stuff as that; it gives manufacturers the privilege of labelling their compounds as brandies.
– It does not give them any privilege.
– No one has ever been refused the right to attach the name brandy to whatever he wishes to sell as brandy ; but it rests with the public to say whether they will buy it or will not. That liberty is not diminished in the slightest degree by what we propose; but such brandies cannot be sold under the special titles that will be legalized. There are to be labels authorized by the Act, and I will ask honorable members to wait until they see the Bill and the labels before they decide that there is any unfairness in what is proposed.
– I think that, owing to the new proposal which the Government has made, it is appropriate that we should adjourn now, so that we may have an opportunity of considering the scheme. The proposal is entirely new. It has not been even hinted at by that celebrated Commission whose investigations were supposed to reach to the last of these important matters. The proposal appears to me to be inequitable, because it excludes a certain spirit without naming it. I care nothing as to what the Committee may decide in a direct, open, and straightforward manner, but we ought not to hide our meaning in a cloud of words which would be interpreted to mean one thing and one thing only. If we mean to exclude spirit made from molasses or from any grains, let us state that clearly and be done withit ; but I shall not support the Government proposal drafted as it is.
– They allow rice spirit, rye spirit, and maize spirit to be used in blends of brandy.
– All grain spirits are allowed to be used, spirit from molasses only is excepted.
– They are all much dearer than molasses spirit, and therefore they are getting greater protection.
– Exactly. I have no objection to the position taken up by the honorable member, but let us say that we intend to penalize molasses spirit, because it is better and cheaper.
– Not to penalize it, but to give more protection to the spirits which are dearer.
– Let it be remembered that certain distilleries have been built up since the Federal Tariff was imposed.
– In Queensland.
– In” New South Wales molasses, spirit was distilled long before the Commonwealth Tariff was introduced.
– Let us see the figures for New South Wales. In 1900 no spirit was distilled in that State; but in 1905 655o3:t gallons were distilled.
– No spirit distilled in New South Wales !
– I shall read the passage from the report of the Tariff Commission -
From a return prepared by the Department of Customs it will be seen that a great increase has taken place in the production of spirit in New South Wales : -
The duty of the Tariff Commission was to inquire into the effect of the Tariff. Here is an industry which has grown up to this extent in New South Wales, and yet it is proposed by a side issue to wipe it out.
– Does the honorable member mean to say that the whole of the spirit distilled in New South Wales has been used in the manufacture of brandy ?
– No. It cannot be denied that in New South Wales arn industry has been brought into existence by the operation of the Federal Tariff. Tt is now proposed by the Government to make the difference between the Excise duty on molasses spirit and the import duty is., and in the case of every other spirit-
– Every spirit except those defined here is in the same position.
– What does the honorable member define in the last paragraph - that grain spirit shall have a protection of 2s. per gallon? Is not that a differentia tion ?
– I said so, but only a differentiation of is., and that covers every other spirit except this particular kind.
– Exactly ; but every grain spirit is in a better position than molasses spirit.
– Grain spirits vary.
– All grain spirits get is. more protection than does molasses spirit. What other spirit is the differentiation against?
– Potato spirit.
– Potato spirit only. I submit that we ought to hear the members of the Tariff Commission on this point. If the members of that body, who have said so much about their report and declared that they would not have it interfered with, are supporting this proposal, I am surprised at their attitude. I hold that an alteration of this kind should be made at a time when it could receive fuller consideration.
– I pointed out that the schedule will come up again for consideration. . ,
– The grain spirit is to include 25 per cent, of grape wine spirit.
– My idea of carrying on the Government of .the Commonwealth is, in matters of taxation, to tell the people exactly what we intend to do in the plainest possible manner, because they will then be in a position to deal with us at the general elections.
.- When I interjected about distilling in New South Wales prior to Federation, T thought that my memory was not quite so much at fault as the extract quoted by the honorable member for Wide Bay would perhaps lead one to believe. The extract is quite correct as it was quoted, but I find that just prior to Federation distillation had ceased in the State owing to the fact that the Excise and import duties had been made equal. Some years prior to Federation, however, the distilleries of the State were producing a great deal of spirit, and I had that fact in mind when I spoke. No doubt the honorable member for Wide Bay is correct in saying that the difference between; the Excise and Customs duties imposed by the Federal Tariff have had a beneficial effect on the distilling industry of New South Wales.
No attempt is now being made to injure that industry. What is proposed is that the Excise duty on molasses spirit shall remain as it is, namely, 13s., or is. less than the import duty.
– But molasses spirit is prohibited in connexion with the manufacture of brandy, blended brandy, and malt whisky.
– Yes, because it is desired to give a special degree of protection to spirits produced from materials which are a great deal more costly than molasses or potatoes. For this reason, the Excise duty on pure grape spirit has been made as low as ios. The action of the Committee in agreeing to that duty was an admission of the principle that we are justified in giving special consideration to spirits distilled from costly material. So far as the preservation of the public health is concerned, it is said by some that a blended grain whisky is as wholesome as a pure malt, whisky. I see nothing to prevent the distillers of molasses spirit from placing it on the market, though if they do so they must pay an Excise duty of 13s. They will not be able to call it by any of the names mentioned in the schedule, but they could do as Messrs. Joshua Brothers do in naming their spirit merely “ Boomerang.” Provision is made for the use of the terms “pure Australian brandy,” “pure Australian malt whisky,” “blended wine brandy,” and “blended grain whisky.”
– They could call it sugar brandy.
– I think so. We now have on the market cherry brandy and other brandies which are not true brandies.
– I take objection to this proposal, not on account of the difference made in the Excise duty, as that may be met by the cheapness with which this spirit is distilled, but because it is sought to prohibit the use of spirit which is not shown to be more harmful than the spirit which is allowed. If the distinction which is attempted to be made is drawn, it seems to me that the Excise Department may prevent spirit made in the northern States from being labelled “ blended sugar brandy.” Thev may say, “You shall not call this spirit brandy, because the Excise Act allows the application of the term brandy to certain specified spirits only.
– I do not think that that is so. It will depend on the wording of the Bill.
– I hope that the Minister will give consideration to the matter before the Bill is introduced. There should be no discrimination against molasses spirit unless it is more detrimental to health than other spirit.
– What- about fiscal faith? The distilling of spirit from molasses is an industry which was brought into existence by the Federal Tariff.
Motion (by Mr. Deakin) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
.- I wish to say a word in regard to a- development which is taking place throughout Australia to-day, and is out of keeping with the arguments used in this Chamber last session by honorable members of the Opposition. ‘ When the Arbitration Bill was under discussion the members of the Opposition wished to provide that the funds of trade organizations should not be used for political purposes; but to-day it is alleged that thousands of pounds have been contributed by the Tobacco Trust, the shipping ring, and various big firms in Sydney, to a fund which the members of the Opposition are shepherding, and which is being used by them when travelling, through the country with their wives, in the endeavour to wrest from the Government at the next elections the reins of office. This is the most scandalous piece of work that has ever affected a Parliament.
– It is the most scandalous statement ever made in Parliament, and there is not a word of truth in it.
– If the honorable and learned member for Parkes were here, he would silence the honorable member. I understand that he has already taken some of the starch out of him. This is one of the most scandalous proceedings that has ever taken place in connexion with any parliamentary party. The leader of the Opposition is travelling through the country, utilizing the large funds placed at his command for the purpose of injuring honorable members who are here, attending to their public duties. Other honorable members who are rarely in this Chamber are spending their time - and it is alleged are being well paid for so doing - in performing propaganda work, instead of attending in this House, and looking after the interests of their constituents.
– There is not a word of truth in the honorable member’s statements.
– The matter introduced by the honorable member is rather beyond the range of subjects that should be brought before Parliament, but as he has chosen to make certain statements, with a recklessness which I cannot properly describe, because I should be out of order if I did so, I can only say, as the treasurer of one of the organizations that is taking part in the work of preparing for the next elections, that the statements of the honorable member are absolutely incorrect. ‘
– That is as far as the organization with which the honorable member is connected is concerned.
– I might as well say, with regard to the party to which the honorable member belongs, that I hear that they are receiving contributions of thousands of pounds from all over Australia - larger amounts probably than are being placed at the disposal of any other party - and that they are spending money largely in connexion with their organizing work in the various electorates. I might say that, but I do riot desire to do so.
– The honorable member knows that it would not be true.
– I do not. I know that such a statement would apparently have far more truth in it than those which the honorable member has made. I might say that statements are appearing in the press that levies, which must represent a very large sum, are being made upon thousands of men. So far as my knowledge goes, the honorable member’s statements are quite incorrect - that is the strongest parliamentary term that- 1 am permitted to use. Although in every contest funds have to be spent upon electoral campaign work bv every party, no unusual expenditure is being incurred, upon the present occasion,
.- I was also connected as treasurer with a large organization in New . South Wales, and I wish to say that, to the best of my knowledge, the statements which the honorable member for Gwydir has made are absolutely incorrect, so far as that organization is concerned.
– What organization?
– The Australian Liberal League. The honorable member is a working man, and the representative of working men. The statements we have just listened to are founded upon such slender authority that thev lead me to suppose that the honorable member has served his apprenticeship in the workshops of calumny.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 11.44 P m-
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 15 August 1906, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1906/19060815_reps_2_33/>.