10th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. Sir littleton Groom) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
Mr. John Arthur Perkins made and subscribed the Oath of Allegiance.
The following papers were presented : -
Commonwealth Bank Act - Commonwealth Bank of Australia - Aggregate Balancesheet at 31st December, 1925, and Statement of the Liabilities and Assets of the Note Issue Department at 31st December, 1025; together with the Auditor-General’s Reports thereon.
Commonwealth Institute of Science and Industry - Recommendations by Sir Frank Heath for the Reconstitution of the Institute.
Norfolk Island Act- Ordinance of 1926- No. 3- Public Trust Funds Control.
Increased Allowances to RETURNING Officers.
– On the 12th of this month, in reply to a question by myself, the Prime Minister enid that the Government was then considering a re port of the Public Service Board on the subject of the payment of increased allowances to returning officers for extra work entailed by the general election. Has the Government come to a decision on the matter, and, if not, will it do so at an early date?
– I hope to be in a position to give the honorable gentleman an answer to his question to-morrow.
Removal of Head Office to New Zealand
– The Prime Minister will recall an agreement that was made in connexion with the aidministration of Nauru and Ocean Islands. Is it true, as stated by the wholesale phosphate merchants, that it is the intention of the Nauru Island Commission to remove its head office from Sydney to Auckland? If so, what does the right honorable gentleman propose to do about it?
– A meeting of the three commissioners representing the three partner countries - Great Britain, New Zealand, and Australia - was held at Vancouver, in the later months of last year. At that meeting, a resolution was passed to the effect that the head office of the commission should be removed from Australia to N’cw Zealand. As soon as the resolution came under the notice of the Government, it took the matter up with the Governments of Great Britain and New Zealand. It is still in communication with them in regard to the whole matter, and also the question of majority decisions by the commissioners, and the powers of the commission generally. At the moment, I am not in a position to make a statement to the House about what will eventually be done, but I can assure the right honorable member that the Government appreciates this importance of the proposed transfer of the headquarters of the commission from Australia to New Zealand, and is taking every step in its power to prevent it.
– Will the Prime Minister inform the House of the nature of the agreement between the Australian and Italian Governments covering the introduction of migrants from Italy? If there is such an agreement, will the right honorable gentleman lay it on the table of the House? In view of the fact that there are so many unemployed metalliferous and coal miners in this country, does the Prime Minister think it a good policy to bring men to Australia under false pretences?
– There is no agreement or arrangement of any character between the Australian and Italian Governments regarding the introduction of migrants from Italy. Certain arrangements were come to with the Italian Government limiting the number of Italian subjects coming to Australia. Details of that arrangement have been given by me on several occasions, and also by the Minister for Home and Territories. If the honorable member would like to have the information again, and will place a question on the notice-paper, I shall obtain an answer to it. I should like to point out to the honorable member that neither the Australian Government nor the Australian people are doing anything to bring migrants into this country under false pretences.
– Is it a fact that, owing to some trade arrangements entered into many years ago between tha British and Italian Governments, the most favoured nation provision of the treaty interferes with the action of the Government in dealing with migrants from Italy to this country?
– There is no connexion between the agreement to which the honorable member refers and any arrangement that might be made with regard to the introduction of migrants from Italy. The attitude of the Government in negotiating with the Italian Government concerning Italian subjects desiring to come to Australia is in no way affected by the fact that such a treaty exists.
– In view of the policy of the Government to introduce legislation dealing with advances to the State governments for the purchase of wire netting, I should like to know from the Prime Minister whether any State government has accepted the proposal, and when it is intended to introduce legislation dealing with the matter?
– A form of agreement was sent to the different State govern ments in December last, setting out the terms upon which the Commonwealth Government is prepared to negotiate for advances, with a view to the submission of a bill to Parliament. The only government that has yet intimated its concurrence with the terms of the proposal made by the Commonwealth Government is the Queensland Government. Negotiations are still being carried on with the governments of the other States.
– Some weeks ago I addressed a question to the Prime Ministor, asking if he would permit the report of the Board of Trade with reference to l.he gold-mining industry to be laid on the table of the House. He said, in reply, that it was not the desire of the Government to make the report public until the Cabinet had dealt with it. I should like to know when it is likely that the Cabinet will deal with the report.
– I remember the question which the honorable member asked on this subject. The Government is not yet in a position to make the report public.
– It has been stated that the Canadian Government is imposing a dumping duty on Australian butter. I understand that certain representations have been made to the Canadian Govern ment on the subject. When is it expected that this House will be made au fait with the whole of the facts in connexion with the matter?
– Only last week, in answer to a question, I stated that representations on this matter had been made to the Canadian Government. No reply to those representations has, so far, been received.
– I ask the Prime Minister if it is a fact, as we were led to believe, that the Shipping Board’s control of Cockatoo Island Dock is independent of political influence. If so, why did the right honorable gentleman, as Prime Minister, promise a deputation that he would institute inquiries to interfere with the acceptance by the Cockatoo Island Dockyard of a contract from the Sydney Council for the manufacture of electrical machinery ?
– The control of Cockatoo Island Dockyard, and also of the Commonwealth Shipping Line, was, by this Parliament, placed in the hands of an independent board. The honorable member is misinformed when he says that I promised to institute inquiries in reply to a deputation. What I told the deputation was that I would submit its representations to the Shipping Board, and would ask the board to advise the Government as to the position.
asked the Prime
Minister, upon notice -
– The whole question of carrying out investigations regarding the white ant and borer pests will be referred for the consideration of the Institute of Science and Industry when reconstituted.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable members questions are as follow: -
Elder proposes to visit England on private business.
Customs and Excise Duties
In Committee of Ways and Means :
Consideration resumed from 19th March (vide page 1818).
– In moving the first item of the new tariff schedule I would remind honorable members that we have nearly 150 different items and sub-items to consider this week. Therefore I shall endeavour when referring to important items such as this to put the facts before the committee in a concise form. This particular item is, in some respects, unlike many of the others, and perhaps it will interest honorable members to know what the whisky importations and manufacture have been over a series of years. When the import duty on whisky was low the importations were high; for instance, in 1913, when the import duty was 14s. a gallon the importations equalled 2,251,000 gallons. The duty was gradually increased from 14s. to 17s., 20s., 25s., 27s., and 30s., with the result that importations, both bottled and in bulk, in the year 1924-5, the last year for which figures are available, declined to 1,200,000 gallons. In other words, when the duty was 30s. a gallon the imports were a little under a million and a quarter gallons, and when it was 14s. a gallon the imports were a little over two million and a quarter gallons. One feature of the whisky duties is that under the 1920 tariff they were for the first time so adjusted as to give some British preference. The manufacture of whisky in Australia was 119,000 gallons in 1915-6, and 201,000 gallons in 1919-20. Last year excise was paid upon 127,000 gallons only. We obtain from these figures three facts : First, that the higher the duty the less the consumption; secondly, that the imports of whisky from countries other than Britain have practically ceased since the granting of the preferential tariff; and thirdly, that although there has been a difference of 4s. a gallon between the excise on the locally-made whisky and the duty on imported whisky, this has not enabled the local production of whisky to obtain an appreciable footing. As honorable members will see, there has practically been no increase in the locallymanufactured whisky during the last ten years. Another phase of this question is the effect upon the revenue of the Commonwealth. Honorable members will recollect that during the last Parliament an additional duty of 5s. a gallon was imposed on imported brandy. The effect has been that in 1923-4, 118,000 gallons of brandy were imported, and . 185,000 locally made. The total duty paid was £457,000. In the succeeding year, when the increased duty on imported brandy was beginning to be effective, and there was no increase of the excise on Australianmade brandy, the imports decreased from 118,000 to 93,000 gallons, and the local sales out of bond of Australian brandy increased from 185,000 to 210,000 gallons. The total duty collected, despite the additional increase of 5s. a gallon on imported brandy was £441,000, as compared with £457,000 in 1923-4. This represents a decrease, owing to the extra manufacture of Australian brandy, of about £16,000.
– Will the Minister give the figures relating to Australian whisky and imported whisky under the 1925 tariff?
– Yes. I have given a preliminary statement merely to enable the committee to form some idea how the new duties will operate. Honorable members will know that the proposal of the Government is to increase the tariff on imported whisky by 5s. a gallon, and to allow the present excise of 26s. a gallon to remain. Now, if we take a reasonable estimate based upon the additional consumption of Australian brandy, owing to the increase of 5s. in the import duty, we shall be able to ascertain approximately how these proposed duties will affect the revenue. Last year there was taken from bond 1,147,011 gallons of imported whisky. This, at the then prevailing duty of 30s. meant a Customs revenue of £1,721,978. The Australian whisky taken from bond, upon which an excise of 56s. a gallon was paid, totalled 127,291 gallons. The excise revenue received was £165,479. Therefore, the total whisky cleared for local consumption was 1,274,302 gallons, and the total amount of duty received was £1,887,457. If we estimate that an equivalent amount of whisky will be consumed this year, with a considerable increase in the consumption of Australian whisky and a corresponding decrease in the consumption of imported whisky, the proportion of imported whisky will decrease to 774,302 gallons and that ofAustralian whisky will increase to 500,000 gallons.
– That means a loss of importations of 500,000 gallons.
– Not quite. It means a loss of importations of under 400,000 gallons, and an increase of local consumption to a corresponding extent.
– Is that an estimate?
– I have stated that this is an estimate based to some extent upon the fact that the increase of 5s. a gallon on imported brandy rapidly increased, and is still increasing, the consumption of Australian brandy, to the detriment of imported brandy. If we take, then, an average consumption of Australian whisky of 500,000 gallons from the total consumption of 1,274,302 gallons - the figures for last year - the effect will be that the imported whisky, at a duty of 35s. a gallon, and the Australian whisky, at the present excise of 26s. a gallon, will yield an increase on the 1924-5 revenue of £117,5*1. If this committee sees fit to alter the incidence of the whisky duties by increasing them by only 2s. 6d. a gallon on the imported whisky, and taking 2s. 6d. off the excise to give the same margin as the Government proposes, then the decrease on the duties collected this fiscal year will be £41,777.
– That would be the loss through that action?
– Yes. Supposing the committee, in its wisdom, decides not to increase the present imported whisky duties, but to give the margin proposed by the Government by decreasing the excise by 5s. a gallon, then the decrease in the revenue” from whisky during the fiscal year would be £201,000, representing in comparison with the Government’s proposals a loss of nearly £325,000. There are many facts that should not be lost sight of in considering the Government’s proposal to impose an increased duty on whisky. This tariff proposes an aggregate decreased revenue of about £750,000 on many articles of household use. Throughout the world it is recognized that alcohol is a fair and reasonable subject for taxation. Australia has a big war debt and many commitments arising from the war, and the Government cannot afford to lose a considerable amount of revenue by reducing the taxation on an article like whisky. The British duty is £3 12s. a gallon. The increase of 5s. per gallon we propose does not amount to more than -£d. on a full nobbier. Honorable members will recol lect the fuss made about six months ago when the increase was first imposed. I understand that the retail price of a nobbier was raised by Id. and 2d.
– It was raised by 3d. in some cases.
– That is so. The increase in price was put down to the increased duty, which amounts to only id. a nobbier. Some people think that there is .no bad whisky; others think there is no good whisky. I shall not enter into that aspect of the question, but I can say that, because of the way in which our excise regulations are framed, there is no purer spirit in the world than Australian malt whisky. No whisky can be purer than ours, which is produced according to the standard set up by our excise regulations. That statement cannot be controverted, and from the standpoint of protection, the Government’s proposal is unanswerable. The quantity of Australian whisky distilled has made practically no advance for many years past, but under the spur of this increased duty the distillers have, during the last few months, given employment to several hundred additional men, and purchased 500,000 bushels of Australian barley. There has also been additional activity in cask making and so forth. Apart from the moral aspect of the question, the increase has been justified to the hilt. It has inflicted no hardship, and at the same time, directly and indirectly, has helped city and rural interests. Spirits are a legitimate source of revenue. A policy thatwill give more work to Australians, and at the same time enlarge the home market for primary products, is well worthy of the approval of the committee.
.- If anything could break down my faith as a protectionist, it is the statement of the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Pratten), that an increased duty is necessary to develop the production of whisky in Australia. We -all know that the increase from 17s. to 30s. a gallon was made to help us to carry some of the burden of debt brought about by the war. If the Government had come forward with a straight-out proposal to increase duties for the sake of getting additional revenue because the financial position of the country required it, we could consider this proposal on its merits as a revenue producer, but even in that case there is a limit to what imports can stand. The* Minister has brought forward a tariff which he estimates will bring about an aggregate reduction of £750,000 in revenue, and he asks the committee to make up for that shortage by one item alone. I cannot support his proposal as one for raising revenue, and although a protectionist I do not propose to run mad. The duty has no merit in it from that point of view. At any rate, the Minister has not put forward one argument to justify it on that ground. I cannot agree to the item. I do not believe that a good case has been made out for it from either revenue or protectionist reasons.
.- The fact that the Government proposes to raise the duty on whisky from 30s. to 35s. per gallon is not my only objection to this item. Another objection is that it gives still greater protection to the local manufacturer of whisky. My protectionist friends will exclaim that I was bound to say that; but it is a very important fact in considering the proposal, that while the increase in duty is only 5s. a gallon, the protection against British whisky is increased by 125 per cent. The excise duty is 26s. a gallon. The old rates of duty on imports were 35s. British, 37s. intermediate, and 38s. general. The protective margin over the excise duty, which remains the same, namely, 26s. a gallon, is, therefore, 9s. British, lis. intermediate, and 12s. general, showing an increase of 125 per . cent, in the case of British whisky. I do not view this matter from the stand-point of either the importers or the manufacturers. When I hear- either of them characterizing their opponents as scoundrels and themselves as philanthropists, I shrug my shoulders. When I hear either of them criticize the quality of the other’s goods, I reserve my opinion. . I view this question from the stand-point of the Australian public interest, which is the only stand-point from which these things ought to be viewed. I oppose an increased duty on whisky for various reasons, which I shall try to set out as concisely as possible. The manufacture of whisky is an industry into which a great deal of technical knowledge enters. Very few people can express an opinion upon it without thoroughly understanding its technicalities. I regret to say that this aspect of the question was not gone into thoroughly by the Tariff Board. I do not blame the members of the board. As I said before, they have not the knowledge to enable them to inquire closely into the technicalities of this industry, and sift and closely scrutinize the evidence put before them. Some of that evidence was manifestly absurd, and any one knowing anything about the subject would immediately recognize that some of it was incorrect. But the board was content to accept, not only incorrect evidence, but also insinuations which were not evidence, and yet weighed with it in coming to a decision. The members of the board swallowed whole some of the statements made before them. In their report they showed that the main reason for recommending an increase of duty was to cut out the competition of cheap British whisky, ‘inferring that it was cheap, inferior, and harmful whisky. That was quite contrary to the evidence before them, and apparently ignored by them. The board preferred to accept incorrect statements prompted, one can only conclude, by business competition. There is one reason why the duty on whisky should not be increased which should appeal even to protectionists. . As a rule protectionists agree that a duty should not be applied to an article which is not of the same class or kind as that which is manufactured in Australia. Imported whisky is not of the same class or kind as the whisky manufactured in Australia. Of course, it may be said that all whiskies are the same, but within that general description there are’ pronounced and marked variations of class and kind. The bulk of whisky imported into Australia is not of a class or kind which is manufactured in Australia. The class or kind of whisky is governed by several factors, partly by the materials used - malt or grain - partly by the still employed - pot or patent - and partly by the combination of the two. For instance, grain may be used in a pot still, or in a patent still, and barley malt may be used in a pot still or in a patent still.When I say that Australian whisky is not of the same class or kind as imported whisky, I am not bringing into question the relative superiority of either. I am not maintaining that the one is better or worse than the other. I simply say that they are different whiskies. No technical knowledge or scientific inquiry can discover that one whisky is better than another for the human being to drink. That is something which cannot be defined or put into definiteterms. We can express opinions; but we cannot say that one whisky is deleterious and another is not; it is a matter of taste. One whisky is acceptable to a person because he likes it, and another is unacceptable merely because he does not like the taste. The demand is governed by the specific quality, which cannot be defined as good or bad ; it is controlled solely by the taste of the consumer. There are two principal types of whisky manufactured in the United Kingdom, known generally as Irish whisky and Scotch whisky. If any honorable members are connoisseurs they will know quite well the difference between the quality of Irish whisky and that of Scotch whisky; and when I speak of the quality I refer tothe taste. A person who prefers Irish whisky would not say that it was superior to Scotch whisky, but that it suited his taste better. A majority of the Irish people prefer Irish whisky, and an Irish product sold under the famous brand of John Jamieson has a world-wide reputation. With those who prefer Scotch whisky the Irish product cannot be regarded as a rival. The pot still whisky manufactured in Australia cannot be said to resemble in any way Scotch whisky; it really resembles Irish whisky.
– It is Australian whisky.
– I do not say whether Australian whisky is actually better or worse than the Irish or the Scotch product. The character of the Australian whisky resembles the Irish rather than the Scotch product. The Australian whisky differs in type from the Scotch whisky, for which in the past there has been a public demand. I do not think that it is the duty of this Parliament to force whisky consumers to purchase spirit of a kind which they do not prefer. I am speaking of a matter which does not depend upon, and is not capable of, scientific definition. It is a matter of public taste ; we cannot get beyond that. We cannot define the public taste, which cannot be ascertained by any algebraical formula. It has been stated by the Minister (Mr. Pratten) that a standard has been established in Australia which is not inferior to any other. That may be true, because we judge the standard by the whisky produced. We cannot say whether it is better than any other, but that it differs from others. There is no standard suchas we have here in any other part of theworld. What we refer to as a standard is really one of our own invention. It is one which is not founded upon a complete knowledge of the system or process, because, for instance, it requires that in a patent still pure barley malt shall be used, which is so much nonsense. This so-called standard was made to suit the distillers operating when it was adopted, and certain business considerations which came into play at the time. It was thought that by using pure malt in the manufacture of whisky, which was not being done by overseas manufacturers, we would “ dish “ the rivals of the Australian manufacturers.
– Is not a superior quality of whisky produced by using pure malt?
– It is a matter of taste. The use of pure malt increases the cost of production.
– Does it give a better result ?
– What is a better result? Before we can discuss that, we have to get down to a definition of terms. What do we mean by “ better “ or “ worse “? I have already said that the question cannot be settled by a scientific definition, and that it is all a matter of taste. Some persons prefer pure malt whisky, and the general trend of the taste is to be found in the character of the liquor consumed. The standard maintained in the manufacture of Australian whisky is not, I submit, warranted by the results obtained in the spirit produced. The standard laid down here is not followed in any other part of the world. Of course, the local manufacturers now say that they are hampered by restrictions which are making it difficult for them to produce whisky in the way they desire. I may say in passing that the restrictions have not prevented the local manufacturers from selling whisky at a lower price than that charged for the imported article. The local manufacturers say that they are hampered by government restrictions, and that they should receive additional assistance by the imposition of higher duties on imported whisky.
– Does the honorable member suggest that the spirit should be manufactured in whatever way the distillers desire?
– Not at all. Honorable members seem to suggest that a standard of quality is obtainable. No such standard exists, or has ever existed, and a royal commission, after conducting investigations for years in endeavouring to make a determination, failed to supply the information required. In standardizing whisky, all that can be done is to declare what it consists of. The difficulty is in standardizing the taste, and when it is said that this or that product is of a lower quality than another we are using a term incapable of proper definition. It has never been proved that imported whisky is better or worse than that produced in Australia.
– Is it different in taste?
– Certainly. It is provided that Australian whisky shall be manufactured by pot still or a similar process. “ Similar process “ is somewhat vague, and it is difficult to know what is meant by those words. I have followed this question very closely, and I know that there is no process similar to the potstill system. In the regulations under the act it is provided that whisky shall be deemed to have been made by a similar process in order to produce a similar whisky. When we investigate further to ascertain what is a similar whisky, we find that the decision depends upon the judgment of the Customs officers, who are probably advised by an analyst. No standard is laid down as to what pot-still whisky shall consist of. It really rests purely and solely upon the standard decided upon by the officials of the Customs Department. The standard for Irish potstill whisky differs from that for Scotch pot-still whisky.
Mr.Forde. - Did notthe Western Australian Government adopt a standard on the recommendation of the honorable member when he was Government Analyst in that State?
– Yes; a standard for describing whisky was adopted, but it did not provide that whisky must be of a certain standard.
– What was the standard recommended?
– The honorable member will find the recommendation in the government papers, which are available but, as they contain a lot of technical information, possibly the honorable member would not understand it. There is one point I wish to bring forward in opposition to the imposition of an extra duty upon imported whisky in order to increase the consumption of Australian whisky against the public demand. I do not say that imported whisky is better or worse than Australian whisky. It is purely a matter of’ taste; but, no doubt, the two differ considerably. I oppose an increased duty on imported whisky also on the ground of price. There is no need for additional protection. If honorable members will read the evidence given by the representatives of the Australian distillers, they will not find anything to suggest that their business has been unremunerative in consequence of the price they have been charging. Their only complaint was that they had large stocks which they could not sell. There is no evidence to show that they cannot produce whisky at a price which will enable them to successfully compete with the imported product. The manufacturers stated that they did not intend to increase their price; and, as they have continued to sell at the old rate, their present prices must meet their costs and provide a certain amount of profit. Whether the profit is as much as they desire is another matter, but apparently their enterprise has not been a losing proposition. When we compare the price of the local product with that of the imported article we find some extraordinary figures. Australian whisky is sold to the trade at from 9s. to11s. 6d. per gallon. The cheapest Scotch whisky on the market in New South Wales - and the figures for the other States are not very different - is sold to hotel-keepers at 110s. per case. Very little, however, is sold at that price, the price for all the leading brands being not less than 114s. per case, whereas the highest price for Australian whisky is 76s. a case. The retail price throughout Australia for all the leading brands of Scotch whisky is not less, than 10s. 6d. per bottle, whereas Australian whisky can be obtained for 7s. 6d. per bottle, and, in many cases, for less. There is also a marked difference between the price per nobbier of Scotch and Australian whisky. In Victoria, Scotch whisky costs 10d., and Australian whisky 9d. per nobbier. In New South Wales, South Australia, Queensland, and Tasmania, the. prices are respectively 9d. and 6d.; in Western Australia Scotch whisky costs ls. per nobbier, and Australian whisky 6d. It will, therefore, be seen that, whether considered from the viewpoint of the price per gallon, per case, or per nobbier, Australian whisky is sold at a price very much below that charged for imported whisky. If Australian whisky cannot compete with Scotch whisky at those prices, there must be some other reason than that the Australian industry is handicapped by the cost of production. The reason is that the whisky drinkers of Australia prefer the imported article. It is, therefore, idle to say that there is unfair competition. Australian whisky can be sold in Australia more cheaply than imported whisky, because it is handled largely in bulk. The barrels or casks can be returned to the distilleries and refilled, whereas nearly all the imported brands have to be bottled and cased, in addition to the heavy freight charges and high duties imposed on them. If it were merely a question of cost, the public would buy Australian whisky. It has been said that more Australian whisky is not consumed in Australia because of the .prejudice which exists against the local article, and that to develop a demand for it higher duties must be imposed on the imported article. To that I reply that prejudice seldom stands long “ against the pocket. If, notwithstanding that for a considerable period there has been a marked difference between the prices of local and imported whisky, the public has not consumed the cheaper local article to the exclusion of the other, I submit that that is not because of prejudice. One might as well say that it is prejudice which prevents margarine from being consumed instead of butter. Protectionists argue that higher duties on imported whisky would increase employment in Australia; but I point out that figures supplied to the Tariff Board show that more people in Australia are engaged in connexion with the” imported whisky trade than in connexion with the Australian whisky trade. To that the protectionists reply that the position would be rectified so soon as all the business was in the hands of the Australian producer. That, however, would not be the case, for the reason that the local business would continue to be carried on in bulk, whereas imported whisky is distributed here in bottles and cases, in the manufacture of which large numbers of workers are employed. Reference has been made to one distillery in Australia in which 100 people are said to be engaged. The Minister added that 200 additional employees had been engaged recently. While I do not dispute the Minister’s figures, I am doubtful regarding their accuracy. But even supposing that 300 persons are employed in that distillery, I point out that in Sydney alone the imported whisky trade employs 77 persons in manufacturing cases, 100 in bottle manufacture, 175 in making and printing cartons and cardboard partitions, 100 as bottle washers, and 27 in the coopering trade, while 166 are employed on the various office staffs. That gives for Sydney alone a total of 645 employees in the imported whisky trade. If the increased duties set out in the schedule are agreed to, instead of there being an increase of employment, there will probably be a decrease.
– That is absurd.
– It is not absurd, as the honorable member would realize if he considered the difference between dealing with whisky in bulk and in bottles. The bottling, casing, and distribution of the imported whisky causes the greater employment. About 90 per cent, of the imported whisky is handled in bottles, whereas a similar percentage of the Australian whisky business is done in bulk.
– Is it not better to keep the whisky in wood than in bottles?
– “Dp to a certain point, it is; but not after that point has been reached. All the imported whisky was kept in wood prior to its exportation. Most of it is well matured; none that comes in here is less than five years old.
The question of inferiority does not arise.
– Can the honorable member prove that none of the whisky which is imported to Australia is less than five years old?
– Proof rests with the Customs Department, which controls the importation of whisky, and obtains certificates from the Customs authorities of Great Britain.
– Whisky may enter Australia if it is two years old.
– The Customs authorities have in each case a declaration showing the age of the whisky imported. The same evidence is available in connexion with imported whisky as in the case of local whisky.
– Australian whisky is bottled in bond.
– The same restrictions are imposed on imported whisky as on local whisky .
– That does not prove that whisky less than five years old does not come here.
– The Customs Department, which knows the facts, has not denied the statement of the importers that no whisky under five years of age enters Australia. Nor has the Tariff Board, which has every means of judging, denied it. Reference has been made to a shipment of inferior whisky, which was labelled “ The cream of Scotch whisky.” That was an exceptional and isolated case. To provide against a( repetition of that occurrence greater supervision by the Customs authorities, and not fresh legislation, is needed. Had the Customs authorities brought in a regulation to provide that all whisky should be bottled in bond, instances of that nature would have been prevented. It is ridiculous for the Customs Department to say that because one shipment of inferior whisky entered Australia - and it has been proved that it was an isolated case - increased duties on imported whisky are now necessary. There is one other aspect of this question . to which I desire to refer. I have been informed that, associated with those who for their own personal ends are applying for increased duties, are religious bodies and temperance reformers who think that by supporting these additional duties they will discourage the use of alcohol in Australia. While I do not agree with them, I can understand the motive actuating their desire for higher duties. They believe that they are acting in a public-spirited way; but I am surprised that they should consider that an increase of duties on imported whisky would accomplish their purpose. The Government’s proposal will have exactly the opposite effect. I am at a loss to understand how any honorable member who may represent those interests can have been misled into believing that an increase of duty will assist the cause of temperance. The Minister has shown that the imposition of higher duties has led to an increased consumption of Australian whisky. I make no comparison between the quality of imported and Australian whisky; but I point out that if one whisky is cheaper than another, and the consumption of that cheaper whisky is encouraged, it will result in more whisky being consumed. Were the Customs duties and excise duties to rise together, the object of the temperance reformers might be achieved. By advocating higher duties, these temperance reformers, who no doubt look forward to prohibition being the law of Australia, are encouraging the distillation of whisky here, and, in fact, are giving the industry Government protection and encouragement. In the event of prohibition, an industry which had been fostered and developed by the Government would be entitled to heavy compensation. Surely it is against the principles of the reformers that they should lend themselves to a proposition which means Government aid in establishing whisky distilleries on a surer and firmer footing in Australia. If only a question of revenue were involved in these duties, I should support the Minister, but that is not the position. We already have too much revenue. For the reasons which I have stated I object to increased duties on whisky. For a similar reason I shall not support the suggestion of the Minister that instead of increasing the duty on foreign whisky we should reduce the excise on the home product or compromise half way.
– I did not make any suggestion of the sort. I merely put before the committee a set of figures. I stand by the proposal that is now being discussed.
– I did not say that the Minister suggested that that course should be adopted. My argument was that the figures which he quoted contained that suggestion.
– It was an analysis to show the increase or decrease of revenue under certain circumstances.
– I do not suggest that the Minister committed himself to such a compromise. The proposal that such a compromise might be made has, however, been circulated.
– It seemed like an invitation to compromise when the Minister mentioned it.
– It certainly seemed like the suggestion of a way out. If it were not, why should he have taken the trouble to show the financial results of such an arrangement? The protective margin that is contained in the Government’s proposals would still exist under it. My opposition is based, not on the abstract ground of freetrade versus protection, but on the grounds of the objectionable restraint imposed upon the community, the possible effect upon employment, the fact that there is no consistency with the policy of protection, and the effect upon certain aspects of liquor reform, together with the inevitable extra cost to those who prefer to suit their own tastes. The costs at present are sufficiently high everywhere. Increase in the cost even of luxuries is not justified except on the ground of revenue requirements. The honorable member for Wannon (Mr. Rodgers) pointed out that this extra duty was imposed as a war measure. That necessity no longer exists. There is at present no justification for increasing the cost of living, even by the taxation of luxuries. I am unable to see why luxuries should be continually taxed, except in case of necessity. Our ostensible object is to maintain in Australia a high standard of living. Surely the height of that standard is to be judged by the proportion of luxuries to necessaries that we can afford to purchase. I sincerely hope that the arguments which I have tried to advance will convince many honorable members that the Government’s proposals are not justified. I should like to see the existing duties reduced, but I do not expect the committee to go that distance with me. If we negative this’ proposal we shall leave the position as it is, and shall not com mit ourselves to a policy that will result in higher costs, and place upon us graver public responsibilities in the future.
.- Generally speaking, the reason advanced for their opposition by those who do not want a protective duty is that it increases the cost of the commodity upon which) duty is levied. The honorable member for Perth (Mr. Mann) has argued along those lines on very many occasions; but when, as in this case, the cost of the commodity is reduced, the question from his point of - view resolves itself into one of taste.
– I did not say that it reduced the cost.
– The honorable member said that in Victoria one- can purchase local whisky for 7d. a nobbier, compared with lOd. a nobbier for imported whisky.
– The price is reduced only if one drinks what one does not want.
– The honorable member also said that in New South Wales the local product can be purchased for 6d. a nobbier. If that is not a reduction in price, what is it?
– It is a lower price for a different article.
– The honorable member is an analyst. He was very careful to- point out that he was not able to say one word against the quality of the ‘Australian product, and that, he would not condemn it. He further stated that quite possibly it was equal to imported whisky, but that it was all a question of taste.
– The honorable member is not quoting me quite fairly.
– I trust that I am not doing the honorable, member an injustice.
– I think that, unintentionally, the honorable member is.
– The acquiring of a taste applies to many commodities. I can recall my boyhood days, when tomatoes were thrown away as possessing no value. To-day they are a most valuable fruit. Why? Because the Australian people have acquired a taste for them.
– Are they a fruit or a vegetable?
– The honorable member can call them what he likes. Those who have been accustomed to drinking the Australian wines find it difficult for a few weeks to acquire a taste for Continental wines, but eventually they do so. How many persons care for the taste of tropical fruits when they first eat them? A taste for them has to be acquired. Whether it be whisky or any other commodity, our people should have faith in their own production, and acquire a taste for it.
– By keeping at it ?
– In the case of whisky, not for too long at a time. Some persons have acquired a taste for Australian commodities, and, when purchasing, they see that they get them. On the other hand, there is quite a number of persons whose taste inclines to the imported article, not because it is any better than the Australian article but simply because of the prejudice, that is very difficult lo eradicate, which exists against commodities that are locally produced. The honorable member for Perth, who claims to be an authority upon the matter, will not say anything against the quality of Australian whisky. The Minister (Mr. Pratten) has stated that it is the purest spirit which is manufactured anywhere, and that the conditions laid down by the Customs Department guarantee its purity. If that is so, and if it can be purchased for 6d. or 7d., compared with lOd. for imported whisky, there is not much ground for complaint. The Minister pointed out that, at one period, the demand for the Australian product decreased considerably, and that it began to increase only when the duty oh imported whisky was raised recently. By interjection it has been stated that a good deal of Australian whisky has been used to blend with imported whiskies. But the same price was asked for the blended as for the imported whisky, and those who claimed to have acquired a taste for the latter could not discern any difference between it and the shandygaff article. That is an illustration of the ignorant prejudice against local production that operates in . certain- quarters. Every article that is manufactured in Australia increases the amount of employment that is provided. It is idle to argue that imported whisky has to be bottled here, whilst the local product is sent out in barrels. More than 10 per cent, of the Australian article is bottled, because the majority of retail customers require it in that form. . The barrels are made from Australian timber, by Australian labour. The cutting of the timber increases the amount of employment that is provided. The honorable member for Perth completely lost sight of the fact £hat a large quantity of barley is used in the manufacture of whisky. That must benefit the growers. The Minister has told us that no less than 500,000 bushels of barley has been purchased in Australia by those who manufacture Australian whisky. Those figures should afford some encouragement to honorable members to support the Minister’s proposal. The actuating motive with all of us should be the development of our country and the provision of employment, resulting in an increase in our population. Nothing is more necessary for the primary producer than a home market. 1 disagree with the criticism that’ was launched by- the honorable member for Perth against those who, being’ advocates of temperance, support this proposal. It is better for them to assist a distillery which they have power to regulate through their government than a distillery that is under the control of another government. They have a perfect right to decide which is the better course for them to pursue. Whilst they may be opposed, to drink, they are, at the same time, justified in exercising the right of choice between imported and Australian whisky. It is good to know that the temperance people are sufficiently magnanimous to support one of their own industries. I do not see any reason for altering this duty. If we stand for the encouragement of our own industries, and if it can be shown that an Australian product is cheaper than, and not inferior to, an imported product, surely an alteration should not be made in the tariff to the prejudice of that particular article. Those who drink whisky should pay something towards the revenue of the country. It is an article that should be revenue-producing. I admit that the duty on whisky and other spirits was increased during the war period in order to increase our revenue, but honorable members must realize that, although the war has ended, our expenditure on its account is still going on. There has been no reduction, as a matter of fact. Our pension claims are heavier than ever, and many other items of war expenditure remain high. We have been receiving a very large revenue from spirits, and we shall be in difficulty if we suddenly dispense with it. Personally, I shall support the Government proposal. I do not claim to be an authority on whisky, but I am informed by many persons who drink both imported and Australian whisky that the locally distilled article is quite equal to the imported article.
– Then how does the honorable member account for the proportion of imported to locally manufactured whisky consumed by our people remaining the same ? Only 1 gallon of Australian whisky is consumed for every 8 gallons of imported whisky.
– The right honorable member knows that it takes time for every new duty to have the desired effect.
– When a drink is intended to please the palate, it must please it, or people will not purchase if.
– The same argument might be adapted to the clothes that a man wears on his back.
– That is a totally different thing.
– It is all a matter of prejudice.
– That is so.
– When we set out to make tobacco, we found that we had to make an article that would please tobaccousers.
– I remind the right honorable member again that it takes time for a duty to have the desired effect.
– I admit that.
– It will take a considerable time for the duty on whisky to be completely successful, but it is gradually achieving its object, for the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Pratten) informed us that the consumption of locally manufactured whisky is increasing. That is the kind of evidence that the right honorable member desires, and it is because it is forthcoming that I propose to support the item before us. If locally made whisky were dearer than the imported article, I could understand honor able members pressing for a reduced duty, but it is not so. Rabid freetraders oppose every duty, generally, on the ground that it will increase the price of dutiable articles to the consumer; but the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Mann), in his speech this afternoon, actually argued that the duty on whisky should be decreased because the price of locally made whisky was too low. It truly is a wonderful accomplishment, to change one’s ground like that. That the price of locally made whisky is lower than that of imported whisky is no reason for reducing the duty; it merely shows that the local manufacturers are able successfully to compete with the whisky distillers abroad.
.- Although I have fairly definite views on this subject, I do not propose to make a longdistance effort, such as that of the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Mann), in expounding them; I shall endeavour to present my opinions on this single issue briefly and succinctly. The Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Pratten) made it perfectly clear that his main purpose in lifting the duty on whisky from 30s. to 35s. is to protect the producers of this spirit in Australia- I have no objection to that - but I suggest that he could achieve that purpose in a fairer and better way. I do not think it is necessary to increase the duty on whisky if the distilling industry will thrive on alower duty. Prior to the enforcement of the duties set out in the schedule before us, the difference between the excise duty on Australian whisky and the Customs duty on imported whisky was 4s., and the Minister has told us that it is necessary to increase the disparity by 5s. I must say, sir, and I say it with emphasis, that I was not profoundly impressed by his argument in support of this proposal. Why can he not give to the locally manufactured spirit the same measure of protection in another way? Instead of levying thisheavy Customs duty, why could he not, as suggested by the honorable member for Wannon (Mr. Rodgers), reduce the excise duty? The effect of doing so would, in my opinion, be precisely the same as that of increasing the import duty. The question, therefore, is: Has the Minister been wisely advised to recommend these increases of duties in order to give an extra measure of protection? If the nation were facing an emergency, there would not be the slightest hesitation on the part of honorable members about voting for higher duties for revenue purposes, on all narcotics and spirits, as they did on several occasions during the war. As a matter of fact, they then killed two birds with the one stone, so to speak, for by imposing the higher duties they gave the Government extra revenue, and encouraged the production of whisky locally. But, while it was necessary that we should have that larger revenue, it is not so today. The country now is suffering from a disastrously swollen exchequer. We have too much money to handle. The Treasury is suffering to-day from the demoralization of surpluses. The Treasurer is so comfortably placed now that he never loses an hour’s sleep, for money vastly in excess of his estimates rolls in from all sources, and particularly from the Customs House.
– The trouble is that the Treasurer does not know how to spend it.
– He does not spend it; he throws it at the. States within and without the limits of the Constitution, winning the cheers and acclaim of the multitude by offering £20,000,000 for roads, and other amounts for all sorts of things. Mostly, though not entirely, these corrupting votes are made out of revenue. It is wrong in principle to endeavour to stimulate local production and to increase your revenue in the process. That is the conclusion of one who saw the introduction of the Tudor tariff in 1914, and of the Massy Greene tariff in 1920-1. It was then predicted that the increased protection we were giving to Australian industries would result in a reduction of the receipt from the Customs; but experience quite falsified those prophecies. Instead of reducing the Customs revenue both tariffs increased it. Notwithstanding the professions of the Minister, and I believe he is sincere in them, I have no doubt that- this tariff will have the same effect as those that preceded it. If production is fostered, we must lose Customs revenue. A diminution of Customs revenue is imperative, to the extent that the tariff is effective. I suggest to the Minister that he should listen to the arguments of those who favour a reduction, of the excise on whisky, dropping it by 5s., to bring it to 21s. a gallon, and leaving the import duties at what, they were in the 1920-1 schedule. I do not know whether there has been collusion between the Customs and the Treasury Departments, as there has been in the past, with a view to giving the protection desired by the. one, and gratifying the avariciousness of the other; but if so, let the Ministers concerned take counsel together, to see whether effect cannot be given to their wishes without unduly taxing the consumers of spirit.
– The right honorable member’s suggestion means a loss of revenue.
– A loss on about 400,000 gallons, I understood the Minister to say. If I were the Treasurer, I should not worry about that. The Minister did not occupy much of the time ;of the committee, and consequently his figures were given rapidly, and it was difficult to check and compare them. But let me emphasize one or two of them. The duty on whisky, has been increased enormously since prewar years. In the 1908 and 1911 tariffs the duty levied was 14s. a gallon. The Tudor tariff, which was the first during the war period, lifted it by 3s. to 17s., with the object of increasing the revenue, not of increasing the protection to local manufacturers. The Nationalist Government led by Mr. Hughes, with the late Lord Forrest as Treasurer, increased it again in 1917 by 3s. to 20s. In 1918 it became my responsibility to recommend a further sharp rise of 5s., which I declared at the time, and which was understood by honorable members, to be necessary purely for war purposes. The Government decided in that time of crisis that all luxuries - stimulants, narcotics, and so on - with which the people could afford to dispense, should be subjected to heavy duties in order that we might gather as much revenue as possible. It was perfectly well understood at the time by the various political parties in Parliament that, when the main burden of war” expenditure should fall from our shoulders, these heavy duties would be reduced. Later, I had. occasion to recommend that the duty be increased from 25s. to 27s. . It will be seen, therefore, that in that period which had elapsed since the beginning of the war, the duty had been increased nearly 100 per cent, to obtain revenue. The Massy Greene tariff raised it from 27s. to 30s. a gallon. Now we are asked to authorize another, and the heaviest increase, from 30s. to 35s. Indeed, the duty of 35s. has been charged by the Customs Department ever since the schedule was laid on the table of the house last October. I urge that the duties on spirits, tobacco, and other commodities, which were increased during the war period purely to provide revenue for the Government in a time of stress, should be re-adjusted to the extent that the war burdens have fallen from us. Our heaviest expenditure during any year of the war was about £90,000,000; last year the war legacy expenditure did not exceed £35,000,000, taking pensions and everything else into consideration.
– What was our interest bill last year? It was heavier than in any war year !
– That may be so; but the honorable member knows that the Customs revenue now is far higher than it was during the war. In the war years, when our shipping service was dislocated, we got comparatively little revenue through the Customs Department; but in the last four or five years, since shipping has been restored to something like its previous volume, we have had a Customs revenue unprecedented in our history.In 1910, when the term set for the operation of the Braddon provision expired, it was estimated by the treasurers of the Commonwealth and the States, who were asked to advise in regard to the per capita grant, that the Customs duties for the following ten or fifteen years would average £15,000,000, but we have had in one year £37,000,000. As the war expenditure has shrunk, the restoration of facilities for international trade has caused our Customs revenue to increase.
Mr.Fenton. - And if we keep on borrowing abroad, foreign goods will continue to flow in.
– That is another matter that I wish to avoid discussing at this moment. Reference was made by one of the speakers in the debate to the influence of the temperance movement upon questions of this sort. It is not the duty of this Parliament to consider the matter from that stand-point. Incidentally, the imposition of duties upon alcoholic liquors affects consumption; but the regulation and control of the liquor trade rests with the parliaments of the States. If it is thought by those who do not partake of alcoholic liquors - I can never be one of them, nor perhaps half as good as they; because I must enjoy the things which Nature evidently intended me to enjoy - if it is thought that one of the duties of this Parliament is to restrict the consumption of alcoholic liquors by imposing excessive levies on its importation, I remind my temperance friends that there are other methods for achieving their object. One of the most powerful arguments used by temperance reformers in the days of Gough was that the exchequer of Britain should never be dependent upon revenue drawn from duties on alcoholic liquors. It was felt that so long as Britain depended upon contraband trade of this kind for her revenue there was no possibility of temperance reform and the abolition of the bad habits connected with excessive drinking. But it is wise to leave the temperance view of the matter out of consideration on the present occasion. We are concerned now with a purequestion of economics, national and individual. If the Australian whisky distiller can present a good case, he is entitled to his measure of protection. If the difference between the excise and the Customs duty is not wide enough, make it wider, provided that the distillers will produce an article which will invite consumption. I do not say a word against Australian whisky; but I do not drink it. If a person has to pay10d. for a nobbier of good imported whisky, and can get an Australian whisky as good or purer for 6d., it is a mystery to me why he does not buy the local article.
– He would be stupid if he drank too much of it.
– Possibly, the honorable member attains that end by other means. I do not wish to say one word in depreciation of the Australian-produced spirit. I say to the distillers of it that if they produce a good article, and sell it at a fair market value, the people will buy it. Manufacturers of other commodities have had their difficulties in the beginning, and have been obliged ‘to alter their methods to suit the opinions or the taste of the public. Judging by the figures of production and consump- tion, it is as plain as the sun at noonday that the article now being produced here, though sold at a much lower price than the imported article, does not attract consumers in relatively large numbers.
– Then why give it more protection?
– I hope the honorable member will hear me out. His arguments are so many invitations to interject, and yet I” refrain from interrupt ing his speeches. In this case the facts are plain. There is only 1 gallon of Australian whisky consumed for every 8 gallons of imported whisky. Why is that, so if the local article is as good as the imported whisky? You cannot force people to drink what they do not like; you must give them what they like. I urge the Minister to consider whether he would not be justified in reducing the duty from 35s. to 30s., and in reducing the excise from 26s. to 21s., thus making the difference 9s., which, in my judgment, is the fullest measure of protection that the industry deserves or desires. The consumers of imported whisky would then not be unduly penalized.
.- I should like to say a few words on this subject, especially from its financial aspect. The honorable member who has just resumed his seat objects apparently to the amount of revenue which the Government is receiving from this duty. I have a friend in the enemy’s camp who, when referring to the promises made by the Labour party when it was led by the late Mr. Frank Tudor, declared that to give effect to them would require an additional £30,000,000 of revenue. I do not wish to identify him by mentioning his name. But it is a pity that, in the very fine speech which he has just delivered, he did not keep in mind the promises made by the Prime Minister (Mr. Bruce) during the last election campaign. Had he done so, he would have realized that every penny to be derived from this tariff will be needed, ‘and much more. Like the right honorable member for Balaclava, I am not’ a temperance man . I take whisky’ occasionally for my stomach’s sake. .Nevertheless,…! feel that if additional revenue is required taxation should -first be imposed upon those commodities which are not essential to civilization or social progress. ‘ Whether we drink whisky or not, we know that a not insignificant proportion of the population believes that spirits are rather a detriment than a benefit to the human race. It has been said that the whisky duties were raised only as a war tax. That ia so. Originally the excise duty on whisky was 10s. a gallon, and the Customs duty on imported whisky 14s. a gallon. During the war the duty on Australian whisky was raised to 26s. - an advance of 160 per cent. - whilst the duty on imported whisky was increased from 14s. to 30s., an increase of only 114 per cent. Before the war” the preference given to Australian whisky was about 28^ per cent. Will any one say that that was excessive? But it fell to about 13 per cent. The present” proposal is to restore the preference which Australian whisky enjoyed prior to the war. It is singular that some honorable members demand increasing duties upon iron, steel, and hosiery and boots, and yet believe that this proposal to- grant the Australian whisky manufacturer a preference of 28-J per cent, is excessive. Whether we like it or not, whether we drink whisky or not, we have to declare our fiscal position on this item. I stand for the Australian whisky trust as against the- overseas whisky trust. There are, - of course, two interests affected by this item. Their representatives are to be seen in the lobbies, in the galleries, and in - the Queen’s Hall, talking to honorable members, as they have a perfect right to do, in defence of their respective demands. We shall have the same spectacle when the amending arbitration bill is before us - representatives of the employers and the employees lobbying in their particular interests. I have nothing to say against this; but I stand for the Australian secondary industries as against the secondary industries of other countries. In the case of Australian -whisky, this may. not be a very lofty ideal, -and -it may be said that I am not animated by -high motives. But- whether .it-be- whisky, .or steel, or hosiery, I stand, for., the. Australian manufactured article.- ( I propose now to say a .few words concerning, the history, of this item -of .duty… I .do -not suggest that Australian whisky is better than imported whisky. The first law governing the production of whisky in Australia provided that any Australian whisky containing less than 25 per cent, of barley malt should pay an excise duty of 8s. a gallon in excess of the import duty. Under the last tariff a foreign manufacturer could use less than 25 per cent, of barley malt, and his whisky, when imported, would pay a duty of only 30s. a gallon; but if an Australian distiller used less than 25 per cent, he would be called upon to pay an excise of 38s. a gallon; in other words, where the importer paid £100; the Australian distiller would pay £123. If blended overseas whisky paid a duty of 30 per cent., Australian blended whisky, even though 95 per cent, of the spirit was from barley and 1 per cent, of other origin, lost its protection. Right or wrong, for the last twenty years in Australia, under all kinds of governments, the only Australian whisky that has been recognized is one made wholly and solely from barley. That was the standard laid down for Australian whisky, and the duty imposed was 22s. per gallon. Any class of whisky might be imported from . overseas under a duty of 30s. per gallon. The health authorities in Australia have said that whisky produced from barley is the only pure whisky, and that has been fixed as the standard for Australian whisky. If the Government and the health authorities were right in laying that down as the standard of purity for whisky manufactured in. Australia, the same standard of purity should have been laid down for overseas ‘ whisky imported into this country. I do not know whether Australian whisky made entirely from barley is better than the imported whisky made from maize, rye, potatoes, or any other material.
– What is the honorable member’s own opinion?
– Sio long as whisky does not absolutely poison me, I think it is all right; but I am talking about what Parliament has done foi* the last twenty years. Backed up by medical authority, it has for the last twenty years laid it down as the law under every government ‘ whether Nationalist or Labour, that : the only ‘ ‘Australian whisky which shall be recognized as a pure whisky is one produced from barley, and nothing else shall have the benefit of protection under the law. Not only have we laid down a standard of purity for whisky produced in Australia, but we have laid down a standard regulating the machinery by which it shall be produced. We have for years insisted that it shall be made only in a pot still, which is the slowest and most costly form of production. Overseas whiskies are made in patent stills, the use of which is absolutely prohibited here. According to evidence given to a royal commission in Great Britain in 1918, 80 per cent, of the whisky made in that country was made in patent stills, which is the cheapest and swiftest method of producing whisky. The effect of this regulation has been to place an immense handicap on local producers of whisky, and that- is absolutely wrong. I understand that the local producers were charging 75s. per dozen bottles for Australian whisky, and before the duty was imposed the importers charged 114s. per dozen bottles - that is to say, 40s. per dozen more than the Australian makers of whisky asked for the article they produced. Why, in the circumstances, did not the Australian producers secure the market, as they should have done under the protection afforded? Dozens pf answers have been supplied within the last twenty years, and given in. reports of the Tariff Board. In one case a manufacturer said that the importers had the market, but were charging such excessive prices that they could make fortunes out of their whisky sales. He said, ‘ Give us a duty’ that will protect us, and we shall guarantee to produce the article at 50 per cent, less than the importers are charging.” The Government gave them the duty they wanted, and immediately it was imposed the importers reduced their prices and undersold the local manufacturers. There is another instance supplied by the Tariff Board, in which it was shown that under a protective tariff an imported article was being sold for £2 per ton more in every other State than in New South Wales, where it was being locally produced. A further case supplied by the Tariff Board had reference to an agricultural implement, the reaper and binder. The local manufacturers said, “ Give us a dirty and we will sell a cheaper article.” The Government gave them the duty, and the moment it was imposed and the local industry was created and in a position to supply the market, the importers, beginning to lose the local market, paid the duty and sold the article here at a lower rate than that at which they were selling it in the Argentine, where no duty had to be paid upon it. If we want a reason why the importers are able to charge and obtain 40s. more per dozen bottles for their whisky than local producers of whisky can obtain, we have only to turn to a report’ presented by the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Mann) when he was a . government analyst. It was some years ago, about the time of the beginning of the war, that the honorable member wrote his report. He showed why it is that the importers can undersell the local article. He explained that they have command of the market, and are able by their immense combinations to make a public mind. We learned during the war what was meant by creating a public mentality, and just as it is possible to create a war mind, so it is possible to create a whisky mind. So they created the impression that their whisky was the best; not necessarily because it was the best, but because by their advertisements people were induced to drink it, and acquired a taste for it. We do not always acquire a taste for the best things in life, and people prefer what they are accustomed to drink, whether it be whisky or tea. The importers spent an enormous amount in advertising their whisky. No stronger evidence that they had command of the market could be given than the fact that they charged £5 14s. per dozen for their whisky. Then the Minister for Trade and Customs imposed an additional duty of 5s. per gallon. He raised the duty from 30s. to 35s. a gallon on the imported article. As a matter of fact, that 5s. per gallon did not increase the actual protection of the local article, but merely restored to the Australian product the protection it had enjoyed prior to the war, and the dislocations of revenue created by the war. What did the” importers do then? They had a margin of 40s. upon which to work, and could have agreed to sell at the same price as the local distillers. But they’ said, “No; we have the market. Look at our flaming advertisements of ‘King George,’ Black and White,’ and other brands of whisky to be seen on the hoardings. A public taste has been created for the imported whisky, and we are still able to retain the market.” They might have increased their price by 7s. per gallon. It is said that there are about two gallons of whisky in a dozen bottles. I do not know, but I believe that. as a matter of fact, there are not two proof gallons, but about 1£ proof gallons in a dozen bottles of imported whisky. When the proof strength is broken down, the actual increase would be somewhere about 7s. per gallon. The importers were not satisfied with an increase of 7s. They raised their price by 10s. per gallon, and not because of the competition of the local article. They proceeded to- exploit further the Australian public, but broke the camel’s back by charging another 10s. per dozen bottles for their whisky.
– That gave a splendid opportunity to the Australian producers of whisky.
– It did. As I have said, the action of the importers broke the camel’s back, and the consumption of Australian whisky was increased. In hundreds of public-houses Australian’ whisky was sold where it was never sold before. The importers are now beginning to feel the competition of -the Australian article, but they cannot, without showing the lack of justification for their rise in price, reduce it without some excuse. A pretence for doing so would be given by a reduction of duty. But whether this Parliament reduces the duty or not, we may take it for granted that the importers are not going to lose their market. If the oversea producers of whisky reduce their prices they will not lose their market. Another reason why the duty should be maintained is that our experience of high duties in the case of many other articles is that overseas manufacturers are coming to Australia to manufacture them. They will not lose the local market if they can help it, and will come here to produce rather than do so. Not. only from the temperance point of view, but in the public interests,’ from every point .of view, the duty should be maintained, because the whisky drunk in this country should1 be Australian whisky, since the scientists have said that it . is of a high standard; it is a good whisky, and palatable to the public. The duty has a beneficial effect if considered from the temperance point of view. If the consumption of whisky can be reduced from 3j000,000- gallons to about 1,250,000 gallons, that will be a good thing from the temperance point of view and from the national point of view. The right honorable member for Balaclava and I would not like the imported article to disappear altogether, but, from a public point of view, it would be a good thing. The duty should be maintained, because the Government needs money for the fulfilment of its promises, because the overseas manufacturers will be induced to establish their industry here, because the whisky drunk in Australia should be Australian whisky, and because Australian whisky is good whisky, and as good as any on the. market. I give its producers this advertisement for nothing.
.- I propose to vote against the proposed, increase in the duty on whisky, and shall give my reasons for so doing. Some honorable members have discussed this matter from the revenue point of view. I understand, that the increase is proposed in pursuance of the protection policy of the .Government, because the local industry requires the proposed increase. I shall vote against it for the simple reason that no evidence has been given to the committee that the local industry requires any increase of protection. I regard it as an illegitimate use of the principle of protection that it should be applied in order to force the Australian public to use a certain article - in this particular case to drink Australian whisky rather than Scotch whisky.
– Does not that argument apply in the case of every article that is protected?
– I do not thinkit does. Protection from my point of view should be applied in order to make conditions fair between Australian and outside -manufacturers, Applying that principle in this case, it appears to me that the mere fact that Australian whisky can be sold at 6d. per nobbier whereas lOd. per nobbier has to be paid for the imported article, proves conclusively that competition is absolutely fair between Australian and outside manufacturers. The Australian manufacturers cannot come to this Parliament and say that the cost of production nereis such that they are unable to compete with the producers of whisky in other parts of the world. They not only say that they can produce whisky at a lower cost to the public, but that they can produce a better article than that which is imported. If that is so, in the name of common sense, what claim can the Australian producers of whisky have to higher protection? I have never consciously drunk a nobbier of Australian whisky. For purposes of comparison, I have tasted it, but there is no comparison between it and Scotch whisky. I contend that I should not, by the application of the principle of protection, be forced to drink Australian whisky when I prefer Scotch whisky. The only ground upon which an Australian manufacturer’ can ask for an increase in duty is that he finds it impossible to compete as regards prices- with the imported article. He does not make that claim in this case. Every honorable member who has spoken in favour of the increased duty, including the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Charlton), has. put his case on the ground that inasmuch as Australian whisky is at least as good as the imported article, we ought to compel the Australian people to drink it.
– Prior to the imposition of these duties, Australian whisky could not obtain a market, and a negligible quantity was being sold ; but since the operation of the duties it has been able to obtain a market.
– But. prior to the increased tariff, the Australian manufacturers of whisky were able to sell their product.
– .-They did not sell much.
– They were selling it. The cost of production was the same, and they were able to make a decent profit. They are manufacturing on the same basis as before, but the tariff is being used to enable them to obtain a market. If I insist on preferring imported whisky to Australian whisky I am fined because of that preference.
– The honorable member is similarly fined in regard to textiles.
– If imported and the Australian textiles are equal in quality, there is no reason why the locally-made article should not be protected; but should I prefer the imported article, and be willing to pay a higher price for it. why in the name of commonsense should I not be allowed to buy it? We are putting to an illegitimate use the principle of protection, other things being equal, by trying to force people to buy the local article. As a protectionist I stand every time for imposing a duty on a particular article so as to provide that the conditions under which the competition between Australia and other countries is to take place shall be absolutely fair.
– That is exactly what has happened in this case.
– That is not so. If we were unable to sell our article in competition with the imported article, I should say by all means increase the duty to enable the Australian manufacturer to make a fair profit, provided that the industry is conducted economically and efficiently. But that is not the principle that enters into this case. Every honorable member who has spoken in favour of an increased duty on imported whisky has emphasized the fact that he does so because the Australian whisky is pure, is at least equal to the imported, is sold to the public at a lower price, and because such a duty should be imposed on the imported whisky as will force the Australian public to drink the local article. As no evidence has been placed before this cham- ber to show that competition in distilling between Australia and other countries is unfair, and since under the present price and present tariff the Australian manufacturers are making a reasonable profit, I propose to vote against an increase in the duty on imported whisky.
.- The honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Maxwell) has said that no evidence has been placed before this chamber bo show that competition between the Austraiian manufacturers and the importers of whisky is unfair. I join issue with him at once. A strong case was put before this committee by the honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Anstey) to show that not only competition, but the whole of the conditions under which Australian whisky is manufactured, were unfair.
– The complete answer to that is that despite the conditions of manufacture imposed by the Government of Australia, the local manufacturers are still able to undersell the importers.
– That is not a complete answer. The honorable member has stated that the competition is not unfair; but I say that it is unfair, especially when under the Excise Act we impose upon the Australian manufacturer conditions that considerably increase the cost of production. We do not impose similar conditions upon the importers.
– Why not remove those conditions ?
– I should strongly resist their removal. I do not pose as an expert on this matter, but the honorable member does, and he and other experts who have referred to the purity of the Australian spirit have recommended the imposition of those conditions.
– My statement is backed up by the honorable member’s own report.
– The honorable member does not understand the position.
– I agree with the right honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. Watt) that the question of temperance should not enter into this debate. Parliament is asked to decide, not that matter, but whether we should give preference to locally-made whisky. When we are imposing duties, excise or otherwise, we have the right to say that if liquor is to be sold in this country it must be as pure as possible. Action to this effect was taken over twenty years ago. The honorable member for Perth made a statement that will not bear examination. He said, in effect, that such action was taken at the request of the whisky manufacturers.
– Do not misrepresent me.
– He said that that action was not designed to raise the standard of pure whisky in this country, but was taken because the stills were so constructed that it was easy for the manufacturers to make the kind of spirit prescribed, and to enable them to have an advantage over the importers. In other words, he suggested that it was connived at by the manufacturers here and the officials of this and past governments, and maintained, not for the purpose of getting pure spirit, but to suit the distilleries of this country. The answer is simply that when those conditions were originally imposed they were strenuously opposed by the manufacturers of Australian whisky, because they enormously increased the cost of production in Australia; in fact, considerably beyond the margin of protection given to Australian whisky. The result has been that the industry of manufacturing whisky has always been struggling and poor. An industry working upon those lines cannot make use of the extensive advertising indulged in by the importers, who have been able to capture the market and to bold it by methods that were so well described by the honorable member for Bourke. The honorable member for Fawkner must admit that those conditions were most unfair, and it is amazing that they should have obtained against the Australian manufacturer so long as they have done.
– Under the conditions imposed by the previous Government, were not the Australian manufacturers able to make a decent profit?
– I shall deal with that aspect later. I am now dealing with the utterances of the honorable member.
– How can the conditions be unfair When the manufacturers are making a fair profit?
– The very fact that the local manufacturers have had to charge a lower price is evidence that the importers have captured the market and that the public have acquired a taste for the imported whisky. The honorable member has said that there is no unfair competition, and I say that there is. It is the duty of this Government to put the Australian manufacturers and the importers on the same footing regarding the qualityof the spirit. That is, surely, the first duty of any government. The honorable member also re ferred to the illegitimate use of protection to try to force people to buy something that they did not want. There are, in this country, many prejudices just as unreasonable as the prejudice against Australian whisky. I am not an authority on this subject, because I am a teetotaller, but I should say that the people who pretend to be authorities must have vitiated their tastes by long use and misuse of spirits. The amount of prejudice that exists here against the products of our own country is amazing - and very lamentable. Many men say that they cannot possibly get a decent Australian hat. They really mean it, and they insist on buying the imported article because of that prejudice, and I would make them pay for it. In the report of the Tariff Board is a statement to the effect that the Australian article is as good, and even better, than the imported article, and that there is an unwarranted prejudice against the Australian article. To penalize prejudice is not an illegitimate use of the policy of protection.We should penalize prejudice to the extent of forcing the people to use Australian articles. There are two views against this. I can understand the attitude of the honorable member for Perth and others who are freetraders, some of them in disguise and some openly. I can understand their opposing every increase in duty, but I cannot understand the attitude of those who are strong protectionists on all things except those that concern them. Honorable members in the corner who want an increase of 300 per cent. or 400 per cent. in the duty on certain primary products contend that a duty on agricultural machinery is illegitimate.They have been twitted for that inconsistency, and rightly so, yet some of those who twitted them are themselves inconsistent on this particular item. I am a protectionist, and shall remain so. I am not swayed by the fact that I do not drink whisky. There are other things that I am prepared to protect. I do not use agricultural machinery, although I have used it. I do not use it, but I will protect it. Because I do not use whisky is no argument that I am not entitled to say that if whisky is to be sold and consumed in Australia it ought to be manufactured here.The contention of the right honorable member for Balaclava, that although the Australian article is sold more cheaply than the imported article no market can be obtained for it, is not borne out by the experience of the last six months. The honorable member was referring to figures prior to the 1925 tariff when he said that only one-eighth of the whisky consumed in Australia is Australianmade. The figures are different to-day. By their world-wide advertising schemes, proclaiming that only Johnnie Walker’s, Buchanan’s, King George, or some other brand of whisky must be used, importers so worked on the prejudices of the Australian people that many of them, like the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Maxwell), have not even tasted the locally distilled spirit. The honorable member for Fawkner has said that he has never drunk it.
– Not to my knowledge.
– It is quite possible that the honorable member has drunk quite a lot of it and not known it. The very finest advertisement Australian whisky ever received came- from the representative of the firm of John Walker and Company Limited, who, in his sworn evidence before the Tariff Board, declared that a lot of Australian whisky was sold as Scottish whisky. It is a pretty good advertisement for Australian whisky if it can be sold as Scottish, even without being blended. Like the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Charlton) mv concern is the use of Australian products, grown on our own soil, and the employment of our own people in the production of the articles we consume.
– Then depend on the quality of the article and not on force to get it used.
– In many cases the taste for an article of good quality is purely acquired. For instance, there are good and bad qualities of tea, just as there may be good and bad spirits, and one must acquire a taste for a good quality tea. As a matter of fact, good quality tea is often made palatable to some people by being blended with poorer qualities. It is the same with coffee. Some people who would not give 2d. a pound for pure coffee will take any quantity of it when it is mixed with chicory, a very poor blend with good coffee. It is the same with a number of other things. One acquires a taste for a good quality. In regard to quality, our concern should be to see that the article is pure. In this respect I am guided by those experts who have advised the Minister that the purest form of, whisky is that which is made from pure barley malt. That is the Australian Customs standard. If it be wrong it is time fresh experts were consulted, but while it remains the standard I contend that those who import whisky for consumption in Australia should be compelled to conform to it. Having dealt with the protection aspect of this question, I want now to say something on another point. The right honorable member for Balaclava is a protectionist, and, like the Minister, he believes in having some margin of protection for the whisky producers of Australia, but his remedy is to reduce the excise duty by 5s. a gallon, and not increase the import duty. The effect would be to lose £300,000 in revenue, but the honorable member does not worry about this, because he says the Commonwealth has plenty of money. Repeating what had already been said by the honorable member for Wannon (Mr. Rodgers) he claimed that the increased duty on whisky was a war impost. Listening to these honorable members one would imagine that we had ceased to have any war expenditure. As a matter of fact we are to-day spending more money out of revenue on the war than during the war itself. Our principal expenditure on warlike activities during the war period was out of loan moneys, whereas to-day we are footing a bill for interest on our war debt. Unless we repudiate that debt we must continue to pay interest upon it.
– Our annual expenditure on war pensions, and in interest on our war debt, is £29,000,000.
– I was about to say that I thought it was about £30,000,000. These annual charges are still growing. If we can afford to throw away £300,000 by reducing the taxation on the whisky drinkers, we can afford to give a higher pension to our war widows. These women are very poorly paid, but when we approach the Government with a request that their pensions should be increased, we are met with the reply, “ There is no money.” Despite the fact that there are many obligations arising out of the war which the country has not yet met, and although our war widows have to exist on a miserable pittance, we are told we can reduce the revenue in order to meet the convenience of whisky drinkers.
– Sob stuff!
-.- It is a fact. The honorable member would not like to see any widowed relative of his try to bring up a family on the pittance we are paying to widows. We have not discharged our obligations to these people. We have not lived up to the promises made to their husbands when they went to the Front. When a bill was introduced in another place to grant increased pensions to all war widows, the very people who voted against it were those who made the loudest promises when the husbands went overseas.
– Get down to facts.
– I am getting down to facts. I am meeting the honorable member’s argument that the duty on whisky was a war impost. It is relevant to that argument to show that we have war obligations to meet, and that there ought to be an increased revenue to fulfil the promises the country made.
– Do not try to lay any charge against me in regard to nonfulfilment of obligations to soldiers and war widows.
– Then the honorable member must not attempt to convince the committee that the increased duty on spirits imposed during the war period is no longer needed now that the war is over. The people who wanted this money to spend on the war, and who were lavish in their promises, ought to live up to them by increasing the pensions for war widows, instead of trying to reduce the duty on whisky.
– It is painful to remind them of these facts.
– They do not like them. A cheeseparing policy, mean in the extreme in some cases, has been adopted against those who during the war period made big sacrifices at the behest of gentlemen like the honorable member for Wannon. To those who are protectionists of the kind that would sacrifice the revenue by reducing the duty on whisky, I have pointed out some of the obligations that ought first to be met. But even if there were no obligations to be met or no claim on the country for increased expenditure, and we were in a position to reduce taxation, should we make a start by reducing the duty on whisky? Is the whisky drinker the only person whose war imposts should be taken off? When we can reduce the taxation burden imposed on us by the war, let us first reduce it for the legitimate traders of Australia, by lowering the income tax and in similar directions. The last- reduction we should make is a reduction in the duty on whisky.
– The point is that this is not a reduction of a war impost, but an attempt to superimpose an impost on a war impost. The honorable member is misstating the position.
– The honorable member cannot have it both ways. I listened to what he said, but I was unable to follow his argument. The position of the right honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. Watt) was perfectly clear. He is a protectionist, but he wanted to give up a certain amount of revenue. The position of the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Mann) was also clear. He is a freetrader, and against protection. But the honorable member for Wannon did not make himself clear.
– I indicated exactly what my view was.
– Do I take it that the honorable member wants to give the local industry increased protection by the method recommended by the right honorable member for Balaclava?
– Back up your own arguments.
– When a clear question is put to the honorable member he’ does not answer it. He likes to interject, but when he is driven back on the horns of the dilemma he has created for himself, and is asked whether he stands for increased protection for the local industry, he cannot answer.
– I say that the local industry does not want any more protection than it has now.
– This dialogue must cease. I ask the honorable member for Wannon to” cease -interjecting, and the honorable member for Yarra to address the Chair and not the honorable member for Wannon.
– I am sure that the honorable member for Wannon will be obliged to you, sir, for interposing, but I am glad to obey your order. There have been two lines of attack on the Government’s schedule, and I want to examine them. One line of attack is that the increase of 5s. a gallon is equal to an increased protection of 125 per cent. The fallacy of that argument has already been exposed. It is not an increase of 125 per cent., but is a restoration of the percentage preference which the Australian article enjoyed prior to the war. The honorable member for Wannon does not believe that the industry requires this increase, and, therefore, he does not believe in giving the amount of protection which the Government believes in giving. He is to-day in the position of those honorable members in the corner whom he slated so much last week. I leave the matter there. This is a protection Parliament, and it must stand firm on the question of protection.
– The honorable member is only a type of protectionist.
– I am at least of the Australian type, and I make no apology for it. I am not half foreign trade and half Australian. If all the people of Australia were like me, there would be no whisky industry in Australia; but the fact that I do .not drink whisky does not prevent me from helping to support an industry which is struggling against importers. I stand for that measure of individual liberty which allows each person to say what he should or should not drink. But individual liberty should not develop into individual prejudice which, if carried too far, might crush an Australian industry. The result of this duty has been most marked. Instead of the consumption of Australian whisky being oneeighth of the total consumption, as it was under the old rate, it is now onefourth. As the honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Anstey) said, it is the last straw which breaks the camel’s back, and when the price of. imported whisky to consumers was increased out of all proportion to the increased duty, consumers were forced to try the Australian article.
When they did, they found that it was quite as good as the imported, and, in fact, many could not detect the difference. We have been informed that a gentleman who prided himself on being a whisky expert could not distinguish the difference between Old Court, King George, Buchanan’s, or Johnny Walker, and I repeat that teetotallers would probably be much better judges than those who are continually drinking spirits. I do not intend, at this juncture, to go into the technicalities of the trade, because 1 frankly admit that I know little about it. I know, however, that it has been stated in sworn evidence that distilleries which were closed six or seven months ago are how in operation, that a large number of men previously unemployed are now actively at work, and that since the, present tariff schedule was adopted, no less than 500,000 hush els of barley were purchased for use in the manufacture of whisky. We have also been informed that, in the Federated Distilleries, where a few months ago only 37 were employed, 350 men were now working. These are the arguments that appeal to a true Australian protectionist.
.- When a division is taken on this item, some honorable members will, I believe, find themselves in strange company. During a beer strike in my electorate, which was brought about by those who considered the retail price charged for liquor too high, the members of the Licensed Victuallers’ Association waited upon me and asked if I would ask the Government if it could not reduce the import duty on spirits and the excise on beer. As a revenue tariflist, I informed the deputation, as I now wish to inform the committee, that whilst I considered the duties imposed on many imported articles detrimental to the progress of Australia, I believed that with a national debt such as we have, we require a revenue tariff, and that the duties on spirits and narcotics should be the last to be reduced or removed. It is said by some that, if the duties on certain imported articles are increased, industries which are regarded as pernicious will be so firmly established that it would be difficult to eradicate them should the sentiments of the people materially change. I intend to support the Government on- this occasion. As it will be found, by reference to Ilansard, that on more than half a dozen occasions I have declared myself a revenue tariffist, there is nothing inconsistent in my action on this occasion. As I told the members of the Licensed Victuallers’ Association in Western Australia, whisky is about the last item on which I should expect the Government to reduce the duty. There are, for instance, the duties imposed on ‘ agricultural machinery and clothing, which could be substantially reduced. Although I am a smoker I still contend that when revenue is to be raised import duties should be imposed on narcotics and spirits. I am supporting the Government in this instance in the hope that the duties on agricultural machinery and clothing will be reduced.
– It will lead only to further extravagance.
– I agree with the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory) that there is a possibility of the Government displaying extravagance if it has too much money at its disposal. Protective duties were imposed during the war for revenue purposes, and under them certain persons benefited at the expense of others. The right honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. Watt) suggests in this instance that we should go back to pre-war duties, but he did not make any such suggestion in regard to agricultural machinery or clothing.
– The Government has already an overflowing treasury, and if the proposed duty is imposed it will have a still larger surplus.
– The duties received ore more than sufficient to protect local industries, and the revenue is so buoyant that the Government is handing back a certain portion to the States, and in so doing is usurping functions which. properly belong to the States. It would be better if they gave less spoon-feeding to secondary industries.
– What of Western Australia?
– The Tariff Board anl the royal commission on Western Australia’s disabilities have dealt with the position of that State, and have made it abundantly clear that Western Australia is heavily burdened by these imposts. As this -is an item on which the Government should continue to collect revenue, I intend to support it.
.: - I am pleased to have an opportunity to support an Australian industry, .and to feel that in so doing I shall not be assisting in imposing an additional burden upon consumers. Last Friday, the honorable member for Wannon (Mr. Rodgers) endeavoured to attack me when I was discussing the duty on agricultural machinery. On that occasion he was a high tariffist and great Australian patriot, but to-day he is adopting an entirely different attitude. I cannot understand how any honorable member who professes to be a protectionist can vote against this proposal. The objection of the freetrader to protection is that it increases prices to the consumers; but this is a wonderful opportunity for a person who professes to be a protectionist to show freetrade members, such as the honorable member for Forrest (Mr. Prowse), the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory), and the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Mann), how to encourage an Australian industry, give employment to Australian workmen, and at the same time provide cheaper whisky for the Australian people. I cannot see what arguments can be successfully adduced against the proposal. I can understand the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Mann) adopting an academic, freetrade opinion, but for a protectionist who is at all logical to oppose this item is altogether unreasonable. During the period in which the higher duty on whisky has been in operation, the number of men employed in the industry has increased from 50 to 350. It has also been pointed out that experts have been unable to distinguish between Australian whisky and four or five popular brands of imported whisky. Moreover, the tariff has protected the local industry to such an extent that the consumption of the local product has increased from oneeighth to one-fourth of the total consumption. The honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Maxwell) was under the impression that the Australian whisky industry was paying fairly well. Under the old duty the Federated Distilleries were just able to keep in operation, and a distillery in Sydney had to close down; but under the duty now in force manufacturers are able to carry on successfully. In these circumstances I am pleased to support an Australian industry, and at the same time assist in removing the prejudice which exists in the minds of many Australians in regard to the local product, which is quite as good as any imported.
.- The honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Scullin), in endeavouring to show that the present duty on whisky should be maintained to enable more adequate pensions to be paid to soldiers’ widows, introduced sentiment into a commercial proposition in a way which did not do him credit. In endeavouring to prove that he was a strong protectionist, his supreme hope seemed to be that the revenue obtained from imported whisky might be maintained. The right honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. Watt) referred to my contention that these increased duties could not be regarded as necessary, for the reason that they were originally imposed by the Labour party, and were subsequently added to, during the war period, when conditions warranted high duties.
– There was no increase in protection during the war period.
– The honorable member for Forrest (Mr. Prowse), who is a revenue tariffist, referred to a revenue item which does not impose any burden upon the primary producer, but actually affords him some relief. The whisky industry is already highly protected, and the Government has at its disposal all the machinery necessary to make the tariff as effective as it desires, or to reduce the protection afforded to local industries by decreasing the excise duty. The existing tariff would be sufficient to develop this Australian industry and to give employment to Australians were it not rendered nugatory by the Government’s action in respect of excise duties. While I am a strong protectionist, I differ from the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Scullin). I am not a blind protectionist who will swallow anything so long as it is advocated by protectionists. I hope that there may be some symmetry preserved between the protection necessary to meet foreign competition and the ability of the Australian people to pay. It would be a bad day for Australia should she ever decide to abolish all competition from other countries. I am riot a prohibitionist; I claim the right to deal with each item on. its merits. I stand for protecting our primary industries by preserving to them the local market, and by finding and developing overseas markets. When I was Minister for Trade and Customs three organizations which did much to assist the Australian primary producer were formed; I refer to the Australian Meat Council, the Dairy Council, and the Fruit Council. An advisory board was created, the object being that its members might meet in conference with the technical advisers of the Government to consider the conditions under which our primary products were being marketed. I claim to be an allround protectionist, and not one who, like the honorable member for Yarra, will swallow any proposition which is put forward by protectionists.
– I should not have risen again were it not that I desire to reply to the remarks of the right honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. Watt) regarding certain revenue items. I do not wish to misrepresent the right honorable gentleman, but I understood him to say that the very great rise in our Customs and excise duties during the past five or six years had. not been compensated for by reductions elsewhere. I point out that, compared with 1920-1, our Customs revenue has increased . by £5,250,000, whereas the amount received from direct taxation has decreased by £6,500,000. For the information of honorable members who appear to be in doubt on the matter, I point out that the import duty on whisky in New Zealand is 36s. per gallon, that in South Africa it is 37s. 6d. a gallon, and that the excise duties in Great Britain are 72s. a gallon. If the Government agreed bo alter these proposals as suggested, by the right honorable member for Balaclava, the loss in revenue would be £200,000 per annum. I agree with other honorable members that the duties on narcotics and spirits should be the last to be reduced.
.- When one sees unanimity between the honorable member for Forrest (Mr. Prowse) and the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Scullin) the freetraders . and protectionists joining hands for revenue purposes, there is ground for sus.picion. In my opinion, a revenue tariff is the worst form of taxation, because it inflicts hardship on the people least able to pay it. During recent years the duties on spirits, beer, and other beverages, have risen considerably. I remember the time when the duty on whisky was only 8s. a gallon; to-day it is 38s. a gallon. During the war period, when it was felt that luxuries should be taxed, the duties were increased enormously; but I contend that we should now get back to the conditions which existed prior to the war. Not long ago the Government introduced legislation to reduce the amount obtainable from income taxation by ,£2,000,000 per annum. I point out that as income taxation is paid only on income actually received, that reduction affected persons well able to pay the tax. Yet honorable members who advocated that reduction in income taxation now advocate increased Customs duties. They are inconsistent. Australian whisky is good enough for me. If, to relieve a cold, I add a little whisky to a lemon drink, I should not care whether it was Scotch or Australian whisky, so long as I was benefited. The proper thing to do is to reduce the excise duty, and so assist the Australian manufacturer and encourage the consumption of Australian whisky. I do not know the people connected with the Australian whisky trade; but I do know that they have exhibited a lack of business capacity in. placing their product on the market. They have not shown that enterprise in advertising that has been displayed by the distributors of ‘ Scotch whisky, whose brands of whisky are always kept before the public. I have heard honorable members oppose the imposition of duties on the ground that it prevented people from reducing their expenditure. Money saved is money earned. Yet those same honorable members are now found supporting this particular duty ! It is not statesmanlike to face both ways. We should be consistent in our speeches and actions. There is some influence behind this movement that I have been unable to fathom. I shall vote for the reduction of the duty. When the proposal was first introduced I spoke in opposition to it, and I shall not now shift from the position that I then took up. There has been, no contradiction of the statement that this duty was imposed for war purposes. The Customs Department should not be a revenueproducing department. When duties are revenue-producing, the policy of protection does not fulfil the intentions of its framers. A tariff that produced very little revenue would be truly protective. Perhaps the Government has found that the remission of a certain amount of taxation has so affected the revenue that it is necessary to raise additional sums from Customs duties. The industrial section of the community will have to find the bulk of this extra amount. The addition of 3d. to the price of a nobbier of whisky will not seriously concom a man who is in affluent circumstances, but it will mean a great deal to those who are represented by honorable members who sit on this side of the chamber. The proposed additional duties are extortionate, and there is no justification for imposing them.
.- As a protectionist, I have listened closely to the debate to ascertain whether this proposal was brought forward in pursuance of the protectionist policy of the Government, but, so far, I have failed to find any evidence which would justify me in supporting an increase of 5s. in the duty on this item. Before voting for such ‘ an increase, I should have to be satisfied that the Australian product was being undersold by overseas manufacturers, or that those who employed black or other coloured labour were carrying on their business under conditions that gave them an advantage over Australian manufacturers, and seriously menacing the maintenance of a high standard of living for the workers engaged in our secondary industries. I am unable to find any evidence of unfair competition against the local industry. The fact that Australian whisky is retailed at 6d. a nobbier, compared with 9d. or lOd. for imported whisky, is to me a proof that the localproduct is adequately protected. Theonly argument adduced in favour of greater protection being accorded to. theAustralian industry is that we should endeavour, to create a taste for our .own product. I do not think that the policy of protection embraces the creation of a taste for any .particular .commodity, ner- do I agree that the Government was given a mandate to set about doing that.
– It was necessary to create a taste for Queensland bananas.
– It was never necessary to create a taste for Queensland bananas; they “will sell anywhere without adventitious aids. Apparently, the only disadvantage under which the Australian whisky industry is suffering is the requirement by the Customs Department that it must be manufactured according to a certain standard. If those conditions are harsh, let us amend them, or insist that the imported whisky must be manufactured in such a way that it will not compete unfairly with our own. An honorable member has argued that the requirements of the revenue necessitate an increase in the duty. At no time in the history of this Commonwealth has a Treasurer been more fortunately placed in regard to surpluses than at the present time.
– Last year the Commonwealth disbursed in war services a greater sum than it paid out during the war.
– In spite of that, a surplus was returned. Our greatest outlay in the future is likely to be on account of war services. As we have discharged our obligations so far, and yet returned a surplus, the necessity to look for new sources of revenue is not likely to arise. If, in order to’ deal with a national emergency, it were necessary to make additional demands upon the taxpayers, I should be the first to lend my support to such a proposal, and whisky and narcotics should be the first items to be taxed. I am pleased that, during the last three years, taxation has been reduced to the extent of over £6,000,000. Last year, on income tax alone, the decrease was at the rate of 12-J per cent. I support the proposal of the right honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. Watt), that if any assistance is to be given to this industry, it should be by a reduction in the excise on Australian whisky. As I cannot believe that there is any justification for this proposed increase, I am compelled, for the reasons already stated, to oppose it.
Silting suspended from 6.27 to 8 p.m..
Mr. PARKER MOLONEY (Hume) we saw several honorable gentlemen shifting their ground on the fiscal issue and associating themselves with other honorable members whom, a few days ago, they designated as enemies of the settled policy of the country. The honorable member for Wannon (Mr. Rodgers) was the greatest sinner. Apparently, he was so much troubled about his position that he deemed it necessary to rise a second time to participate in this debate, which has only just begun. Last week he rebuked the honorable member for Forrest (Mr. Prowse), but since then the honorable member for Forrest has “ seen the light,” and is now a better protectionist than the honorable member for Wannon himself. The spectacle was enough to make the angels weep. The second speech of the honorable member for Wannon was largely by way of explanation. We might now expect him to make another to explain his explanation, because he has. not improved his position in the eyes of the country. If the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Scullin) had been very much concerned about his position, we may be sure that he would have replied to the honorable member for Wannon himself, but that is no reason why the latter should be allowed to get away with his explanation. I propose to analyse it and see where it leads us. He said that he was surprised to find the honorable member for Yarra in the company of the honorable member for Forrest, as a supporter of a revenue duty as far as this item is concerned. The honorable member for Wannon was most unfair in his interpretation of the attitude of the honorable member for Yarra, but I am inclined to think that he was merely endeavouring to make his own position a little better. Let us examine the situation. To-day the excise duty is 26s., and the old import duty was 30s., a margin in favour of the local product of 4s. a gallon. I understand that the amendment suggested by the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. Watt) is to reduce the excise duty by 5s., bringing it down to 21s., and allow the old import duty of 30s. a gallon to stand, thus giving a margin of 9s. a gallon in favour of Australian whisky. The Government proposes an import duty of 35s. a gallon, which will still give a margin in favour of the Australian product of 9s. a gallon, and the honorable member for Yarra argues that the proposed amendment will mean a loss of revenue to the amount of £325,000. He objects to this loss of revenue. It therefore ill becomes the honorable member for Wannon to accuse the honorable member for Yarra of being a revenue tariffist. If the honorable member, for Wannon has another opportunity to explain what he means, he should endeavour to reconcile his attitude towards the duty on agricultural implements, a policy which I heartily endorse, with his attitude towards this item. The primary producers will not be very pleased with the honorable- member for Wannon, because the protection for Australian whisky distillers means a good market for at least 500,000 bushels of Australian-grown barley. This is a matter in which the honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Foster) is deeply interested. I have no doubt that he will support the Government, because I believe upwards of 80,000 bags of barley came from his district last year. The honorable member for Wannon should be in favour of the proposed duty for the same reason. When the honorable member for Wannon entered this House in 1910 he emphasized the wisdom of endeavouring to make two blades of grass grow where formerly only one had grown. His attitude towards this item shows that he is not prepared to treat barley in the same way. I do not propose to traverse the ground so ably covered bv the honorable .member for Bourke (Mr. Anstey) and the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Scullin), but I should like to say a word or two about the speech made by the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Mann) this afternoon. He said that, summed up, it was not so much a question of standard as a question of taste, and when I asked him what was his opinion when he occupied the position of Government analyst in W®3*61,11 Australia, he told me that it was to be found in a report which was too technical to be understood by some of us.
– As ringmaster, I should like to have the Temporary Chairman relieved for the time being.
– I would not mind if he were, but I have no doubt that when the honorable member for Perth leaves the ‘ chair he will take a further opportunity to explain his position. Judging by his remarks this afternoon, we may assume- that he now believes that the brand of whisky one uses depends upon one’s taste. I remind him that people may acquire a taste for many things. Some acquire a taste for methylated spirits. Would the honorable member for Perth allow the free use of methylated spirits because people had acquired a taste for them? Of course he would not. When the honorable member for Perth was Government analyst in Western Australia, he asked permission of a -Labour government to make an investigation into the standards of whiskies, and in his report he stated, in effect, that imported whisky consisted largely of a blend of neutral spirits, which could be produced from molasses practically without any restrictions. He declared that commercialism was largely responsible for the blending of whisky. His view then was that pot-still malt whisky should be accepted as first grade; but since politics now largely influence his judgment, he endeavours to persuade us that it is now a question, not of standards, but of taste. When he was government analyst in Western Australia, the honorable member put it on record that the standard applying to whisky distilled in Australia was first grade, and apparently he believed that that standard was responsible for the production of the best class of whisky from the best materials.
– The honorable member said that the qualifying word “ malt” always denoted superiority.
– He saida great many things, but I am giving merely a summary of what he said. When he was, I believe, faithfully endeavouring to’ serve the best interests of the country, he reported that the standard of Australian whisky was first grade and one which commended itself to him as providing for the best article for consumption in this country.
– Is the honorable member sure that the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Mann) was reporting on Australian whisky?
– I am quoting from the honorable member’s report. I do not say that the honorable member for Perth was intentionally inaccurate this afternoon, but he made a statement which could, not have been expected from one who knew all . about this matter. He should not have been mistaken concerning something which should be commonly known. I have no wish to misrepresent the honorable member, but whilst the honorable member for Yarra was speaking, the honorable member for Perth was understood by me to interject to the effect that all imported whisky had to be five years old. I find that that is not so. The certificates which accompany whisky imported to this country says that it must be at least two years old, but under a regulation, if it is bottled in bond and the word “ old “ appears oh the label, it is then provided that it must be five years old. If the word “ old “ does not appear on the label, the certificate accompanying imported whisky permits it to be of any age from two years upwards. Another statement that was very definitely made by the honorable member for Perth and by several other honorable members by interjection, is that the standard was brought in. to suit the distilleries. I say that the standard was not brought in to suit the distilleries. The honorable member for Perth should know that there was very strong opposition to it by some of the biggest distilleries in Australia, notably Joshua’s, at the time. It should not be necessary for honorable members to bolster up their arguments by creating impressions contrary to the facts.
– Will the honorable member now give us his own views ?
– I can quite understand the honorable for Wannon (Mr. Rodgers) not wishing that I should refer to the utterances of others. 1 can quite understand his saying, “ Do not refer to anything I said in connexion with this matter. Let us have a vote on it, and get it out of the way.” I know that the honorable member is feeling very uncomfortable. When there is a discussion of other matters upon which he has been consistent with the principles he has previously professed, we do not find the honorable member interjecting. But when, as now, the honorable member is taking up a position contrary to everything he said last week, I can quite understand him urging that I should not refer to what was said by other honorable members, but should express my own opinion. In good time I shall express my own opinion, and the honorable member will find that on this question I am adopting the same attitude as I adopt in dealing with all the industries of this country. I represent a country constituency which, from a farming point of view, is as important as any represented by any member of the Country party. It might be contended that, by adopting a certain attitude, a member representing a country constituency may be in danger of losing a number of votes. I hold, however, that either an honorable member is a protectionist or he is not. He believes either in building up or in levelling down the industries of this country. I cannot understand a man who professes to be a protectionist advocating, for instance, a duty of £4 per lon on potatoes, and as I have done, a duty on maize, and even an embargo on the importation of other products such as millet, in the interests of primary producers, -and then when it is a question of protecting a secondary industry such as the whisky producing - industry, letting the local- manufacturer down. In my opinion: the great bulk of the country people do not expect their representatives to adopt the contradictory attitude which we find members of he Country party adopting. In this case by supporting the duty one is not only protecting a secondary industry, but doing a great deal to assist a primary industry as well. That is the whole position in a nutshell, and having said that, one might sit down, but I must say that it is dimcult to understand the attitude of honorable members, who, as a prologue to their speeches, tell us that they are good protectionists, and then turn down a protective duty. Why they do not come out in their true colours and admit their real fiscal faith, I am unable to say. I am satisfied that neither the primary nor the secondary producers in this country desire the members who represent them in this chamber to take up a position which is contradictory in the extreme. The honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Anstey) touched upon one phase of this subject which, I think, should be put more fully on record, and that was the profiteering that goes on amongst the importers who have held the Australian market altogether too long at their command, to the detriment of the local industry. The position may be briefly stated by the recital of the fallowing facts: The wholesale price per dozen of proprietary Scotch whisky, delivered to the retailer, including duty, is £6 3s. The wholesale price per dozen of Australian whisky, delivered to the retailer, including excise duty, is £3 15s. This shows a difference in the wholesale price per dozen of £2 8s. Taking the present preference in favour of Australian-made whisky at 9s. per proof gallon, or approximately 6s. lOd. per gallon, when reduced to bottled strength, the preference per dozen on 2 gallons, is 13s. Sd., leaving the extra profit per dozen made by importers at £1 14s. 4d. That is not supposition, it is a fact. This is, roughly, £ per gallon. The total quantity of whisky imported into the Commonwealth for the twelve months ending the 31st December, 1925, was 1,232,409 proof gallons. I have shown that the excessive profit on imported whisky is £1 14s. 4d. per dozen, and that is the equivalent of more than £1 per proof gallon. It will be readily seen, therefore, that the Scotch whisky combine - and if there is any organization deserving the name of a combine it is this - is taking from the Australian people, and its action has been described in stronger terms as robbing the Australian public, excess profits to the value of nearly £1,250,000 per annum. That is a very serious matter, but the position is more serious when we consider that the combine evades the payment of income tax in the Commonwealth on the profits it makes here. The excessive profit is not presented as being made in Australia by the branch houses importing whisky to this country, and so it escapes Australian income tax. It is claimed to be made by the whisky house in Great Britain, which goes through the form of invoicing the whisky to the Australian branch houses at a ridiculously high price in order to keep down the profit in Australia, and build up the profit on the other side of the world, and so escape the payment of income tax on profits made in Australia. There is, therefore, a double crime committed by the whisky importers. They extract from the people of Australia excessive profits to the extent of £1,250,000 per annum, and avoid the payment of Australian income tax on those excessive profits. The immense capital at the back of the Scotch whisky combine enables it to carry out extensive advertising propaganda. The imported whisky has captured the Australian market, not so much by reason of the acquired taste of the public as by the daily reading of big advertisements. An imported whisky is advertised under a new name, and the people rush to obtain it.
– It is the power of suggestion.
– It is sale by suggestion more than by taste. I do not say that taste can be eliminated in judging the merits of whisky, but very often a taste is acquired for things that are not beneficial. The Scotch whisky combine uses its enormous profits not only to build up its trade in Australia by means of extensive advertising, but also to crush an important and growing local industry. The general public should know exactly how this combine is exploiting the Australian whisky market. The increase in the consumption of our own whisky will not only benefit our primary industries, but also help to stem the tide of unemployment in this country. Since protection has been given to the Australian whisky industry by means of the tariff, the sale of our bottled whisky has increased by from 600 per cent, to 700 per cent. This is a complete answer to the argument of the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Mann) that people will continue to buy imported whisky because they have acquired a taste for it. It shows that prejudice, and not taste, adversely affected the sale of Australian whisky. If we give our industries an impetus by means of protection under the tariff, we shall soon kill the prejudice that seems to be deep-rooted in a great number of our people against many of our manufactures, whether whisky, boots, hats, or anything else. Australian whisky is made from pure barley malt- and conforms to a standard far above that of the imported article. A statement which appears in the literature distributed by the importers of whisky is that the Australian whisky is heavier than the imported. I am not a judge of whisky, being a non-whisky drinker, and I cannot comment on the technical side of. the manufacture of whisky, on which subject the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Mann) posed as an expert. He spoke as if he believed that nobody but himself knew anything about it. But I would point out that there are others in this country besides the honorable member who understand the technical side of the manufacture of whisky.
Those who advocate the protection of the local whisky industry have gone to the trouble of obtaining tests to counter the charge made by the importers that Australianmade whisky is heavier than the imported. The following is a letter written to the secretary of the Federal Distilleries from the Chemical Laboratories, University of Melbourne -
We beg to report on our examination of the samples of Dewar’s and Old Court whisky received from you on the 12th instant. The bottles had not previously been opened, the seals and corks being intact. The label on the bottle of Dewar’s whisky was perforated 963/25:-
The above results are expressed as milligrammes of ester, &c., per 100 c.c. of absolute alcohol in the spirit. The figures given for aldehydes must be taken as relative, the absolute values being approximate only, on account of the difficulty of preparing at such short notice a quantity of alcohol perfectly free from aldehydes. The higher alcohols were determined by the British Government Laboratory method. We were not altogether satisfied with the working of this method, and our results should be taken as approximate as far as the absolute values are concerned. But in this determination, as in all the others, special care was taken to make an accurate relative comparison of the two samples.
That report, coming as it does from a disinterested analyst, is an effective answer to those who disparage Australian whisky. A further letter from the Chemical Laboratories, University of Melbourne, reads -
In furtherance of our report of even date on the examination of samples of Dewar’s and Old Court whisky received from you for analysis on the 12th instant, we have to add that the analytical results disclose a marked similaritybetween these two brands of whisky. While the character of a spirit is undoubtedly due in part to the presence of esters, aldehydes, furfural, and higher alcohols, excessive amounts of these ingredients are to be avoided on account of their harmful effects. Other things (such as. aroma, flavour, &c.) being equal, a comparative chemical examination of these two brands shows that Old Court is, at least, the equal of, if not superior, to Dewar’s Old Liquour whisky 963/25.
– What is the use of reading a report like that?
– In view of that report, it is difficult to understand why some honorable members oppose giving a full measure of encouragerent to the manufacture of Australian whisky. It is at least equal, if not superior, to the imported article, and is sold at a lower price.
– That is why it does not require more protection.
– I have heard the honorable member for Fawkner use the opposite argument.
– I have heard the advocates of freetrade say that because an Australian industry could not produce an article nearly as good as the imported article, it should not be protected. Now we have the opposite argument that because we can produce an article at least equal to the imported article the industry requires no further protection. Such arguments are contradictory. If we can produce as good a whisky as can he imported, as a protectionist I am satisfied to support a duty on the imported article.
– Who made the report from which the honorable member is quoting ?
– The first is signed by Mr. Heber Green, and the second by Mr. G. Ampt, of the University Chemical Laboratories.
– Who is Mr. Ampt?
– He is an analyst in the Chemical Laboratories at the Melbourne University. I should think that his name is well known to the honorable member. I mentioned when the honorable member was in the chair that when he was Government Analyst in Western Australia, the standard of whisky which he proclaimed to be the best was that to which the Australian article has to conform.
– Why call it a protective tariff when the Government knows that it is a revenue duty?
– The Minister has pointed out that it would mean a loss of revenue of £325,000 if the excise duty were reduced, as suggested, instead of the import duty being increased.
– That is pure humbug.
– If the honorable member does not believe the Minister’s statement, he must fight it out with the Minister. I have taken statistics from the CommonwealthY ear-Book, and according to the quantity produced and consumed in Australia, the amount I arrived at supports the figure the Minister has given. How can the honorable member say that it is a revenue proposition when what he proposes in place of the increased duty would mean a loss of revenue to the extent of £325,000 ? My vote on this item will be consistent with my vote on every tariff item that has come before us. No man can be a shandygaff protectionist. He cannot be a revenue tariffist one moment and a sound protectionist at another moment.
– Then why does not the honorable member go the whole hog and prohibit all imports’? Nothing short of that is effective protection according to him.
– The honorable member forFawkner (Mr. Maxwell) has had some very nasty things said about his attitude towards protect tion, but I have no wish to repeat them. A protectionist cannot advocate low duties on some articles, and then high duties on commodities in which his own electorate is interested so long as those articles or commodities can be. produced in Australia. It is absurd for an honorable member who says that the duties on agricultural implements are all right, although admittedly they are high, to come along afterwards and say that the duty on whisky is too high, although, comparatively speaking, it is on the same level as the duties on agricultural implements. I could not find myself in that position. I have frequently asked the Minister to impose a duty on a primary product, because I believed it would help not only to build up a secondary industry, but also to give expression to the wishes of the people engaged in primary industries whom I represent. But I could not shift my ground, as some people do, because of certain highly-paid propaganda which rouses in their minds a prejudice against a local article. It is the policy of persons who import things into Australia to create a prejudice against the local article by means of costly propaganda. It is my belief that the excess profits made out of the sale of imported whisky in Australia are largely used to poison the minds of the people in Australia against the whisky produced in Australia. But it is absurd to contend that because the people’s minds are poisoned in this way honorable members must shift their ground and depart from their protective instincts to meet their wishes. I shall not do so. My vote in this matter will be consistent with my vote on every other item of the tariff. Anything I have said to the honorable member for Wannon has been said in no unkindly spirit, but I should not like to occupy the honorable member’s position. The barley-growers of Australia will want to know why he is neglecting this opportunity to build up not only a secondary, but also a primary industry. I cannot follow the line of reasoning of other honorable members who neglect this opportunity. I hope that the item will be agreed to, and that the majority of the committee will abide by the settled policy of Australia in this as in every other industry.
.- The honorable member for Hume (Mr. Parker Moloney) has shown us a new phase of his character. He has explained fully the power of auto suggestion. According to the honorable member it is only necessary, in regard to stimulants and agricultural machinery, to place ample statistics before the public, and the deed is done. By examining aY ear-Book, and ascertaining the value of the imports of whisky, the honorable member can tell us the amount of income tax paid by distillers in the Old Country. It is strange that he was not able to make a more effective use of his powers of autosuggestion at the last election. One of his constituents in Albury has written to me complaining about the big increases in the duties on machinery. He apologized for writing to me, but said, “ Our member, Mr. Parker Moloney, argues that the higher the duties are the lower the cost to the people.” The honorable member’s constituent is beginning to realize the absurdity of these very high duties. I have no idea how far the prohibitionists are prepared to go, but the duty now before the committee is not protective. I regard it as a purely revenue-producing impost.
Enormous sums are flowing into the Treasury through the Customs House, and taxation is increasing, despite the need for economy, and despite the fact that we have surpluses every year. In the face of these facts is there any justification for increasing duties merely for revenue purposes?
– The Government is taking off duties to the extent of £750,000 in respect of certain lines.
– But it is imposing increases in other directions. When the 1921 tariff was introduced we were told that the result would be a diminution of imports, but the result has been just the opposite. There has been an enormous increase in imports, with a consequential increase in revenue, leading to extravagance in administration at a time when economy ought to be exercised. In the discussion of this item some very reprehensible tactics have been resorted to. For instance, the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Scullin) spoke of pensions for war widows. I resent the honorable member’s attempt to commercialize the question of pensions to war widows.
– Talk sense.
– We should have appreciated a little more assistance from the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Scullin) during the war. It would have been much better than all this talk we are having at present from him. This is not the time-
– This is the time. The honorable member speaks of abundant revenue, but the people to whom I have referred are underpaid. That is the point. Will the honorable member answer that?
– There has been a surplus year after year.
– And these people have been underpaid.
– We had very litttle assistance from the honorable member for Yarra during the war, when it would have been of ten times more value than the sentimental expressions to which he has given utterance to-day.
– I am trying to do justice.
– It is merely a statement
– I am asking for justice.
– Thehonorable member should have done justice to our boys in the early days of the war instead of talking about it now.
– Why does not the honorable member assist in redeeming the promises that were made, and stand up to his obligations?
– I am always prepared to do that.
– Why does not the honorable member do it in this case? I have said that the honorable member and his party have dishonoured their pledges.
– Prohibition is a question that should be left out of the debate.
– The honorable member is in favour of throwing away revenue whilst war widows are receiving inadequate pensions. That is the statement I made, and I repeat it.
– That does not make it true.
– It does. Does the honorable member suggest that war widows are getting sufficient?
– I am not discussing that question.
– The honorable member is not game to discuss it.
The CHAIRMAN (Mr. Bayley).Order! The honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Scullin) must cease interjecting.
– If you, Mr. Chairman, will keep the honorable member for Swan in his place I shall do so.
– I am quite in order in referring to the arguments brought forward by the honorable member for Yarra when he stressed the point that justice is not being done to many who have suffered in consequence of the war. If this item is carried, money will be placed in the pockets of a certain section of the people in Australia. The honorable member for Yarra wishes me to traverse the argument he introduced, and if I do I shall hit very hard.
– Hit away.
– I do not intend to discuss matters raised by the honorable member.
– The honorable member cannot hurt me.
– The honorable member for Yarra knows that, if this item is agreed to, money will be placed in the pockets of those who are conducting distilleries in Australia.
– I would rather the money go into the hands of Australian distillers than foreign distillers. I am not very keen on benefiting either.
– Order !
– This cannot be regarded as a protective tariff. Has any honorable member quoted a single statement to show that this is a protective tariff, and that the higher duty will favour Australian distilleries? The honorable member for Hume (Mr. Parker Moloney) complained of the fortunes made by whisky importers, and other speakers have referred to the enormous prices charged for goods coming into Australia. It has not been proved that the Australian distillers have not an open market. In dealing with Australian industries, /it has frequently been stated that manufacturers of imported goods have refused to supply retailers handling Australian commodities, but no one has dared to suggest that whisky importers have refused to supply retailers who handle Australian whisky or brandy. The market is free and open. I have read a good deal of the literature supplied to honorable members in support of the case for imported whisky, but I have not seen in it one word against Australian whisky. It. has been stated by one honorable member that the Australian product is heavier than the imported article, but that cannot be regarded as a reflection upon the Australian whisky, because the heavier spirit may perhaps be superior. It has also been said that whisky is sometimes placed on the market when it is, say, two year: old, and consequently insufficiently matured. It is generally admitted that whisky ten years old is much superior to whisky twelve months old. In all the statements read by honorable members on both sides I have not heard a reflection upon the manufacturers of imported or Australian whisky. There is no occasion for such statements to be made. Imported and Australian whiskies are on the market here, and in Melbourne a nobbier of Australian whisky can be obtained for 7d., and Scotch or Irish whisky for 10d.: whereas in Sydney the prices are 6d. and 9d. respectively. It is ridiculous for the honorable member for Hume to suggest that the large advertisements displayed by the representatives of imported whisky influence consumers to such an extent that they will pay so much more for the imported spirit. Is it to be said that by the imposition of a heavier import duty Australian consumers will be forced to drink the Australian product? We should not be the judges of what whisky the people should drink. If it could be shown that the difference between the duty and the excise was insufficient, there might be something in the arguments of some honorable members; but the distillers seem to be content with the difference between the duty and the excise of 4s. a gallon. The large distilleries, in Ireland and Scotland have been in operation for hundreds of years, and those controlling them understand the blending business to such an extent that they are better able to meet the tastes of whisky consumers. By the imposition of an extra duty, whisky drinkers will not be induced to consume one drop more of Australian whisky than they have in the past.
– They are doing so now.
– The honorable member for Maribyrnong does not know anything about whisky.
– I know the” facts in this case.
– Some people prefer the imported . article because it suits their palate, whilst others are quite satisfied to use the Australian production. It is ridiculous to penalize consumers and endeavour to make them drink a spirit they do not like. That is not a function of this Parliament. I object to the suggestion of the honorable member for Hume that, by increasing the price of imported spirit, we should force consumers to drink Australian whisky.
– I did not say that.
– They were not the honorable member’s exact words, but that is what he meant. There is no justification for this increase. It is merely an increase of a revenue duty, and no sound argument has been submitted to justify the further taxing of an already heavilytaxed population. For years we have had a surplus, and I should like to know why, at this stage, we should impose duties for further increasing the revenue.
This has not been defended as a protective duty in the slightest degree. If it could be shown that the imported and Australian spirits were selling at the. same price, and that the Australian manufacturer needed more protection in order to compete with importers, there might be some justification in seeking an extra duty. It has been shown, however, that in selling at a price approximately 50 per cent, below that charged for imported whisky, the local manufacturers are able to hold their own. It is not a question of protecting an industry, but merely of offering a sop to a few persons who have recognized that during the last few years Parliament is so pliable, and so ready to give undue protection to every one who asks for it, that they now seek to make extra profits at the expense of the people.
.; For quite a considerable time I had resisted the temptation to embark on the discussion of item 1 in the tariff schedule, but after listening patiently to a most interesting debate on whisky I have come to the conclusion that there is nothing I could have said on the general question which is not relevant to whisky. I say that with a knowledge of the fact that the discussion on the general question has “ranged from Helen of Troy to mixed bathing at Williamstown. If it is at all necessary for me to apologize for saying a word or two on this item of the tariff, I will be excused, I hope, on the ground that it is not the first time a person has been impelled to speak, under the influence of this beverage, which both cheers and inebriates, when it would have been better for him to remain silent. I have come to the conclusion that this debate - I am confining myself to whisky, although it may not appear so to the casual listener - has proceeded upon the mistaken assumption that human nature is perfect. I do not doubt that human nature has its imperfections, and although it may seem a strong and even a blasphemous thing to say, even honorable members have their imperfections. I have noticed, and I think I have mentioned the same thing in this chamber once before, that there is what is known to naturalists as protective coloration, which applies also to politicians and to some of those who send politicians here. I have been accustomed to make speeches in this House, and God knows they were good speeches, as you know, sir, because you are one of the few people who, because of your position, were compelled to listen to them. I have made speeches to thin houses and to empty galleries. Some of us have considered ourselves lucky if we could induce our wives to whip up a few personal friends to listen to us. But I was at first ‘ flattered, and now, on further consideration, I am a little humiliated, to notice the array of keen, intelligent, patriotic and observant persons who have taken their places in the galleries to listen to the debate on the tariff. I have even seen some of my own constituents there. That has, perhaps, had something to do with my previous silence, and accounts for the fact that I have spoken only under the influence of whisky - the item now before the Chair. I have seen there people who are entire strangers to me, but whose countenances reveal their patriotism and altruism. On inquiry, I find that their presence has not been due entirely to the purest distillation of patriotism. Among them are found both the importer and the Australian manufacturer, or their representatives, and I ask myself if honorable members have proceeded along right lines in assuming that human nature is perfect. Might it not be that these gentlemen, representing various interests, are not actuated entirely by the true spirit of altruism after all, but that, in the consideration of this peculiar economic subject, they are influenced more by the old Adam than by the doctrines of Adam Smith. I look at my fellow members and ask if they differ greatly from our distinguished visitors in the gallery. I think of Western Australia, which is not a manufacturing State, and in her representatives in this chamber I find the stout protagonists of at least moderate or reasonable freetrade. I notice also that those honorable members who represent great manufacturing electorates - on that principle of protective coloration - stand more strongly for the policy of protection than do those who represent the primary producers. But when this item was reached, I received a rude shock. I have dislocated - my preconceived notions on the subject, because I find such anomalies as a divorce between the honorable member for Forrest (Mr. Prowse) and the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory). It is dreadful to see these representatives of Western Australia ranging themselves on opposite sides, one standing for the eternally logical principle of freetrade as laid down by the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Mann), and the other - faced with the frightful alternative of having either to support the time-honoured principle to which he has devoted so many eloquent speeches in this chamber, or, on the other hand, of alienating certain well-meaning bodies of temperance people in Western Australia - eventually making up his mind, after balancing these two dreadful alternatives for several days while the general discussion on the tariff has proceeded, that, after all, he is not a freetrader but a revenue tariffist, and therefore able to support a duty on whisky. There is also the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Maxwell), who the other night discoursed on the virtues of moderate protection. All who stand for protection are moderate protectionists, for the obvious reason that if they were not they would be immoderate protectionists. Perish the thought! That, I think, is logical reasoning. It would not be logical to say that, because all men are liars, all liars are men; because we know that a considerable number of liars are women. But it is logical to say that those who are not moderate protectionists must be immoderate protectionists. I am indebted to the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Scullin), who has made a number of interesting speeches on this subject, for . the suggestion that honorable members at least should be decent protectionists. Let honorable members for a moment consider the dreadful alternative of being indecent protectionists. We must be decent protectionists unless we stand for the principle of freetrade; we must be reasonable protectionists unless we are unreasonable protectionists. The honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Maxwell) has fallen to-day. Has he been regarding the gallery. Has he been interviewed by the altruists and patriots who have been in the lobbies and elsewhere?
– No; I have not spoken to one on either side.
– The honorable member has decided to oppose this duty which has been operating in respect of whisky for several months; and he does so, not on the ground that we should not drive people to drink, but that we should not drive them to take a drink’ that they do not want. The same argument applies to shoddy, to boots, and to every other article manufactured in Australia. The honorable gentleman seems to say that, while we must have moderate protection in , regard to all these other Australian-made commodities - protection which will allow a fair amount of competition - he is implacably opposed to anything that will interfere with the free flow of whisky into Australia.
– I said nothing of” the kind, or anything that could be so interpreted.
– That is what I understood the honorable gentleman to say. .If, however, he did not say that, he should rise and make a personal explanation. The honorable member for Wannon (Mr. Rodgers), who is not only a protectionist, but also, a primary producer, delivered a most interesting speech the other day. It had been carefully prepared, because the primary producer - like the gentleman who was alleged to have written to the honorable member for Swan from Albury, of whose existence I have grave doubts, although regarding his political faith, if existent, I should have no doubts whatever if’ he wrote to the honorable member for Swan - had to be considered. The honorable member, however, feels quite free to follow his own inclinations so far as whisky is concerned. Why do not the ordinary principles of protection operate here ? Is it not still a question of the sweated labour - probably the coloured labour - of the foreigner? Is the freetrade doctrine not antediluvian in the case of whisky also ? Surely the same principle applies.
– I have heard the honorable member make some excellent fiscal speeches that had freetrade leanings.
– I dare say that the honorable gentleman has - and I am pleased to know that he paid me the compliment of listening - but I can say with confidence that I have never made during the same session speeches which were diametrically opposite in principle.
– I have listened to fairly good freetrade speeches made by the honorable member.
– That may be. Even now, it sometimes pains me to hear the principles of protection, which are sound, supported by arguments which are bad. For instance, I was deeply pained to hear one honorable member object to freetrade on the ground that protection was the settled policy of this country. There is no settled policy for any country.
– Hear, hear !
– Each generation deals with its own problems in its own way. The people of this age are much better able to grapple with the fiscal question which is now presented to them than were the gentlemen who are supposed to have decided the matter for us 25 years ago.
– Hear, hear!
– I do not invite the honorable member for Forrest (Mr. Prowse) to applaud my remarks so much ; but what I am saying I believe to be perfectly true. In the same way I object to people dragging down the general principles of protection, which mean so much to this country, and to my own electorate, which is one of the most progressive and important manufacturing districts in Australia. I object to people pretending that the policy of protection cheapens commodities. It cannot be stated as an economic axiom, on the one hand, that we want to protect our manufacturers from the cheap sweated labour of foreign countries, and, on the other hand, that we need protection to cheapen commodities. Owing to the aberrations and operations of the freetrade exploiters on the one hand, and of the protectionist exploiters on the other hand, that condition may apply for a certain limited time; but, generally speaking, I consider that protection is something which is worth paying for within limits, and bearing in mind the claims of both the worker and consumer. As part of their general education, the people of every country ought to be trained in the arts and crafts of that country, and education is developed by practice.
The CHAIRMAN (Mr. Bayley).I should be glad to have the assurance of the honorable member that his remarks still refer to whisky.
– As you, Mr. Chairman, have rightly called my attention to the fact that I was inclined to digress a little, I shall get back by easy stages from Adam Smith to whisky
– It would be interesting to know whether the honorable member favours the increased duty.
– Yes, I shall vote for the item. I adopt in their entirety the views of those who say that for revenue purposes, as well as on the ground of providing employment in Australia, we can cheerfully support a duty on whisky, even though some of us might have hesitation in applying the principle in the same measure to other commodities. I do notpropose to institute an economic argument, directed against the principles of protection. If I ever did embark upon that sea, I should not use whisky as an illustration. Whisky is regarded by many as a luxury, by some as a necessity.
– And by others as a food.
– That is so. I am neither a connoisseur nor an epicure in regard to whisky. If I tasted every different brand I should not be able to tell the difference between them. As a matter of fact, after I had tasted half the number of brands, I should be quite incapable of telling the difference between honorable members. I had the advantage this afternoon of listening to one of the best debates that I have heard in this chamber for a considerable time. I am not one of those political bigots who indulge in cheappersonal abuse of their opponents. I have to admit that the case for lighter duties has been ably and temperately put by the sponsors of that fiscal faith, and that their arguments have been admirably and effectively answered. There is no doubt that with whisky, as with every other commodity, free trade is an ideal. It is idle for the right honorable member for North Sydney to say that we are living in an artificial age, and to put forward a plea for unnaturalness. He is politically as unnatural as anything could be. With whisky, as with other commodities, the political and economic question is, to what extent should the State intervene to regulate trade. Should we turn on the tap freely in the name of freetrade, make the restrictions absolute, in the name of prohibition, or take any intermediate course. We must remember that, to a certain extent we have regulated wages. As the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Mann) rightly pointed . out, we have, to a considerable extent embarked upon a policy of socialism. We must adopt the policy of regulating manufacture, and, on the other hand, the profits and rewards that flow from it. I have not the slightest intention of allowing myself to be made the instrument of any or every person or corporation who declares himself or itself to be the manufacturer of an Australian article, and in the name of protection demands my support for a duty on that article, even though the industry be exotic to the soil, its commodities dear, and its wages starved. I gladly support the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Scullin), who, in the course of a powerful and convincing speech, laid down the limitations and regulations under which the policy of protection must ultimately be applied. His statement, however, was confined to the limitation and regulation of- prices and wages. I would add, that we must have due regard to the efficiency of the Australian manufacturer. If we indiscriminately allow duties to be imposed in order to build up an Australian industry, without regard to the conditions I have outlined, we shall place a premium upon inefficiency, and that is the last thing we should do. Amongst our manufacturers there is a high order of intelligence that, given a fair field, is capable, I hope, of competing with the best brains in the world. All that we ask is that they shall be allowed to compete on something like equal terms. I _ say, not as a truism, but as something that should be capable of accomplishment, that we should place a premium upon the employment of our own people, in our own country, and upon our own materials. Whatever contempt may be poured upon the so-called moderate or reasonable protectionist, my answer is that unless you apply the qualifications I have mentioned you will offer a bribe to the exploiter on the manufacturing side to the same extent as, by adopting a policy of freetrade, you would offer a bribe to the exploiter on the importing side.
.- Like the honorable member for Batman (Mr”. Brennan), I find that I have friends ‘ and constituents in the gallery to-night, for the first time, I think, in. seven years. As I have to cast a vote on this matter, I desire to express my views thereon. I have spent many sleepless nights considering in’ what way I should vote, and I have arrived at the decision to vote for the proposed increase. My first impression was one of great disappointment that the Government should have seen fit to bring forward this proposal. Many close friends of mine are the heads of big whisky firms in Scotland, and I am loth to take any act-ion that will hurt them. But the -Tariff Board, and also the Government, have exhaustively investigated the matter, and has reported in favour of an increase in the duty. What effect will such an increase have ? It may add slightly to the consumption of Australian whisky, but I do not think that it will seriously affect the consumption of Scotch whisky. A man who has been accustomed to drinking the best Scotch is in the position to pay the extra sum. No one will be compelled to drink Australian whisky. I am not in a position to judge whether that is good or indifferent whisky, but I have been informed that it is quite good, and will not hurt anybody. The honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. Watt) raised the question of prohibition. Can it be said that by voting on the right or the left of the chair any honorable member will express an opinion upon that question ? I have not the slightest doubt that the imposition of this duty will result in a larger consumption of wines and light beers. They are not harmful ; on the contrary, they are beneficial. On my recent tour, I studied the question throughout Canada and the United States of America. Certain of the Canadian provinces aTe dry, and in the main provinces one cannot obtain whisky or brandy without signing a book, and even then the supply is limited to one or two bottles a day. Certain places, however, are licensed to sell light wines and beers. Prohibition has proved a farce in America, and there is a growing demand for light wines and beers. I had to dodge round every street corner to avoid offers of liquor. One cannot openly obtain drink of any description. The American citizen is proud of the fact that his country has adopted prohibition, but directly be crosses1 his doorstep the position is different. I speak from experience. When last I was in the United States of America I was entertained by a well-known millionaire in New York. Before the dinner we had served to us cocktails of various descriptions. We had a magnificent dinner at which wines were served, and at the close, some excellent liqueurs. Afterwards he asked me what I thought of his wines, and I replied by asking him how he got them in. “Oh,” he said, “that is easy.” My private “ bootlegger” brings me a list, and I order so many dozen of whisky, wines, and light beers. The following morning a van comes along with a beautiful electric washing machine which is fitted up in my washhouse. When the men go away I press a button on the other side, and out comes all the liquor that I have ordered. The next day the men come back and take away the washing machine which I had not ordered.” We do not want that state of things to come about in Australia. We do not wish any person to be obliged surreptitiously to take liquor into his private house. As I understand it, this schedule does not seek to prohibit the introduction of British spirits, but it is intended to encourage the production of Australian whisky. Looking at the subject from every angle I cannot but come to the conclusion that as the Tariff Board has recommended the increase in the interests of local distilleries, several of which have closed down, and as the Government has decided on it in pursuance of its policy to encourage Australian industries, I should vote for the item. Medical authorities are agreed that spirits taken in moderation will harm no one, but if taken in excess they may be very injurious. If we can get our people to drink light wines and beer in Australia it will be better for them, and incidentally we may encourage our export trade.
– The debate on tariff items brings about strange partnerships. On this occasion we have the spectacle of the honorable members for Yarra (Mr. Scullin) and Forrest (Mr. Prowse) supporting the duty, and the honorable members for East Sydney (Mr. West) and Perth (Mr. Mann) intent on opposing the item. I shall support the Government, although I am what the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan) describes as a “ reasonable “ protectionist. I shall vote for the item, not altogether on economic grounds, nor because I am anxious to increase the scope of operations of Australian distilleries; but because my observations have led me to the conclusion that the benefits to be derived from the consumption of whisky are in inverse ratio to the quantity consumed. I believe that as an increased duty tends- to raise the price of a commodity, the impost in this case will decrease the consumption of the commodity, and the result will be, as the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Marks) has suggested, to encourage the consumption of Australian light wines, which have a comparatively light alcoholic content. The argument used by one honorable member that an increase in the duty was unjustifiable for revenue purposes was most unfortunate; especially when it was backed up by the statement that the high duty on spirits was imposed for war purposes, because, our liabilities in respect of the war are greater to-day than at any time during the war. We have to find annually £29,000,000 to meet interest on our war debt and our obligations in respect of soldier pensions. Therefore, it is absolutely justifiable to place additional revenue imposts on spirits. For this reason I intend to support the Government, and on this occasion I shall have the privilege of voting in company with the honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Fenton).
.- So much has been said for and against the proposed increase in duty that it is not my intention to detain the committee for many minutes, but I should like to make my position clear. I am in favour of reasonable protection for Australian primary and secondary industries, and as the only representative of Queensland on this side of the chamber I wish to emphasize that the people of my State are wholeheartedly protectionist. It would be mo-t inconsistent for them to ask for protection for the sugar, maize and bananagrowing industries and to refuse protection for secondary industries in Victoria, especially as the distillery enterprises in this State provide a ready market for 500,000 bushels of Australian barley per annum, with every prospect of a considerable increase in the future. The number of employees in the industry has increased from 50, prior to the tabling of the present schedule, to over 300. It has also been stated that stocks are now being laid by, and that in five years’ time the local distilleries will be able to supply the whole of Australia’s . requirements in whisky. If the people must have whisky, it is better that they should be encouraged to drink the Australian product. If we are to build up our industries, we must remove that prejudice which has for so long prevented Australians from patronizing Australian industries as they should. Not many years ago there was the same prejudice against Australian wines, brandies, rums, worsteds and hosiery, as well as other articles of Australian manufacture. Temporarily, there appears to be a prejudice against Australian whisky, but in the course of the debate it has been shown that Australian whisky is being made to a standard agreed upon by Commonwealth Government experts as far back as 1905, and prior to the advent in other countries of the patent still, which enables silent spirit to be manufactured from maize, potatoes, and other products, pure malt whisky was then the recognized standard, and the public taste demanded it. A.11 this talk about the people of Australia having a taste for Scotch whisky does not convince me that we should continue to patronize Scotch whisky distilleries. We have only to read the report of the honorable member for Perth, who, in 1914, when he was Government analyst in Western Australia, was sent to England by the State Government to inquire into the question of standards. He visted a number of distilleries, and reported as follows : -
The smaller blenders are compelled for competitive reasons to put upon tile market the same class of spirit as that issued by the large blenders, and hence it may be generally said that in a market such as Australia all the brands which are widely distributed are of practically the same class, that is to say, are “light” to “.medium” blends, containing, roughly, from 30 to 00 per cent, of pot-still whisky. It is obvious, therefore, that the ordinary consumer desiring to purchase a whisky is restricted in his choice to blends of this character, and becomes accustomed to them. Should he incidentally now and then encounter a whisky containing a higher proportion of pot-still, the probability is that its unaccustomed flavour will prejudice him against it, and I am very much inclined to the belief, therefore, that the class of spirit which it is alleged is now demanded by the public generally has really come upon and governed the market largely through other considerations also, ‘and that in the absence of real discriminating taste on the part of the general public the class of whisky which has been issued by the trade-blending houses has been able to direct the demand. When one comes to consider the reason why such blends should have been put upon the market, we have to enter more directly into the commercial question. Patent spirit costs considerably loss to produce than pot-still spirit. In fact, for general purposes it may be said that the cost of production is one-half that for pot-still whisky. There is, therefore, an obvious commercial advantage in issuing a whisky with a large proporton of patent spirit.
That report was presented to the Western Australian Government on the 5th January, 1915. The honorable member for Perth was convinced then that malt whisky denoted a superior whisky, and that neutral spirits were cheaper and were injurious to the consumer. On this phase of the subject he reported -
Again this result has been attributed to the exercise of popular taste, but I am more and more convinced that popular taste is very often non-existent in this particular case, and to put the whole matter in a phrase as was repeatedly admitted to me by those holding prominent positions in the trade in London, “ The class of whisky which a man desires to drink is generally governed by the quantity which he desires to drink.” If a man, from whatever cause, desires to take a large amount of whisky during the day, he will invariably prefer the light blend or patent spirit, whereas more moderate drinkers will prefer the heavy class of whisky. If this statement be true, and I honestly believe it is, it is surely an argument for the protection of the public in a matter where they are unable to protect themselves. For it has been repeatedly shown by physiological experts dealing with this matter that there is nothing in whisky more toxic to the body than the alcohol itself - which is, of course, present in equal quantity in each class of liquor - and if, therefore, the secondary products of pot still whisky act as a deterrent or danger warning to the consumer, the increasing consumption of spirits’ from which these are absent must be undesirable from the public point of view. While thereby drunkenness may not be increased, real alcoholic poisoning or chronic alcoholism may be encouraged.
That is taken from a report made by the honorable member for Perth ‘ (Mr. Mann) when Government Analyst for Western Australia. To-day we have had the honorable member speaking as a politician. In dealing with the use of the qualifying word “ malt,” the honorable member said in his report -
The application of the qualifying word “ malt “ to whisky always has been and is still considered by those interested in the production of whisky as denoting superiority of quality. No blend can be made without the addition of more or less malt whisky. It depends thereupon for its flavour and character, and although a certain amount of patent spirit is sold as whisky, even for this there is claimed a certain flavour imparted to it by the malt used, and it is not, therefore, a silent or neutral spirit.
The honorable member in speaking today said he did not recommend a standard for whisky, but in his report he points to Western Australian regulations that were framed, and goes into detail to show what the standard in Western Australia was. At page 7 of the report he recommends a standard for Irish and Scotch whisky. It was because the distillers of Scotch whisky considered that the honorable member was quite erroneous in his calculation, and had set up an absurd standard, that they asked the Western Australian Government to send him to England. It seems that the honorable member did not consult them finally before leaving England, and in a letter to the Western Australian Government they made the following statement: -
Without wishing to over emphasize this phase of the matter, it may he permitted to us to say that the committee of this association its disappointed that Mr. Mann has been unable to fulfil his assurance, having regard to the fact that this association’s members advanced the sum of £2,100 towards Mr. Mann’s tour of investigation here in the belief that a personal conference between the distillers, the chemical exports already named, and Mr. Mann, would be almost certain to produce an understanding which .would be satisfactory to all concerned.
According to this letter signed by J. G. Dawson, chairman, Hopkins, vicechairman, and William Forsyth, representing the Scotch Whisky Exporters Association, they were not at all satisfied with the work of the honorable member for Perth as a government analyst. To-day they have reason to be well satisfied with him, because, in harmony with his advocacy of freetrade, the honorable member has been telling us that it would not -be in the best interests of Australia to give protection to the Australian whisky industry. Many other interesting extracts might be made from the honorable member’s report, but I have quoted sufficient to enable honorable members generally to realize that, according to the honorable member for Perth, malt whisky denotes superior whisky. An eminent London analyst, reporting on the report made by the honorable member for Perth, says, in effect, that malt whisky denotes the very finest? type of pure whisky. From all the talk we have had from certain honorable members opposite to the effect that Australian whisky should not be forced on the public, one would think that those who support the duty are trying to induce the people to drink something which would poison them. We have expert advice and assurance that there is nothing deleterious in the Australian whisky. On the contrary, we have proof that it is at least equal to the best imported whisky. I have before me the report of the Tariff Board. It is not a biased body. It was asked to give an impartial report, and it did so. The report was signed by men like G. E. Hudson, Herbert Brookes, Walter Leitch, and also David Masterson, who the Country party asked should be put on the board as their representative. In referring to what Mr. Ruthven said on behalf of the whisky importers, the Tariff Board says - .
The evidence given by Mr. Ruthven in opposition to the claim bears largely on a counter claim that the imported Scotch whisky should be protected on account of the labour involved in local bottling, selling, etc., and the imposition of Australian whisky on the public as Scotch whisky, and also for the loss of revenue.
He apparently overlooked the facts that the growth in sales of the Australian product would still necessitate the bottling and selling in exactly the same proportion as it applies to the imported bulk whisky. There cannot possibly ‘bc an atom of difference in this respect.
It is considered that his claim that Australian whisky had been sold in large quantities straight and certainly blended with imported Scotch, is an admission that quality for quality there can be very little difference between the imported and the Australian. It certainly shows that the consumer, in most cases, is unaware of the difference.
The assertion tended that the Australian climate is too warm for the production of whisky is also completely refuted by Mr. Ruth.ven’s statement that large quantities of Australian whisky were sold as Scotch.
From the evidence, it appears that the greatest detriment to the local distiller comes from the cheaper whiskies, blended in England with imported neutral spirits, ‘ and that so far as the better qualities of imported arc concerned, it is largely a matter of advertising and so making certain names familiar.
The board considers that also to a large extent certain imported brands are better known to the public through the brands in question being on the market in large quantities for so many years; and further, there exists a certain unwarranted prejudice against Australian whisky which would as time passes gradually be swept away.
The provisions of the excise tariff relating to the manufacture of whisky were framed for tlie purpose of compelling the Australian distiller to place a pure and wholesome article before the public; and yet, while these restrictions apply to the local producer, cheap blended, i.e., Scotch and foreign, spirits can be imported and sold at prices with which it is impossible to compete.
Operating under these stringent conditions, the local distillers are finding it difficult to maintain their existence. The consumption of whisky from overseas, where the conditions of manufacture are not so stringent, is increasing. Moreover, Parliament has increased the protection on brandy during the last session.
The Tariff Board then recommends the increased duty proposed in this schedule. I have absolute confidence in the Tariff Board, whose members are above reproach. It made exhaustive inquiries before arriving at a decision. It had the evidence of representatives of distillers and also of the importers. Each side had the opportunity to put its case, and the Tariff Board, having weighed the evidence, has made its recommendation. We know that before the increase of 5s. in the duty on whisky, three out of every four Australian distilleries were practically idle. Since then there has been great activity, and over 200 additional men have been engaged. This year 500,000 bushels of barley have been purchased. One has only to look at the excise returns for the month of January to see the great increase in the sale of Australian whisky. According to the Wine and Spirit News, dated the 27th February, 1926, the Melbourne market report regarding Australian whisky shows that excise was collected in January last on 5,409 gallons, as compared with 3,907 gallons cleared in January of last year. According to the Sydney market report, excise duty was collected in January of this year on 4,621 gallons, as against 3,744 gallons cleared in January of last year. This shows a substantial increase in both cities. The Minister clearly showed that before the imposition of the increased duties there had been a general slump in the sale of Australian whisky. As a protectionist, I stand for the policy of consistent and effective protection for all Australian industries, whether primary or secondary. I believe that Australian workmen are just as. efficient as the workmen of other countries. I shall not deviate one iota from my allegiance to the policy of protection, which has done so much for Australia, and which will eventually make it one of the greatest countries in the world.
.- Until I listened to this debate I did not realize that in Australia some 75 men of the world could assemble and conscientiously protest that they were incapable of giving a personal opinion on the relative merits of whiskies. I myself do not think that Australian whisky, on its present quality, deserves any more protection than it was getting under the old tariff. I come to that decision with a good deal of regret as a new member of this chamber. Although I know that there is no party restriction or rule followed in respect of the tariff, still I regret to find myself in opposition to the Minister. I am a protectionist, even as is the honorable member for Yarra (Mr! Scullin), and I am a revenue tariffist, even as is the honorable member for Forrest (Mr. Prowse); but there are times when I am not prepared to vote for what I regard as an excessive protection for a particular article, and I find myself in that position in regard to Australian whisky. I say without hesitation that - the only reason why Australian whisky, which is being sold at 7s. 6d. a bottle, has not been bought freely as against Scotch whisky at 10s. 9d. a bottle, is that it is very indifferent. It is a harsh, crude spirit, and any whisky that will not sell with that great difference in price in its favour is not worthy to be sold for human, consumption at all. I oppose this duty in the interests of temperance and public health. I know of no greater incentive to excessive drinking than the opportunity to drink a new and inferior spirit. If people will drink, then in the interests of public health and the good > of the community, we should, as far as possible, prevent them from drinking new and poor spirits. I am not in ‘ the least ‘ deterred by the reference of the honorable member for
Yarra (Mr. Scullin) to war widows’ pensions, and the likelihood that an additional tariff on imported whisky would enable those pensions to be increased. An increased tariff on Scotch whisky, and an increased consumption of Australian whisky may allow of the improvement of war widows’ pensions, but I have no doubt that the more Australian whisky, of the present quality, is consumed, the more civilian widows there will be. We shall be told, I have no doubt, that Scotch whisky today contains a great deal of relatively new spirit, which is imported into Scotland, and there distilled, artificially matured, and turned out as good whisky. That may be so, but still it comes to us as a matured Scotch whisky which the public can drink in moderate quantities without suffering much harm. That is not true of Australian whisky as it is at present.
– In fairness, the honorable member should know that Australian whisky is kept for two years in wood in bond, under the control of the Customs Department.
– I do not say that it is not a pure spirit. It may be a pure spirit, but it is not whisky. If I were a Scotchman I should protest against it being called whisky. The fact that it is the pure product of barley does not make it whisky, or a palatable or harmless drink. There are plenty of things that are pure, although not intended for human consumption. Methylated spirit is pure, and so also is varnish. The Australian spirit is not whisky, and cannot be compared with Scotch whisky, and I shall therefore vote against the item.
.- The item relating to whisky duties has been discussed from” every aspect. The subject was fully dealt with by the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Mann), who, as an analytical chemist, is, I presume, best qualified to speak respecting the merits of Australian whisky. It has been admitted that there is practically no difference between Australian and Scotch whiskies. The honorable member for Perth said nothing derogatory of the quality of Australian whisky, although he considered that it was really a matter of taste. I am astonished that the honorable member for Henty (Mr. Gullett) should have said that the more Australian whisky is consumed the more civilian widows we will have. What does the honorable member know about it to justify . him in making (that statement? I do not claim to know anything about the different qualities of whisky, but I have met many people who have tasted Australian whisky and imported whiskies, and in most cases they have been unable to detect which is Australian and which is imported. Invariably, in giving their judgment on various brands, the Australian article has been placed first or second. Unless the honorable member for Henty could justify his remark, he had no right to make it. Living in a part of Australia where the whisky he condemns is produced, he could have gone to a distillery and ascertained how it was manufactured, and if it was a varnish and not a whisky he might have secured, sufficient to polish his house. Let us contrast the honorable member’s statement with that made this afternoon by an honorable member who is an analytical chemist by profession, and who says that Australian whisky is as good as any other, that it is merely a matter of taste. I am prepared to believe that whisky produced in Australia is equal to whisky produced anywhere else. For a long time, Tanunda brandy, produced in South Australia, had no sale compared with imported brandies. There was a prejudice against it. Today, however, it is used in most of the South Australian hospitals, and it is regarded as one of the best brandies on the market. It is very seldom that brandy or whisky comes into my home except for medicinal purposes, and when I am told to get a bottle of the best brandy I ask the man who is selling spirits to give me the best on the market. Because of my ignorance in such matters, I must rely on his judgment, and nowadays I am told by him that Tanunda brandy is as good as any on the market.
– And the honorable member is not misled.
– Consequently I buy Tanunda brandy. I am satisfied that Australian whisky can be put in the same category. Advertising plays the biggest part in the sale of whisky. When I was a whisky drinker, Usher’s Green Stripe was supposed to be the best, and I drank it, but I do not think that I could tell it from Buchanan’s or White Horse. In those days, if a person called for a whisky the bottle was placed before him and he took a three-finger nip for the first, and perhaps just a tot at the fifth or sixth, at which stage he would probably not know whether it was good or bad whisky he was drinking. When I was a traveller, I was called on to act as judge in a contest. There was a bet of drinks all round, in the bar of the hotel in which I was staying, that a man, who was supposed to be an expert, could not tell whether he was drinking brandy or whisky. He was sent out of the bar, and then called in again, and asked to say whether the drinks he was given were brandy or whisky. He pronounced one to be brandy and the other whisky, but they both came out of . the same bottle. I had a similar experience on another occasion. A traveller, who thought that he was a connoisseur of’ schnapps, declared that he could tell Wolfe’s from Mueller’s. He was also sent out of the bar- while the schnapps was prepared for him. On his return he drank the samples submitted, and separated the one from the other, but they both came out of the same bottle. As the honorable member for Perth says, it is quite a matter of taste, and when we come to test men’s tastes, their tastes are all the same if they cannot get anything else. People ask for a whisky, but they look first at the label on the. bottle. If it is an Old Court label they will not take it, because they have the idea, that whisky cannot be produced in .Australia. However, 1 am not going into thai; aspect of the question.. We have v.he opportunity nf overseeing the production of Australian-made whisky, and it is manufactured from, barley malt, thus absorbing a certain amount of primary production. The main consideration with me is that we have the market for our production. I should be pleased if there was not one spot of whisky consumed, because I appreciate the moral effect of doing away with whisky. But we know that . there is a market for whisky, and that it can be increased, that we have the raw material for its manufacture, aud that we have the people who are capable of manufacturing it. As reasonable protectionists what more do we require for the promotion of an industry in our own country ? I view the matter from that stand-point. It is the stand- point from which I think it should be viewed. We can manufacture in Australia all the whisky we require: It is wonderful how well you can do .without things which, in certain circumstances, you think aro indispensable. How much better did thi> honorable member for Warringah (Sir Granville Ryrie) work on bully beef and biscuits, at the. war, than he does now on champagne and turkey. Over in Palestine he was up with the lark, and fit as a fiddle, to carry on the strenuous game of war under the worst conditions possible to imagine. Necessity knew no law with those of us who went overseas. We had to put up with things. To-day, however, we are asked to play up to the fastidious tastes of whisky drinkers instead of doing what we ought to do - utilizing our own material for our own people’s requirements. The other day, with other honorable members, I went through a match factory in Victoria. It was not very long before I saw that it was not for me to suggest any improvement in the method of manufacture, or the conditions under which the workers were employed. I also realized that it was impossible for me to find any fault. Those who paid that visit were all agreed that it was better for Australians to pay Id. or 2d. a dozen more for their matches produced as they are at Richmond than to import matches made by people over whom they have no control. The same remark applies to the manufacture of whisky or to any other industry for which Australia provides a market. It is from that view-point that I intend to cast my vote, and any fair protectionist who wishes to see Australia pro,gress will support the Government in the knowledge that protection in this instance will produce the good results we anticipate.
– I de sire to say only a few words in reply to the statements by the honorable member for Hume (Mr. Parker Moloney). The honorable member’s remarks are always amusing to me, whether I am on the floor of the chamber, or in the chair. Because I was in the latter position when the honorable member was speaking there are one or two statements that he directed to me to which I think I have the right to reply. The honorable member said I was unintentionally inaccurate in certain statements I had made in the House. He inferred, of course, that I was inaccurate. and in doing so quoted certain reports of mine. He said, for instance, that I had decreed years ago that the best class of whisky was pot-still whisky. That is the inference he drew from the report. All I can say is that I did not say any such thing.
– I quoted the honorable member’s exact words from a report he submitted in 1915.
– The honorable member has either misread the report, misunderstood it, or read into it something he wished to read into it.
– I quoted the honorable member’s exact words.
– Such a statement was not made by me. I have never attempted to place any official classification upon the quality of whisky. The honorable member for Hume also stated that I said that imported whisky had to be five years old before it could be sold in Australia. I made no such statement. I said I think that nearly all the whisky that came into Australia was five years old, and that that was governed by practice, and not by law. The accuracy of that statement, which was made before the Tariff Board, could be checked, but it was neither questioned nor denied by the Tariff Board. In dealing with imported whisky, the honorable member said that a patent spirit was used for blending. That is quite correct. The honorable member went on to say that a patent spirit, which can be manufactured from molasses, is apparently made without much restriction. The inference was that the spirit contained in imported whisky shipped from the British Isles to this country is made from molasses.. The honorable member’s insinuation is comparable with some of the insinuations made before the Tariff Board, which were accepted without question or further inquiry. Such statements are incorrect, and my authority is the official return of the British Commissioners of Customs and Excise, who, in their latest published return to the 30th September, 1924, show that the quantity of malt used was 2,600,000 cwt., unmalted grain 1,300,000 cwt., rice nil, molasses nil, other materials nil.
– Will the honorable member quote the quantity of neutral spirit imported into Great Britain from America and Germany to blend with whisky ?
– No such importations are made, and the honorable member cannot produce the figures. I know what I am speaking about, because I have been through the Customs bonds and the distilleries. Foreign plain spirit is not allowed to be used in the manufacture of whisky. Statements such as that are misleading and inaccurate, and when made before the Tariff Board have been improperly accepted without proper inquiry. The honorable member for Hume went on to deal with a technical report, and in this connexion I am reminded of the old saying, “ Let not the shoemaker go beyond his last.” In quoting the report he was most unfortunate in using a document he did not understand. The report from which he quoted drew certain conclusions on the basis of estimates in regard to certain ingredients, in connexion with one of which the analyst stated that he had not the time to carry out an analysis correctly, and in regard to another that he had not confidence in the method employed. It is upon statements such as that that the committee is asked to come to a decision. On the face of it, the analyst’s conclusions are ridiculous, and should not receive the slightest consideration. Further, the honorable member went on to say that the Scotch whisky distillers were making a huge profit, and that they were robbing the Australian public to the extent of £1,250,000 a year. Were the Australian people compelled to pay this amount? That they were receiving it is true, but why use the word “ robbing”? Was any force used? The only force was the preference exercised by the Australian public. Notwithstanding this natural protection, the local manufacturers are asking for more. Judging from the analogy which the honorable member for Hume (Mr. Parker Moloney) used, in which he said that the public acquired a taste by reading newspaper advertisements, I assume that the principal object which the honorable member for Hume had in view was to encourage the hope that the public might obtain an acquired taste for the views of the honorable member for Hume by reading Hansard.
.- The honorable member for Perth (Mr. Mann) said that the importation into
England of neutral, flavourless, and odourless spirits was not allowed. The honorable member should know something about this question, seeing that it cost £2,500 to enable him to inquire into it. The honorable member’s enthusiasm and zeal for importations are not confined to whisky; he believes in importing everything. If there is any article or commodity which the honorable member does not desire to be imported, I have not heard of it.
– That is a misstatement.
– It is no misstatement to say that I have not heard the honorable member mention one commodity which he is in favour of seeing manufactured in Australia. Notwithstanding the denial of the honorable member, the fact remains that large quantities of this spirit are imported into England as Scotch whisky. I have here a letter from the Federal Distilleries Proprietary Limited, which contains the following statement : -
As regards the statement that any mixture of Scotch whisky and foreign spirit must be described on the packet and the certificate of age as “ British and foreign spirit mixed in bond,” we would state that this is partly correct; but our objection is that this blended spirit, imported in casks, is sold not as “ British and foreign spirit mixed in bond,” but as “Scotch whisky.”
Believing that what has been done in connexion with Australian brandy can be done also with Australian whisky, I consider the duties in the schedule are warranted, and shall vote for the item.
.- I intend to vote for this item, because I consider that whisky is a luxury. The actual extent of the increase which the consumer of whisky will be called upon to pay under these duties will be about1d. a nobbier only. Those who can afford to drink whisky can afford to pay that extra price to assist an Australian industry which not only employs a large number of men in the distilleries, but also helps hundreds of primary producers by absorbing large quantities of their barley. The prejudice that previously existed against Australiandistilled spirits has been overcome so far as brandy is concerned; while the high standard which our excise laws demand has practically given the home market for rum to the Australian manufacturer. According to information supplied to me, Australian gin is also finding an increasing market in this country. I can see no reason why Australian whisky also should not break down the existing prejudice. It is practically impossible to detect by the smell any difference between Australian and Scotch whisky. Seeing that no one will suffer greatly from this increased duty, and that the Australian worker, whose earning power is not sufficient to enable him to consume quantities of whisky, will not be adversely affected, I shall, consistently with my attitude at all times towards Australian industries, vote for this item.
Question - That the item be agreed to - put. The committee divided.
Majority … … 28
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Item agreed to.
Motion (by Mr. Bruce) proposed -
That the House, at its rising, adjourn until to-morrow, at 11 a.m.
.- I have no desire to object to the motion, but I hope that the Prime Minister will not regard my approval as a precedent. The Opposition is agreeable to this course being adopted on the present occasion because Easter is approaching, and we wish to assist the Government to dispose of the tariff.
– I assure the honorable gentleman that I shall in no sense regard as u precedent his most admirable attitude on this occasion. I believe that the proposal of the Government conforms to the wishes of honorable members. I am very much Obliged to the Leader of the Opposition for his co-operation.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 10.56 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 22 March 1926, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1926/19260322_reps_10_112/>.