1st Parliament · 1st Session
The President took the choir at 10.30’ a.m., and read prayers.
asked the PostmasterGenera], upon notice -
Whether it is the cose that, oh Sunday, the 11th inst. , Cobb and Co. run a buggy, with five passengers, from Hughenden to Richmond, but refused to carry the’ mails?
– Inquiry is being made.
saunders V. matheson.
Ordered (on motion by Senator Sir John Downer)-
That the Clerk of the Parliaments be authorized to return to Henry John Saunders, or to his order, the sum of Fifty pounds, lodged with the Clerk us security for costs in the matter of the Petition of Henry John Saunders against the electionand return of Alexander Percival Matheson as a senator for the State of Western Australia.
In Committee (Consideration resumed from 19th. May, vide page 12629).
Clause 6 -
All duties of customs collected pursuant to any Tariff or Tariff alteration shall be deemed to hare been lawfully imposed and collected, and no additional duty shall be payable on any goods on which duty was so collected, merely by reason that the rate at which the duty was so collected is less than the rate of duty specified in this Act, andno duty shall be payable in respect of goods deliveredfor home consumption tree of duty pursuant to any Tariff or Tariff alteration.
– This clause proposes to retain in hand duties paid on articles which are now declared by the schedule to be free. A proposal was indicated last night for an amendment to enable the return of duties which have been paid, but to which legislative sanction has not been granted, in cases where the goods remain’ in their original packages. It is simply asking for that which every owner of such goods can obtain for himself without the intervention of the amendment. Under the law it is competent for the importers to get a refund of these duties even if this clause is passed ; and, what is more, merchants who have paid abrogated duties are getting their money back every day or every week. All the owner has to do is to ship the articles on which the duty has been paid and obtain a refund by way of drawback. Goods are being shipped from Sydney under these circumstances to Berth, and the drawback is obtained in Sydney. At Perth the goods are transhipped as free goods and come back to Sydney, and all the owner loses is the amount of freight each way, which is not a ruinous item when the goods are of any special value.
-The Customs Act cannot be administered properly.
-Col. NEILD. - It is a rule of Customs, whore goods on which duties have been paid are reshipped, to refund the money.
– But where drawback is paid a certificate litis to accompany the goods, I understand)
-Col. NEILD. - How can any certificate affect the point? The goods are shipped.
– : But when they reach Fremantle they are landed in the Commonwealth.
-Col. NEILD.- If the goods are shipped to New Zealand, or New Caledonia, they come back as free goods from such place.
-On the face of it they must have been honestly shipped, or the drawback would not be allowed. If it is done by way of a dodge, it is dishonestly done.
– It is an absolute shipment, and the law provides for the refund of duty on goods reshipped.
– Within the Commonwealth?
-Col. NEILD. - I believe it is done within the Commonwealth, and I must own that I do not quite understand how that particular feat is accomplished.
– The honorable senator would do a great public service if he would give some particulars of the persons who are doing it.
-Col. NEILD.- The honorable and learned gentleman can look after himself pretty well, and I think that the Minister for Trade and Customs, who, judging by the daily press, does not seem to have enough to do to occupy him, can look after this matter very well, . instead of harrying the attendance-books of junior clerks and other people. It certainly can be done without any attempt at evasion of the law as long as the goods are shipped beyond the Commonwealth. Supposing, for instance, that a firm has a warehouse in Melbourne and in New Caledonia or New Zealand. It cannot possibly be alleged that there is any evasion of the law or any trickery in the firm shipping goods from its branch in Melbourne to a branch in another country. It is done for the purpose of -business. If the goods are re-shipped there under proper Customs entry they are re-shipped of course as free goods and landed here as free goods, and there is nothing to pay on them. My object is to point out that in the amendment, which was indicated last night, to enable a refund to be made where the goods remain in original packages, the Government will really not - and I understand they are willing to grant some concession - make the sacrifice which perhaps may appear on the surface.
– Where did the honorable senator understand that from ? I am not willing to make any concession.
– I understood, and I think the whole committee understood, that the Minister assented to, indeed wished, an adjournment of the debate last night. We must all be cognizant that efforts were made to stop an honorable senator on this side, in order that the debate might be adjourned for the purpose of considering the form of the amendment it was proposed to submit to-day.
– The honorable senator is quite in error.
-I certainly understood the honorable and learned gentleman to assent to an adjournment of the debate for the purpose of considering the form of the amendment which Senator Gould was to submit this morning. I hope that he has prepared an amendment. If he has it shall have my cordial support, as I have no doubt that it will be in a reasonable and sensible form, because the Government will practically lose nothing by its adoption.
– I took special care* last night to state that, although I would consent to progress being reported for the purpose of Senator Gould considering any amendment he wished to move, I was absolutely opposed to any amendment of the clause, and to the principle upon which he proposed to found his amendment, and I added that, perhaps, after sleeping over the matter he might think better of it, and not propose an amendment. I had nothing to do with the stopping of the debate. I intimated to Senator Symon at the table that I was willing to adjourn, and an honorable senator who knew of that intimation spoke to Senator Harney, who was speaking at the time. It may be that the processes to which Senator Neild refers to are being carried out. If these drawbacks are being obtained, they can be obtained under the law only in one way. There must be a declarationmade that the goods are not intended for re-im portation. If that declaration hasbeen made falsely, a fraud has been committed on the Customs, and if any information can be obtained about it the offenderswill be punished.
– Senator Neild has been a commercial man, and he knows how to do these things.
– Senator Neild has had some experience in commercial matters, and I assume that this dodge or device is no new thing to him. Of course I make no personal imputation against him in any way whatever ; and the honorable senator has doubtless only stated here what he haslearned from other persons. But assuming that these things are being done, is that any reason why the policy laid down in this clause should be departed from 1 That policy is that it is impossible now to make a refund of duties which have been collected. The reason is that if any attempt were made to do that, it could only end in theencouragementof fraud and in the putting of double profits into the pockets of importers, while it would fail to do justice in making returns to people who were entitled to them. The bulk of the goods in question are sold, and have passed into the hands of the consumer. Not only that, but when the duty has been paid on them, and they have passed into the hands of the consumer, the consumer is charged with the price of the goods, plus the duty. In nearly all these instances there has been a great deal of profit made by the merchants, importers, and wholesale dealers out of the duties charged by the Tariff ; and the amount of the duty has been added to the price the consumer had to pay, together probably with interest on the amount. If a refund were made who would get it? The large dealer; and he would be able to put that refund into his pocket, having already made a profit out of the unfortunate consumer to that very amount.
– My amendment does not contemplate that.
– I have not seen the honorable and learned senator’s amendment, but that is the reason why what is asked for cannot be done, and the objection would apply to any case Senator Gould might possibly mention. I might multiply instances but it is not necessary. I think it must be perfectly clear that at this time we cannot make refunds so as to do justice. But there is another reason. Senator Gould said, I think, that there are cases in which these goods have not passed out into consumption. There are cases of that sort. The first class of cases is where goods remain in bond. If they remain in bond, of course a remission takes place ; because if the goods were dutiable when they went into bond, and while they are there an alteration takes place and the goods become free, they lire taken out as free goods. But if they have once passed out of - bond ~ and are in the warehouse of the merchant, and are sold, there is great difficulty of identification. I dare say there are hundreds of cases in which the identification would be perfectly honest, but look at the opportunity for fraud which would be given. There might, for instance, be a thousand cases of tinned fish on which article there has been a reduction of half the duty which was originally charged. What is the difference between one lot of tinned fish and another? A merchant might have a hundred cases of tinned fish which had been in his store long before the imposition of the duty took place. They might be produced as goods upon which a refund should be made. What possible check have the Custom-house officials over matters of identification of that kind ? It is said that there may be cases in which it would be possible to trace the identical articles, such as the case of certain machinery. I dare say there are ; but why stop at any particular kind of machinery 1 There may be machinery which is capable of identification, but there are other kinds - such as the smaller classes of agricultural machinery - in which the different machines are exactly like one another. There might be a good deal of difficulty attending identification in such instances. And if machines, why not parts of machines which are capable of identification % If you begin to go into the question and try to make exceptions; it will be found to be impracticable. And why should an exception be made . because an article is identifiable ? It may be easy to get over the difficulty in some cases; but if that be so, why should a person who has sold a particular kind of article be entitled to a refund, whereas another person who has paid duty on another article which is more difficult to trace is not entitled to a refund 1 There is only one way of having fairness all round, and that is to provide that, the duty having been paid, it cannot be paid back.
– The payment has not been sanctioned by law.
– Of course not : we know that no collection is sanctioned by law until we pass a law ; but we are now passing a measure to sanction a collection which has been made on the best possible grounds of public convenience and public policy. The amount involved in these proposed, refunds is very large indeed. We find it is impossible to arrive at an accurate estimate ; but it certainly would involve £100,000. That would be the cost of doing what might be absolute justice in ‘a few cases in which identification might be made, but it would be absolutely wrong in the public interest to sacrifice this large amount of revenue, and to do a great amount of injustice in hundreds of other cases. I hope, therefore, that the clause will be allowed to remain exactly as it stands.
– Senator O’Connor speaks about £100,000 of revenue being involved. It is not revenue at all. It is money which has been taken from people from whom we have taken the right to add the amount so paid to the value of the goods, to be ultimately recovered from the consumers. The position of importers is that they are agents for the Government in the matter of revenue. They pay the revenue to the Government on the distinct understanding that they will be enabled to collect the money from the users or consumers of the goods. That is the case all the world over ; and it has always been customary when duties have been remitted that notice should be given of such remission, so that holders of stock would be able to clear out.
– That has never been the practice in Victoria.
– It has practically been the world-wide custom when a Ministry brings in a Customs Bill reducing or remitting duties for notice to be given that the reduction or remission will take place on a given day. I know that that has always been the practice in England.
– Does “the honorable senator say that notice is given beforehand t
– Yes ; when a Bill has been passed in Great Britain abolishing a duty, some date ahead has been fixed in order to give the owners of goods an opportunity to clear out.
– That is a different position altogether. Because in that case you remit a duty - you do not collect it. This is the other way about.
– It is the same principle. We should give the holders of stock an opportunity to clear out. The same thing occurred in America some years ago, when the last great Tariff was passed.’ It came into force on the 1st January. I remember reading of how a Cunard steamer arrived in New York just on the stroke of midnight on 31st December, and how the captain rushed to the Custom-house to hand in his papers, so that the whole of his cargo might come in under the old Tariff instead of under the new one. I admit that in the set of circumstances with which we are now faced great difficulties have arisen, and I have a great deal of sympathy with the Government in the situation they have to meet. The Government have done what they thought right for the welfare of the Commonwealth as a whole. But it is our duty to consider the position, and to see that injustice of a very grave character is not inflicted on a number of merchants and importers. I am not. at one with the view of Senator Neild. I think his statement as to shipment under drawback is not quite correct. According to the correspondence I have, this is the position. I will mention a specific case which has been cited to me : A merchant in Sydney imported 100 cases of benzine, upon which he paid duty at the rate of 3d., which was understood to be the duty at the time. The Customs officers afterwards said that the duty ought to have been 6d., and demanded the extra 3d. from the importer, notwithstanding the fact that in the interval the House of Representatives had lowered the duty to a £d. The firm told me that they could not export the goods and recover more than £d. duty, that being the duty existing at the present time. The Customs officials refused to recognise any drawback in excess of the amount which was then on the Customs books. That is a position which must strike everybody as being radically wrong. From what I am told I believe that there is a lack of uniformity. Things are being done in one capital that are not done in another. Several instances of this have been mentioned to me. The more this matter is considered the more it will grow upon honorable senators. I am inclined to suggest to Senator Gould that it would be a wise thing, having brought this matter forward, to allow the clause to remain for reconsideration and recommittal if necessary at a later stage of the Bill, when honorable senators may be more seized of the facts in connexion with the whole affair and better able to do full justice.
– I should like to see the Government give way a little in this matter. I know that the grievance complained of has pressed very heavily upon a large number of small importers. A man in Adelaide imported some glassware n.e.i., upon which duty was charged at the rate of 8d. per
Cubic foot, and 15 per cent, ad valorem. He paid the duty, which came to £9 on about £20 worth of goods. On the day after he got those goods into his store the House of Representatives struck off the composite duty and left the ad valorem duty. That man could have sent to the Custom-house officers in Adelaide, who could have gone to his store and in a very few minutes identified every package on which he had paid duty. In such cases it is only fair and reasonable that the duty paid should be returned. It is quite true, as Senator Pulsford has said, that the importer simply advances the duty to the Government, and gets it back from the consumer - with, it is true, interest on his advance. At the same time, when it has been clearly shown that a merchant cannot receive from his customers that which he has advanced to the Government on their behalf, it is only fair, the articles not having passed into consumption, that there should be a refund. I hope the matter may be fully discussed, so as to. avoid injustice to importers and the public.
– This difficulty has arisen to a great extent from the fact that the Government in another place departed from the invariable rule of the old country. When a Tariff is introduced in England the duties are levied, and no change is made until the whole of the resolutions of the House of Commons have been reported and adopted. I am bound, in fairness, to say that the practice adopted by the Commonwealth Government is that which has prevailed in Victoria, not always, but of late years. It is a most undesirable plan, which causes heavy loss and considerable injustice to importers. But the new course has been adopted, and varying duties have been levied on the mere resolution of another place, followed next morning by instructions from the Minister for Trade and Customs. This has been going on for a good many months, and we have ‘ got into such a state of chaos that I confess I do not see how we can get over the difficulty, except by some such rough-and ready means as are provided in the clause. As Senator Charleston says, goods can in many cases be identified, and if under such circumstances the duty could be refunded, nothing more than justice would be done so far as a particular branch of trade or a particular firm is concerned. In my own trade, which is by no means a small one, it would be practically impossible to adopt that plan. The goods are in bulk, and in nine cases out of ten’ we could not satisfactorily prove to the Customs authorities that specified goods had been subject to a certain duty. The other night I referred to the difficulty concerning the documents required in the case of exports to Tasmania and the other States. In that case, as in this, we are asked to do an impossibility, and I agree with Senator O’Connor that any plan except that suggested by the Government would open the door to an immense amount of fraud. Much as I dislike what has been done, I am bound to say, speaking on behalf of a large number of ‘merchants whose feelings I know, that the better plan is to let “ sleeping dogs lie,” and not attempt to place one firm, who may be able to identify their goods, in an infinitely better position than some other firm, who may not be able to supply the necessary proof to the Customs. In some cases the gain to the merchant has been considerable, but in many other cases there has been great loss, and on the whole I think there has been more loss than gain under the varying Tariff. There is nothing absolutely new in the suggestion of Senator Neild as to drawback. Such a plan has been in operation for a great many years as between the States, but an absolute declaration has to be made that the goods have been bond fide sold, or are being sent to the branch of a firm in another State. I do not hesitate to say that under that plan there has been fraud, and probably there is fraud now. Those in the trade who desire to conduct their business in a straightforward manner should do all they can to put a stop to such fraudulent action.
Senator Lt.-Col. NEILD (New South Wales). - In reply to the virtuous indignation of Senator O’Connor, I would point out that this is a matter which really is not within the reach of the law in many cases. A buys from B goods on which the duty has been paid, on condition that they are delivered free on board with all shipping charges paid. B buys the goods, but’ has nothing to do with the payment of wharfage or similar charges.
– B has to make the declaration.
– I venture to think that the opposite is the case, because A is the shipper and recovers the drawback of duty, while B eventually does what he likes with the goods without the knowledge of A. A fine opportunity is presented to men who are not actually in business in the ordinary way of commerce to enter on ventures of the kind which I have indicated. I do not know of any case where’ regular mercantile firms have entered into any dubious transactions in this connexion, but it is the practice of adventurers who see an opportunity of making money.
– The goods are sent to another market for sale.
-Col. NEILD. - The goods are “not sent for sale, but to come back. The man who gets the drawback does not know the intention of the buyer in regard to the goods, and has no further responsibility, actual or moral. c
– This clause is applicable under two sets of circumstances ; first, to duties which have been subsequently remitted, and secondly, to duties which have been subsequently increased. In the one case the clause provides that there is to be no refund, and in the other case that there is to be no additional charge. We must all have been struck by the remarks of Senator Sargood, as to the difficulties which may arise. To my mind there is only one set of circumstances which could possibly be met by any amendment, the object of which is to do what may be regarded as fair and just. That would be in the case of goods which have not left the bond and have not gone into consumption.
– No difficulty arises if goods have not left the bond.
– Just so, but after goods have left the bond and the duty has been paid, it seems to me that then would arise all the difficulties which have been pointed out by Senator Sargood. There is first the difficulty of identification, and secondly the difficulty that we might be making an allowance to one trader which it would be impossible to make to another. Like Senator Sargood, I attribute the confusion which has arisen to the departure from what I have always regarded as the ordinary practice. The Tariff, as laid on the table of the House of Representatives, should be treated as the Tariff absolutely and finally until it is enacted into law, either, as in England, on the adoption of the report by the House of Commons, or as here, where the Senate have an equal share of the financial arrangements, by the passing of the Bill in this Chamber. I quite agree with honorable members who dissent strongly from the administrative action of bringing into operation the remission of the tea duty until the Senate had had an opportunity of considering the matter. The difficulty now is how to deal with the duties in order to mete out justice in all directions. What is proposed is like lopping off a limb, or doing something in a rough-and-ready way in order, perhaps, to avoid greater difficulty and trouble. The plan proposed in the clause is to destroy any right to refund, while on the other hand absolutely removing any obligation to pay extra duty ; and in fairness the latter phase must be taken into consideration. While on the one hand the importer or merchant may lose by paying duties, which are subsequently remitted, he may dear commodities on which the duties are subsequently increased.
– There are not many of the latter cases.
– Perhaps not ; but that is the balance which is set out in the clause.
– Many firms deal in only one class of goods.
– I have all along appreciated the difficulties occasioned by the departure from the ordinary procedure ; but the question now is, what is the best course to adopt. I think that Senator Pulsford’s suggestion is possibly, the wisest under the circumstances, and I commend it to Senator Gould, namely, that he should not press the amendment, but allow it to rest until he is able to frame a proposal which will meet a class of cases in which it is possible to work out a fair basis. Senator Gould can have a later opportunity to bring the matter forward by means of recommittal or some other course.
Senator CHARLESTON (South Australia). - I urge Senator Gould to adopt the plan suggested by Senator Pulsford. I know that at a later date we shall be able to present a great many cases, which will appeal to the sense of justice of honorable senators. The method the Government have adopted has been very oppressive, and in many cases people have found themselves almost crippled in their business.
– I am glad to have received so much of an expression of opinion in regard to my proposal. At the same time, although I have listened most attentively to the remarks made, more particularly by Senator Sargood and Senator O’Connor, I am not satisfied that the clause will do an act of justice to the community. We are asked to assist the Government in the imposition of duty, and the Government come to us and say - “ We have extracted illegally out of the pockets of the people of this country, importers or others, £100,000.” I do not like to use the word “ rob,” but the Government have taken this amount out of the pockets of the people, and because it is not convenient to repay it, we are asked to pass a clause which will” make the collection of that money legal. In ordinary commercial life we know what would be said of a man who took money out of the pocket of another, and then proposed to legalize that act, knowing that otherwise he would probably be sent to prison. It is just as well to point out clearly what a clause of this kind means. If the £100,000 had been only 100,000 pence would the Government have fought so hard for it? It is because £100,000 is an inconvenient sum to refund out of the public Treasury that the individuals to whom it must be of a great deal more concern are compelled to- put up with its extraction from them, illegally it is admitted, but in order to prevent the perpetration of fraud upon the Customs. I agree that we should not make opportunities for fraud ; but while I am at one with the Government in that, I say that they should not place themselves in a false position if it can be avoided. I admit at once that where there is an impossibility of identification of goods, we must adopt the rough-and.ready method proposed here for dealing with the matter. But I do not ask for a refund of duty paid except in cases where it can be shown to the satisfaction of the Collector of Customs, who represents the Government in this matter, that goods Iia ve been taken out of bond -and the duty paid upon them, and that “those goods have never been parted with. Where that can be shown to the satisfaction of the representative of the Government, it is reasonable and just, as between the Government and the community generally, that a refund should be made. We recognise that in our Customs Acts, in the provisions made for the payment of drawback upon goods upon which duty has been paid, and which are subsequently re-exported for sale in another country. Why should the importer, who is allowed drawback in such a case, be placed in any better position than the mas who says he is going to sell goods upon which he has paid duty to the community in which he lives ? The latter is certainly” entitled to a refund of duty which is no longer legally collectable upon goods, which, if they had remained in bond, would no longer be liable to duty. If it were a matter of private concern, I am sure that every honorable senator would be prepared to carry out that principle : and in a matter of this kind there should be no difference as between two private individuals and as between the Government and an individual. So long as the Government are satisfied that no fraud has been perpetrated they should do justice and say - “ Having taken money out of your pocket, which Parliament lias since decided has been taken from you improperly, we hand it back to you.”
– What would the honorable and learned senator do in the case of increases of duties ?
– In the cases of increases of duties, matters must be allowed to stand as they are, because the individual has taken out his goods, paid duty upon them and distributed them, and it is impossible to trace them.
– If we make the Governmnent refund, we should make the individual pay where a duty has been increased.
– It would be impossible to follow the goods upon which lie has paid duty, though not the increased duty subsequently imposed by Parliament. Senator Sargood has said that we should not place one firm in a better position than another. He points out that a firm importing goods, not absolutely in bulk, may not be able to obtain a refund of duty, while another firm importing in a different way may get a refund. In other words, because we cannot do justice to one individual we should not do justice to Another, to whom justice can be done, on the principle that two wrongs will make a right. Because in the case of goods imported by Senator Sargood, justice cannot be done, the honorable senator says, we should not do justice to Senator Gould, in whose case justice might be done.
– Let me put another case to the honorable and learned senator. We may be able to give a refund in the case of a merchant who sells to 1 00 people, but how can we give a refund to the consumer 1
– I propose only that a refund should be given to the merchant upon so much of his goods as he has not parted with, and that it should be proved to the satisfaction of the Collector of Customs, who is the representative of the Government, that the goods have not been tampered with.
– He may have sold to hundreds of persons with the duty added, and they cannot get the benefit of the refund.
– That is because we cannot follow out the goods. The proposition is that because We cannot do justice to Senator Drake, we must deliberately and wilfully do an injustice to Senator O’Connor.
– Does the identification of particular packages prove that they have not been “ sold and delivered “ ?
– We must take declarations for that in the same way that they are taken in the case of drawbacks. If a man makes a false declaration to secure drawback he is properly punished, but we must give men credit for acting with a little decency.
– What is the necessity for producing the goods for identification if we are going to simply take the importer’s word ?
– It is simply a matter of business. If I bought a horse from the honorable and learned senator I should like to look at the horse, and have him examined before I took him. If a man buys property he_ asks the vendor to produce his title. He may have no doubt of the honesty of the individual, but he has a right to see that the title is clear, as an ordinary matter of business. Notwithstanding all that has been said by Senator O’Connor and other honorable senators, this is a matter in which only abstract justice is sought, and it should be given. Some of my honorable friends suggest that I should let the matter pass at the present time. If it will conserve the time of the committee I am willing to let it pass at present, but not with the intention of dropping it, because I shall most assuredly bring the matter again before honorable senators upon the recommittal of the clause. It is possible that honorable senators may then be better prepared to assist me, because I do not believe that they are at present as fully seized of the justice of the proposal I make as it is desirable they should be. I mentioned a case in point last night, Senator Charleston has mentioned others to-day, and let me mention another before I sit down. A firm of manufacturers in New South Wales introduced a large amount of new machinery for which they had to pay a high duty, amountto nearly £400. Since then the rate of duty upon that machinery has been reduced from 25 to 15 per cent. The firm had ordered the machinery, took it out of bond, and put it into their works, because it was necessary for the carrying on of their business, and now they find that their rivals can buy the same class of machinery with a 15 per cent, duty, while they had to pay a duty of 25 per cent.
– Does not that cut both ways % Suppose they had bought the machinery with a 15 per cent, duty, and it had then been raised to 25 per cent. ?
– I admit that it does cut both ways. We know that mining machinery in enormous quantities has been introduced into Western Australia, from the time the Tariff was introduced, and much of it had to pay high duties. The machinery introduced later has had to pay lower duties, with the result that the man of greater enterprise has been handicapped as against the man of possibly less enterprise. Cases of this kind might be multiplied in connexion with every division of’ the Tariff. I say that we should do justice where we can, and where, by reason of the difficulty of identifying goods, we find it impossible, I admit we must adopt the rough-and-ready mode provided by clause 6 of the Bill. Where we can do justice to one individual, we should do it, though there may be 99 to whom it is impossible for us to do justice.
– Were those individuals not taking ordinary business risks 1
– I know they took ordinary business risks, but in New South ‘Wales where a man has paid duty under .executive authority, as in these cases, and Parliament subsequently declines t’o ratify the duties collected, the person paying those duties has always received a refund as a matter of course. It has been regarded as a perfectly fair thing that the Government should not take revenue from a man which Parliament decides they are not entitled to get. I hope honorable senators will agree that that is the principle upon which we should act. I shall not submit ray amendment now, though I have it written; it provides for a refund only in such cases as are made clear to the satisfaction of the Customs authorities.
– Every delay in dealing with this proposal will only make the matter worse.
– I am aware of that, but I do not propose to proceed with the amendment at the present moment.
– I know the case presented last night by Senator Gould is rather an exceptional case. I dare say those referred to by Senator Charleston and by Senator Gould, this morning, are also exceptional cases, but as Senator Dawson has interjected every case of the kind cuts both ways. We all know that since, and for some time before, the introduction ‘of the Tariff Bill, there has been gambling in connexion with the commercial affairs of this Commonwealth. We know that some were waiting for the remission of duties, and some for the imposition of duties, one hoping to raise the price of the article to the consumer, and the other to get an article out of bond. We know that when, a remission of the tea duty took place, there was a rush to take all goods out of bond which could possibly be stored anywhere else. There is a very numerous section in the Senate who have a desire to re-impose the duty upon tea. If they succeed in their efforts, and Senator Gould finds that the country has lost a great deal in revenue, will the honorable and learned senator make any attempt to get it back from the people who have benefited very likely to the extent of thousands of pounds by a gamble of this description. What the Government have done may not have had the sanction of law, but it was done legally enough, and when the Tariff was introduced and the duties collected, they were collected just as legally as any duties we are collecting to-day. If 25 per cent, duties were charged up to a certain date, and then the House of Representatives reduced them to 15 per cent, or abolished them altogether, and the Administration admitted that it was a fair thing to take off that duty in the case of those who might take goods out of bond, they were acting just as legally as they are doing at the present time. I fail to see that any one should complain that a duty was charged for two or three clays or months and then remitted. Therefore I hold that the only thing which Parliament can do at the present time is to pass a clause like this in order to validate anything that has been done in this direction. I hope that we shall decide the matter now. What is the use of creating greater doubts in the minds of commercial men by keeping a matter like this hanging over them?
– Holding out false hopes.
– Exactly. Let the matter be decided now. I trust that it will be decided in favour pf the Customs department retaining everything that it has collected. We know very well that far more attempts are made to defraud the Customs than are made afterwards to do them justice. Senator Gould went so far as to say that we were robbing the public in retaining revenue collected in respect of duties which were remitted subsequently by the House of Representatives. The people to whom Senator Gould referred number at the most only a few thousands, and when he is talking in this way he should remember that he is paying very little attention to the interests of the whole Commonwealth. Is he going to sacrifice the interests of the people as a whole merely to benefit a few merchants or speculators, who ase always prepared to take advantage, not only of the Customs department, but of the Government and the people of
Australia generally ? I hope that the clause will be carried.
– Senator McGregor seems to think that the cases which were quoted last night and those which have been mentioned to-day are exceptional. I can assure the Senate that they are not. There are many cases other than those which have been referred to.
– All exceptional cases.
– The honorable senator persists in his statement. I did nob intend to speak on this clause, but it is really absurd for an honorable senator to refer in this way to thousands of transactions. In Western Australia there are no bonded stores for dynamite, and shipments of dynamite and fuse have to be cleared immediately. Large shipments of these explosives were made, into Western Australia during the few months immediately prior to the remission of the duty, and every one who made those importations had to pay duty on them. The importers had no option in regard to leaving the goods in bond. There was no question of speculation involved, nor any attempt to defraud -the revenue by clearing goods immediately. The importers were inevitably penalized, owing to the position in which they had been placed by the Government. It is monstrous for an honorable senator to say that those who made these importations into Western Australia under the circumstances I have named are not entitled to a refund in respect of the dynamite and fuse which they have now iu stock.
– Of course they are entitled to a refund.
– Undoubtedly they are. When the Tariff was laid on the table of another place it mentioned the highest rates of duties which the Government believed they could carry. Under ordinary circumstances a Government pin their existence to the rates of duties contained in their Tariff, and are prepared to stand or fall by them. That being the case, they take care to fix reasonable rates. But what did the present Government do ? They did not care a pin whether the rates proposed -were carried or not. They intended to penalize the importer even if they were not Carried. They admitted that at the first. What happened? They, allowed reductions representing £1,000,000 of revenue to be made in their Tariff, without turning a hair, simply because they knew that they did not. mean to go out of office, and that they intended to bring down this clause, making it impossible for importers who were victimized to obtain any redress. That is the way in which I, and nearly every one in Western Australia, feel in regard to this matter. 1 speak for the majority of that State. It is all very well for Senator McGregor to jeer and to say that importers take their risks. But what is the position in regard to all the mining men in Western Australia who were compelled to pay the original rate of duty on the machinery which they imported? They have absolutely lost the amount of capital represented by the difference in the rates. That result has not been due to any speculative desire on their part ; they did not consider the question of profit or loss; they desired simply to pay the ordinary business rates on their machinery. Now they find that in comparison with any one who imports mining machinery to-day they are handicapped to the extent of 10 per cent. That is a crying injustice, and if any step, can be taken to remedy it, I for one shall be prepared to take it.
Clause agreed to.
All imitations to be dutiable at the rate chargeable on the goods they imitate, unless such rate is less than the rate which would otherwise be chargeable on the imitations. . . .
– I am not quite clear in regard to how this paragraph would affect such goods as flannelettes and velveteens. If Parliament in its wisdom were to decide that flannelette should be free, it appears to- me that there would be a conflict between this provision and the item itself; it might be alleged that flannelette, being an imitation of flannel, should pay the full duty imposed on the article which it imitated. I shall be glad if Senator O’Connor will explain the position:
– It appears to me that if the Tariff were altered in such a way that flannelette as a special article was allowed to come in free, it could not be regarded as an imitation. I take it that the word “ imitations “ refers to some article which is not specifically mentioned in the Tariff, but which is an imitation of an article which is included in the Tariff. That, I think, must be the meaning. It is perfectly clear that it would be unnecessary to speak of an article as an imitation if it were specifically mentioned in the Tariff, but when an article is imported, which is an imitation of something in respect of which a duty is provided, it must in any case pay the higher duty.
– But if flannelette were made free?
– Then it could not be regarded as an imitation. In one sense flannelette is an imitation of flannel, but if we have flannelette and flannel in the Tariff, I do not think that for the purposes of the Customs Act the former could be regarded as an imitation of the latter.
– If flannelette were placed on the list of exemptions it would be regarded as an imitation of flannel.
– I do not think it
Would be classed as an imitation of flannel. If we have flannelette and flannel in the Tariff they must be taken as two distinct articles’ for the purposes of the Customs Act.
– The point to which Senator Pulsford has directed attention is not to be passed by lightly. It ‘will involve some considerable watchfulness when we are going through the items in order to see that no difficulties arise. But in the present state of the Tariff the two illustrations which Senator Pulsford has given do not cover the point to the extent that others will do, which we shall be able to find later on. The committee .will find that in item 66 flannelettes and flannels are both specifically mentioned as though they were original products, and, of course, for the purposes of the Tariff, one is not an imitation of the other. Flannelette is possibly an imitation of flannel as a fabric; for the purposes of the Tariff, however, it is not an imitation but an original fabric. In another paragraph of the same item the committee will find velvets and velveteens in the same category, as well as plushes, which might be likewise to some extent an imitation. I am rather inclined to agree with the Postmaster-General that if these articles were placed in the exemption list the preliminary paragraph to which Senator Pulsford has referred would not override the special exemption. At the same time, I hope that’ Senator
Pulsford will keep the point in view, and see that no difficulty arises. If there is any article which the committee does not desire to bear the full duty of, say, the original fabric, but which answers to the description of an imitation, under this preliminary paragraph, it would be well to point it out when we come to it.
Preliminary paragraphs agreed to.
– For the guidance of the committee, may I be permitted to make a very few remarks as to the course I propose to adopt? Of course every honorable senator is anxious that we should get through the various items promptly, and I desire the committee to assist me to confine the discussions to the item immediately before the Chair. The limitation, of course, is subject to this exception : If a Customs item is before the Chair, and there is a corresponding item of excise duty, honorable senators will be at liberty to discuss both at the same time ; the fullest freedom will be granted in that regard. It is true that, possibly, incidental references will have’ to be’ made by way of illustration to certain items in the Tariff other than that before the Chair, but I desire honorable senators to understand that the right to make those references must be exercised only within reasonable limits. I cannot permit any full or detailed discussion of any item unless it is before the Chair, or so completely related to the item before the Chair, that it cannot well be separated from it. In regard to the putting of the question, I propose to read first the line “Import duties “ at the beginning of the Tariff, and then to announce the division - “Division 1 - Stimulants.” I will then put the question - “That item 1 stand as printed.” Item 1 is not very lengthy, but there are items which are lengthy, and it will be the duty of honorable senators who desire to move that a request be made to the House of Representatives in connexion with any item, to rise directly the item is named, and let me know the nature of the alteration which they desire. It will be my duty to see that proper order is observed in the stating of these proposed alterations to the committee, and that no honorable senator is deprived of an opportunity to move for an alteration.
– But I presume that when a suggestion relating to the latter portion of an item has been dealt with, a suggestion relating to the earlier portion will be out of order?
– Yes. So far as that is concerned, it will be necessary to observe the ordinary rule in regard to the stating of amendments upon clauses. For instance, if an alteration is requested in item 1 in regard to ale “per gallon, ls.,” it will not be competent to afterwards go back to ale “per gallon, ls. 6d.” If it becomes necessary to revise an item, no doubt the lender of the Government will see that it is reconsidered. Where one honorable senator desires the reduction and another the increase of a duty, I propose to follow the practice of the House of Commons and put the reduction first. For instance, if an honorable senator desires to reduce the duty upon ale in bottle to ls. per gallon, and another to increase it to 2s. per gallon, I shall take first the proposal to reduce it to ls. per gallon, and, if that is defeated, I shall take the proposal to increase the duty to 2s. per gallon.
– And if both are negatived the Government proposal will be dealt with ?
– Yes. I shall then put the question - “That the item stand as printed.”
– When an honorable senator wishes to move a reduction, how will you put the question ?
– In each case honorable senators must be taken to move a substantive motion, in the form - “That the House of Representatives be requested to do so and so.”
– How will exemptions be put?
– If it is desired to withdraw an article from the exemption list and make it dutiable, the motion will be moved - “ That the House of Representatives be requested to withdraw such and such an article from the exemption list, and make the duty thereupon a certain amount.” If, on the other hand, it is desired to free an article from duty and place it in the exemption list, there will be a substantive motion to that effect.
– But in what order will the exemptions be put from the Chair ?
– When I put the question, “That item so’ and so stand as printed,” it will be held to include the exemptions belonging to the item.
– Would it not be better to take the exemptions at the end of each division 1
– Attention might be directed to the fact that there are exemptions by putting the question in the form, “That item 5, including exemptions, stand as printed.”
– I do not think that any difficulty will arise except with regard to the exemptions under the heading of “Metals and machinery,” all of which are printed as referring to item 78 ; but, for the purpose of discussion, it may be necessary to break them up a bit. I want honorable senators to understand, however, that the question, “ That an item stand as printed,” is to be taken to cover the exemptions belonging to that item ; and, consequently, if an honorable senator wishes to draw attention to any exemption he must do so before the item is agreed to. “
– As in some cases the list of exemptions is carried further down the page than the item against which it is placed, it would be better if the question of priority of a suggestion should be left to you to decide. In regard to the exemptions of metals and machinery it may be found convenient to put them separately.
– I think that we shall have to deal with the exemptions to item 78 specially. With regard to the question of priority, I wish honorable senators to understand that the exemptions are to be taken as standing after the item to which they belong.
– And I take it, sir, that you will in any case put the exemptions separately, if that is the wish of honorable senators 1
– I suggest, too, that where the item is a long one, you should allow sufficient time to elapse before putting the question, to allow honorable senators to understand the position 1
– I shall do that.
Division 1. - Stimulants.
Item 1. - Ale, porter, and other beer, cider, and perry, containing not less than 2 per cent, of proof spirit, viz. : - *
In bottle, per gallon, ls. 6d.
Other, per gallon, ls.
*Six reputed quarts or 1.2 reputed pints to be charged as 3 gallon.
– I propose a reduction in the duty on beer in bottle from ls. 6d. to ls. 3d. per gallon, and following upon that a reduction on beer in bulk from ls. to lOd. per gallon. The item has to be considered from three aspects, which we have all affirmed over and over again in the debate on the second reading of the Bill. The first is the point of view of revenue, the second is the question of protection, and the third is the effect on the revenue of various States. Everbody admits that revenue is the primary consideration pf the Tariff. It has been said over and over again, although it has not been quite correctly represented, that we desire - all of us I am sure- -to have the amount of revenue required by the Commonwealth as the outcome of the Tariff. From the revenue point of view a duty of ls. 6d. per gallon on beer in bottle is to a large extent prohibitive. It has so operated in Victoria. The figures for Victoria, and New South Wales will, I think, conclusively bring that home to the mind of every honorable senator, no matter what his fiscal views may be. In New South Wales the duty has been 6d. per gallon on beer in wood, and 9d. per gallon on beer in bottle, while in Victoria the duty has been lOd. per gallon on beer in wood, ls. 3d. per gallon on ordinary beer in bottle, and ls. 6d. per gallon on lager beer in bottle. I should have liked to propose a larger reduction on this duty, and I think it would have been equally satisfactory in every way, and certainly much more productive of revenue, but from the principles we have enunciated over and over again we do not desire to go to the extreme limit in any of these matters so long as we can be assured of ample revenue for the Commonwealth, so long as we do not interpose any obstacle to the channel through which the current of revenue is to flow. In 1899 the imports cf beer into Victoria were 529,534 gallons, and into New South Wales, with substantially for this purpose the same population, 1,665,933 gallons, or more than three times as much as the imports into Victoria. Under the excise duty in Victoria the manufacture of ordinary beer was 13,176,376 gallons, and of lager beer 625,053 gallons, making a total consumption of 14,330,963 gallons, while in New South Wales the gross total was 13,8S4,493 gallons. With a consumption of 500,000 gallons or about 3 or 3^ per cent, less in New South Wales, the import duty and excise duty represented in Victoria £188,556, and in New South Wales £206,073. With a duty of 6d. and 9d. per gallon in New South Wales, and a duty of 10d., ls. 3d., and ls. 6d. per gallon in Victoria, the former received nearly £18,000 more duty than did the latter. That I venture to submit is absolutely conclusive from the revenue point of view, bearing in mind that in New South Wales there was a, less consumption of 500,000 gallons of beer. My belief is that by reducing the duty on beer ain bottle to ls. 3d. per gallon we shall stimulate the revenue, and if we reduced it still more we should further increase it without any detriment to the brewing industry, or without any detriment to the people of the country. Let us now look at the duty from the point of view of protection if it is left as it is. Allowing the excise and allowing the percentage for duty on the materials employed, it represents between 80 and 90 per cent, of protection. The Tariff protection, deducting of course the excise allowance, is on beer in bottle from ls. 3d. to ls. 4d. per gallon, and on beer in bulk, from 9d. to 10d.per gallon. Then added to that is the natural protection, which is very considerable against oversea beer. On beer in bottle the natural protection is from 9d. to 10 hd. per gallon, and on beer in bulk, 6d. per gallon, ‘ making a total protection of from 2s. to 2s. 2£d. per gallon on beer in bottle, and of from ls. 3d. to ls. 4d. per gallon on beer in bulk. Comparing that with the prices at which the different beers sell - those brewed exclusively from barley, malt and hops, selling in bottle at 5s. 3d. per dozen, or at 2s. 7Jd. per gallon, and in bulk at £3 2s. Gd.per hogshead, or ls. 3d. per gallon, and the other beers selling in bottle at 2s. 3d. per gallon, and in bulk at ls. 1 Jd. per gallon - taking these figures, and making the allowance I have made in respect of the percentage of duty on the material, it gives a protection of between 80 and 90 per cent. Nobody can say that this is doing more than Senator O’Connor declared was the principle on which he was satisfied that the Senate should deal with these matters from the protectionist point of view, namely, to cut down the duty to the lowest possible point at which the industry can be protected. Can anybody say that to give a .protection of 80 or 90 per cent, is ungenerously dealing with the matter from that point of view ? The third aspect - with regard to the revenue of the other States - has greatly to be considered.
It may not apply to some States, because there are breweries in most States, but still there is an export, and in some cases a considerable export. I am very glad to know that in Victoria a considerable export has been worked up by the Foster Brewing Company, greatly to their credit.
– And bv the Victoria Brewing Company.
– And by the Victoria Brewing Company. I am taking the export of Foster’s beer alone. A paragraph in the Age of the 1st inst. says -
The Poster Brewing Company report that during April local trade in their lager has been well maintained. To other States they have shipped another 3,500 dozen, and to South Africa 4,700 dozen.
Taking the same average for the whole year, that represents a very large annual export, and it is very greatly to the credit of the company and their enterprise, and shows the quality of the article they produce. If that beer passes into the other States, all those States get is this small modicum of excise - 3d. per gallon, as against ls. 3d. per gallon if the import came from abroad. So that there is a loss of revenue to them. Every local enterprise of any kind we are proud to see develop itself and expand, not only throughout Australia, but also to adjacent parts of the world. Whichever State exports this article in bulk, the revenue pf the State into which it goes loses, in round numbers, ls. per gallon, even if the duty is fixed at ls. 3d., or ls. 3d. per gallon if it is left as it is. That is a very important consideration. If it is sent in bottle the difference will be calculated on the 1 Od. per gallon, which I propose, or the ls. per gallon which the Government propose. There is another point which I think in fairness we must also consider, and which has been thought of in connexion with the proposed reduction. The difference between beer in bulk and beer in bottle, no doubt, is made with the view of encouraging the bottling industry. If honorable senators will look at the figures in the comparative table of duties, they will find that the average difference between the duty on the bulk stuff and the bottled stuff represents about one-third. Taking lOd. and ls. 3d., we again get the same proportion of one-third in favour of the bottling industry in the States where the brewing is conducted and the bottling is carried out.
Therefore, apart from any large fiscal question, honorable senators will see that from the point of view of revenue, the only doubt any one can entertain is whether the ls. 3d. is low enough. From the point of view of increasing the revenue, as every reduction of duty admittedly does, the advantage of what I propose is plain and from the point of view of protecting the brewers of beer, my proposal leaves a protection of about 85 per cent. Undoubtedly the other States will have their revenue improved by this proposal ; and from the point of view of the bottling trade the position will be exactly as it was before. On these grounds I move -
That the House of Representatives be requested to amend item 1 by omitting “ Is. 6d.” with a view to substitute “ls. 3d.”
– I shall support the duty as it stands. If a man desires to drink English ale, let him pay for it. If he desires to drink French claret, let him pay for it. There is another aspect of this matter, and that is the assistance which the local production of beer gives to our natural producers. We have heard much about the primary producers during the last few weeks. Here is an opportunity of assisting them. The production of sugar in Queensland and New South Wales can be assisted by encouraging the production of Commonwealth beer. In Victoria 1 2,250,000 lbs. of sugar were used in one year in the production of beer. That is something for the sugar-growers of New South Wales and Queensland to remember, and for their representatives to think about. During the same year, Victoria produced 600,000 bushels of malt, and used that quantity, and exported 23,000 bushels in addition. We do not produce sufficient hops to make our beer, but Tasmania produces hops of excellent quality, and, I hope, will produce more in the future. It is quite true, as Senator Symon said, that nearly 14,000,000 gallons of beer are produced in this State per annum, and the 52 breweries have a plant and property worth between £900,000 and £1,000,000, and employ between 1,100 and 1,200 hands. I therefore hope honorable senators will not consent to reduce the duty.
– I trust that the committee will not agree to the motion proposed by Senator Symon. Taking, first of all, revenue, I say that the suggested reduction will result in a very serious loss. It is estimated that the revenue from the duty on bottled beer and that on beer in bulk will amount to, roughly, £153,000. The proposal of Senator Symon - ls. 3d. instead of ls. 6d., and lOd. instead of ls. - means a reduction of one-sixth of the duty charged. That amounts to £25,500. If you deduct that from £153,000, the amount of estimated revenue, you get .the result of £127,5,00. Of course I admit that the reduced duty, may lead to an increased importation, which, I think, may reasonably be estimated at one-tenth - that is to say, £12,700. That brings the amount of revenue up under the altered conditions to £140,200. Bat I suppose it will be admitted at once that there must be a less return from excise, because if this reduction in duty is to have effect and more beer is to come in, less beer will be produced. I put down the loss of excise at £6,000, which, of course, has to come off the £140,000. That leaves the net result, if this motion were carried, at a revenue of £134,200, which is £19,000 less than the revenue estimated under the existing duties. I therefore put it that, from the point of view of revenue alone, by adopting Senator Symon’s proposal we should certainly be giving up £19,000 per annum. Under the circumstances, we cannot afford to do that in order to carry out a beneficent scheme of helping the importation of foreign beer. There is another point of view to be considered. I find, looking through the duties which have been imposed on bottled beer in all the States, that New South Wales had a very low duty of 9d. and 6d. a gallon. In Victoria the duty on lager beer was ls. 6d., and on the other beer ls. 3d. In Queensland there was a duty of ls. 6d., in Tasmania ls. 6d., in Western Australia ls. 6d., and in South Australia ls. 6d., whilst New Zealand had a duty of 2s. So that, taking Western Australia, Tasmania, South Australia, Queensland, and Victoria, it will be found as regards lager beer that they all had this duty of ls. 6d. Senator Symon says that the duty is prohibitive, and -will keep out foreign beer altogether. If that be so, why should this duty have been imposed in all these States largely for revenue purposes 1 We are told that one of our duties is to conserve the interests of those States to which we cannot return as much revenue as they were receiving before the advent of the Federal Tariff. Yet it is proposed to cut down, by one-sixth, the duties on a commodity which, of all others, would ‘ be revenue producing. If -we are to have any regard to the interests of the finances of these States - and every one admits that we must - we cannot allow a proposal to be carried which will strike at those imported articles which are largely productive of revenue. The revenue of Tasmania and Queensland has already been lowered by the Customs Tariff; and what justification is there for us telling these States that we will still further reduce it?
– The lower duties will produce more revenue.
-Thatisa mistake. I have shown that if we take the revenue on the one hand, and the excise on the other, and add, if honorable senators like, the increased importation, the net result is that the Commonwealth revenue is £19,000 to the bad. Senator Symon smiles at that statement.
– I do.
– How does Senator O’Connor arrive at his estimate of the increased importation?
– I have the advantage of the assistance of experts of the Customs department, whose business it is to know the operations of trade and how revenue is affected by reductions; and I take it that honorable senators will not deny that these estimates are honestly made.
– But Senator O’Connor now hears for the first time of a proposed reduction ; how does the honorable and learned senator arrive at the conclusion that the reduction in the duties will affect importation to the extent he says ?
– I have given honorable senators the figures.
– They are arbitrary figures.
– They are not arbitrary figures ; they are the estimate of officers of the department whose business it is to make inquiries and calculations.
– When were the calculations made? The proposal to reduce the duties was only submitted this morning.
– I am aware of that. I presume any honorable senator is capable of making a calculation, and forming an opinion ; but the difference is, that I have the opinion and estimate of experts whose business it is to make calculations, and to understand questions of revenue and thebearingr of duties on trade.
– But the experts’ estimate collides with the experience of New South Wales.
– I do not agree with the honorable and learned senator ; the experience of New South Wales is no guide whatever. In that State, whatever the amount of revenue, there was a larger importation owing to the fact that the local production is small.
– The New South Wales local production of beer is small.
– It is 13,000,000 gallons.
– I do not care whether the production is twenty times that quantity ; compared with the production of other States, that of New South Wales is small.
– It is about the same as in Victoria.
– But New South Wales has one-eighth more population than Victoria. We shall not quarrel about the multiplication table; every one admits that the New South Wales population is more than that of Victoria to the extent I have mentioned. But there is another point of view which we are bound to consider; this is, the condition of industries in existence, not only in Victoria, but in all the States. These industries have been protected by duties, and why should we alter the conditions by taking away that protection ? A most extravagant estimate, it appears to me, has been made of what this protection amounts to. According to calculations which I have here, a duty of1s. 6d. per gallon on bottled beer, on an ad valorem basis, means 40 per cent., while1s. per gallon on draught beer means 57 per cent.
– What does Senator O’Connor calculate as the value of bottled beer ?
– The invoice costof bottled beer, free on board, I calculate at 3s. 9d. per gallon, and that of draught beer at1s. 9d. per gallon. Honorable senators, if they choose, may add any other charges, but these are the prices free on board, and I do not care how figures may be exaggerated or twisted, we cannot arrive at more than 40 per cent. on bottled beer, and 50 per cent. on draught beer. Under the circumstances, why take away the protection which this industry has enjoyed ? If it be for the purpose of cutting down revenue, we can in the total ill afford any loss, and in detail those States which want revenue the most would, under the proposal, be placed in a worse position than before.
– And local industries would be injured.
– A great deal of attention must be paid to the point of view put forward by Senator Styles. This industry does not mean only the employment of persons actually engaged in making beer, but others engaged in anumber of subsidiary trades, and also the utilization of a large amount of the produce of the soil. We cannot affect the prosperity of the beer industry without affecting the prosperity of these subsidiary trades, and the position of primary producers. If we adhere to the principle, to which I think it is admitted we ought to have regard, this duty will not be touched. A reduction would mean a loss of revenue, and affect the States to which revenue must be returned, if at all, in some reasonable proportion by this means ; and it would unduly affect the condition of existing industries, primary producers, and subsidiary trades.
– The figures with which we have been favoured by Senator O’Connor will not bear examination for one moment. In New South Wales, in 1900, the sum of £53,470 was collected on beer through duties of 6d. and 9d. In the Government estimate of revenue under the new Tariff, which doubles the New South Wales duties, a revenue of only £50,000 is expected in that State. We are told that the Government have at their back experts whose figures may be reliedon. If doubling the duty more than halves the importation the Government is prepared to deal a most smashing blow at the import trade of New South Wales.
SenatorFraser. - It is revenue we have to look to.
– I am looking at the question all round. The Government must not forget that they came into office pledged to avoid destruction, and I am showing that in one year they propose to smash a great industry in New South Wales.
– What industry?
– The industry connected with the importation of beer; and it is not for honorable senators to smile at that statement, because upon the largeness ofour importation of all sorts of goods the prosperity of the country largely depends. If we stop importation we shall have no ships here to take away our products. But I want to deal with the question of revenue. The first items on this Tariff are the great revenue-producing items, and in all countries, both protectionist and free-trade, intoxicants and narcotics are the mainsprings of revenue. I am content, therefore, to view these duties mainly from the point of revenue. Although I am prepared to support the amendment of Senator Symon, I have to ask myself what the electors will say to me in New South Wales when I accept the proposal that New South Wales shall pay the same duties as those which have hitherto prevailed in Victoria. I ask Senator Styles and other senators why they rage at the proposal to adopt for the Commonwealth an average duty, with which the trade in Victoria was more than satisfied? Why are we told that a proposal to adopt the previous. Victorian rate is going todo harm? The duties which ranged in Victoria previously yielded only a comparatively small revenue ; and the reduction which Senator Symon desires is not as great as that which we ought to ask for, with a view to the protection of the revenue. Senator O’Connor has referred to the duties in the other States, and I desire to tell him that the duty which Senator Symon proposes is less than the average for Australia under the old Tariffs. In making the calculation, we ought not to say that there are so many States paying so much, and other States paying a different figure.. I make my calculation according to the proportion of the population, and I find that in New South Wales we have 36 percent. of the population- paying 6d. per gallon on bulk beer; in Victoria, 32 per cent. paying10d. ; and in Queensland, 13 per cent. paying1s. 3d. I multiply the percentage of population by the rate per gallon, and divide by 100 ; and the result is that the average duty payable under the old State Tariffs was a fraction under10d. on bulk beer, and1s. l1/2d. on bottled beer. Senator Symon only asks that the duty on bulk beer shall be 10d., and is actually willing to make the impost on bottled beer1s. 3d. It is of no use honorable senators getting wildly excited, and talking , about the protection of an industry, when free-traders are willing to give to this industry more protection than it had before. My only regret is that a greater reduction is not proposed. I am quite certain that a greater reduction in the rate would bring in a larger revenue for the Commonwealth, and would be especially advantageous to the smaller States. I am content to rest this matter practically upon the one claim of revenue. I say everything calls upon us to be careful as to how we deal with the most stable sources of revenue. There are some which are naturally more stable than others, and the beer duty is one of them. Do not, therefore, let us by a high duty throw away a considerable amount of revenue.
– I desire to point out to the committeethe amount of increased importation that would be necessary in order to bring the revenue up to the amount which this Tariff is estimated to yield if the duty were reduced as proposed. On page 107 of the paper circulated to honorable senators it will be seen that the estimated receipts for a normal year under this Tariff from this duty amounts to £152,900. That is, with duty payable at the rate of1s. 6d. per gallon. If we reduce that duty to1s. 3d., the receipts upon the same amount of imports will be £25,000 less, and to make up that £25,000 at the rate of1s. 3d. per gallon would necessitate the importation of 400,000 gallons of beer in excess of the present importation.
– What is that ? That is only the importation of one lot in Victoria.
– What does the honorable and learned senator mean by “ one lot”? It would amount almost to the importations for one year into Victoria.
-The importation into Victoria amounts to over 500,000 gallons.
– To produce the same amount of revenue at the reduced duty as I have shown would require an excess importation of 400,000 gallons.
– Which would displace 400,000 gallons of the local beer.
– I am just coming to that. Does any one contend that the reduction of the duty upon imported beer will cause an increased consumption of 400,000 gallons a year? No one will contend that, and whatit means is that that 400,000 gallons would come in to displace the consumption of the local article, and it would throw out of employment the number of people at present engaged in the production of that quantity of the article.
– What is the proportion ? It is not 3 per cent.
– If it cannot be shown that the consumption will be increased, the effect of the additional importation must be to displace the local article to that extent. I should like the Senate to understand what this proposal is from a revenue point of view, and that to keep the revenue at the same level as at present estimated, upon the lower duties proposed, 400,000 gallons more of foreign beer must be imported, displacing the local article to that extent.
– I rise to point out that, so far as arithmetic can guide us, Senator O’Connor is entirely wrong in his estimate. I think I am right in putting his argument in this way : He said that the duties in the schedule at the present time are 1s. 6d. and1s. per gallon, and taking these together he says that the total duty amounts to 2s. 6d. per gallon. The duties proposed by Senator Symon are 1 s. 3d. and 10d. - that is 25d. - and therefore the reduction proposed by Senator Symon is one-sixth. Senator O’Connor says that the reduction of one-sixth in the duty will increase the importation only to the extent of one-tenth. When the honorable and learned senator mentioned these figures I asked him how he arrived at one-tenth, but he answered me generally that persons who are used to these things had made the calculation, and I should of course, therefore, bow to the estimate they had made. Senator Symon calculated the figures in reference to New South Wales as contrasted with Victoria, and I maintain that they directly collide with the estimate given by Senator O’Connor. In Victoria the duty was10d. on wood, and 15d. in the bottle. Following the same method of reasoning, that is 25d. In New South Wales the duty was 9d. in bottle and 6d. in wood, andthat is15d. Drawing the same deduction as Senator O’Connor drew, we find that the difference between the duties in New South Wales and Victoria has been two-fifths, because fifteen twenty-fifthsis three-fifths. If we recognise that according to Senator O’Connor’s calculation the difference between the duties proposed in the schedule and those proposed by Senator Symon is one-sixth, we are equally bound to recognise that the difference between the duties in New South Wales and Victoria is two-fifths, and I would ask a first form in arithmetic how it is that if lessening a duty by one-sixth produces additional imports to the extent of one-tenth, lessening a duty by two-fifths means an increased import not of one-tenth, but of three times as much ! Yet that is what happens. We find that while in New South Wales the duty was twofifths less than in Victoria, the Victorian imports amounted to 529,000 gallons, and the New South Wales imports to 1,665,000 gallons.
– How can the honorable and learned senator compare Victorian importations with New South Wales importations 1
– Because the gross consumption of beer is practically identical in both States. According to the figures quoted by Senator Symon there is only a difference of 3 per cent. If on a comparatively equal consumption we find that three times as much beer is imported into New South Wales as into Victoria, and that -the difference between the duties in the two States is only two-fifths, the lower duty being in New South Wales, does* it not follow that the lowering of the duty by two-fifths causes the increased importation of this large amount? How, then, can Senator O’Connor calculate that the reduction of a duty by one-sixth would only account for an increased consumption of onetenth 1
– The information given us by Senator Pulsford threw very little light upon the subject. He told us that the reduction of the duty would be in the interests of the revenue of the smaller States, and to illustrate that he showed us what had been the effect of an alteration of duty in New South Wales. But in New South Wales the circumstances are peculiar in comparison with those existing in other States. The increase of the duty alone is not going to bring about a reduction of £53,000, as the honorable senator would have us believe. He has forgotten that we have established Inter-State free-trade, and it is that which will help to cause a reduction. New South Wales has been paying duties of 6d. and 9d. upon beer imported from other States. There is a considerable importation of beer from the other States into New South Wales, and Senator Pulsford failed to tell us how much of the £53,000 was realized from the importation of British and German beer, 36 b 2 and how much from the importation of Tasmanian and other Australian beer.
– Can the honorable and learned senator tell us how much Tasmanian beer was sent into New South Wales ? Substantially none.
- Senator Pulsford might have told us that, but the honorable and learned senator may go into many hotels in Sydney, and he will find sold as draught English beer that which is Tasmanian Cascade ale. Senator Pulsford, I think, might have told us how much of the £-53,000 was realized by the importation of Inter-State beer. Tasmanian ale has been largely exported, not only to New South Wales, but to Queensland, and there is a great deal of it put upon the market in New South Wales, and consumed in the belief that it is English beer.
Senator PULSFORD (New South Wales). –Some remarks have been made about the effect of duties on imports. I desire briefly to say that in New South Wales 1,666,000 gallons of beer paid duty in 1900, but the amount which it is estimated will be derived in New South Wales under the new Tariff represents an import of less than half that quantity. A shortage of more than 800,000 gallons on the previous importation is expected by the Government themselves. Therefore, it seems to me to be idle for them to say that the importation cannot be increased by 400,000 gallons as the result of reducing the duty. With regard to the remark made by Senator Keating that a large quantity of beer was sent from Tasmania to the Continent of Australia, and largely to New South Wales, I wish to say that the excise returns do not show that that is so. It is a mistake to imagine that the quantity which Tasmania will send to the mainland will have any appreciable effect.
Senator Sir JOSIAH SYMON (South Australia). - It has been put to us - repeatedly that the effect of a protectionist Tariff is to give great diversity of occupation; Certainly the discussion of the Tariff shows very great diversity of views, even amongst the protectionists themselves, in relation to a matter which one would think was almost concluded by the facts which are available. One of the latest examples has been furnished by Senator Keating, who entered the arena before lunch, and proceeded to treat with
I great scorn the inferences put before the committee by Senator Pulsford. The difference between Senator Keating and Senator Pulsford is that the latter knew what he was talking about, while the former did net.
– Senator Pulsford is not able to tell us yet what is the extent of intercolonial importations.
– In order to lessen the value of the inferences drawn by Senator Pulsford, Senator Keating proceeded to make a number of general assertions as to what he termed the peculiar situation of New South Wales, and to say that there were imports of beer from Tasmania into New South Wales. I ventured to ask Senator Keating to give us the figures, my impression being that substantially there was no importation from Tasmania into New South Wales. The honorable and learned senator could not supply them, but he went on to multiply his assertions. He told us that he had seen barrels of beer sent from somewhere in Tasmania to New South Wales. I have looked up the returns for 1899, and I find that the total importation of Tasmanian beer into New South Wales in that year was 69 gallons in bulk,valued an the remarkable sum of £8, and 33 gallons in bottle, valued at £9 - no doubt taken over by some visitors to that lovely resort, Hobart, who had apparently become accustomed to the very excellent beer brewed there, and carried some back with them as a sample. That is the basis upon which it is sought to introduce a disturbing element into conditions which are proved by the absolute facts and figures in relation to this question so far as New South Wales is affected. I hope that Tasmania will be able to distribute her beer more largely amongst the different States, but when we recollect the competition and the large establishments in every State for the purpose of meeting the demands for beer, it is highly improbable that there will be any serious interference in that respect. What we are dealing with is the condition of things in the past, and, so far as this alleged disturbance is concerned, it rests on the figures I have just given, which are for the same year as those we gave in comparing the revenues of New South Wales and Victoria. What was the inference which was based - because this is a very important question - upon the figures quoted by Senator Pulsford? It was an answer to the assertions advanced by Senator O’Connor that the effect of the proposed reduction would be practically to diminish the revenue. Surely it is better for us to take admitted facts than mere wild assertions on the part of protectionists. What does Senator Pulsford derive from the returns on the table? That the proposed duty of1s. 6d. per gallon on beer in bottle is going to have a largely prohibitive effect on the revenue of New South Wales. In that State the small duties of 6d. and 9d. per gallon under the old Tariff produced about £53,000 or £54,000 of revenue per annum, while the doubled duty under this proposed Tariff are going to produce £3,000 or £4,000 less. What becomes of the contention that the duty of1s. 6d. per gallon has been imposed in order to obtain revenue ? Nothing could rest upon a flimsier foundation.
– The duty is required, not for therevenue of New South Wales, but particularly for the revenue of Queensland and Tasmania.
– My honorable and learned friend admits that the result of this increased duty will be to reduce the revenue from New South Wales by some £3,000 or £4,000 per annum. If that is the case, how can he contend that the effect of this higher duty will be to improve the revenue throughout the rest of the Commonwealth ? Of course it will not. We have Inter-State free-trade. If the duty is prohibitory in one State which produces locally something like 13,000,000 gallons of beer a year - about the same as in Victoria - does any one suppose that it will encourage importation in another State? Nothing of the kind. The effect of this duty will be what the Government anticipate and intend ; it will be almost a prohibitive duty for the benefit of the brewers. How canany one accept the suggestion, first that this duty was put on for revenue purposes, and secondly that it will increase the revenue, when we have the absolute fact before us that, taking the best example that is possible for comparing the present high duty with the pre-existing lower duties, the doubled duty cuts importations down by onehalf, and diminishes the revenue by £3,000 or £4,000? The thing is childish. We are not a lot of schoolboys to be led astray by exaggerated assertions, such as have been made by the Minister in relation to matters of this kind, when we have the figures of the Government before us. If it could be shown that this proposed reduction of duty would reduce the revenue, no one would question its impropriety, because revenue is our first consideration. But Senator Styles varied the argument by standing up for the. brewer on the ground of protection. This is protection run mad. What does Senator Styles expect ? Surely he should be content with the pre-existing Victorian duty of ls. 3d. per gallon, which is what we propose now 1 If we have erred at all we have erred on the side of too much consideration. If the duty is left as it stands in the Tariff, it will increase the protection given to the Victorian brewers by onesixth, adding on 3d. per gallon, and departing utterly, not only from the Maitland policy, but from the explanations of it made by the Vice-President of the Executive Council, who invited the Senate to cut down if they chose the duties to “ the lowest possible point at which reasonably the industries could be protected.” Protected from what ? From ruin and destruction .! It never was in contemplation that a protective duty should be increased, and yet, when it is proposed to leave the duty exactly as it was before in Victoria, one of the most eminent of the representatives of this State claims that the duty proposed by the Government should not be interfered with. I do not wish to discuss that matter further, but I think that my honorable and learned friend was not quite fair under the circumstances, when he said that the reduction was being proposed for the purpose of cutting down revenue. It is obvious that the effect will be the other way. If we reduce the duties to, a revenue-producing point, we encourage importation, and therefore assist the revenue. I desire also to refer to the position which lias been taken up in baldly asserting that this proposed reduction will be disastrous, and will not have the effect which I say it must have in relation to other States. If we encourage importation, it is encouraged in other States besides Victoria and NewSouth Wales. Why should we have all our importation driven into Melbourne and Sydney 1 Are not Adelaide, Brisbane, and the ports of Western Australia to be considered ‘J If we leave the whole supply to local production by adding on another sixth to this protective duty, what is the effect1! We encourage the consumption of the local article and diminish the revenue.
We want revenue. Tasmania produces excellent beer, and probably will not be affected by this item as she will be by other items in the Tariff. But Queensland depends on the duty upon imported beer for a considerable revenue. In 1899 or 1900 Queensland collected from that source £17,000 as against £5,000 collected in South Australia. If Queensland is benefited to an extent three times that of South Australia, the State coming nearest to her in population, we ought to encourage importation, if beer has to be consumed, as of course it must, for we cannot deprive the Englishman of his beer.
– It is quite as good as South Australian wine.
– I am not speaking of the quality at all. The quality of Queensland beer no doubt is very good, but the importation of beer into that State has to be encouraged, and the duty derived from it has been three times as lai-ge as that obtained in South Australia.
– In 1S98, the importation of beer into Queensland was £68,852, and into other States £6,577.
– The importation of beer oversea into Queensland was ten times what it was into other States, in spite of the duty which, I believe, was ls. 6d. per gallon, and which was put on under exceptional circumstances. If that is the case, Queensland ought to be placed in a position in which that revenue will not be diminished, but will be increased, and importation will be invited and encouraged, not so much as I should like, but still to some extent, by reducing this duty to ls. 3d. per gallon. We have been reminded of the fact that we may impose on articles duties which will eventually prohibit their consumption. In South Australia, on the ground of its necessities, a duty of 15s. a gallon was imposed on champagne, with the result that the importation of champagne was almost stopped, and it was the same in Victoria. If we raise the duty on beer by one-sixth more that it was in Victoria we shall, according to the statement made by the Treasurer, cut clown the importation by onehalf. Is not Queensland largely interested in promoting everything that would encourage revenue, and in resisting everything which could possibly diminish it ? The only other point to which I need refer is the extraordinary position taken up by Senator O’Connor, in view of the facts which he put before the committee, I think, without sufficient consideration. He gave us the total of the anticipated revenue as shown by these papers at £153,000. First of all, he assumed that if the duty was reduced the importation would remain unchanged, took off a sixth of that revenue, which represented £25,000, and said - “Now, there you are in the first instance.” But he added - “ I shall assume that the importation will be increased by one-tenth.” And then he proceeded to give us an arithmetical calculation as to how the revenue would be affected. Of course the whole thing is perfectly absurd. He says that the importation will increase by a tenth, and when he is challenged as to how he arrives at that conclusion, he says - “ Ob, the officials told me.”
– It is an estimate.
– It is a mere bald assertion. There is a process which is called cross-examination, and it would be a very excellent thing if we could have the gentleman who volunteered this conjecture about a tenth, in the box for two minutes under my honorable and learned friend’s cross-examination - I should not interfere at all - in order to ascertain what is the basis of his calculation.
– I shall be quite willing if my honorable and learned friend will give me the name of the gentleman who supplies him with all his information ?
- Sir George Turner.
– He gives certain figures, but my honorable and learned friend draws his own conclusions.
– Of course I draw my own conclusions.
– My honorable and learned friend has other information there, too.
– I appear to have more than my honorable and learned friend, judging by what he has told us to-day. When he says that the effect of this will be to increase importation, it is an admission on the part of the Government : first, that the lowering of the duty will increase importation ; and secondly, that it is very difficult - of course, impossible - to tell by how much it will be increased. When I take the figures that are before us in regard to New South Wales - in which, on a lower duty of 6d. in bulk and 9d. in bottle, as compared with Victoria’s duty of lOd. in bulk and ls. 3d. in bottle, the importation was more than three times that into Victoria - surely I am justified in assuming that a reduction of 3d. will produce an importation very nearly as much again as we may expect under a duty of ls. 6d. per gallon.
– There is one element which my honorable and learned friend leaves out - that there is a large local production in one State which supplies the demand, and therefore they do not need to import.
– The large local production, coupled with the importation, supplies the demand, in New South Wales.
– There is a very small local production there.
– They drink 500,000 gallons less in New South Wales than in Victoria, out of substantially the same product. It is idle to minimize the improvement there will be in the importation. But the whole thing is capped, so far as argument is concerned, by Senator , Drake, who says that, leaving the figures as they are, the £25,000, which would have to be deducted from the revenue as representing the 3d. per gallon reduction I propose, Would be made up by an additional import of 400,000 gallons, and the effect of that would be to displace that quantity of local production, with the result, I suppose, that we should hear “ the pattering of bare feet on the pavement.” Can anything be more transparently idle than that proposition? On the production of beer in Victoria this quantity of 400,000 gallons would be simply 3 per cent. On the production of beer in Victoria and New South Wales - 27,000,000 gallons - it would be 1£ per cent. On the production on beer in the Commonwealth it would be absolutely imperceptible. Yet my honorable friend uses the sentimental argument that that infinitesimal result will be the means of throwing people out of employment. I appeal to my honorable friends opposite. I am sure that Senator Styles, when he remembers that the duty in Victoria was ls. 3d. per gallon, will not ask for more than that impost under a policy which is merely to prevent destruction, and not unduly to cut down existing protection. Even upon’ that platform, ls. 3d. is a sum to which the Victorian representatives could consent. The proposition of Senator
O’Connor himself, interpreted by the Prime Minister, puts the thing exceedingly well - “ Cut it down if you like to the lowest possible point at which reasonably the industries can be protected and even then, as the Prime Minister said, the duty must be moderate. If we apply that principle, and I am quite willing to apply it, the duty should be made ls. 3d., and I ask my honorable friends to be content with that, not merely from a protectionist point of view, but also because it will assist the revenue, which the)’ believe needs to be increased.
-! have listened with great attention, and with some degree of surprise, to some of the utterances made by some honorable senators opposite, with regard to the proposed reduction. The principal plea is that we should lower the duty, with a view to encouraging the importing industry, and assisting the gentlemen employed in bringing goods from other parts of the world. I am not going to utter a word in disparagement of importers, except to say that I put my own people in the Commonwealth a long way before those of any other part of the globe. From the point of view of honorable senators opposite, there seem to be only two States that are worth consideration. The one is New South Wales, where the former duties were exceedingly low, and the other is Victoria. A special appeal is made to Victorian senators on the ground that the duty proposed by Senator Symon is the same as that which was formerly levied in their State. Then a bait is thrown to the Queensland representatives. I suppose Senator Symon chinks that the senators from my State are likely to be carried away by the blandishments of his eloquence. We are exceedingly glad to have the honorable and learned senator exerting his influence in the interests of our State, but he might give the representatives of Queensland some little credit for alertness in protecting the interests of their State. From the information at my command, I am satisfied that the reduction which he proposes would not be in the interest of Queensland, but against it. Senator Symon says that the Queensland revenue from beer was £17,000 for six months, that is £34,000 for the year. But he did not mention what we are getting from excise. It must be admitted that if importations are increased the consumption of the locally manufactured article must of necessity be decreased. From the figures -which have been circulated by Senator O’Connor, on page 13, T find that the excise on beer in Queensland for six months amounted to nearly £34,000.
– If the beer had been imported it would have paid nearly £250,000.
– But are not other people benefited by the local manufacture ? Are not the hop growers, the sugar growers, and the producers of malt benefited 1 Do not honorable senators understand that we have about 500 men employed in the breweries of Queensland? How are these men benefited by the consumption of imported rather than- locally brewed beer 1 Some honorable senators constantly refer to the primary producer. Are not the primary producers encouraged in the growth of hops, the preparation of malt, and the production of sugar for beer-making, by the consumption of locally brewed beer ? While it may be very plausible to say - “ Reduce the duty and increase importations so as to increase revenue,” I doubt whether, taking the excise into account, Senator Symon’s proposals would have any such effect. I appeal to the Victorian senators not to be led away by the honorable and learned senator’s argument. Notwithstanding that the duty proposed by the Government may be an increase on what was hitherto paid in Victoria, I urge that they should make some little sacrifice on behalf of States like my own. If the proposition of the Government is carried, Queensland will receive great benefit from the production of malt and hops, and from the excise On sugar. Certainly the amount of duty proposed by the Government on beer would be more beneficial to us as a. State than theproposition of Senator Symon, which I trust will not be adopted.
– I should like to quote some figures which seem to me to furnish a complete answer to Senator Symon’s contention. The duty in Victoria was precisely the same as that which the honorable and learned senator now proposes for the Common wealth. I propose to compare the actual collections in Victoria during 1900, under that duty, with the actual collections for six months under the present duty. I find that in 1900, in Victoria, the duty collected on bottled ale at ls. 3d., was £29,600 ; on draught, at lOd;, £2,168 ; and on lager, of which there was only a small quantity imported, £1,300 ; making a total of £33,06S. For six months of 1901, under the new Tariff, with the rates at ls. 6d. and ls., the total collection was £24,052. Honorable senators can see at once that, if that amount is doubled, the result is over £4S,000 ; and even if it is not doubled, making all allowance for any difference there may be between the first six months and the second, there is still a margin far above the amount collected previously. In other words, the whole of Senator Symon’s proposition rests upon nothing more than theory. His theory is that if the duty is reduced by one-sixth a greater amount will be collected. Why 1 Because he says it necessarily follows that one-sixth more will be imported. It is impossible to get up to the amount collected before without increasing the importations by one-sixth, at least. That is to say, to get the same amount of duty from the reduced rates you must import to the extent of onesixth more. That is -a simple enough proposition. What reason is there for supposing that because the duty is reduced the consumption will be increased by onesixth or more ?
– I made no such assumption.
– The honorable senator must make that assumption or he does not get the increased revenue.
– What I said was that the quantity imported is increased as against the local article.
– Surely it comes to the same thing. The beer will not be imported unless it is going to be consumed.
– Of course not ; but Senator Drake pointed out that the imported article would displace the local production by 400,000 gallons.
– That does not touch the point with which I am dealing. What I say is that there must be an increased importation before we get more revenue.
– Of course ; an increased importation as compared with the local production.
– It is a mere assumption that the importation will be increased because of the low duty.
– New South Wales affords the proof.
– New South Wales does not afford any proof. New
South Wales imported a very large amount of beer on her low duty, simply because the people of that State had been in the habit of drinking imported beer.
– And making bad stuff at home.
– Never mind about the quality. As a matter of fact, the people of New South Wales have got into the habit of drinking imported beer, and the low duties have prevented the expansion of the local industry.
– In New South Wales eight gallons of local beer are drunk to one gallon of imported beer.
– That may be; but there is nothing like the same amount of local beer consumed in New South Wales as there is in Victoria. Senator Harney is altogether wrong in assuming that we can have a basis of comparison by taking the imports into New South Wales as against the imports into Victoria or any other State ; the two things are dissimilar. Importation only takes place to supply a need, and where the need is supplied locally importation is not required. To tell us that the importation is very large in New South Wales as compared with that of Victoria proves nothing, unless we inquire into the conditions of the local production. On what other point has Senator Symon attempted to prove his case 1 Why are we to assume that the importation will increase by at least one-sixth, so as to come up to the level of the proposed duty in the Tariff? Every one recognises that in the consumption of beer people acquire a taste for a particular kind. Where, as in Victoria and the other States, the people have acquired a taste for the local product, what reason is there to suppose that that product will be displaced because we make the imported product a little cheaper wholesale 1
– People will not drink much bad stuff of any kind.
– I quite agree with Senator Fraser, but I do not see how the interjection affects the question.
– The taste for local beer is nearly as strong in New South Wales as in Victoria, seeing that eight gallons of local beer are drunk as against one of imported beer, while in Victoria the proportion is nine gallons to one.
– That proves exactly what I am saying; namely, that we have to take into consideration the effect of the public taste in beer. Those who have watched the operations of breweries know that it is the constant practice of brewers to obtain, if possible, control of the whole of the hotels in a particular neighbourhood, so as to give the people there a taste for the local beer. If they once do that,’ they have a business secured ; and that point has to be considered in determining whether there will be an increased importation. If brewers attach so much importance to this phase of the question, there must be something in it worth consideration.
– The Government estimate of the revenue shows a fall of onehalf in the importations into New South Wales. How is that to be brought about if the people will go on drinking imported beer?
– The honorable senator is asking rae something which has nothing to do with the point at present before us. In determining whether there is anything in Senator Symon’s theory we must have regard to the question - is the consumption of local beer in Victoria and other States likely to be displaced because the duty is made a little less 1 I say there is no likelihood of it, and I am borne out bv experience. During the six-month periods which I have quoted, in regard to which we have an opportunity to actually compare the results of the two duties, we find that the higher duty brought in more revenue ; and that is a very important matter for Tasmania and the other smaller States. It would be dangerous for the representatives of those States, on the mere assumption of Senator Symon, to allow a duty to be imposed which is less than the rate previously collected in Queensland, Tasmania, or South Australia. The facts are altogether against the theory of Senator Symon. Allusion has been made to the case of Queensland, where there is a very large consumption of imported beer ; but that fact only shows that Queensland has reached the limit of consumption in that direction. What reason is there for supposing that men will become any thirstier and drink more beer merely because the duty is reduced by 2d . or 3d. per gallon? Who is going to benefit by the reduction? Will the publican charge any less for beer ? The only effect will be that the duty will be paid by the wholesale dealers themselves, and the consumer will get his beer at exactly the same price.
– With a high duty the consumer will get less beer.
– But the Treasury will lose between £5,000 and £6,000 a year.
– If a remission of the duty makes no difference to the consumer what is there to cause the Queenslander to drink imported beer to the extent of 400,000 gallons more ?
– My figures are based on the assumption that only the same quantity of beer is consumed.
– The whole case of Senator Symon must be based on the assumption that more imported beer will be consumed.
– Certainly not.
– Why not?
– Because Senator Drake assumes the contrary. There will be no increase in the consumption, but imported beer will displace the local product to the extent of 400,000 gallons.
– That is only putting the same argument in another way. Unless it can be shown that the local consumption will be displaced, there will not be importation ; it is as broad as it is long. The consumption of local beer will probably not be affected to the extent which Senator Symon supposes. So far as Tasmania is concerned, there is every hope that, now there is an opportunity of getting the whole of the market of Australia, the beer from that State will largely displace other brands. And why should Tasmania not get that increased trade ? Beer is one of those commodities by means of which Tasmania will have her opportunity to make up for the losses of revenue sustained in other directions. I hope that the visionary idea of Senator Symon will receive no attention. The honorable and learned senator has charged me with making assertions : but these assertions are founded on figures taken from statistics collected by expert officers. I cannot give the Senate better proof than I have already given, by placing side by side the collections under the duties proposed by the honorable and learned senator, and the collections under the duties which appear in the Tariff. It is shown that so far from there being any lessening of collections under the new duties they are as great if not greater than before
I hope the committee will allow the Tariff in this particular to remain as submitted.
– Senator O’Connor asked for some proof of displacement, and I propose to give that proof from the honorable and learned senator’s own figures. Senator O’Connor did not go quite far enough in dealing with Victoria. It is quite true that in 1900 the revenue from beer was £33,000, and that for the six months with which we are dealing, it was £24,000. It is very easy to multiply £24,000 by two, and say that the revenue for a year will be £48,000 ; but the honorable and learned senator quite forgot to refer to other tables in the book, which show that the revenue of Victoria is falling off month by month. In January the revenue,leaving out the smaller figures, was £5,000, as against £4,000 in February and £2,000 in March. It would be quite as reasonable to multiply the March return by twelve and fix the annual revenue at £24,000 as to give it as £48,000. These figures do not show the displacement, which, however, is easily proved. If we turn to the excise we find that in Victoria it amounted in 1900 to £176,000, while for the six months ending 31st March last, it amounted to £103,000. If we double that, we get a total of £206,000 for the year. These figures are taken from the papers circulated by Senator O’Connor. It is clear that the revenue from excise has gone up enormously, and in the first three months of this year the receipts from customs have fallen off immensely. That proves conclusively that since the change in the Tariff, imported beer has been displaced, and the revenue has been increased only by the 3d. per gallon upon beer manufactured in the States. It is an absolute fact that the increase of import duties diminishes the importation of beer, andit is, therefore, perfectly fair for us to reason that by reducing the duty we shall proportionately increase the importation.
– I look upon this item as one of great importance to Tasmania. I have listened carefully to the arguments put forward, and the figures given by Senators O’Connor and Symon, and the figures last submitted by Senator O’Connor seem to me to be unanswerable. They show that under the Commonwealth Tariff as it now stands, Victoria has received in revenue from this item more than under the old Victorian Tariff.
– That has just been answered; it is an increase of excise revenue at the expense of importation.
– In my opinion it has not been answered effectively. Apart from all questions offiscalism, this matter should be considered from the point of view of revenue. Any man of common sense and experience must know that if a beer drinker prefers English to colonial ale, he will have it. The proposal is to reduce the duty by 3d. per gallon. There are six bottles in a gallon, so that the proposal is to reduce the duty by1/2d. per bottle. Who will get the profit? Will the publican, who is the last to handle the beer, sell it any cheaper to the consumer? If he will not, how can it be said that there will be any greater consumption? I look at the matter from the point of view of revenue, and I believe that to fix the duty at1s. 6d. per gallon, instead of 15d. per gallon, will benefit the State I represent.
Question - That the House of Representatives be requested to amend item 1 by omitting “1s. 6d.,” with a view to substitute “1s. 3d.” - put. The committee divided.
Majority … … 4 .
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Motion (by Senator Sir Josiah Symon) agreed to.
That the House of Representatives be requested to amend item 1 by omitting “ ls.,” with a view to substitute “ lOd.”
Item 2. - Spirits, viz., spirits and spirituous compounds n.e.i. not exceeding the strength of proof, per gallon “ Ids.” . . .
– I move -
That the House of Representatives be requested to amend item 2 by inserting after the figures “ 14s.” the words “with an allowance for under proof up to 16 5.’
The reason for the amendment is that it is well known that new spirits are stronger than old. The older spirits become, the less pronounced is the percentage of alcohol, and consequently the spirit is more valuable for consumption and less likely to injure the health of the community. I point out that in asking that there should be a duty of 14s. per gallon, the proposal really seeks, in respect of bottled spirits, to collect 14s. a gallon on the water mixed with the spirit to reduce it to a drinkable strength. Every one knows that we cannot drink proof spirit, and that it has to be broken down, and it is desirable, from one stand-point at least, that spirit should be reduced by distillers whose names are some guarantee for the contents of the bottles, rather than that it should be reduced, and possibly tampered with, by local bottlers. I know that other honorable senators may very naturally take the view that this will interfere with the local industry of bottling. If. the committee takes that view I am willing that, as is the case in England, there should be an extra charge per gallon on bottled spirits as against spirits in bulk. In England, I think, ls. additional is charged. What I am asking for has been conceded by the Government in the case of wines. Senators will see from the schedule that there are graduated duties for wines, according to strength. If in the case of wines it is a correct principle to have graduated duties according to strength, surely the principle should hold equally in regard to spirits 1 ‘ I am aware that in some of the States it has been the practice to charge the full duty on spirits irrespective of the strength. On the other hand, in some of the States the opposite has been the practice, and in New South Wales it has invariably been the rule to allow for a reduction of strength in the manner indicated by my amendment. The proposal in the schedule was carried by a small majority in the House of Representatives, and I am hopeful that it may be discussed here with a view to altering what I look upon as undesirable and unfair. People are compelled, as I point out, under present circumstances to pay a duty on the water with which the spirit is rendered fit for consumption. The proposal in the schedule is’ one which involves the importation of strong, arid therefore hew, spirits as against more mature and milder spirits. If spirits are imported in bulk, as they would be under this proposal, and the whole of the bottling takes place here, there will not be the same guarantee to the consumer of the quality of the liquor. It is notorious that a very large proportion of the evils attending the consumption of alcoholic drink are due rather to the consumption of deleterious compounds sold as spirits than to the consumption of genuine liquor. The consumption of liquor by’ per-, sons who are in a position to keep their own stocks for- private use, or belong tj> clubs, is not attended by the horrible crimes which are so frequently the result of the consumption of the deleterious compounds sold as liquor to persons who cannot afford to keep their own stock. Fusel oil, sheep-washes, painkiller, and the Lord only knows what viilanous compounds are sold to the unfortunate people who are not sufficiently wealthy to stock their own liquors. I shall not trouble the committee with letters I have received from firms who have been many years in the business but I can assure honorable senators that I have received many important communica-tions from persons in the trade emphasizing the facts which I have briefly submitted to the committee. I trust that this matter will, in the interests of public health as well as in the interest of fairness; receive reasonable attention.
– The proposal, contained in the amendment is familiar in New South Wales, where it has been found to work admirably and to insure good brands being placed on the market. I shall take the liberty ‘of reading a short quotation from a letter which I have received, in reference to this matter, from one of the principal importers in New South Wales, who says -
Proof Spirit. - We would like to say a few words under this heading. If an allowance is made for spirits under proof as was formerly the custom, the difficulty would be overcome, and a revenue obtained. By making no allowance for underproof spirits, the duty upon such goods as brandy and whisky is increased by 4s. 4d. per case. The consumer thus pays about 6d. per bottle advance, and receives no equivalent, for proprietors of well-established brands will not be so foolish as to alter either the strength or the quality of the spirit which suits the palate of the public, a taste which has taken many years to gratify.
That puts the whole thing in a nutshell. From the consumers’ point of view, it makes a difference of 4s. 4d. a case, or 2s. 2d. per gallon, according to this gentleman’s calculation, and I am under the impression that in some instances it makes a difference of 5s. a case. “Would it not be fair to allow this percentage, in accordance with the practice followed hitherto in New South Wales and in one of the other States 1 I do not know whether the “Vice-President of the Executive Council considers that the proposal would result in a material loss of revenue.
– Undoubtedly; in a very large loss.
– On the other hand, it might not do so, because the existing duty might prevent the importation of so much spirit in bottle as is now imported, and that would have the effect of causing proof spirit to be introduced and bottled in the States. If the duty is allowed to remain as it stands, merchants will import their spirit in bulk, and by adding water to it here reduce it by exactly the same strength as that in respect of which the allowance would be made. Therefore, there would be a smaller importation of absolute proof spirit than there would be ‘of spirit 16 -5 under proof if the allowance were granted. There is another matter to which I should like to direct the attention of Senator O’Connor, and which I think he might well see his way to remedy. Lately the Custom-house officers have been demanding a duty of 14s. per gallon upon ginger wine. The duty cn ginger wine in New South Wales has been 3s. 6d. per gallon, although at one time it was 5s. per gallon.
– What has that to do with this item ?
– The Customhouse authorities are collecting duty on ginger wine under this item at 14s. per gallon, and it is unreasonable that that charge should be made. A letter which I have received from one of the importing firms of Sydney states that -
We have been informed that ginger wine is to be treated as a spirituous compound, and, therefore, subject to a duty of 14s. per gallon, irrespective of the fact that it contains less than 25 per cent, of proof spirit. Formerly in New South Wales the duty was 5s. per gallon, this being the duty on wine. Subsequently, it was altered to 3s. 6d. per gallon in cases where the compound did not contain more than 25 per cent, of proof spirit. When it became known that ]4s. per gallon would be demanded, we cabled stopping all shipments, and, as YOU know, the importation of the article is now absolutely impossible. At 3s. 6d. per gallon the business could continue and revenue would accrue to the Custom-house, but at 14s. per gallon there will be no importation, and, consequently, no revenue.
Another firm, in writing on the same subject, says -
We have been in the habit of importing an article known as ginger wine, prepared hy Messrs. D. J. Thomson and Co., Leith, the’ strength being less than 25 per cent, of proof spirit per gallon, and paying duty prior to October the 8th last at the rate of 3s. Cd. per gallon. After that date, 14s. per gallon was demanded, under the heading of spirituous compounds, n.e.i , not exceeding the strength of proof, thus placing the article on the same footing as rum, whisky, or other proof spirit. Our price in bond has been 12s. per case of two gallons, or with 7s. duty 20s. per case duty paid, equal to ls. 8d. per bottle. We need hardly point out that with the further duty 21s. per case, or ls. 9d. per bottle, shipments remain in bond, and must ultimately return from whence they came. Yon can, therefore, point out, when writing, that so far as D. J. Thomson and Co.’s brand is concerned, importations will, if the present high duty is insisted upon, cease, and their manufacture represents fully 80 per cent, imported into this State and Queensland. We would like to add that when the honorable Minister for Customs proposed in committee that certain articles and preparations containing not more than 25 per cent, of proof spirit per gallon should pay 3s. Gd. per gallon, our. collector accepted duty at that rate, but later on reverted to 14s. We believe the article is consumed by invalids and those who require a mild stimulant.
Some provision should be made to place this wine on the footing which it has occupied hitherto.
– Is it not a spirituous compound ?
– -Yes; but it contains less than 25 per cent, of spirit. I know personally that Thomson’s -ginger wine has been sold hitherto at the rate of 3s. 6d. per bottle in New South Wales, but the duty of 14s. per gallon would make it impossible for any one to obtain it at that price. It might be well if we were to place the article under one of the later paragraphs dealing -with materials containing not more than 25 per cent, of proof spirit. The Minister should consent to any proposal to bring this wine under a lower rate of duty, as a means of securing greater revenue than will otherwise be obtained from it. As to Senator Neild’s proposal, I hope that the Vice-President of the Executive Council will accept it, if not in its present form, then in some modified shape, so that there may not be room for the complaint about the excessively high duty charged on imported bottled spirits.
– .[ do not see that I can make any concession in regard go ginger wine, which is undoubtedly a spirituous compound.
– So are essences, fluid extracts, and sarsaparilla, which are admitted under a lower duty.
– It is really a matter of administration, if that is so ; a matter of the construction of the Tariff. We cannot make special provision for ginger wine. It would hardly be worth while doing so, because these things are dealt with in general clauses. The better plan would be for the honorable and learned senator to represent this question as a matter of administration. The more important matter is the amendment moved by Senator Neild. I really do not know that it is worth while to appeal to some honorable senators to reject the amendment on the ground that it would mean a loss of £50,000 a year in revenue. I find that honorable senators who have come here as revenue-Tariffists, sworn, as they say, to protect the interests of the States which are running short of revenue, are ready to get rid of thousands of pounds cf revenue in the most airy way. However, I deem it my duty to put before honorable senators reasons, which appear to me to be very strong, why this amendment should not be carried. The duty proposed to be charged under the Tariff as it stands is 14s. per gallon. Whether it is under-proof or not, no allowance is made. Senator Neild proposes that an allowance shall be made up to 16-5 ; that is to say, if a spirit comes in which is below proof an allowance shall be made for the degrees under-proof as far as 16’5. According to calculations which have been made by the Customs officials, and which differ very slightly from those mentioned by Senator Gould, that allowance, would mean a concession equal to 2s. 4d. a gallon.
-Col. Neild. - Upon water.
– It would mean a. reduction of the revenue, whether it wasmade in respect of water, rum, or whisky ; and making the lowest possible estimate of that reduction, it would mean a total loss of £50,000 per annum. What would be the operation of the allowance? It would very largely affect the importation of spirits in cases from well-known, makers. It is quite true that these spirits, come in at a certain proof strength, and are sold in the cases just as they are imported. The effect of the duty, which is levied in the form adopted in all the States except New South Wales and South Australia, is that as the importer has to pay on a proof spirit gallon, he takes care that he gets the benefit of the money paid to the Custom-house, and imports a gallon of proof spirit, which is broken down and bottled here. Senator Sargood shakes Iris head, but it is well known in the trade - I have had official information about it - that two well-known firms, Burke and Walker, are establishing bottling departments here for the purpose of importing spirits in bulk and bottling them here.
– And they are importing very much over-proof, and saving carriage in that way. The spirit imported will be all the purer from the fact that it is overproof .
– Senator Playford made this allowance in South Australia.
- Senator Playford, I think, has this merit, that he does not assume to angelic perfection, as some of my honorable friends opposite do. In all these practical matters he has an experience on which I rely much more than I do on the theories and statistics of many of my honorable friends opposite. The experience is not only Senator Playford’s experience. These two firms are establishing bottling industries here for the express purpose of taking advantage of the law. It saves them carriage when they can import spirits at full strength, break them down, and bottle them here. They retain the business which they had before, and the States get the benefit of the industry. It must be admitted that there will be a loss of revenue if this alteration is made.
– There is no,’ loss of revenue, according to the Minister’s own ‘ showing, if it is bottled.
- Senator Gould made that admission.
– My honorable friend must see that there will be a loss of 2s. 4d. per gallon: That loss will amount to a very large sum. The estimate I have brings it up to at least £50,000. Senator Pulsford says I have admitted that because the bottling will be done here, there will be no loss of revenue. But the bottling will only be done here if the duty remains as it is. Why should they have any bottling done ‘‘here if they can send out the spirits in the cases, and get an allowance up to 16’5 for whatever quantity it may be short 1 There must be a loss if the suggested alteration is made. There are two ways of looking at the matter. If we are going to give up revenue in this way, not only will the revenue generally fall far short of our requirements, but the revenue of the States whose interests we are supposed to guard here, and are trying to guard, will suffer most seriously if thousands and thousands of pounds are taken away just to satisfy the whim of some honorable senator or the views , df some person who is behind him. I do not use that expression with any offensive intention. I do not say that any honorable senator does any more than his duty in putting forward certain views, but honorable senators, not on one side of the Chamber more than on the other, are continually putting forward these views, and we have to see that the public interest is safeguarded. I contend that it can be safeguarded only by seeing that the revenue is not allowed to fall lower and lower until it becomes utterly inadequate for the needs of the Commonwealth. I ask the committee to leave the item as it is, and to reject the motion.
Senator Major GOULD (New South Wales). - In his speech Senator O’Connor said that 1 had admitted that there will be a loss of revenue by adopting the course suggested by Senator Neild. Let me put the matter in a concrete form. Assume for the sake of argument that the community requires 116 gallons of spirit within a given time. If a merchant imports 116 gallons, with the allowance of 16-5 practically he pays duty on 100 gallons. But suppose “that 100 gallons, of proof spirit are imported, and reduced in strength here, exactly the same amount of revenue- is derived by the Customs authorities, because the importer pays in one case 1 4s. a gallon on 100 gallons of proof spirit, and in the other 14s. a gallon, less 16 -5, on 116 gallons of spirits. What are the collateral advantages in adopting the 16-5 allowance 1 There is an opportunity to have a greater diversity of spirit imported. If we compel the bottling to be done in the Commonwealth, it means that the bottlers must have rather large establishments. It means a premium to one or two big firms at the expense of the smaller firms who desire to import their material, and whom possibly the people in the Commonwealth may desire to patronize. If the control of the market is placed in the hands of three or four firms they are given an undue advantage over other firms who cannot establish bottling industries here, but have to import their spirits under proof in bottles and pay duty at a higher rate. Under one system we put ourselves in the hands of two or three firms, whereas under the other we have a large number of firms on whom we can rely for our supply, and a better opportunity to obtain the spirit we like best.
– I shall oppose the motion of Senator Neild, on the ground that it will lead to the importation of proof and over-proof spirit in bulk, which will be mixed with local spirit, and put on the shelves of local hotels in the form of a spirit inferior to that which we should get if the liquors were imported under the brands of well-known firms. We ought to guard against impositions of that character.
– The honorable senator is misunderstanding the position.
– If so, I have not grasped the explanation made by the honorable senator.
Senator HARNEY (Western Australia). - I shall certainly support Senator Neild’s motion. It is desirable that spirits should come here in bottle, because if that is done, we are less likely to have deleterious mixtures added to the imported spirit, as will be the case if the bottling is done here. I cannot understand how my very intelligent and quick friend, Senator O’Connor, should have made the mistake he has done in saying that the revenue is involved. I quite understand his statement that as the Tariff at present stands, when we pay on the bottle, we pay 2s.4d. more per gallon than we should pay if we paid on a bottle of proof spirit ; because we are paying oil the water with which the spirit is mixed. The effect of leaving the schedule as it stands is that the spirit will come in in bulk. The water will not be brought here.The effect of Senator Neild’s motion will be that the bottling will not be done here, and only pure stuff will be brought in in bulk. Therefore, I cannot see where the loss of revenue will come in. What Senator Neild says is - “ Let us pay duty on the pure whisky.” Senator O’Connor, however, says - No ; let us leave it as it is ; “ and the result will be the same, because the water will be left behind. Consequently, there cannot be any loss to the revenue either way. That being so, we are free to ‘give consideration to other points of view ; and I do not think that encouragement should be given to persons to mix cheap and poisonous stuff with the imported whisky.
– I think it is decidedly better to adopt Senator Neild’s motion. Years ago in Victoria, the experiment of allowing whisky’ to come in in bottles was tried and answered very well. I do not think the change brought about good results, although I do not want to go into all the details. The effect of Senator Neild’s motion is that bottled stuff will be imported to a great extent. I cannot say that the revenue will be affected, or that the employment of labour will be decreased. I have here the opinion of an expert in the trade, who informs me that -
It is to be borne in mind that the labour question is very much exaggerated in this instance. The tendency of local bottling wherever possible is to deliver loose in baskets, whereas spirits imported in bottle are packed in convenient sized cases, and givea large amount of labour in handling to stevedores, coopers, and repackers, carters,bond employes, &c., the loss of employment to whom has to be taken into consideration as a set-off to the employment given to bottlers. The importation of bulk spirits employs very much less labour than does the importation of case spirits.
I give that as the opinion of one of the largest firms in Victoria, and I place it before the committee with complete confidence.
Senator Lt.-Col. NEILD (New South Wales). - In view of the fact that I did not make myself perfectly clear, and that Senator Charleston, though with me in effect, has stated his intention of voting against me,I wish to make my meaning plainer. Spirits in bottle are imported under proof. Spirits imported in bulk are usually up to proof or in some cases over proof, to allow of loss of strength while the articles are lying in the bonded store or the merchant’s warehouse. Therefore, as I can show from letters which I have in my pocket, orders are being sent to Scotland and Ireland for spirits up to 2 or 3 per cent.’ over proof to come out in bulk, the amount of over proof representing the loss of strength on the voyage, or while lying in store awaiting consumption. So that, when the time comes for paying the duty, this 2 or 3 per cent. over proof will have disappeared by evaporation, and duty up to 14s. will be payable on proof spirit. That high percentage of alcohol is obtained bysending out new raw spirits, or mixing such spirits with the more mature article ; and, consequently, we get a product of inferior quality. I am entirely in agreement with Senator Charleston, that reputable firms ought to be protected, rather than injured, by the methods adopted by the Government. I do not suppose that in “ breaking down “ spirits in Australia, people are going to viciously compound a deleterious article ; but if the bottling be done here by irresponsible people, whose brands are not on the bottles, and who are not the manufacturers, we shall take away the great defence afforded by world-known firms who so largely guarantee quality. It is said that the plan proposed by the Government will give a great amount of employment in the bottling industry in Australia; but I submit that this will not be equal to the loss of employment in other directions. Here enters the question of State interests, to which Senator O’Connor referred. If we avoid the importation of a percentage of water and admit only proof spirit, the volume of trade will be smaller, and there will be. a consequent loss’ of port, harbor, and wharfage dues: Ifthere be£50,000 difference in the importations, there must be a loss to the State revenues, accompanied by loss to the shipowner, the sailor, the wharfinger, the carter, the storeman, and others ; and this is a fair set-off to the advantage which would undoubtedly accrue from the bottling being carried out in Australia.
Senator PULSFORD (New South Wales). - The allowances now asked for have ruled all along in New South Wales; They ruled in that State when Senator O’Connor was a member of the Government there, and when he had an opportunity, ‘if he thought it desirable, to bring about’ a change. Similar allowances have been made in South Australia and, until recently, in Victoria, and they ore also made in the well-protected colony of New Zealand. The example of New Zealand is worth consideration, because the Government- there have all along been aware of the loss their revenue suffered by undue allowances in various directions - undue gifts, as it were, to local trade. The main principle involved in this matter is that of trade custom ; and the custom of the spirit trade has been to export to Australia cases of spirits of the strength usually consumed here ; that is about 16.5 under-proof. All the leading English, Scotch, and Irish makers have sent spirit of that strength, and the custom here has been for retailers to buy in bond, relying on getting what they wanted. If the present attempt to interfere with the ordinary usages of trade be successful, we shall create a tendency to place on the market spirit of a doubtful character, and remove the assurance which/consumers ought to have when purchasing at a high price. Under all tho circumstances, it is only reasonable that the allowances asked for should be granted, and people enabled to conduct the business on the lines hitherto adopted in many States.
Senate adjourned at 4 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 16 May 1902, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1902/19020516_senate_1_10/>.