10th Parliament · 1st Session
The President (Senator the Hon. Sir John Newlands) took the chair at 11 a.m., and read prayers.
In committee (consideration resumed from 17th May (vide page 4986) :
Section five of the Principal Act is repealed and the following section inserted in its stead: - “5. The rate of bounty payable under this Act on fortified wine exported on or after the ninth da; of March, One thousand nine hundred and twenty-eight, shall be one shilling per gallon.”
Section proposed to be amended -
The rate of bounty payable under this act shall be - (a)……
on fortified wine exported on or after the first day of September, One thousand nine hundred and twenty-seven, and on or before the thirty-first day of August, One thousand nine hundred and thirty, one shilling and ninepence per gallon.
Upon which Senator Robinson had movedby way of an amendment -
That the words. “One shilling per gallon,” proposed new section 5, be left out with a view to insert in lieu thereof the words “ in accordance with the schedule to this act”
– At the outset I wish to remove an impression which may be in the minds of some honorable senators as a result of a remark of the Minister (Senator Crawford) concerning themotive which prompted a delegation from Berri, in. South Australia, to visit Canberra in connexion with this measure. I am sure the ‘ Minister quite unintentionally created a wrong impression in regard to this aspect of the question, and I can give him a definite assurance that the matter to which he alluded is of primary importance to the delegation which visited’ Canberra. It was suggested by the Prime Minister that if, as a result of a reduced . bounty, these men found themselves in such a precarious: position that they could not finance their’ Operations, they might get some relief from the rural credits branch of the Commonwealth Bank. That would be only postponing their difficulties ; it would merely provide them with bread and butter, so to speak, for the time being. What is to happen in connexion with the 300,000 gallons of wine on which they will be debarred from getting the bounty of ls. 9d. a gallon under the bill as it stands. I wish for the information of the Minister and honorable senators to read the following, which appeared in a South Australian newspaper yesterday, showing how this matter is -viewed by those most vitally interested in that State -
The viticulturists in South Australia are disappointed and disgusted with the decision of the Federal Government to reduce the wine bounty to ls. a gallon, according to the president of the Viticulturists’ Association, Mr. Leslie Salter.
Mr. Salter understands the wine business from beginning to end, as he, like myself, was a viticultural student at the Roseworthy College and was also president of the Roseworthy Old Students’ Association. Mr. Salter, who has been appointed by the viticulturists of South Australia to represent their interests, further stated that the reduction in the bounty will place the export wine trade in jeopardy. The chairman of directors of the Renmark Growers’ Distillery also deprecated the reduction, which he said has been made in order to reduce the Commonwealth deficit. That is the crux of the whole position. It seems that as & result of lavish expenditure and declining revenue the Government is now looking round for opportunities to cut down, and for its first cut has selected this important industry, regardless of the disastrous results which will follow. The chairman of the Renmark Growers’ Distillery says that if the Government proposal is adopted the wine industry will receive a great setback, and wine makers will be prevented from making any profit on the export of wine. I again ask honorable senators to view this question with an open mind. The prestige of the Government will not suffer, and it will not be in any way embarrassed if the proposal I have submitted is agreed to and sent to another place for its consideration. I maintain that some important facts of which the Government was not aware when the measure was first introduced, have since been placed before them, and in view of the very unsatisfactory position in which these growers, all of whom are returned soldiers, will be placed, I urge that it is the duty of the Senate to support my amendment. I believe that honorable senators wish to do the right thing.
– Has any benefit at all been derived from the increased creased British preference?
– Yes ; but only on paper.
– But actually?
– I am sure that Senator Greene is anxious to do a fair thing. If, as the result of the increased British preference, Australian wine exporters have been placed in a better position to compete with continental wine, manufacturers in Great Britain, on the other hand are now producing a cheap English wine from imported must.
– That is not a recent development.
– The operations of one big company have been so successful that as it recently declared a dividend of 30 per cent. This company has been built up as a result of producing a cheap product, in which chemicals and all sorts of coloring matter are used in order to give it the appearance and flavour !of good Australian wine. This wine is being sold at 5s. 6d. a gallon, whereas good Australian wine cannot be sold at less than 9s. 6d. a gallon.
– We cannot control that.
– No; but we can give our exporters a better opportunity of combating this unfair competition until they get their wines established on the London market.
– The British Pure Foods Act would prevent- manufacturers using chemicals and coloring matter as the honorable senator suggests.
– The position is exactly as I have stated. Our wines have not been properly established on the London market, and whatever good intentions the Bruce-Page Government may have had in allowing wine to be exported before being properly matured it has really destroyed the sale of Australian wine in London. Men who have never produced a gallon of wine or picked a bunch of grapes have been, to use a colloquialism, getting “their cut” by placing on the London market immature wine in order to benefit by the bounty. Whilst they have been doing this others, who held their wine until it was properly matured, have been penalized. In view of the additional information received by the Government since it introduced this ill-advised measure I trust the committee will support my proposal.
– I should not have intervened in this debate had it not been for some of the attempts that have been made to grossly misrepresent the attitude of the Government towards the producers of grapes used for wine making. If there is any section in the community that ought to be grateful to the Commonwealth Government, it is the grape growers, and I resent altogether the attempt which has been made to make it appear that this Government, which has acted not only justly but generously towards these persons, is responsible for their present position. I invite honorable senators to recall the situation which arose some few years ago and which was due not to any action on the part of the Commonwealth Government, but to certain State Governments which encouraged returned soldiers to undertake the growing of grapes for wine-, making. In one State at least, the State Government actually compelled returned soldiers to plant certain areas with doradilla vines, and if the position of these growers became desperate it was due to the action of State Governments and not the Government of the Commonwealth. What has actually happened? The State Governments have not done anything to rescue these people from their unfortunate position. Who came to their aid? The Commonwealth Government and the Commonwealth Parliament. It was the legislation passed by this Parliament that saved them from economic ruin. In the light of these facts it is ridiculous to speak of these people as being grossly ill treated. It is gross misrepresentation. It is wrong to tell them that they have a grievance against this Parliament or this Government. The action taken by this Government in regard to doradilla grapes used for spirit making in the adjustment of the excise duties saved them from immediate ruin. That was followed by the introduction of the Wine Bounty Bill. Senator Robinson has said that the reputation of Australian wine has been destroyed by the action of the Commonwealth Government.
– How ridiculous it is to make such an assertion. One has only to look at the figures to see how the export of Australian wines has increased from an almost negligible quantity until we are now amongst the largest suppliers to Britain. This is due entirely to the operation of the Wine Export Bounty Act introduced by this Government and passed by this Parliament. In view of these facts it is ridiculous to tell these people that they have been badly treated by the Commonwealth Government. Their success is entirely due to the legislation initiated by this Government and passed by this Parliament. When the bounty was agreed to the proposals of the British Government in the direction of preference to Empire wines were not known. When, later, the Chancellor of the Exchequer introduced his Budget it was seen that the position of the Australian wine growers was improved considerably by the degree of preference which it embodied. While no one contemplated that the British Government would increase the preference on Empire wines so enormously, the then Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Pratten), realizing the possibilities of an increase, made public a statement - it appeared not only in Ronsard, but throughout the press of Australia, and was noted by the journals devoted to the wine trade - that if there was an increase of British preference there would be an adjustment of the bounty. In the light of the figures which have been given, it is clear that the bounty was not merely sufficient, but unduly generous. The additional preference to Empire wines gave an additional fillip to an industry already generously treated. In view of the financial position of the Commonwealth, it is the bounden duty of the Government to ensure that in its disbursement of public moneys it is not unduly generous. I freely admit that the Government has kept a very close watch on its expenditure, and that in making its disbursements it has paid special attention to efficiency and economy. But no one who views the facts impartially can deny that, with the increased British preference, the wine industry of Australia to-day, in spite of the reduced bounty, is in a much better position that it was previously. That being so, the Government is not justified in imposing taxes on the community to give to that industry something it does not need. The Government and this Parliament have no reason to be ashamed of their treatment of the grape-growers and the wine industry. When no one else would help the growers this Government came to their rescue and saved from ruin those engaged in the industry. The time has arrived for a readjustment of the bounty. I appeal to honorable senators not to make use of extravagant statements, calculated to create a feeling among the unfortunate growers that they have been badly treated. The facts speak otherwise. I resent the attempt made to belittle the assistance given by the Government to the industry.
– In reply to Senator Pearce, I desire to say that I made use of no extravagant statements in my speech, nor did I complain of what had been done in the past to assist the grape growers. On the contrary, I gave the Government credit for what had been done. I said, moreover, that I believed that the Prime Minister was genuinely concerned about the future of the wine industry of Australia. I believe so still. I do not want the speculators in wine to benefit . through the bounty at the expense of the -rest of the community. If I believed that our wines could be marketed successfully, with a reduction of the bounty, I should not be found fighting the Government’s proposals. I also agree with the desire of the Government to organize the wine trade and to ensure that more matured wines are placed on the London market. I thought that I had made that plain in my previous speech. When the bill was before another place, the Prime Minister said -
The problem now to be considered is whether the alteration of the British preference warrants a reduction of the bounty.
That is the crux of the question. The Minister stated that the effective British preference is 3s. 6d. a gallon more than it was previously.
It is true that previously the preference was 6d. a gallon, and that it is now 4s. but because of the extent to which wines are blended in England, the effective preference is not 3s. 6d. a gallon.
– Does the honorable senator wish the British Government to assist Australian wine growers at the expense of the British wine industry?
– We ask for temporary assistance to market our wines. If our surplus wine is not exported; but is thrown on the local market, the result will be calamitous. I remind honorable senators that the Government is financing the returned soldiers engaged in the industry. The Prime Minister admitted that wine blending was being carried out in England.
– Wines have been blended from time immemorial.
– It is part of the wine business during’ recent years many of the difficulties which were previously associated with the blending of wines have been removed. The Prime Minister admitted that the blending of wines in England had the effect of defeating the British preference. His words were -
Assuming that a foreign low strength wine, on which a duty of 3s. per gallon was paid, and a foreign high strength wine, on which a duty of 8s. per gallon was paid, were successfully blended in equal proportions, the average duty on the wine would be 5s. 6d. per gallon. The duty on our sweet wine is only 4s. per gallon. Therefore the Australian wine exporter would still be ls. 6d. per gallon better off than when the Wine Export Bounty Bill was introduced last year.
But the position is worse even than that. Messrs. Martin, Angove, Salter and Gursansky, wine experts, who visited England some time ago stated on their return that wine blending is being carried on in England to a very great extent. Mr. Martin said that it is now quite easy to blend two parts of wine under 25 per cent, with one part of wine which is under 42 per cent., and that the duty on such foreign blended wine is reduced to 4s. 8d. as against 4s. on Australian wine.
Honorable senators will see bow, by the blending of wines in England, the objects of Empire preference are being defeated. The position is still worse when we reflect that large quantities of wine are being made in Britain from must. That wine bears no duty but an excise of only ls. 6d. per gallon. I have already quoted extracts from the balance sheets of the companies which are making wines from must in England and have shown and that their profits and turnover are increasing year by year. The position is so serious that 300,000 gallons of Australian wine belonging to one cooperative distillery now in England cannot find a market. Some months ago another co-operative winery in South Australia sent to London a consignment of wine which is still unsold. I ask honorable senators not to agree to the reduction of the wine bounty at this stage. I remind them that the bounty is paid only in respect of wine which is exported. The buyers of grapes to make export wine force other buyers to pay the fixed price for grapes. If there is no export of wines there is no fixation by the Government of the price to be paid for grapes. Consequently growers must accept whatever price is offered to them. Even the fixed price is not high - it is the lowest price which, in the opinion of the Government will pay the growers.
– If, a<s the honorable senator has just alleged, Australian wines cannot be sold overseas, of what use is any bounty?
– To help to market them. It is true that some of the Australian wine in England is being sold, and probably, in time, the whole of that now in bond will be disposed of. But if there is no export of wine, and consequently no fixation of the price to be paid for grapes, the growers will indeed be in an unenviable position. Even under existing conditions their income is not great. Some of them will be unable to carry on for six months, so if this measure passes, in all probability they will be forced off their holdings.
! - I do not wish to give a silent vote on this matter. It was my intention to cover a great deal of the ground that has just been traversed by Senator
Pearce. In my opinion this Parliament has done as much as it can, at the moment at all events, to extricate producers from difficulties for which it was in no way responsible, but I have felt for a long time that the whole of the arrangements in connexion with the wine industry in Australia require serious overhauling. The arguments advanced by those who advocate the retention of the present bounty could be used as long as the industry is conducted on its present basis. There is, however, one thing for which I am satisfied this Parliament was responsible* and which should be put right, though I admit there are many difficulties in the way. I do not know who devised the present system of excise duties, but evidently someone who had an eye on the revenue possibilities decided that the easiest way to levy a tax on the alcoholic contents of wine was to impose a duty on the fortifying spirit. It was an easy method, but experience has shown that it was the worst possible thing that could have been done for the industry, because it encouraged the marketing of wine in an immature condition. While this duty is collected on the fortifying spirit, the winemakers will consider it to be in their own interests to market their product at the earliest possible moment.
– Particularly if they know that the bounty is to be withdrawn.
– The revenue collected by the Government in this way immediately becomes part of the capital charge on the manufacture of wine, so the longer it is kept for maturing purposes, the greater the charge necessarily becomes. It is obvious, therefore, that the principle of charging excise duty on wine at the point of manufacture is wrong, and, as I have shown, Parliament must accept responsibility for this state of affairs. I admit that many technical difficulties must be cleared away before we can remedy this anomaly, and I suggest that the people who are deeply interested in the business should give it their close attention. The practice of the department is entirely different in the case of whiskey and brandy. Excise, duty is not levied on those spirits until they go into consumption, and the law provides that both whiskey and brandy must be kept two years in wood. No portion of either product may be sold out of bond until it has been maturing for two years. I think it will be admitted, even by those engaged in the wine industry, that in the present state of the country’s finances wine, like every other alcoholic beverage, should be a fair charge against the revenue; that is to say, a certain amount of excise duty should be collected from it.
– The department has collected £3,000,000 already from the industry.
– I -was about to say that this excise revenue is obtained principally from a small section of the winemakers, and, possibly, one reason why a manifest wrong has not been righted is that vignerons cannot get together to discuss and deal with the matter. Light wines are our principal product, and, no doubt, the maker of that class of wine says to himself : “ The other fellow is carrying the baby. I will let him do it as long as I can.”
– The unfortunate part of the whole business is that only a few isolated localities can produce grapes for the lighter wines. They cannot be grown on the irrigation areas.
– This bill does not remedy the anomaly referred to by the honorable senator.
– I am aware of that. I mention it because, in my opinion, it is one of the things in connexion -with the wine industry that should be put right. If it is, I feel sure that the industry will be very materially assisted. I suggest, therefore, that those who have invested their money and are engaged in it should make such representations to the Government as will present a logical case upon -which the Minister can act. If this is done, I believe that the remedy, if applied, will cure many of the evils from which the industry is suffering to-day. To assist the industry when it was in grave difficulties, the Government introduced and passed what I considered was an over-generous bounty system.
– Which has been abused by the speculators.
-Why has it been abused ? Every one knows that one of the greatest abuses in connexion with it has been the exportation of immature wines.
– And that- has damaged the market.
– The exportation of immature wine has undoubtedly done incalculable harm to the trade in London. There are so many technical questions involved in the correction of the anomalies to which I have referred that I hesitate to express a definite opinion. I have formed certain conclusions as the result of some study, which I have been able to give to the subject, but I do not wish to put them forward because, asI have stated, the whole question is surrounded with technical difficulties, with which I am not thoroughly familiar. I believe, however, that it should be possible for the people engaged in the industry to submit proposals which, if adopted, should ultimately remove many of the disabilities from which the industry is suffering to-day. The direct imposition of excise duty on the fortifying spirit at the point of manufacture is not in the interests of the industry.
SenatorFindley.-Doesthe honorable senator suggest that those concerned should submit proposals after this bill has been passed, or does he advise delaying the passage of the measure,?
-I do not think we should delay. One has only to look at the figures which have bean presented, dealing, with the growth of the export trade, and to recall facts that have been admitted, to realize that a certain amount of abuse has crept into the trade.
– The expansion of the export trade is due primarily to the fact that areas . planted a few years ago are now coming into bearing.
– It is also due to the fact, as Senator Chapman knows very well, that the exporters of a few years ago, whose object was to develop the British market with matured wines of good quality and in that way to build up a reputation for the Australian product, have, in recent years, been absolutely swamped by a new class of exporters, whose object, apparently, is to make money out of the over-generous bounty given by the Government. In this way incalculable harm has been done to the wine export trade. In the circumstances, I do not think we should delay the pasage of the bill. It should go through as it stands. J admit that, in all probability, it will create certain new difficulties, but I believe that this is the only way in which we will be able to get the viticulturists who are particularly concerned, and the winemakers, to give their undivided attention to the correction of the anomaly to whch I have referred. I am confident that if this is done we shall ultimately place the wine industry of Australia on a thoroughly sound basis.
– Senator Greene has told the committee that he has given some consideration to this matter. I think we can say that he has given very much consideration to it and understands the position as well as, if not better than, most members of the committee, though he is too modest to make that claim. He made out an excellent, case for the postponement of this measure the passing of which, in its present form, he has declared, will multiply the existing difficulties. The Government enlarges upon its generous treatment of those who are engaged in the industry. I admit that the bounty is a substantial one ; but it is also correct to say that the Government has received in revenue probably £2,000,000 or £3,000,000, by way of excise.
– That is paid by the consumers of the wine.
– Then the Government has done very well out of the consumers.
– This bill is in the interest of the producers, not the consumers.
– If there were no consumers a bounty would be useless. We find ourselves in the position that while we have large quantities of Australian wine ready for export, the market is not capable of absorbing all that can be exported.
– There is a ready market for all the matured wine that can be exported.
– Admittedly wine improves with age. Grapes, however, do not. Even though it be a handicap to those who have wine ready for export, they can afford to wait for the psychological moment to put that wine on the market. But what is going to happen in the meantime to the unfortunate growers of grapes? There will be no market for their product. Does the Government wish the law of supply and demand to be the dominant factor ? What was its object when it fixed the price that should be paid for grapes, if it was not to ensure that the growers should receive that price? If a market does not exist overseas for our wine, how many buyers of grapes for wine making will there be? It would be unbusinesslike to purchase what, for the time being, is not required. Where, then, can the growers find a market for their fruit? When Senator Chapman was speaking the Leader of the Government (Senator Pearce) said that his speech amounted to an argument in favour of the discontinuance of the bounty. If the bounty wa3 discontinued the growers would, at least, know where they stood. They are not in that position at the present time.
– Under my amendment the bounty would be gradually wiped out, and the growers would know where they stood.
– Exactly ; the bounty would be on a sliding scale for a stated period, and the growers would make preparations for the future. They have never anticipated such happenings as those that are taking place to-day. If they had anticipated anything of the kind the majority of them probably would not have entered the business.
I realize that it is the duty of the Government Whip to assist the Government to have its measures put through; but I point out to Senator Foll that this is not a party measure, and I remind him that he is a returned soldier. At the front he went through the fires of Hades, and I feel sure that his sympathies are with those who, like himself, played a part in that titanic struggle years ago. He knows that many thousands of the men who fought in the war were not as strong, either physically or mentally, upon their return as they were before their departure. I ask him what would be his attitude, if in addition to being a returned soldier, he had engaged in this industry for some time; and, having put in a good deal of hard work to make his venture a success, suddenly found himself denied something that he believed had been definitely promised to him.
– Some of these boys are putting up as big a fight on their blocks as they did on the other side of the world.
– If Senator Foll were in that position, his keenness to make this a more satisfactory measure would be as great as that of the growers themselves - as great as that of Senator Robinson, and of honorable senators who sit on this side. We are asking for what after all is only a small measure of justice for men who deserve every consideration. I, therefore, ask Senator Foll not to be too active this morning in the use of the - whip, but to forget the official position he holds until this measure has gone through, and to allow every honorable senator opposite to decide for himself. If they are desirous of displaying a practical consideration for these men I believe that the amendment will be carried.
– If my acquaintance with Senator Findley in this chamber had extended over only two or three weeks I might have been tempted to take some notice of the piteous appeal that he has just made. In the first place, however, I point out” that honorable senators who sit on this side, unlike those who sit opposite, are free at all times to act just as they please. The whip to which Senator Findley made so lengthy a reference does not play such a prominent part with us as it does with those in whose political environment the honorable senator has moved for many years. That environment has made him blind to the freedom which exists among members of other parties.
– The right honorable William Morris Hughes was quickly silenced when he criticized the Government’s policy in relation to the immigration of Italians.
– I can honestly say that during the eleven years that I have represented the State of Queensland I have never sought to make use of the returned soldier for the purpose of catching votes, as the honorable senator has endeavoured to do in the last couple of days. He has grasped this opportunity with both hands, and has played up to a section from which he believes he may gain a few votes.
– Do not be unfair.
– I do not wish to be unfair. The record of this Government in regard to its treatment of returned soldiers is very much better than that of the party to which the honorable senator belongs.
– The Labour Party has not been in office since the war; on what grounds, therefore, does the honorable senator make such a statement?
– During .the war the party to which the honorable senator belongs did very little towards obtaining reinforcements and getting foodstuffs away to the men at the front.
– We believe in the voluntary system of enlistment.
– The party of which I am a member was in office during the war, and has remained in power ever since its termination. It has done more for its returned soldiers than has probably the Administration of any other country in the world; and rightly so. Honorable senators who sit opposite have availed themselves of every opportunity that has presented itself to use one particular case for the purpose of making political capital. Senator Greene has put the position in a nutshell. Senator Robinson, who I believe is imbued with the highest motives and is not endeavouring to make political capital out of this matter, has himself admitted that this bounty has been grossly abused by a few speculators, and that those who should have received the benefits it has conferred have to a large extent been deprived of them. Since settlement began to take place in the Murray Valley, a great deal of legislation has been passed to assist the returned soldiers and others engaged in grape production there. It is not very long since the first bounty act was introduced. The right honorable the Leader of the Senate (Senator Pearce) has also pointed out that when the settlers found themselves in difficulties on account of the overproduction of a particular class of grape, advances by way of loans were made to tide them over their difficulties. A little later, under another measure, a board was appointed to investigate the circumstances of settlers who were not in a position to discharge their indebtedness, to the Government. In the majority of the cases this Government accepted the recommendations of the board that that indebtedness should be wiped out. Will Senator Hoare, who knows the circumstances of these men on the Murray, say that they have not been generously treated by the present Government?
– The trouble is that they are the victims of the incompetence of those who established the settlements and led to the waste of hundreds of thousands of pounds.
– Incompetence has also been shown in the settlement of soldiers in Queensland. Hundreds of returned men who were placed on the land under circumstances similar to those which obtained in the Murray Valley have lost their money and are no longer on their holdings. But Senator Robinson will admit that the present Government and its predecessors have acted generously towards the soldiers who were settled in the Murray Valley.
– Hear, hear ! - Senator FOLL. - It ill becomes Senator Findley to charge the Commonwealth Governmentwith treating these soldiers unfairly. In Queensland, because they were badly advised by the State authorities, many soldiers embarked on the growing of fruit in the Stanthorpe and Beerburrum areas on country which was in many cases quite unsuitable for the purpose. Others were advised to grow produce for which there was no adequate market. As a result, the Queensland soldiers have been hard pressed, like the Murray Valley settlers, but they have not had the advantage of a Commonwealth bounty as in this case. SenatorFindley has no monopoly of sympathy with soldiers. I am just as sympathetic with them as he is.
– But sympathy without relief is like mustard without beef.
– I do not propose to follow the example of Senator Findley who, with an eye on the press gallery, talks platitudes about returned soldiers for vote-catching purposes. What these men need is practical legislation, and that is what they have had since the present Government has been in control of affairs. The Government has acted very generously towards the Murray
River settlers, but, just as Senator Findley would do, if he were a Minister, it must take into consideration the economic conditions of the country at the present time. What has happened recently is one of the curses of the bounty system. A bounty is given to enable an industry to establish itself and gel into a flourishing condition. It is not intended that it shall be paid for all time, but there is always a hard struggle to get it removed.
– But why does not the Government adhere to the stipulated period for the payment of this bounty?
– The Minister has shown that there was no definite agreement for the payment of this bounty for three years. The continuity of the bounty was to depend upon circumstances and those circumstances have changed.
– My suggestion is that the bounty should be gradually reduced on a sliding scale. I do not ask that it should be paid for all time.
– The only difference between the honorable senator’s proposal and that of the Government is that the Government seeks to reduce the bounty at once, whereas the honorable senator would reduce it by 3d. a gallon each year, until it disappears. At the end of three years the difference between the bounty the honorable senator would pay, and that which the Government now proposes to pay, would be only 2d. a gallon. Some honorable senators have said that the present condition of our wine industry is due to the importation of inferior Continental wines into Great Britain, but how can we control the importation of inferior wines into Great Britain? We might just as well attempt to prevent the importation of cheap margerine into Great Britain because it comes into competition with Australian butter. All that we can do is to advise the people of Great Britain that it would be better for their health to drink Australian wines instead of cheap southern European wines which may be injurious to them. We cannot interfere with Great Britain’s imports. We should have as much chance of doing so as we should have of protesting against any country utilizing its own locally and cheaplymade articles in preference to those made in Australia at a higher cost. I :mi quite satisfied that I do not need Senator Findley’s help when explaining to my returned soldier friends in South Australia, Queensland, or any other State, any attitude I have taken up in the Senate. This matter has already been dealt with fairly fully. We know that the soldier settlers in the Murray Valley are in a better position to-day than they were when the bounty was first given, ann also we know that at the present time expenditure should be curtailed whereever it can be done without inflicting injustice. In these circumstances I hope that the clause will not be amended.
– I notice with interest that the right honorable the Leader of the Government in the Senate, evidently realizing the precarious position of the Ministry in regard to this measure, has found it necessary to jump in over the head of the Minister in charge of the bill in order to try to save the situation. I regret that the pitch has been spoilt as the result of party bickering across the chamber, the effect of which is to make honorable senators lose sight of the main issue. I am sorry that Senator Pearce tried to bring discredit on the Government of South Australia and lead honorable senators to believe that the steps it took to repatriate soldiers got them into a horrible mess, from which they were only saved by the goodness of the Commonwealth Government. If the right honorable gentleman were in the chamber I should ask him what object the South Australian Government had to serve in. forcing the soldiers and settlers to grow doradillo grapes, other than a desire to do the decent thing to the men who had gone away to fight for their country. As a matter of fact, the State Government has received practically no direct revenue from these settlers, whereas the Commonwealth Government has received something like £3,000,000 in excise duty as the result of the establishment of the wine making industry. If a man gives me £100 and a little later asks me for £10, it is an easy matter for me to give him the £10 and I should not consider myself very good natured if subsequently I gave him the other £90. These men had come back from the war; they were clamouring for repatriation, and asking the Government to carry out the promises that had been made to them. The only avenue that those who were then responsible for the administration of the State of South Australia could see open to them was the settlement of these men on irrigation areas. They did place hundreds on re-purchased and subdivided estates in rural districts and even went so far as to buy out established farmers and replace them by inexperienced soldiers, which from an economic point of view was an unfortunate step that did not add to the welfare of the State. The State of South Australia did all it was able to do in the repatriation of these “boys.” It saw the huge amount of money that was being spent in connexion with locking the Murray and Darling for irrigation purposes and decided that it was best to settle soldiers on the areas that would be benefited by that expenditure. I understand that this work will cost £14,000,000. In this connexion, I emphasize what has already been said by Senator Chapman - that it is Government money that is at stake in the grapegrowing industry. The settlers can walk out to-morrow and accentuate the unemployment trouble already existing in the various States; if this happens the authority to suffer will be the Government which has financed the settlers and developed the irrigation areas on which they have been growing grapes for wine making. I did not want Senator Pearce to get away with the impression he sought to make on the chamber that the Commonwealth Government has done magnificent work in coming to the assistance of settlers who have been unfortunately placed as the result of ill-advised action on the part of the Government of South Australia. As a matter of fact, as a result of the work done by the South Australian Government, the Commonwealth revenue has increased by millions of pounds in the shape of excise duty paid by these settlers. All that I ask now is that these settlers shall continue to get something in return for the huge amount of money they have paid into the Commonwealth Treasury.
– After listening for a considerable time to the remarks of honorable senators, I know just as much about the subject as I knew when the debate started. I must, however, congratulate Senator Robinson on his maiden speech in the Senate.- I took note of the appeal he made to honorable senators from other States to help him and those he represents, and I can tell him that I am just as anxious as he is to assist people engaged in any form of primary production. If returned soldiers were the only persons concerned, I would have no hesitation in deciding the course I should follow. It has been admitted, however, that the . men for whom this bounty was primarily . intended have not benefited, but that certain speculators have collected money which was really intended for primary producers. The honorable senator has not convinced me that if the present bounty were continued the same speculators would not still obtain the benefit.
– The co-operative concerns will now receive the bounty.
– I fail to see how the speculators, who in the past have received all the benefit, will not continue to do so.
– They will not.
– Is there anything in the bill to prevent the bounty being paid to those people?
– The repatriated men have now arranged to manufacture their own wine and dispose of it on the London market without the assistance of the speculators.
– Senator Robinson told us yesterday that he would astonish us with some information he had to supply, and I shall now tell him something which I do not think he knows at present. Speaking as a representative of Western Australia, I wish to say that these persons whom he admits have been benefiting at the expense of the growers are now attempting, in Western Australia, to control the home market by obtaining wine licences issued by the State Government and placing their own nominees in establishments licensed for the retailing of wine. That is preventing local growers from finding a market for their product in their own State.
– If there is an open market, they will not be excluded.
– I am willing to help those in need, and I honestly think that the Government is also anxious to assist in every possible way. I am very glad the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Sir George Pearce) explained so forcibly the way in which the Commonwealth Government ha3 assisted the growers. I resent the statements made in this chamber that this Government has been ungenerous and even unjust to the growers. I can say without hesitation that during the history of the Commonwealth there has never been a Government in office which has been more generous to the primary producers than the present Administration. I shall go further, and say that during the history of the Commonwealth there has never been a Minister in charge of a department who has been more desirous of assisting the primary producers than the present Minister for Markets (Mr. Paterson). If an alteration were made, as suggested by Senator Greene, the growers and cooperative companies might be relieved, but the rejection of this provision will not affect the position to which the honorable senator referred. I have heard a good deal concerning the tremendous amount of excise paid. We all know that the excise is not paid on wines exported. It is collected only in respect of wines consumed locally.
– We all know that.
– I am glad that at least one honorable senator will admit that.
– We have all done so.
– No. I charge Senator Chapman with actually, if not intentionally, being largely responsible for the position in which the wine makers at present find themselves owing to the English market being flooded with immature Australian wines.
– That is rubbish.
– When a proposal was made last year to reduce the bounty, the Government said that it would not be paid at the full rate on the new wine that was then coming in, and Senator Chapman urged the Government not to be false to its pledges.
– I did not say the Government should not be false to its pledges.
– The honorable senator said that the Government should permit wine to be exported to enable the producers to get the benefit of the higher rate up to the 1st August.
– The Government weakly yielded, to a certain amount of pressure, with the result that the London market is flooded with a quantity of immature Australian wine which should not have been marketed for several years.
– That would have happened in any case.
– That may be s.o, but the facts do not bear out the honorable senator’s contention. During 19.27, £442,000 was paid in bounty on exported wine, and during the eight months ended March of this year, £452,000 was paid, or £10,000 more in two-thirds of the time.
– Why does the honorable senator not quote the excise figures ?
– No excise is paid on exported wine.
– But drawback is allowed.
– During the period in which £452,000 was paid in bounties, £184,000 was allowed in the form of drawback. Senator- Robinson has suggested a sliding scale of bounties commencing this year, at ls. 9d. and diminishing by 3d. a gallon each year to 3d. a gallon at the end of the sixth year. He also said that those receiving the bounty are willing to allow the Government t’» allocate a certain portion for advertising Australian wines and placing them on the London market. If Id. a gallon were deducted for this purpose it would be found that at the end of the period named the producers had received, under this sliding scale, only 2d. a gallon more than they would get under the Government proposal, but over a longer period they would be even worse off. The bill provides that no bounty shall be paid in respect of wine which is not shown to. the satisfaction of the Min,ister to be the product of areas planted with vines on or before the 31st March, 1927. Vines planted on that date would not produce for three years, and it would be at least five years before they were in. full bearing. This measure does not provide that the bounty shall be paid for five years, and therefore that provision is of little use.
– The intention of that provision is to prevent the planting of additional vines.
– This debate has shown that there are already too many vines planted-
– There is overproduction.
– Yes. I direct attention to the fact that the wine producers receive only lOd. a gallon for wine which is sold at 20s.
-r-Producers of butter and dried fruits do not receive the retail price.
– The difference in the price of butter is relatively not so great. One cannot purchase port wine of even fair quality for less. than 3s. 6d. a bottle, and better qualities cost at least 5s. 6d. or 6s. a bottle.
– That is the retail price.
– Yes, but if the retailers and bottlers can purchase wine at 10d. a gallon, consumers should not have to pay at the rate of 20s. a gallon.
– It can be blended.
– Yes, but the honorable senator has been condemning those who are blending wines in Great Britain.
The honorable senator has exhausted his time.
– I shall do all I can to assist Senator Robinson to carry his proposal. I do not like to see persons always in a hurry yet never on time. There is no necessity to travel at express speed when dealing with this measure. If we were to “go slow” for a time a better bill would probably be the result. Senator Carroll said that after listening carefully to Senator Robinson and other honorable senators who have spoken, he was no better informed as to the purpose of the amendment than he was previously.
– Probably the fault was mine.
– Senator Carroll, a man of keen intelligence, who applies himself assidiously to his duties, has admitted that he does not understand the purpose of the amendment. Is that not a sufficient reason to make lis pause before recording a vote on the amendment? Many of our primary producers are in the grip of middlemen and profiteers. In order to prevent further exploitation, many primary producers have formed co-operative societies which to a great extent eliminate the middlemen and bring the producers and the consumers closer together. To encourage those in the wine industry who have cooperated for their own protection, Senator Robinson submitted his amendment. He pointed out that if it is agreed to, a fund will be established by the growers for the purpose of advertising their products.
– And to remedy the disaster which has befallen the trade while working under the existing conditions.
– The amendment contains no provision to set aside a portion of the bounty for advertising purposes.
– It could easily be amended in that direction.
– It is well known that extensive and judicious advertising increases the sale of the commodities advertised. Even inferior Commodities enjoy for a time a better sale if they are well advertised. But the advantage which advertising brings to commodities of good quality is an enduring one. A person travelling by rail in any of the States cannot fail to see at the stations through which he passes numbers of artistic posters advertising various articles. As one who was for many years in the printing business those posters interest me. I have noticed that in recent years their quality has improved immeasurably. The Minister in charge of the bill also spent some years in the printing business.
– I have seen some striking posters advertising Australian wines.
– -Those posters have largely increased the sales of Australian wines, which, report says, are of excellent quality. Apparently, the Government does not wish to encourage the formation of co-operative societies among primary producers. It may be that these societies are yet in their infancy; but we all know “the wonderful results that at times have accrued from small beginnings. Some of the most powerful co-operative societies in. the world commenced in a humble way. The well-known Rochdale Corporation, in England, began with a capital of less than £30. The difficulties which confronted its promoters appeared to be almost insurmountable. At first their efforts were ridiculed. The palates of the people of England had so long been accustomed to adulterated butter and pepper that when that society offered them pure butter and pepper they hesitated to eat them. But to-day the Rochdale Corporation is a huge institution, almost a State within a State, operating in the interests, not of a few persons, but of its many shareholders. Why cannot we assist the co-operative ‘ societies to which Senator Robinson has referred? The men comprising them have banded together for a common purpose. They are optimistic enough to believe that if the full bounty is retained their future will be assured. What is the prospect before them to-day? Because of an overstocked wine market in England rendering it inadvisable for Australian wine makers to export wine, there may be no fixation of the prices of grapes by the Government, with the result that the growers will be forced to accept whatever is offered to them. It is not sufficient to say now that in the past the Government has treated the growers generously. When these men were placed on the land the intention was that they should become permanent settlers. But if this bill is passed in its present form they will be driven off the land. Some of these unfortunate men, already sick and weary at heart, will have their lives shortened.
The CHAIRMAN (Senator Plain).The honorable senator has exhausted his time.
Question - That the words proposed to. be left . out (Senator Robinson’s amendment) be left out.
Ayes . . 9
Noes . . . . . . 11
Majority . . 2
Question so resolved in the negative.
– I move -
That all the words after “shilling,” be left out with a view to insert in lieu thereof the words “sixpence per gallon.”
The honorable senator’s amendment is not in order. The committee on the division just taken has decided that the word “ shilling “ shall stand.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 4 and 5 agreed to.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill read a third time.
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Sir John Newlands). - I have to inform the Senate that I have received from His Excellency the Governor-General a certificate of the ratification of the appointment of Mr. Albert William Robinson as a senator to fill the vacancy in the representation of South Australia in the Senate, caused by the resignation of Sir Henry Barwell. The certificate will be laid upon the table and read by the Clerk.
Certificate read by the Clerk.
Motion . (by Senator Sir George
Pearce), (by leave) agreed to -
That leave of absence be granted to every member of the Senate from the determination of the sitting this day, to the day on which the Senate next meets.
[2.23]. - I move -
That the Senate, at its rising, adjourn till a day and hour to be fixed by the President, which time of meeting shall be notified to each senator by telegram or letter.
On present appearances, it is probable that the Senate will be called together next Wednesday fortnight. Much, of course, will depend upon the progress made with legislation in another place. It is impossible now to fix the date of our next meeting, and, as the Government does not wish to call honorable senators together until there is business to transact, it has been considered desirable to leave the matter in the hands of the President.
– I should like to know if, as has been suggested by the Leader of the Senate, this chamber will re-assemble on Wednesday fortnight, it will be possible to proceed at once with any business that may be then introduced, or if it is contemplated that honorable senators shall be called together again merely for the purpose of transacting the formal stages of legislation and then adjourn until the following week. I know, of course, that it is the duty of all honorable senators to be in their places; but, as some have to travel long distances, it seems to me that if only formal stages of bills will be dealt with when next we meet, the position would be met by simply arranging for the attendance of a quorum. Members from distant States would then be enabled to spend an additional week in their own States.
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE (Western Australia - Vice-President of the Executive Council) [2.26]. - The honorable senator’s question is not an easy one to answer. The Standing Orders of the Senate must be observed. It is just as necessary for members to attend to receive messages or legislation from another place and transact the purely formal business as it is for them to be in their places for the serious discussion of legislative proposals. The Government has not authority to set aside the Standing Orders in that regard. All I can say is that honorable senators will be called together again when there is a reasonable prospect of having business to transact.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 2.28 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 18 May 1928, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1928/19280518_senate_10_118/>.