8th Parliament · 1st Session
The President (Senator the Hon. T. Givens) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read . prayers.
. -In view of the cable message in this morning’s newspapers that thirty-five groups of nations have submitted to the League of Nations their nominations for the International Court of Justice, and that included in the nominations are: Great Britain, Lord Phillimore, Lord Finlay, and Sir H. E. Richards; South Africa, Sir Johannes Weasels, JudgePresident of the Transvaal Division of the Supreme Court of South Africa; and Canada, SirRobert Borden, and Mr. C. J; Doherty, Minister for Justice, I desire to ask the Minister representing the Prime Minister whether ho is in a position to disclose to the Senate what arrangements have been made for nominations for the representation of the Commonwealth upon that Tribunal?
– I am in a position to give the honorable senator the information for which he asks. Australia has nominated Viscount Finlay, who has also been nominated as one of the representatives of Great Britain. The duty of making a nomination for the Commonwealth rested upon a panel consisting of Sir Adrian Knox, Chief Justice of the Commonwealth, Sir William Irvine, Chief Justice of Victoria, Sir William Cullen, Chief Justice of Now South Wales, and the Acting Attorney-General of. the Commonwealth (Mr. Groom).
– Has the Leader of the Government noticed the statement in the press that Mr. Bruce, M.H.R. , has been appointed to accompany Mr. Shepherd to the second session of the League of Nations Assembly as a representative of the Commonwealth? I. wish to know whether Mr. Bruce is to accompany Mr. Shepherd, or whether Mr. Shepherdis to accompany Mr. Bruce. In other words, who is to be the responsible mouth-piece of the Commonwealth ?
– My honorable friend will readily admit that the Government is not responsible for news as published in the press. The answer is that Mr. Bruce will be the premier delegate for Australia.
– Is the Minister for Repatriation yet in a position to furnish a reply to the question which I addressed to him some days ago as to whether the Government were prepared to treat the unemployed at Broken Hill in the same way that the unemployed at Port Pirie have been treated?
– I regret that owing to the departure of the Acting Prime Minister (Sir Joseph Cook) for Sydney, I have not been able to obtain am answer to the honorable senator’s question. Senator Thomas having been good enough to intimate to me that he would repeat his question, I endeavoured to get into touch with my right honorable colleague, but before I could do bo I ascertained that he had left for Sydney.
The following papers were presented : -
Northern Territory - Ordinance No. 8 of 1921 - Interpretation.
War Service Homes Act - Land acquired in New South Wales at Granville, Paddington, Rozelle.
Defence Act - Regulations Amended - StatutoryRules 1921, Nos. 160, 161, 162, 163, 164, 165, 166, 167, 169, 170.
Cases of Major Sweetland, Major Weaversand Cadet Phillpot
asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice - 1. (a) What are the facts relating to the retirement of Major Sweetland from the Commonwealth Military Forces?
– The answers are -
Case of Major H. St. J. Sweetland: -
A Committee of Senior Officers was assembled by direction of the Minister, after the return of Permanent Officers from the war, to consider the distribution and appointments to be taken up by Permanent Officers. The Committee reported that they were unable to recommend certain officers - of whom Major Sweetland was one - for further employment, and recommended that, in view of the need for retrenchment, as the services of such officers were those which could best be spared, they be placed on the half-pay list for a period of one year, and then placed on the Unattached List, in accordance with section 23 of the Defence Act. This was approved.
Major Sweetland’s claim was received1 in the Defence Department, through, the Base Commandant, 1st District Base, on 15th July, 1921, and is now under consideration by the Military Board in accordance with the regulations.
Military Forces, with, his full rank and seniority, the facts in connexion with which are as follow: -
A Committee of Senior Officers was assembled by direction of the Minister, after the return of Permanent Officers from the war,, to consider the distribution and appointments to be taken up by Permanent Officers. The Committee reported that they were unable to recommend certain officers - of whom Captain (Honorary Major) Weavers was one - for further employment, and recommended that, in view of the need for. retrenchment, as the services of such officers were those which could best be spared, they be placed on the halfpay list for a period of one year, and then placed on the Unattached List, in accordance with section 23 of the Defence Act. This was approved.
Minister considered its production to be against the public interest.
Subsidies to Shipping Companies
SenatorDUNCAN (for Senator Gardiner) asked the Leader of the Government in the Senate, upon notice -
– The answers are: -
Senator PEARCE (Western Australia-
Minister for Defence) [2.40]. - I move -
That this Bill be now read a second time.
This is not a Bill upon which any second reading discussion is necessary, as it follows the lines of all other Excise Bills passed by this Parliament. Honorable senators will be interested simply in the Excise duties proposed and I content myself therefore with submitting the moti on.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clauses 1 to 9 agreed to.
Introductory paragraphs agreed to.
Item 1 (Beer) agreed to.
Item 2 -
– I should like some information from the Minister in charge of the. Bill regarding the position of the trade in brandy from South Africa. We had some kind of reciprocal arrangement governing the importation of brandies from South Africa, and I understand that allowing for the difference between the Excise and Customs duties on brandy, there is a protection of about 4s. per gallon in favour of the manufacturer of brandy in Australia. Some Adelaide distillers have spoken to me in connexion with the matter and have expressed the opinion that they are in a worse position to-day than they were in some time ago. I am led to believe that there is some dumping of brandy from South Africa. I believe it is under Government control and that a certain amount is allocated for the authorities and the remainder is dumped. There is rather an abundance of brandy in Australia at the present time. I was talking to one of the big. distillers from Mil dura recently, and he said that he had supplies of brandy which he’ found it difficult to dispose of, because he has to compete against the importation of French brandies which can be sold at a price which is 2s. per gallon less than the price at which he can afford to sell brandy. A certificate is given in France which is represented by a white label and that is accepted by the Customs Department here as an indication that the article is a pure grape brandy. Perhaps the Minister is in a position to explain the position, so far as South’ Africa is concerned.
.- The position in regard to South Africa is that the reciprocal arrangement is to be repealed by the Customs Tariff Bill now before Parliament. The clause of the measure which annuls that reciprocal arrangement will not come into operation until the Bill is finally passed and assented to. It is not in that respect like Tariff resolutions which become operative immediately they are tabled. On the Customs Tariff Bill being assented to, negotiations will be opened with South Africa to enable the present or a like arrangement to continue under the conditions of the intermediate Tariff. The question which Senator Rowell raises in connexion with brandy will be a matter for negotiation in deciding upon the terms of the arrangement. The Customs officers inform me that, at present, under this arrangement very little brandy is coming in from South Africa.
– When the item, Brandy, was before the Committee in connexion with the Tariff, I moved that the duty be 33s. per gallon, and intimated that growers had informed me that
French brandy, being accepted by the Customs officers on a. certificate of the local mayor, was coming into competition with the local product which is made from the purest grape spirit. This handicap on the Australian industry is very considerable, because the local manufacturers have to supply the genuine article whereas the light French brandies are not made from grape wines at all. The Minister then in charge of the Bill (Senator Russell) was good enough to say that he would satisfy me on the point I had raised. I believe efforts are being made to overcome the difficulty, and that in future the certificates must be furnished by a properly authorized officer of the Department. I have been in conversation with several of our growers on the Murray where over 700 settlers are producing Doradiila grapes, and I am advised that it is essential that the industry should be adequately protected. The Doradiila grape produces the purest brandy in Australia. In view of the. fact that the Committee would not give this protection when this matter came before us in connexion with the Tariff, I suggest that the Minister should move to reduce the Excise duty. This would place us in a better position. Instead of 27s., the Excise should be 2s. less. The difference between the Excise and the Customs duty would probably have the effect of giving security to our growers..
. - I ask Senator Benny not to persist with his request, for I can assure him that the figures show that this duty is effective, and that the industry is growing. I can also repeat the assurance given to him by my colleague (Senator Russell), that the Government are making inquiries with & view to an arrangement that will obviate the difficulty he refers to in regard to certificates, and to insure observance of the provisions of the law respecting importations. I ask the honorable senator to leave the matter as it stands for the present with the assurance that the duty represents a substantial protection.
– Brandy manufacturers do not consider that they have adequate protection.
– Of course, manufacturers may reasonably say that, but if the honorable senator will examine the rate of Customs duty, and the rate of Excisej and remember the immense strides that the industry has made, he will, I think, come to the conclusion that the duty does afford effective protection.
– I should like to know if sub-item c, relating to apple brandy, has appeared in the schedule before. We have not before us theprevious rates of Excise for the purpose of comparison, therefore the Minister might make some explanation with regard to this particular industry, and say if any apple brandy is being produced in the Commonwealth, and, if so, where, and to what extent, as well as the demand or consumption in the Commonwealth. It struck me that it might be established in an apple State, and that the Excise duty might operate in such a State as it does in vine-growing States.
– This sub-item is new, and has been put in at the request of apple-growers, who believe that there is a future for the industry. A commencement has been made. The production at present is small, but it is believed that the industry will be able to dispose of the surplus apple crop, and arrangements are, therefore, being made for the Excise provisions to apply to that class of brandy.
– I have one or two questions to ask with regard to the varying rates fixed for different classes of spirits. Under subitem (d), whisky, distilled wholly from barley malt by a pot still or similar process, carries a duty per proof gallon of 26s., and under sub-item e, the Excise on blended whisky is 28s. per proof gallon. In sub-item f, rum distilled wholly from sugar, sugar syrup, molasses, or the refuse of sugar cane, bears’ a duty of 28s., and blended rum a duty of 29s. per proof gallon. Varying other rates are mentioned. For instance, in sub-item j, which deals with spirit for fortifying Australian wine, subject to regulations, the duty per proof gallon is 6s. This is a big drop from 23s. and 28s., but one can understand it when one realizes that spirit under sub-item j is regarded as part of the raw material for another industry, namely, for fortifying Australian wine. Then in sub-item k there is a duty per proof gallon of 2s. on spirit for making vinegar subject to regulations. This is a very small Excise, and it is obvious that these differential Excise duties are intended to encourage the manufacture of Australian wine and vine- gar. A little lower down in the schedule we find that the manufacturers are not treated quite so well. For instance, in sub-item l, spirits for the manufacture, from Australian products exclusively, of scents and toilet preparations, carry an Excise duty of 23s., and in the following sub-item, spirits for the manufacture of scents and toilet preparations, subject to regulations, duties of from 17s. to 20s.
– There is a big import duty on those articles.
– We agreed in Committee on the Tariff to tax the alcohol contents of manyof these importations, in addition to the ordinary ad valorem taxation. If I remember aright, at the close of the debate last night, the Committee accepted Senator Pratten’s request that another place should impose, in addition to the ad valorem duties, extra specific duties on these toilet preparations and other articles ; the additional duty to represent the duty on the alchohol content. I am not sure, having adopted that course, that we should not modify to some extent the difference that now exists in the duties on these sub-items for the manufacture of wines, vinegar, and chemists’ goods.
– Before the honorable senator moves any request I would like to explain the position.
– I do not propose to submit any request. I merely mention this matter because I think it is an anomaly which we ought to rectify;
– It will not be necessary to rectify any anomaly. If honorable senators will look at these sub-items they will see that it would he most unwise to alter them. Sub-item j fixes the Excise duty on spirit for fortifying Australian wine, and sub-item k the Excise duty on spirit for making vinegar. It is a most important matter to provide cheap spirit for fortifying Australian wine, thus assisting a primary production, and for the making of vinegar - an important commercial requisite - the production of which it is desirable to encourage in Australia, especially when our own health regulations can be applied to it. However, sub-item l, which provides the Excise duties upon spirit used for the manufacture of scents and toilet preparations, refers to what are essentially articles of luxury. In dealing with the Customs Tariff, the Committee agreed to a request submitted by Senator Pratten, the effect of which was to make the Excise paid by the local manufacturer on his spirit equal to the fixed rate of duty payable on imported toilet preparations, scents, &c, containing spirit.
– The rates are now practically equivalent.
SenatorKeating. - Then Senator Pratten’s request was to harmonize the Customs Tariff with the Excise Tariff ?
– That is so; and if we were to disturb the Excise duty upon the spirit used in making toilet preparations we would also need to review the Customs duty upon the imported toilet preparations containing spirit.
– I was under the misapprehension that the effect of Senator Pratten’s request was the other way round.
– The effect of Senator Pratten’s amendment was to impose a fixed duty on these toilet, preparations to put the importer and the local manufacturer on the same level, and, in addition, an ad valorem duty to afford the local manufacturer some margin of protection. It is a very equitable arrangement.
– On most of the spirit used by miscellaneous chemists and manufacturing druggists in their preparations an Excise duty of 25s. per gallon is paid. It will be noticed that in sub-item l, which relates to spirits for the manufacture of scents and toilet preparations, a little additional incentive is given to encourage the manufacture of perfumes wholly from Australian articles, including the essential oils. Little development has taken place yet.
– Is there sufficient to justify this additional advantage?
– I think so. The concession has only been in operation for a short period, but as time goes on the little encouragement given in this sub-item will probably be the means of developing a perfumery trade absolutely all Australian from the perfume itself to the finished article. I want to say a word or two upon sub-item d, whisky. Honorable senators will remember that I mentioned the matter when we were discussing the Customs Tariff. The British Immature Spirits Act provides that no whisky or similar liquor can be liberated in Great Britain for human consumption unless it has been stored in wood for a period of three years. There is similar legislation in New Zealand and Fiji, but our Commonwealth Act provides that spirit may be liberated for human, consumption in Australia if it has been matured in wood for two years. Australian whisky and other spirits exported to Great Britain cannot be liberated there under three years, but French and British spirit and Scotch whisky can be sent out here and liberated for consumption after having been matured in wood for two years. I am not quite dear as to whether anything can be done in the direction of securing uniformity, but if it can be achieved it ought to be in the direction of having the longer period, because the leading distillers of the world consider that the longer spirit is stored in wood before being liberated for human consumption the better it is. It might’ be ‘advisable to amend our legislation governing this matter, and extend the period for which spirits must be stored in wood before they are permitted to be liberated for human consumption in Australia. What is good enough for England and Scotland ought to be good enough for Australia. This matter may have some bearing upon the point raised by Senator Benny in reference to the importation of French brandy. . It is quite possible that French brandy, certified to by the local mayor or official as having been stored for two years, may be sent to Australia for immediate consumption here. Surely this is an anomaly. In the interests of the health of the community, I think we should bring our legislation into conformity with that of Great Britain.
– If there is an anomaly it does not occur in our legislation. Sections 11 and 12 of the Commonwealth Spirits Act, which provides for the storage of spirits in wood for two years, are consistent with the Excise Tariff Act, which stipulates that spirits imported into Australia or exported from Australia must have been stored in wood for two years. The inconsistency, if any, is between our legislation and’ that of Great Britain, which provides that the spirit must be stored for three years. I am not prepared to express an opinion, offhand. Senator Pratten’s suggestion, would be a very proper matter, I think,, for inquiry by the Tariff Board, for thereare such considerations as the effect upon, our export trade, and upon local manufacture generally. , The longer the spirit is stored the longer the capital involved lies idle - although, of course, it is being enhanced. To that extent - namely, thetieing up of capital - a tax is imposed upon local industry. It would be unwise to make an alteration of a vital principlewithout? very serious consideration, following upon full investigation. Experts should be called upon to consider thewhole effect upon industry, after which the policy of Customs administrationcould be adjusted, if deemed desirable, tosecure conformity with the British law and practice.
.- Spirit/ for industrial and scientific purposes ‘ dealt with under sub-item m includes medicinal alcohol. I have received communications from the friendly societies’ organizations, which conduct dispensaries,, and from other bodies engaged in the dispensing and manufacture of medicine. Among the representations made to raeare some from the Federal Pharmaceutical Council of Australia. These areworthy of consideration while the Committee is dealing with the matter of the Excise to be imposed upon alcohol for medicinal purposes. Another place - amended the Excise Tariff on spirits by making rectified spirits free to publichospitals and by reducing the duty on spirit for scientific purposes from 28s. to- 25s. per proof gallon. The Pharmaceutical Council comments -
This reduction (so far as medicinal alcoholis concerned) is most inadequate when compared with the concessions allowed in other - countries - England, United States of America, South Africa, &e. The Parliaments of thesecountries have long since recognised that medicine is a necessity and not a luxury; that when, sickness is present in a home it is not a time to impose additional heavy taxation on the sick.
The National Legislature should make theprice of medicines as re’asonably cheap aspossible.
– Do not some doctors say that there should be no alcohol’ in any medicine to’ be taken internally 1
– Some do, whileother physicians hold contrary views. Some honorable senators will object, no- doubt, that, if the duty on spirit for scientific purposes is further reduced, advantage may be taken of it in illegitimate directions. Other countries deal with that difficulty from a common-sense point of view. A very low duty is imposed, but regulations are gazetted which practically prevent improper practices. In Great Britain rectified spirit, when supplied for potable purposes, pays duty at 74s. per proof gallon. The same spirit, when supplied for pharmaceutical purposes, pays duty at the rate of 14s. 9d. per proof gallon, which is equal to a rebate of 69s. 3d. per proof gallon. It ought to be possible to prevent the illegitimate use of spirit by the adoption of any or all of a number of suggestions furnished by the Pharmaceutical Council. One of these is based upon the limitation of supply, the average ‘ quantity per pharmacy being fixed after consultation with the Pharmaceutical Society, as is done in the case of opium, cocaine, &c. Another suggestion has to do with the keeping of records on the same lines as those required to be kept by perfume manufacturers and by chemists under the Opium Smoking Prohibition Proclamation. A third suggestion is for supervision by officers of Customs, similar to that in operation under the Spirits Act regulations.
– I draw the attention of the Committee to. that suggestion, and invite honorable senators to consider what would be entailed by official supervision of every chemist’s shop throughout the Commonwealth.
– The suggestions are alternative, and are all worthy of consideration. The last mentioned might be discarded, and ample provision still be made to prevent abuse. One other suggestion is for securities and sureties in the form of monetary bonds, and another is for the cutting off of the concession on proof of illegitimate disposal of spirit. The view will be taken, perhaps, that hospitals can be more easily supervised than pharmacies and friendly societies’ dispensaries. Difficulties must always be expected when comprehensive steps are taken to prevent wrong practices and evasions. But if a great benefit can be conferred upon suffering humanity, as is here sought, honorable senators should be sympathetic. I move -
That the House of Representatives be requested to make the duty, sub-item (m), per proof gallon, 15s.
– With respect to the statement of Senator Payne, that it is desirable that we should follow the practice of the United Kingdom, I can quite understand the Government objecting that it would be almost impossible to effectively supervise the proper use of spirits permitted to be used under the proposed reduced duty. But in practice it should not be insuperable. I am not sure, however, that Senator Payne is making his representations at the right moment. It might be better for him to move in respect of sub-items p and q. Apart from hospitals, there are Friendly Societies’ Dispensaries in every State, and it should be possible for the Customs administration to see that there is not any abuse of a concession of this character. I trust the Minister (Senator Pearce) will give the representations further consideration in order to ascertain if effect can be given to the request in this or in one of the other items.
.- This matter has been brought under the notice of honorable senators, and it is one which, of course, appeals to our sentiments; but we must have regard to other things as well, as we are the guardians of the taxpayers’ interests. This matter has been fully considered since representations have been made, and the question has been thoroughly investigated by the Department. In the Excise Tariff, as introduced, the rate was as at present, viz., 25s. per proof gallon. On 17th September, 1920, it was raised to 28s. but it was subsequently reduced in the other House to 25s. on and after 8th July, 1921. In considering the rate on this item, it must be borne in mind that the spirit is used by chemists and many other manufacturers scattered in remote districts throughout the Commonwealth. Reference has been made to the conditions prevailing in the United Kingdom; but the comparison is not a good one, because Great Britain has a population of 48,000,000 people spread over a comparatively small area. When we consider the number of chemists that are scattered far and wide over this vast continent, it will be easy to realize the difficulty in administering such a provision. The Department would view with alarm any reduction in the rate, as supervision of the uses to which the spirit might be put is quite out of the question, owing to the wide distribution of the users. A substantial increase in the number of officials would be necessitated for the purposes of supervision, and even such increase would not furnish adequate protection against abuse. It is true that spirit free of duty is given to public hospitals, but in this case, owing to the comparatively few institutions involved, adequate supervision is possible. Supervision is possible because the spirit is delivered to and held under heavy bond by the principal hospital in the State, or by State Government Drug Depots, as in New South Wales, which is responsible for safe custody and proper use. The distribution by the principal hospital or State Depot is measured out on a fixed scale strictly proportioned to the ascertained monthly, or, in small hospitals, quarterly, requirements, and complete records are kept of the quantities required and distributed. It is therefore impossible for the hospitals concerned to use the spirit for other than the specified purposes, as any increase in the quantities delivered would be at once detected and immediately investigated. In the case of spirit delivered for use in fortifying wine, sub-item j, or in making vinegar, sub-item x, or for the manufacture of scents, sub-item l, the spirit is treated in the presence of an officer in such a manner as to make it practically impossible to use it for any other purpose. In the case of fortifying wine, an officer has control of the spirit until it is actually mixed with the .wine, and sees the operation done. The same procedure applies to spirit for making vinegar or scents. It would be impossible to apply this control and supervision to the thousands of chemists scattered throughout the Commonwealth. In taking this view no reflection is cast on the integrity of chemists. But it is a matter of ordinary human experience that, were a concession of this kind to be given, the inability to exercise anything like adequate control would inevitably lead to abuse. The Committee has passed requests for increase of duty on medicines which practically compensate chemists for the duty charged on the spirit they use. The rate on Excise spirit is 25s. per proof gallon, and in item 285 a, additional duty under the general Tariff on medicine and medicinal preparations equal to 25s. per proof is the effect of the Committee’s request. The request, therefore, provides for a duty practically sufficient to compensatefor the Excise duty collected on the spirit used in the preparation of medicines. The substantial advantage granted te* chemists under this Tariff as compared with previous Tariffs will be evident from the fact that under the 1914 Tariff, as amended in September, 1918- that is, the Tariff in force at the time the present Tariff was introduced - chemists paid. 24s. per proof gallon on Excise spirit, while the duty on imported medicinal preparations containing spirit was based on a rate of 25s. per proof gallon. There was, therefore, a margin of ls. per proof gallon only in favour of the local manufacturer of medicines. Under the present Tariff, as modified by the Committee’s requests, Excise duty on the spirit is 25s. per proof gallon, whereas the duty on imported spirituous medicines is ad valorem, 30 per cent., 35 per cent., and 40 per cent., with the addition of a rate of 20s. per proof gallon under the British preferential and 25s. per proof gallon under the general Tariff. As regards spirituous extracts and tinctures, there was a margin of ls. per proof gallon only under the 1914 Tariff, whereas under the present Tariff there is a margin of 5s. per proof gallon under the British preferential Tariff and of 6s. per proof gallon under the general Tariff. If Senator Payne’s request is carried, we shall have to review what the Committee did last night in regard to the spirit contents of medicinal preparations and reduce them accordingly
– Could it be made applicable to registered friendly societies’ dispensaries ?
– I shall have thematter investigated, but on the spur of the moment I cannot bind the Department. I deprecate opening the door to provide chemists with facilities for obtaining spirits at a lower rate for the reasons stated, and I trust the Committee will not support the request.
– Is the State Drug’ Store in N/ew South Wales supplyingchemists ?
– No; only public hospitals.
– In effect, the Minister (Senator Pearce) stated that the Australian chemists could not be relied upon to act fairly in this matter. I do not know what is wrong with the chemists in the Commonwealth. They are trusted in other countries, where it is more necessary to exercise closer supervision than it is here.
– They are under the eyes of Customs officials.
– We have not prohibition here, and there is less necessity to suspect thebona fides of chemists than there is in, say, America. The rate has been increased from 13s. in 1913 to 25s. This is really a tax upon the sick and infirm section of the community. We are all likely to develop sickness, and as most people are not opulent, a tax of 25s. per gallon must bear severely upon those who fall by the wayside. I quite realize that public hospitals receive special treatment; but they are the only medium through which the community can be reached. Many have to depend upon the chemist’s shop around the corner, and, in most instances, there is an hotel on the other corner, where whisky can be obtained for 9d. a nobbier.
– A patient would not consume a gallon of spirit in medicine in ten years.
– There seems to be a fear on the part of the Department that chemists will surreptitiously substitute this spirit for whisky. A man is not likely to go to a chemist’s shop for a drink when he can get a cheaper and better glass of whisky at a neighbouring hotel.
– If the rate of the Excise duty be reduced a man will be able to get his spirits cheaper at a chemises shop.
– Yes. If he prefers the chemist’s whisky to a good glass of whisky obtainable at an hotel. This duty has been nearly doubled during the last few years. It is now 25s. per proof gallon, whereas in Great Britain it is 14s. 9d. per proof gallon. In New Zealand, for 60 over-proof, the duty is 20s. per gallon, so that the tax on this commodity in the sister Dominion is very much below that which we are imposing.
Question - That the request (Senator Payne’s) be agreed to - put. The Committee divided.
Question so resolved in the negative.
Item agreed to.
Item 3 (Amylic alcohol and fusel oil) agreed to.
Item 4 -
Saccharin and other similar substitutes for sugar, per lb., 20s.
– When dealing with the Customs Tariff Bill we provided that imported saccharin for use in public hospitals should be free. I ask Senator Pearce to accept a request for a similar amendment in this case.
.- The Customs officials advise me that in order to give effect to the honorable senator’s proposal it will be necessary first of all to move a request for the insertion of the letters “ n.e.i.” after the word “ saccharin “ in the item as it stands.
Request (by Senator Lynch) agreed to-
That the House of Representatives be requested to amend the item to read -
Saccharin n.e.i. and other similar substitutes for sugar, per lb., 20s.
Saccharin for use in public hospitals, as prescribed by departmental bylaws, free.
Request agreed to.
Item agreed to, subject to a request.
Item 5 (Starch) agreed to.
Item 6 (Tobacco).
– Honorable senators will see on reference to the schedule that the duty proposed on hand-made strand tobacco represents an increase of 8d. per lb. on the duty as originally submitted by the Government. For the moment, I do -not remember the margin between the Excise and Customs duties on tobacco, but I am aware that it is substantial, and that full protection is given to the local manufacturer. What I am concerned about, and what I think the general public are concerned about, is the inordinate rise in the price of tobacco. What might be purchased a little time ago for1s. has now to be paid for at the rate of1s. 5d. , or1s. 7d. The price often varies from day to day and from place to place. You may purchase tobacco in one shop at1s. 6d., and be asked1s. 7d. for the same thing in another shop. I have had the experience of leaving a shop in which I was asked 1s. 7d. for a certain quantity of a particular tobacco, and then found that a person who entered the shop immediately afterwards obtained the same quantity of the same article for1s. 6d.
– That was not the fault of the duty.
– I am aware of that, but the retailer of tobacco complains that the manufacturer has put up the price, and the manufacturer says that he has raised the price because of the duty. The course which is followed in the trade is going a long way to’ make Australian tobacco unpopular. I am constantly hearing complaints on the part of the public of the prices charged for tobacco, and just as constantly the Federal Parliament is blamed for what has taken place. Judging by what prices are to-day, it is impossible to say what they will be next week. Prices vary in the different States for the same article. One can purchase in Melbourne for1s. 3d. what costs 1s. 6d. in Sydney, and vice versâ. I have found Sydney-made tobacco sold here at 2 ounces for1s. 3d., and in Sydney within the same week I have been charged1s. 6d. The same thing prevails in regard to Melbourne-made tobacco, but not to the same extent. There should be publicity given to the way in which the public are unduly and unwarrantably charged by those interested in this local, industry. If what is taking place to-day is to be attri buted to the heavy protection afforded local manufacturers of tobacco, then a great many Protectionists will have to reconsider their attitude with regard to the tobacco duties. I should like the Minister to say upon what grounds the increase of 8d. per lb. in the Excise duty is considered necessary. He might also inform the Committeeof the quarter from which the demand for this increase upon the Government’s original proposal came. He might say further whether in the opinion of the Government the increase of 8d. per lb. in the Excise duty has warranted the considerable enhancement of the price of tobacco to the public which has occurred since the introduction of this Tariff.
– The increase referred to by the honorable senator is not merely in the Excise, duty. An equivalent increase has been made in the Customs duty. In the circumstances, if we reduce the Excise duty, we shall only be making a present of so much more protection to the local manufacturer, and no one can say that he is not adequately protected at present.
– What is the margin between the Excise and Customs duties ?
– The Customs duty is 4s. 8d. per lb., and the Excise duty 2s. 4d., so that the margin is 2s. 4d. I am informed that the actual protection amounts to1s. per lb. The Excise duty has been increased entirely upon revenue considerations. In view of the heavy financial liabilities of the Commonwealth, I think that this article might pay a higher amount to the revenue. I am a smoker myself, but I think I can justify that. Senator Keating has referred to the vagaries of those engaged in the tobacco business, and every member of the Committee must have noticed them. We have also noticed the uniformity with which the Tariff is blamed for the increase in price. There could be only one alteration of duty when the Tariff resolutions were tabled, but there have been five or six alterations in the price of. tobacco since they were tabled.
– Could not the Government compel tobacconists to put up. a list of the prices to be charged, as is, done in the ease of military canteens?
SenatorPEARCE.-I am afraid that if that proposal were made Senator Keating would tell us that under the Constitution we have no power to compel the tobacconist to publish his prices.
– I am afraid that the absence of competition amongst tobacco manufacturers is the cause of the trouble.
– No doubt; and the restrictions imposed upon retailers of tobacco.
Item agreed to.
Item7 (Cigars), item 8 (Cigarettes), item 9 (Snuff), item 10 (Articles, the property of the Commonwealth) agreed to.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported with a request.
Standing and sessional orders suspended.
Motion (by Senator E. D. Millen) agreed to-
That the Senate at its rising, adjourn until 3 p.m. on Tuesday, 11th October, 1921.
Motion (by Senator E. D. Miller) 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.
Work of the Session.
Senator E. D. MILLEN (New South
Wales - Minister for Repatriation) [3.53]. - I move-
That the Senate do now adjourn.
I trust that the short recess which is now secured to honorable senators will more than compensate them for the strain imposed upon them by their arduous labours in connexion with the Tariff.
– As the Senate is going into recess, I wish to say that, in my opinion, five weeks’ time has been devoted by this Chamber to work of a character that does not commend itself to me in any way.
– Order! The honorable senator must not animadvert on any of the measures passed by this Chamber during the session.
– I understood that on the motion for the adjournment an honorable senator could speak upon any subject.
– An honorable senator must not speak disrespectfully of the Parliament, or the work accomplished by Parliament.
– Then I shallspeak of recent happenings from the point of view of that type of citizen that turns his back upon the cities and towns, and goes out to carve a home for himself in the wilderness. I believe that his lot will be made much harder as the result of what has been done in this Senate.
– Order! The honorable senator is not entitled to say that. He has had ample opportunity during the past five weeks to express his opinion on that or any, other subject.
– Recent happenings, of which I have not approved-
– Order! The honorable senator must not disobey the Chair. If he disagrees with my ruling, there is a proper procedure for him to adopt, namely, to move that it be disagreed with. 1 rule the honorable senator out of order in proceeding on those lines.
– I Bay that the lot of those citizens has been made harder as the result of recenthappenings in this Senate.
– The honorable senator must not persist in speaking along those lines. He has had ample opportunity during thesession to express his opinion, and I have not the slightest doubt that he took every advantage of his right. He is not in order now in reflecting in any way upon the work of the Parliament. I ask him to respect the ruling of the Chair.
– Shall I be out of order if I refer to the proposals which this Government brought before Parliament?
– The honorable senator is entitled to speak on almost any subject he chooses, but ‘he must not transgress my ruling with regard to his references to the work of the session.
– I presume, then, that I shall be in order if I make’ reference to the policy upon which the Government were elected, andby virtue ofwhich they now occupy the Treasury benches. The Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) speaking at Bendigo, declared that, if Australia is ever to became a great nation, its greatness must rest upon a basis of land settlement. The Prime Minister’s references to that subject occupied no less than 24 inches of newspaper space, whereas his remarks on the Tariff occupied only about 4 inches. I should like to add that the lot of these citizens has been made infinitely harder on account of recent events-
– Order! The honorable senator must not transgress my ruling, and make any reflection upon the work of the session in relation to the Tariff. He must not endeavour to say indirectly what I have prevented him from saying directly.
– Then, Mr. President, I shall resume my seat, but will take advantage of every opportunity elsewhere to deal with the work of this session as it affects the lot of the pioneers of this country.
– I was rather pleased at the remarks made by the Leader of the Government in this Chamber (Senator E. D. Millen) concerning the work of the session, and the prospect of a short recess. I have no desire to complain of. the work done by the Senate during the session, although much of it has been in opposition to my principles. It was excellent work from the Protectionist stand-point, and I do not forget that the whole of the country has become Protectionist. But if the Government think that this fact justifies them in voting out preferential duties-
– Order ! The honorable senator is not in order in referring to the work of the session.
– I realized that I would not be, and I have no desire to add anything to what I have already said. But surely I would be in order in commenting on the election, by the people, of a Protectionist Parliament, and its effect on the Tariff. However, I have no desire to do so now. I shall conclude by joining in the good wishes expressed by the Leader of the Senate.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 4 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 2 September 1921, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1921/19210902_senate_8_97/>.