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Thursday, 28 May 1942


Mr DUNCAN-HUGHES (Wakefield) . - I desire to bring a matter under the notice of the Minister for Transport (Mr. George Lawson), who represents the Minister for Information in this chamber. The following statement was published in a newspaper a few days ago: -

The Department of Information has recently issued a brochure " Welcome to Australia " for distribution among visiting United States troops. It carries a foreword by the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) and supplies information of varied nature.

I do not expect that the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) was responsible for the preparation of the brochure, but it bears his signature, and accordingly will carry some weight. The article continued -

One page is devoted to food and drink, and we quote that portion relating to drink - " Australians drink considerable beer - watch your step with it - it is a whole lot heavier and more alcoholic than most United States beers . . . Australian distilled whisky is cheaper than imported and the best brands are good. Australian gin is also cheaper than imported and some is first grade. Australian wines also have to be watched. The cheapest grades have a kick like T.N.T. Medium price and better grades are very good wines, but all have a high alcoholic content."

I suggest to the Prime Minister, who no doubt put his signature to the brochure without having read it through, that the statement I have quoted is a very unfortunate one to be made under the authority of the Department of Information. We are aware that there have been in this country recently a considerable number of excesses in the drinking of alcoholic liquors, and I think that every sensible person deplores those excesses. However, I think that some of our own people, more than the visitors from America, need a warning of the sort I have quoted. The discipline of the visiting troops, as far as I have been able to observe it, compares very favorably with that of our own troops. Unlike our people the Americans are accustomed to the drinking of wine. One hundred million gallons of American wine is consumed in America every year; when I obtained information a year or two ago regarding wine production, I was surprised to note the quantity of wine produced in America. I do not wish to discuss the relative merits of beer, spirits, wine, or their respective strengths, but it is within the knowledge of honorable members who are not teetotallers, that one would not advise a young man to start drinking gin and whisky instead of beer and. light wines. However, that is the effect of the advice given to our visitors by the Department of Information. It is well known, that Australian wines vary in quality and alcoholic strength. Every wine-making country produces poor wine and good wine. The quality of .the wine produced in Australia in recent years has shown marked improvement in almost every type produced. Honorable members are aware that during this war wine has had great difficulty in competing with other alcoholic liquors. It has been placed low on the export priorities ; it has lost the markets that were opened up in the Far East, and the people of Australia are not generally great wine drinkers. They drink more whisky and beer. All these factors have had a detrimental, effect on the producers of wine, who are not solely the wine-makers, but include growers of grapes. Returned soldiers settled along the river Murray are particularly affected. Their stake in the country is a great one, and the Government should take keen interest in them, partly because they are heavily indebted to either Commonwealth or State Governments. Nobody can deny that the paragraph I have quoted would tend to dissuade American soldiers from drinking wine. I do not know very much about their tastes, but. I have been told that Americans do not care very much for beer, and that most of those who drink liquor prefer whisky. Tt is most unfortunate that, at a time of almost unexampled difficulty for wine producers, a statement should be issued with the authority of a department of the Crown to the effect that Australian wines are extremely fierce and, in fact, should be guarded against. The warning is, in effect, " You had better keep away from our wines ". I raise this matter in an endeavour to secure justice for our winemakers. Wines should be given preference over spirits and beer, partly on account of the kind of men employed in the industry and the great difficulties which the industry is experiencing because of the war, and partly on account of the enormous reserve stocks of wine. Any increase of local consumption would be of great, assistance to the wine producers.







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