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Thursday, 17 June 1915

Senator KEATING (Tasmania) . - I have listened with interest to what the Minister has had to say in support of this Bill, and I confess that I know more about it now than I did when it was presented to us in December last. I have received a circular, which I presume other honorable senators have also received, from Messrs. Joshua Brothers on the whisky duties. I find that a great deal of what the Assistant Minister has . said is confirmed by the statements appearing in it. The information it contains, I think, justifies us in passing this Bill. In 1906 we passed a Spirits Act, in section 3 of which we provided for an " Australian Standard Malt Whisky," and also an " Australian Standard Blended Whisky." In each case we provided that they must have been distilled wholly from barley malt by a pot-still or similar process, and at a strength not exceeding 35 per cent, overproof. This measure is designed to increase the strength of distillation from 35 to 45 per cent. At first blush I thought that the effect of that would be to render the whisky stronger and more intoxicating, but I find, from what the Minister has said, that that is not the case. I find that an increase of the percentage overproof reduces the fusel oil, which is probably one of the worst concomitants of whisky. In their circular, Messrs. Joshua Brothers begin by saying -

Since last we addressed you on this subject, the Inter-State Commission has issued its report, and has certainly paid us some fine compliments, thus: - " The purity of Australian whisky has never been questioned..... A very large amount of capital has been invested by manufacturers in this industry, and the fact that their operations have not been profitable is not due to want of equipment, or of raw material, or of the most modern appliances." The report further admits the truth of our contention that there is practically no sale for pure-malt, pot-still whisky, and never likely to be.

Later on they say -

You have now seen what one Commission in 1906 recommended as the only " true " whisky, and the only sort worthy of encouragement, another Commission in 1915 admits to be practically unsaleable.

The moral is not likely to be overlooked.

Since the attempt to stereotype a new process of whisky-making has clearly failed of its object, it might be well in the future to leave to practical distillers such technicalities as the due proportion of malt-whisky in a blend, the advantage or otherwise of the " patent " over the "pot" still, and the question of distilling at low strengths, i.e., retaining the fusel oil, or at high strength, i.e., leaving it out.

Senator Russell - The question is practically whether or not we should eliminate the fusel oil.

Senator KEATING - That is so. The higher the strength the purer the spirit. This paragraph of Messrs. Joshua Brothers' circular has a very distinct bearing upon the Bill now before us, and, I think, supports it, although it was issued with reference to the Tariff, and not with reference to this measure at all. The circular further says -

It is now some time since any one with a reputation to lose has asserted that crude, potstill whisky (35-45 O.P.) is as wholesome as the highly rectified article, and as to "taste," consumers the world over have clearly indicated that they prefer the more refined spirit distilled at Co' to 65 overproof. It is less intoxicating.

That being the case, we are perfectly justified in passing this Bill, which will be for the benefit of those concerned in the trade, as well as of consumers of whisky. It is our duty, when the opportunity is offered as it is by this Bill, to do what we may to make whisky less intoxicating and more pure.

Clause agreed to.

Title agreed to.

Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.

Bill read a third time.

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