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Tuesday, 14 August 1906

Mr HUTCHISON (Hindmarsh) . - I am glad that the honorable member for Bland has submitted this amendment. When the Minister of Trade and Customs replied to several questions which I put to him the other day, I took it for granted that he intended to take immediate steps to place ouside manufacturers of spirits upon the same footing as, local distillers.

Mr Deakin - That is the proposal.

Mr HUTCHISON - to me it is rather surprising that something in that direction was not done long since. More than two years ago I called attention to the quality of the spirits that were being imported. I pointed out that nearly all the spirits coming into the Commonwealth were being imported in bulk, also that very little case whisky was being introduced, and that the imported spirits were being sold without any real supervision being exercised over them. I stated that this was particularly the case in South Australia, where there was a conflict between the State and Commonwealth enactments in regard to the matter. I am' rather surprised to learn that under the Customs Act it was possible to prevent these inferior spirits from being imported. I agree , with the honorable member for Bland that we ought to incorporate in the Bill some such provision as he has outlined. We have in the past trusted too much to administration bv means of regulations, which either have never been framed or have never been put into force. I do not think that it is necessary at this stage to discuss all the matters dealt with in the motion.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - The honorable member and his party have been preaching the doctrine of " Trust the Minister " in relation to all the legislation passed this session, and now on the question of whisky, the honorable member changes his attitude.

Mr HUTCHISON - Time and again I have objected to the Minister being given power to do by regulation that for which we could provide in the Bill itself.

Mr Watson - The honorable member for Parramatta knows that; he is a word twister.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - The honorable member voted again and again for-

Mr HUTCHISON - I have always voted consistently, and that is more than the honorable member has done. The honorable and learned member for Bendigo mentioned that he considered a minimum of 25 per cent, of pure grape spirit was sufficient in the case of blended brandy, but I would point out that in the old country a number of prosecutions have been instituted against persons for selling brandy that is not the pure juice of the grape. In the case of one firm which was so prosecuted, it was stated in the course of the evidence that the great firm of Gilbey always labelled brandy not derived solely from the grape as a "mixture of genuine grape brandy, and rectified British spirit." It is recognised in the old land that brandy ought really to be the pure juice of the grape. That is the contention of the representatives of South Australia. Why should we allow pure grape spirit to be adulterated to the extent of 75 per cent, with the cheapest and most inferior spirit that one can name, and sold as brandy ? What hope has the manufacturer of a really genuine brandy in competition with such an adulteration ? . He cannot possibly live against such competition. In the case to which I have referred, an eminent legal authority gave evidence that if brandy not made of the pure juice of the grape were given to a patient, it would set up irritation, and do him injury. The authorities tell us that the ethers in brandy make it more valuable than is any other spirit. The purer the brandy, the higher the percentage of ethers, and the greater its value from a medicinal stand-point. The highest medical authorities tell us that the giving of a mixture of pure grape brandy and some other spirit, to an invalid, is likely to be dangerous. If it be dangerous to give brandy so adulterated to a sick man, it cannot be desirable to give it to a healthy individual. As we shall have another opportunity to deal with this phase of the question, I shall not, at this stage, make further reference to it, but I trust that the Government intend immediately to subject imported spirits to the same conditions as are applied to those made within Australia. The whole purpose of the inquiry by the Tariff Commission has been to seek a means to protect our existing manufacturers and to encourage others to enter the industry. There is room for great expansion in this industry, but if we deal with it in the slipshod way that has characterized our actions for some time, we shall afford it but little protection.

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