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Tuesday, 14 August 1906


Mr FOWLER (Perth) .- Although I have no desire to be heard too frequently upon this matter, so much has been said regarding the unfortunate Tariff Commission that I am justified in making a few observations in reply. If many members of that Commission had followed their natural inclinations, they would have resigned from it long ago. Probably that would have suited a good many honorable members. Speaking for myself, and, I believe, for many other members of the Commission, I may say that we realized that we had been appointed to perform an important and necessary duty. We realized that an experimental Tariff had been in existence in the Commonwealth for a few years, and that it was highly desirable that an inquiry of a thoroughly exhaustive nature should be made into its effect. Recognising this, I accepted a position on the Commission, and, in spite of the blackguardly attacks made upon it outside the House, I made up my mind that I would see the work through. That I am determined to do, regardless of what transpires, either inside or outside the House, in the nature of attacks upon the Commission and its work. The honorable and learned member for Parkes has come to the rescue of the Commission in a way that I, for one, fully appreciate. Although this debate has been in progress for only a few hours, I have heard an insinuation of something very like corruption against the Commission, and I have also heard insinuations of ignorance and incompetence ^gainst its members. One cannot help wondering what will be the outcome if this sort of thing is to continue. Probably we shall find the members of the Commission with armoured cars and machine guns to protect them from the outraged opinions of their colleagues in the Chamber. Be that as it may, if the Committee will exercise only a little patience, and listen, to what the members of the Commission may have to say in response to Ministerial proposals, we shall be able to fully justify any recommendations that we have made. We are in the unfortunate position of having little or nothing to which to reply; we are in the position of having to prove practically a negative. It is the duty of the Government, who bring down modifications of our proposals, to show the reasons for those modifications, and, in the absence of such reasons, members of the Commission are naturally handicapped in dealing with this matter.


Mr Fisher - And so is every other honorable member.


Mr FOWLER - Undoubtedly ; but since the Commission is being put on its defence in this House, this difficulty applies in a greater degree to its members. The honorable and learned member for Parkes referred very properly to the methods of the Minister in obtaining information from sources other than those that were open to the Commission. The honorable member for Wide Bay has also pointed out that it is the duty of Ministers to obtain all information possible with respect to the question of revenue - a phase of this question which could be touched upon only incidentally by the Commission. I agree with that, but I wish to point out that quotations have been made in this Chamber from letters which have apparently influenced the Minister, letters from individuals who had opportunities to give evidence before the Commission, but refrained from doing so. I am going to state why they did not come before us. It is much easier for these people to address to honorable members letters containing more or less mystifying and incorrect statements than to go before a Commission, which will put them on their oath, and make them responsible for their statements. We have had a good deal of technical instruction from members of the Committee regarding pure and impure spirits, and as to what constitutes genuine brandy, and that which is not genuine.


Mr Hutchison - The teetotallers seem to know most about the question.


Mr FOWLER - That is so. I am of opinion that it would have been much better for those who talk about genuine brandy to have said nothing in that connexion, so far as the proposals of the Commission are concerned. Those who make genuine Australian brandy are perhaps in a better position, under the recommendation of the Commission, than they will be when the full and fierce light of discussion is thrown on their situation in common with that of the manufacturers of other classes of spirit. We have been told that it is not fair, for instance, to put blended brandy in competition with that which is not blended. A great deal of emphasis has been laid upon the quality of the socalled pure Australian brandies. We have been told that much of the spirit required for the fortification of those brandies is highly rectified*. Why is that so? The honorable member who gave us that infor mation omitted to tell the Committee 'that it was necessary to rectify the fortifying spirit since it is largely produced from "off" or unsound wine, and that it has to be rectified in order to avoid the deleterious effect of the sources of its origin. Then again, it is suggested that the brandy which Australia produces from the grape is the finest that can be made anywhere. I make bold to say. that there is not a single gallon of Australian brandy distilled according to the methods of that district of France in which the purest and most perfect kinds of brandy are produced ; that the method of manufacture is moreor less defective, and that if we are going to insist on a genuine brandy, we shall have to provide, first of all, that no "off" or damaged wine shall be used in its production, and that secondly, the proper method of distillation shall be observed. That method is to employ the old-fashioned potstill similar to that used in the Charente district of France, for producing the highest quality of brandy. If those two points were observed, it might be well worth our while to consider the suggestions of those who wish to protect more completely than at present brandy made from the pure juice of the grape. But . until that is done, I would suggest to those who are asking for more consideration for Australian brandy that they should ask' themselves whether it is worth while insisting on conditions which necessarily will have to be amplified if our brandies are to be of the perfect kind indicated by several honorable members. We have been told by honorable members that highly rectified spirit does not require to be kept in order to mature. But one gentleman interested in distillation by the patent still process - I refer to Mr. Joshua - expressed the opinion, when before the Commission, that even that class of spirit required to be matured ; he advocated that it should be kept in bond for not less than two years. That is the evidence of a gentleman interested in the production of this particular class of spirit. It is undoubtedly a very technical and abstract matter.

Progress reported.







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