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Wednesday, 15 August 1906

Mr KNOX (Kooyong) .- This is a subject upon which I have little information. To my mind it is regrettable that we should have to derive so large a part of our revenue from duties on spirits, but the imposition of high duties is regarded as necessary to prevent abuse, and to discourage the importation of inferior productions. I am of the opinion of the Highlander who, after a heavy night, declared that whisky was bad, especially bad whisky. But so long as we impose these duties we must see that we get the most revenue we can from them. It is stated in this morning's Age that -

Mr. Fowlersays 14s. is as high a rate "as consumers will stand," and that a higher duty will lead to the consumption of inferior spirit. But against this theory, the actual facts of the colonies in pre-Federation days are conclusive. Of the six colonies two had 15s- duties on spirits, and 'one had 16s. ; and surely in such a matter as this, which is on:; of mere opinion, the Government is justified in taking what it thinks the necessary means of safeguarding the revenue.

The writer of that article probably overlooked the fact that Victoria in 1894 had an import -duty of 15s. per proof gallon, and in two years lost £300,000 in revenue, when, as the result of the investigation of a Commission, the duty was reduced to 14s. Furthermore, South Australia had a duty of 15s., with a 16.5 allowance for underproof, making the rate equivalent to 12s. 6d. Western Australia had a duty of 16s., with a 16.5 allowance for underproof, making the rate 13s. 4d. These facts seem to me to be reasons why we should not- make the duty on proof spirit as high, as 15s.

Mr Fowler - Hear, hear. The matter of an allowance for underproof spirit has been entirely overlooked.

Mr KNOX - I am glad to hear the honorable member say that. It affects the question very much. I hope that the subject will receive from the Committee the attention which it deserves.

Amendment agreed to.

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