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Wednesday, 15 August 1906

Mr HUTCHISON (Hindmarsh) . - I intend to support the proposal of the Government. I can understand the honorable and learned member for Bendigo submitting an amendment in favour of levying a duty of 14s. per gallon upon imported spirits, because in its admirable work the Tariff Commission framed a complete scheme.

Mr Fisher - Why should that body recommend the imposition of a particular rate ?

Mr HUTCHISON - That is its concern. It is not necessary for us to accept the duty which the Commission has recommended. The only argument which has been advanced against a rate of 15s. per gallon is that it would mean a considerable loss of revenue. I do not agree with that statement. But even assuming that we lost considerably by levying a duty of i5st per gallon upon imported spirits, we should obtain an infinitely larger revenue from other sources. The adoption of the Government proposal would mean that more work would be provided in the industry in the Commonwealth, and thus the revenue would be more than recouped. It has also been said that the industry affords very little employment. Some honorable members appear to think that the only labour which it employs is that which is directly engaged in distillation. That is not so. We have to consider all the subsidiary industries connected with it. I need scarcely point out that at the present time we do not print the labels or manufacture either the bottles or the corks which are used in connexion with a large quantity of the spirits which are imported. Then it has been urged that the effect of the Government proposal will be to reduce the quality of the liquor which is supplied to the public. I maintain that there is nothing whatever in that contention owing to the operation of the Food and Drugs Acts in the various States. If honorable members will turn to progress report No. 2 of the Tariff Commission they will find that in 1905 the quantity of spirits imported into the Commonwealth exceeded that which was introduced in 1899 by 55,887 gallons. But there was this difference : That the value of the spirits imported in 1905 was less than the value of the importations of 1899 by £40,315. These figures seem to point to a very great deterioration indeed in the quality of the spirits which are imported. I think that the spirits which are introduced into the Commonwealth from abroad have already reached bed-rock so far as quality is concerned.

Mr Skene - That was the case when the duty imposed was a high one.

Mr HUTCHISON - It is the case under the operation of the present duty. At any rate, I am quite prepared to try the experiment proposed by the Government. The States will then be compelled to legislate to insure the supply of pure liquor to the public. In discussing this matter we must consider whether the loss of revenue which will flow from the adoption of the Government proposal will not be more than compensated for by the increased revenue which will be obtained from other sources as the result of increased employment being afforded to our own people.

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