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Wednesday, 15 August 1906

Mr MALONEY (Melbourne) .- I desire to briefly state my views with respect to this question. There should be no conflict of opinion as to the difference between brandy made from wine and that made from other materials to which reference was made in the evidence given before the Habitual Drunkards Board appointed by the Victorian Government in 1898'. Among the witnesses examined by the Board were Mr. Daniel Ferguson, Chief Inspector of Distilleries, and Mr. Archibald Wm. Smart, senior landing surveyor, the one having thirty-five years' experience and the other an experience extending over something like twenty-one years. It was shown clearly by those witnesses that only one-third of the whiskies and. brandies then imported into Victoria were the pure spirits their names represented them to be; that another third consisted of a mixture of brandy and whisky with silent spirit ; and that the remaining third consisted qf silent spirit blended with essences which, in their concentrated form, were generally virulent poisons. What is protection to the manufacturer is protection to the consumer, and the Government deserve the support of every loyal protectionist in their attempt fo protect the consumer by giving an impetus to the manufacture of brandy from wine and of whisky from malt. Mr. Smart, when giving evidence before the Habitual Drunkards Commission, said -

The cheap spirit can be made from anythingthat contains saccharine. I think it is made from sugar, molasses, and all kinds of grains, including maize. Sometimes rice and potatoes are used. It is not manufactured here into different spirits bv the addition of essences; it is brought out as whisky, rum, and brandy. About one-third of the whisky imported is the plain spirit flavoured, and possibly about another third is mixed with a real whisky.

The recommendation ' made in one of the minority reports was that -

The sale of cheap spirits flavoured 1o taste like brandy, whisky, gin, &c, should be prevented, as expert evidence shows that alcohol, and even Glasgow whiskies, costing11d. a gallon, are sold as the best spirits.

I maintain that such spirits are sold tinder a fraudulent term -

The two Government Custom House officials examined showed that of the whiskies and ' brandies imported and sold in this colony, onethird only are the pure spirits their names represent them to be, another one-third being plain or silent spirit, and the remainder a mixture of brandy and whisky with silent spirit.

It may be mentioned that expert analytical chemists state the silent spirits to be the purest of alcohol ; if that be so it would be more honest that they should be sold under their proper names.

The honorable member for Bland said that we ought to have discovered that cheap spirit could be made from molasses, and an honorable member in the Opposition corner interjected that it was only known in America a little while ago that cheap spirit could be so produced. In 1898, one of the experts of the Victorian Customs Department gave evidence before the Habitual Drunkards Board that " molasses spirit is made here, and is mostly all methylated."

Mr Tudor - I think it was stated by way of interjection that the Excise duty on methylated spirit was being reduced because it was coming largely into use.

Mr MALONEY - My only desire was to show that we have been fully alive to the fact that spirit can be produced cheaply from molasses. The honorable member for Perth interjected, when the honorable member for Laanecoorie was quoting the Lancet as an authority upon the purity of brandy distilled from grape spirit, that the brandy produced in that district of France from which we. obtain the Fin Champagne is equal to the best that is made in Australia. I would remind the honorable member, however, that the price of such brandy practically prohibits its use in hospitals and like institutions.

Mr Fowler - I recognise that.

Mr MALONEY - That being so, it is not fair to compare the brandies of France with those of Australia, which are made from the pure grape spirit. I would point out also that the spirit exported from other countries is not subject to the care and supervision which that sold within those countries receives.

Mr Fowler - The people of those countries will not drink the rubbish that they export.

Mr MALONEY - There is a good deal of force in that statement. A body of experts has expressed an opinion favorable to Australian brandy as against that produced elsewhere. When the authorities of the British Army obtained samples of brandies they were unable, of course, to think of purchasing the high-priced French brandy to which I have just referred. Those brandies could not compete with Australian brandies. In the country 7s. 6d. a bottle is charged for Hennessey's brandy, though no one will say that it is a spirit distilled wholly from grape wine. On the other hand, there can be obtained in Bendigo, at 3s. 3d. a bottle, a brandy distilled wholly from grape wine, which any medicalman would say is far more valu able for medicinal purposes. In America, according to the expert whore evidence I have just quoted, spirit which is to be used medicinally must have been matured for at least two years. It will be admitted that blending leaves the door open for adulteration, and no honorable member desires that either the food or the drink of the people shall be adulterated. I should like to see a greater amount of protection given to the distilling of pure grape brandy and pure malt whisky ; but, as that cannot be obtained, I shall, as a protectionist, accept what the Government offer. I wish to pay my meed of praise to the Tariff Commissioners, who have devoted great energy and talent to the task intrusted to them. A long experience of Commissions in Victoria leads me almost to support the view of the German cynic, that, if the Lord had placed the making of the earth in the hands of a Commission, it would never have been made, or, if made, would have been a botch. I have no fault to find with the present Commission ; but I wish to point out to its members - and I hope that they will take the remark in good temper - that they cannot be allowed to " boss " the Committee. It is within the region of possibility that, to suit a certain type of politician - such as, thank Heaven, we have not yet produced in Australia - a Government may appoint a Commission to give a one-sided report, and, if such a Commission were allowed to dominate Parliament, it would be a very serious matter. Therefore, I shall resent very strongly any attempts to force the opinions of any Commission on honorable members.

Amendment agreed to.

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