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Tuesday, 28 August 1906

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) . - As the Minister has paid some attention to one or two points upon which I intended to offer some criticism, and on account of other personal reasons, I do not intend to occupy the time of the House at any length. There is still another reason which deters me from speaking in any but the most deferential way upon this question, and that is the presence in the House of members of the Commission. They have paid more months of attention te this matter than ordinary members have, been able to devote hours to it, and they must be presumed to have discussed its pros and cons very fully and deliberately. But, notwithstanding that they have given all this attention to the subject, there may be points which have been left unconsidered - points as to which the evidence has not been so full and complete as to enable them to arrive at the real facts of the situation. Of course, it is very easy for honorable members who have not been through the process of sifting and inquiry to know all about the subject. I confess that I have not read the evidence taken by the Commission as carefully as the honorable member for Lang appears to have done. Not having read that evidence, I suppose that I am in a much better position to record an intelligent vote upon this proposal. I speak, therefore, only of information which has been conveyed to me by persons who know all about the subject, and who are interested in it from a commercial standpoint. All that information is in agreement upon the point of the standard which should be set up in connexion with the distillation of, say, rum, which is made from molasses. All' the evidence which I have gathered goes to show that that rum cannot be cleared of its impurities at so low a degree as 35. In fact - to use the expression employed by the persons who spoke to me upon the subject - rum so distilled simply "stinks," and the stink cannot be overcome.

Mr Fowler - The spirit has to be distilled twice, and it is the central portion of the distillate which has a commercial value.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I was not aware of that. I am speaking of the molasses spirit which is distilled in New South Wales. The trade describes it as being in a stinking condition when it is so distilled, and they urge that nothing less than 60 degrees would eliminate its objectionable odour.

Sir John Quick - It would be too highly rectified then. Experts say that if it were distilled at 60 degrees of strength it would not be rum.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I am informed that nearly all the rum which comes from the West Indies - and a large quantity of the rum used in Australia comes from there - is distilled at from 65 to 70 degrees of strength.

Sir John Quick - Then it must be " doctored " or simulated rum.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) -That is what my informants tell me. They say that in any case to distil rum at so low a strength as 35 degrees would mean that they would never be able to get the stink out of it.

Sir John Quick - The standard has been increased by general consent to 45 degrees.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - That is a very considerable difference, I admit, and to some extent it meets the objection which I have been urging. The fact that a higher degree eliminates impurities from the spirit is not questioned, and it is only the degree of rectification which is concerned in the argument. If we can eliminate these impurities by rectifying the spirits at a higher degree, it seems to me that we should do so. Then I am informed that rum is rarely more than six months old when it is sold in the markets of London. It is never kept longer than that period, and rarely so long. The argument is advanced that if in one of the great markets of the world a standard of. six months or under is observed in the sale and consumption of these liquors, it should afford some guide to us in prescribing the period during which they should be bonded here. Concerning the importation of this stuff, I am told that it would be almost impossible to ascertain the duration of the storage of rum. For instance, I am assured that no certificates are issued by the Excise Department in London, or at any of the other places oversea.

Sir William Lyne - We are considering that question now, and I have communicated with the Imperial authorities in reference to it.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I am glad to hear that. There seems to be something lacking which would permit of an easy identification of the age of spirit. I take it that the Minister only requires to be assured that spirit has been stored for the prescribed term. If hecan bemade aware of that fact in a way which will not unduly interfere with business, so much the better. At present theredoes not seem to be any facile means of ascertaining how long spirit has been actually stored. In the absence of any certificate from the Excise Department at Home the only other course for the Minister to adopt would be to accept a certificate from the distillers. Whether that could be done under a system of proper supervision, I do not know. I do not know how supervision can be applied to spirit which is produced in another part of the world. That is the difficulty in regard to the importation of these spirits under any circumstances, and under any system of classification. We want to be able to check the certificates which accompany them, and how that is to be done, seeing that there are no checks kept by the Excise Department at Home, is a problem which requires to be solved before we can determine the facts of the case as they apply to the period during which rum should be stored. However, these are matters of administration, and no doubt the Minister will look into them. I am glad to hear that he is in communication with the authorities at Home, with a view to ascertaining whether they have any better means for determining the age of spirits than we have. No doubt he will avail himself of the experience of the world if any such experience be available in the official quarters in which he is apparently seeking it.

Question resolved in the affirmative.

Bill read a second time.

In Committee.

Clauses 1 and 2 agreed to.

Clause 3 -

In this Act, unless the contrary intention appears - "Medicines" includes medicines for internal or external application ; "Australian Standard Brandy" means brandy which complies with the following requisites : -

(b)   It musthave been matured, while subject to the control of the Customs, by storage in wood for a period of not less than two years; and " Australian Blended Wine Brandy " means, brandy which complies with the following requisites : -

(b)   It must have been matured, while subject to the control of the Customs, by storage in wood for a period of not less than twoyears; and "Australian Blended Whisky" means whisky which complies with the following requisites : -

(b)   It must have been matured, while subject to the control of the Customs, "by storage in wood for at least two years.

Amendment (by Sir William Lyne) agreed to -

That after the word " application," line 2,. the following words be inserted : - "other than liniments and veterinary medicines."

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