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Tuesday, 20 October 1931


Mr FORDE (Capricornia) (Minister for Trade and Customs) [3.42J. - This matter was fully debated when the import duties on whisky were before the committee. The committee then decided to place an extra 5s. duty on imported whisky bottled out of bond; but it was not in favour of a similar duty on imported brandy bottled out of bond. In order to place Australian brandy on the same footing as imported brandy, the committee on my suggestion agreed to the removal of the extra 5s. a gallon duty on Australian brandy bottled out of bond. To be consistent the committee should now place Australian whisky in the same position as imported whisky, by applying the 5s. extra for bottling out of bond on both.

The 5s. per gallon extra duty on whisky bottled out of bond was imposed for three reasons. First, it gave a measure of protection to the public, since the extra duty would be an inducement to have whisky bottled in bond, under customs supervision, thus ensuring that the contents of the bottle would be true to label, at least up to the time it reached the hotel bar or the consumer. The second reason was to increase the revenue, although that is not an important consideration. The third reason for the extra duty was that additional avenues for employment should be provided in the manufacture of bottles, cases, and straw envelopes, and in bottling and packing the spirits in the bond stores. The 5s. extra import duty on spirits bottled out of bond applies to whisky, brandy and gin under the customs tariff, and to whisky, brandy, gin and liqueurs under the excise tariff. No objection has h?en raised to the 5s. a gallon extra duty on brandy, gin and liqueurs bottled out of bond, because those lines are practically all bottled under customs supervision in bond. Brandy has since been eliminated by the committee.

In May, 1927. a health conference, presided over by Senator A. J. McLachlan, representing the then Minister for Health, was held in. Melbourne. The Commonwealth was represented by Dr. D. G. Robertson, Director of the Division of Industrial Hygiene, and an adviser of the Commonwealth in relation to the Commerce Act, who attended in the absence of Dr. Cumpston, the Commonwealth Director-General of Health; Mr. W. Percy Wilkinson, Commonwealth Analyst and an adviser of the Commonwealth in relation to the Commerce Act; and Mr. H. Thomson, representing the Department of Markets and Migration. The representatives of New South Wales were Dr. R. Dick, president of the Board of Health and chairman of the Pure Poods Advisory Committee created by the Pure Food Act; Dr. T. Cooksey, Government Analyst; and the Hon. J. G. Farleigh, M.L.C., a member of the Pure Foods Advisory Committee, who attended as a commercial representative. Queensland's representatives were: - Dr. J. I. Moore, Commissioner of Public Health ; Mr. J. Brownlie Henderson, Government Analyst; and Mr. F. Harper, of Messrs. Robert Harper and Company Limited, who attended as a commercial representative. South Australia was represented by Dr. W. Ramsay Smith, permanent head of the Department of Public Health, chairman of the Central Board of Health and chairman of the Advisory Committee created by the Food and Drugs Act; Dr. W. A. Hargreaves, Director of Chemistry and Government Analyst, with Mr. J. W. Grasby, a commercial member of the Advisory Committee, as commercial representative. On behalf of Tasmania, Mr. E. J. Tudor, acting permanent head and Secretary of the Department of Public Health, and Mr. A. J. Miller, of Messrs. A. J. Miller and Maund Proprietary Limited, attended. Victoria's representatives were Dr. E. Robertson, permanent head of the Department of Public Health, chairman of the Commission of Public Health, and chairman of the Foods Standard Committee created by the Health Act; Dr. Heber Green, ^Lecturer in Chemistry at the Melbourne University and a member of the Foods Standards Committee; and Mr. A. D. Price, president of the Federal Wholesale Grocers Association of Australia, commercial representative. The representatives of Western Australia were Dr. J. Dale, who attended in the absence of the Commissioner of Public Health, Principal Medical Officer, and chairman of the Pure Foods Advisory Committee; Mr. C. E. Stacy, Deputy Government Analyst; and the Hon. J. M. MacFarlane, M.L.C., a member of the Advisory Board.

Senator McLachlanopened the conference on behalf of the Commonwealth Minister for Health. Having cordially welcomed the members, he expressed the hope that, the deliberations of the conference would result in the adoption, by the States and the Commonwealth, of an improved code of uniform standards for foods and drugs, not only from the standpoint of health, but also from that of facilitating interstate trade and commerce. Among the resolutions agreed to at the conference was the following: -

The Commonwealth re-affirms the resolution of the conference of 1013, which was re-affirmed by the conference of 1922, that "All spirits imported in bulk to be sold in bottles under the label or name of any distiller, manufacturer, or agent, outside the Commonwealth, should be bottled in bond under customs supervision, and should be labelled ' bottled in bond by' (here adding the name of the manufacturer or of the agent within the Commonwealth)."

The Government's present proposals are in accordance with the resolutions of that health conference.

The regulations under the Spirits Act provide for certain stamps and markings on spirits bottled under customs supervision. Regulations 7 and S read -

7.   Upon the written application of the owner and satisfactory proof as to the identity of any spirits under customs control, an officer may mark or cause to be marked the description of such spirits in the following manner: -

(   1 ) Casks and Vessels. - The marking shall be effected by affixing on the head of each cask or vessel or case the prescribed stamp or seal.

(2)   Bottles.- The prescribed stamp shall be placed on each bottle, and, in addition, if desired by the owner, the prescribed seal shall be impressed in wax or otherwise on the cork or capsule of every bottle.

8.   The stamp to be used for descriptive purposes shall be adhesive, not less than two inches in diameter, or such smaller size a« may be authorized by the Comptroller in special cases, printed in black letters on white ground, and in the following design, but the descriptive terms varied to suit the requirements, provided that a reduced facsimile of the stamp may be used 'for miniature bottles.

The proscribed stamp is circular in shape, with the worlds " Commonwealth Customs " enclosing a crown set between the letters "G" and " B ", underneath which is printed " Pure Australian Standard Brandy." In the case of whisky, the word " whisky " would be substituted for the word " brandy."

This impost will tend to insure that customers will receive spirits that are true to label. T realize that a number of licensed victuallers prefer to bottle their spirits out of bond, on their own premises. By describing the spirit as a house whisky, and charging a price similar to that asked for standard whiskies of the best quality they obtain an advantage which would disappear if the extra 5s. duty were imposed. If a hotelkeeper bottles and sells a spirit as a house whisky, he has merely to comply with the stipulation as to alcoholic content. Although it may be a cheap imported whisky, he oan sell it at the same price as is charged for a reputable brand, and be safe from interference by a liquor inspector. The recognized proprietary brands of whisky are bottled in bond, under customs supervision, and are subject to test by the health authorities. If they are not up to standard the liquor inspectors can Institute a prosecution against the person who dispenses them. I admit that it is possible for persons who are intent upon adulterating whisky to evade the authorities. At the same time I point out that it was the opinion of the very representative health conference to which I have referred that if spirits are bottled in bond under customs supervision the customer may be sure that his whisky is true to label, at least up to the time that it is placed on the hotel bar.

My experience in connexion with the Department of Trade and Customs is that when a section of the community cannot obtain what it wants by fair means, it endeavours to do so by a campaign of intimidation and innuendo. I say unhesitatingly that, in the administration of the department, no individuals or companies are known to me, or to any member of the Government; nor were they known to my predecessor. Every case is considered on its merits, and to say that this duty was put on to suit any special interests is absolutely untrue.

To-day certain members of the committee are intensely solicitous on behalf of the interests of the small trader. When, on Friday last, I pointed out that to extend the period insisted on for maturity of spirits from two to three years would be playing into the hands of the big vested interests, which include the Federal and Corio distilleries, now controlled by the overseas whisky combine, my warning was disregarded. I pointed out that for 25 years the term of maturity had been two years. Practically without warning an amendment was tabled, to extend that period to three years. I stated that I had inquired whether the proposal would adversely effect any small distillers in business in Australia. I was informed that there were two such distilleries in South Australia. I asked the Comptroller-General of Customs to despatch a telegram to the Collector of Customs in Adelaide to ascertain the opinion of those traders. He received a reply intimating that they were distinctly against an extension of the period of maturity, on the ground that it would mean a serious set-back to their business. The Government thereupon urged that the matter should be referred to the Tariff Board, so that all sections of the community would have an opportunity to give evidence. By an overwhelming majority the Government's advice was rejected, and the amendment was carried. As a result the firm of Milne's, Adelaide, will not be able to sell any whisky for twelve months, until its spirits have a maturity of three years. The Opposition and certain other honorable members, who to-day object to the imposition of this additional 5s., last week played into the hands of the whisky combine, and acted against the interests of the small distillers. Their attitude is inconsistent, and prevents the Government from preserving the interests of the smaller men.


Mr Coleman - How much labour and capital is involved in the firm of Milne?


Mr FORDE - That firm is well known in South Australia, and a very reputable one. The action of Opposition members, who are loud in their agitation for the small man, has put it temporarily out of business as a seller of Australian-made whisky.







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