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Wednesday, 17 October 1956

Mr POLLARD (Lalor) .- The measure before the House is a relatively small one. but I think that it is of some importance to the wine industry of this country. In order to understand its provisions fully, one needs some of the knowledge possessed by a vigneron or a member of the winemakers' organization. The Minister for Customs and Excise (Mr. Osborne), in introducing the bill, indicated that its purpose was to allow winemakers a degree of liberty which, the Minister had determined, was justified on the ground that the winemakers had been able to establish that the quality of theirhigh-class fortified wines would be improved by the use of matured brandy as a fortifying spirit. Apparently the new provision to allow the utilization of matured brandy - and I suppose one should emphasize the word " matured " - as a fortifying spirit in Australian wines is a departure from the existing practice of winemakers in this country. As I understand the position, the winemakers do not now use a matured brandy for fortification purposes.

Mr Osborne - They are not allowed to do that.

Mr POLLARD - I say that advisedly. I understand that as a rule a spirit is distilled especially for fortification of wine. I assume that the denial of the right to use brandy as a fortifying spirit in the past has been a denial which has been thought best by governmental authorities and, I assume, by a large section of the wine industry, as a provision, in the circumstances then operatting, most likely to ensure that high-class wines would be made in this country for both the export and the local markets.

The Minister, when he introduced the measure, said that he was satisfied that there was substance in the claim of winemakers that this change was desirable and would not worsen the types or quality of wines produced. I would have been much happier about this measure if the Minister had informed the Parliament that he was satisfied beyond any shadow of doubt that there would be no deterioration in the quality of wines produced with this change in practice which is to be permitted to the winemaking industry.

Mr Osborne - That is just a matter of words.

Mr POLLARD - The Minister is, of course, irritated that I should pass any remarks at all on this question. He said it is just a matter of words, but I say it is a matter of substance. He did not indicate that he was quite satisfied that this change would not permit any deterioration in the quality of wines produced in Australia. If he had, I would be more satisfied that the amendment is a desirable one. It is quite true that he is fortified, not with wine, but with the opinion of the vignerons and the winemakers' organizations that this is a desirable departure from the existing practice. But I remind the Minister that sometimes even those who are producing primary or other products are prepared to give an undertaking that if a change is made in certain practices that they are required to observe, no deterioration will take place in the quality of their goods. But that undertaking is not always substantiated by experience and the change is not always in the interests of the producers.

Something that happened many years ago - I suppose a quarter of a century ago - comes to my mind. The butter manufacturers protested most volubly when the federal government of the day brought down an amendment of the act, or promulgated a new regulation that prohibited absolutely the further use of boric acid in export butter. The government determined that it was not desirable to permit that practice to continue. The use of boric acid was believed to, and no doubt did, ensure that butter reached the United Kingdom market in a condition satisfactory to consumers, but it was not of good quality. The howl against the amendment was terrific. It was said that our export trade would be destroyed if the use of this preservative in butter was prohibited. All the preservative did was to hide the filthy habits of some dairy-farmers of that day and generation, and it did a distinct injustice to their capacity to compete on the United Kingdom market. To-day, not a fraction of preservative of any kind is put into Australian butter that is exported and our competitive position on the United Kingdom market is much stronger than it would otherwise be.

That is an illustration of the case where it is not always best to accept the advice of primary producers and other organizations regarding certain practices that obtain in the production of their products. However, I hope that in this case the change is amply justified. Neither this party, nor,I think, any other party in this Parliament, desires to place unnecessary restrictions on the mode of production of any primary product or any other product that is likely to aid substantially the development of this great nation.

In those circumstances and subject to some questions which I may ask the Minister in committee, the Opposition is prepared to give this measure its blessing, and expresses the hope that it will assist the winemakers and the vignerons in the production of what I consider are wines of a quality equal to those produced in any part of the world. I hope that this provision will assist the industry; and I hope also that a close watch will be kept, not on those who have the very highest interests of the industry at heart, but on that section of the trade - it may be a very small section, and I hope it is - that may be inclined from time to time to take advantage of a lessening of the existing restrictions to produce a wine which may do very great damage to the reputation of that industry. I leave it at that. The Opposition will let the bill pass the remaining stages without delay.

Question resolved in the affirmative.

Bill read a second time.

In committee:

Clause 1 agreed to.

Clauses 2 to 5 - by leave - taken together, and agreed to.

Clause 6 -

After section eighty-one of the Principal Act the following sections are inserted: -

"82.- . . .

(2.) If the spirits, vessels and packages so removed are not claimed, in writing, .

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