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Tuesday, 10 April 1973
Page: 1272


Mr KING (Wimmera) - I wish to raise one or two points about this Bill which deals with the excise duty on beer produced for non-commercial purposes. I believe that it is a discriminatory Bill, but at the same time it is clear that any alternative legislation would be impracticable. It is rather a strange set-up. In this case we are supporting the principle of discrimination against the majority in favour of the few. I am somewhat perturbed at legislation which encourages the production of alcoholic drinks brewed in other than recognised premises. I am referring, to use the old expression, to home brew. It is a novelty for a man to produce a brew that is acceptable to his friends. He may create some enjoyment in that way. But I am concerned about the long term results. I think immediately of the effect on health.

Many honourable members will remember that during World War II servicemen who could not secure sufficient alcoholic liquor decided to produce their own. On numerous occasions they had a certain amount of success but on other occasions adverse effects resulted. In many instances people suffered rather badly. I have a vivid recollection of being a patient in a hospital where no fewer than 12 servicemen were admitted after consuming home brew. Unfortunately, 4 other drinkers did not make the hospital as they lost their lives after drinking that home brew. That is why I am showing some concern this evening about encouraging the production of alcoholic liquor outside normal premises.

On the discriminatory side one immediately thinks about people who purchase their beer from the normal sources. They contribute substantially to revenue by paying about 19c excise on each bottle of beer. As a result the Commonwealth collects in revenue about $400m a year. That is no mean figure. The excise collected on other alcoholic beverages is somewhat small by comparison. The revenue collected from excise on whisky each year is about $4. 6m; brandy $ 10.7m: rum $6. 3m; and gin $3m. Recently the Parliament removed the excise payable on wine. I might well ask why that was done. Do we discriminate in favour of some as against others? The honourable member for Hotham (Mr Chipp), who is at the table, referred to that aspect. The Government now in office prides itself on equality.


Dr J F Cairns - Come off it.


Mr KING - Yes, you do. Government supporters are always talking about equality, but on this sort of issue I cannot see that they are motivated by equality. Government supporters pride themselves on representing the worker who has a daily glass of beer at a hotel on his way home from work.


Dr J F Cairns - It shows what you know about workers. I have never known one who would stop at a glass.


Mr KING - I do not think there is any need for me to answer that interjection. The Minister has explained my point. If Government supporters represent that type of person I cannot see why the Government is discriminating against him. I could go on at some length on these issues but I simply ask honourable members to note the points I have raised. I believe that there could be great dangers in encouraging the production of home brew through the removal of excise. The Government is saying, in effect: 'Produce it as cheaply as you like, fellows. There is no limit to it.'

I am reminded of an article I read recently in local newspapers by a writer calling himself 'A Modest Member'. The article was written following inquiries of the writer by some of his friends about the operations of a neighbour in a little building outside his premises. He and his mates decided that they would conduct a raid on what they called Fred's office'. He described the raid as follows:

But when we forced our way in, we found, not an office, but the most weird and wonderful home brewing outfit ever seen.

There was an old bath bubbling quietly to itself. There were shelves of assorted bottles, some with corks tied down with string, some with heavy weights on top of the seals. There were jars of yeast and tins of sugar wilh ants laying siege. There were mouldy marks on the ceiling where bottles had blown their tops. There were petrol funnels, bits of gauze, there was a bit of almost everything.

I will say this for Fred, he wasn't mean with us after the dust had settled. When we agreed to sample some of his homework he put on his mask to protect him if a bottle exploded, and stealthfully approached a particular batch of bottles. He reverently lifted one down, stood it in a china wash basin and advised us to stand clear. Then he bravely took the top off and managed to catch quite a lot of beer in the basin as it came down. It wasn't long before we had enough in the basin to start. We tasted it. You couldn't really say it was like the bought beer, but it was, well, interesting, and it would make a rabbit fight a bulldog.

That is one of the reasons why I criticise this Bill.







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