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Friday, 2 September 1921

Senator PAYNE (Tasmania) .- Spirit/ for industrial and scientific purposes ' dealt with under sub-item m includes medicinal alcohol. I have received communications from the friendly societies' organizations, which conduct dispensaries,, and from other bodies engaged in the dispensing and manufacture of medicine. Among the representations made to raeare some from the Federal Pharmaceutical Council of Australia. These areworthy of consideration while the Committee is dealing with the matter of the Excise to be imposed upon alcohol for medicinal purposes. Another place - amended the Excise Tariff on spirits by making rectified spirits free to publichospitals and by reducing the duty on spirit for scientific purposes from 28s. to- 25s. per proof gallon. The Pharmaceutical Council comments -

This reduction (so far as medicinal alcoholis concerned) is most inadequate when compared with the concessions allowed in other - countries - England, United States of America, South Africa, &e. The Parliaments of thesecountries have long since recognised that medicine is a necessity and not a luxury; that when, sickness is present in a home it is not a time to impose additional heavy taxation on the sick.

The National Legislature should make theprice of medicines as re'asonably cheap aspossible.

Senator Keating - Do not some doctors say that there should be no alcohol' in any medicine to' be taken internally 1

Senator PAYNE - Some do, whileother physicians hold contrary views. Some honorable senators will object, no- doubt, that, if the duty on spirit for scientific purposes is further reduced, advantage may be taken of it in illegitimate directions. Other countries deal with that difficulty from a common-sense point of view. A very low duty is imposed, but regulations are gazetted which practically prevent improper practices. In Great Britain rectified spirit, when supplied for potable purposes, pays duty at 74s. per proof gallon. The same spirit, when supplied for pharmaceutical purposes, pays duty at the rate of 14s. 9d. per proof gallon, which is equal to a rebate of 69s. 3d. per proof gallon. It ought to be possible to prevent the illegitimate use of spirit by the adoption of any or all of a number of suggestions furnished by the Pharmaceutical Council. One of these is based upon the limitation of supply, the average ' quantity per pharmacy being fixed after consultation with the Pharmaceutical Society, as is done in the case of opium, cocaine, &c. Another suggestion has to do with the keeping of records on the same lines as those required to be kept by perfume manufacturers and by chemists under the Opium Smoking Prohibition Proclamation. A third suggestion is for supervision by officers of Customs, similar to that in operation under the Spirits Act regulations.

Senator Pearce - I draw the attention of the Committee to. that suggestion, and invite honorable senators to consider what would be entailed by official supervision of every chemist's shop throughout the Commonwealth.

Senator PAYNE - The suggestions are alternative, and are all worthy of consideration. The last mentioned might be discarded, and ample provision still be made to prevent abuse. One other suggestion is for securities and sureties in the form of monetary bonds, and another is for the cutting off of the concession on proof of illegitimate disposal of spirit. The view will be taken, perhaps, that hospitals can be more easily supervised than pharmacies and friendly societies' dispensaries. Difficulties must always be expected when comprehensive steps are taken to prevent wrong practices and evasions. But if a great benefit can be conferred upon suffering humanity, as is here sought, honorable senators should be sympathetic. I move -

That the House of Representatives be requested to make the duty, sub-item (m), per proof gallon, 15s.

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