Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
Wednesday, 2 June 1926

Senator GRANT (New South Wales) .- I move-

That the House of Representatives be requested to make the duty, sub-item (b) (1), per gallon, British 30s.

Under this item, it is proposed to increase the duty on imported whisky by 5s. a gallon, a proposal which all intelligent people regard as entirely unjustified. I suggest that this question be added to those to be submitted to a referendum of the people. Failing that, I should like to see a secret ballot taken.

Senator Drake-Brockman - Of honorable senators?

Senator GRANT - Yes. I feel confident that if a secret ballot of honorable senators were taken there would be an overwhelming majority against the Government's proposals. I know of nothing which is likely to arouse more public indignation than an increased duty on whisky.

Senator Thompson - It might lead to a riot.

Senator GRANT - When the people of America obtained their independence, they believed that they had secured the right to manufacture whisky locally for their own requirements; but in 1794 the Government took prompt action to squelch the rebellion that had broken out in Pennsylvania because of the duties which had been imposed. From time immemorial, there has been a desire on the part of reactionary governments to increase the duty on whisky; but it has remained for this Government - the most reactionary the country has known - to propose the extortionate duty of 35s. a gallon.

Senator Crawford - The excise duty in Great Britain is 72s. a gallon.

Senator GRANT - We are not now dealing with excise duties; but I can inform the Minister of my intention, when they come before us, to request the House of Representatives to remove entirely the excise duty on whisky manufactured in Australia. It has been suggested that if the present restrictions on the sale of intoxicating liquor in the Federal Capital territory are removed, Australian whisky only shall be sold there. That may or may not be a good idea. Even in biblical times, the manufacture of strong drink, especially whisky, was regarded as a fashionable occupation. In Great

Britain, and particularly in Scotland, the manufacture of whisky has reached a high degree of excellence. I am not aware of the exact formula used by Scotch whisky manufacturers'; but I do know that the product of the Scotch distilleries is to be found throughout the world. These increased duties will have the effect of reducing the quantity of Scotch whisky consumed in Australia. Some people would regard that as desirable. I am not greatly concerned, personally; but Irealize, from the large quantity of whisky consumed in the Commonwealth, that this is a matter of considerable importance to . many in the community, who, if they had a voice in deciding this question, would not only reduce the duty to 30s. a gallon, but would abolish it entirely. I have suggested a reduction to 30s. only because I know it would be futile to go further. I cannot imagine anything so ridiculous as to tax a product of this kind. Such a tax is opposed to the best interests of the consumer of whisky. In Scotland, where the manufacture of whisky has been a national industry for many centuries, whisky is characterized, in the classical language of the Gael, as " uisgebeatha," meaning "water of life."

Senator THOMAS (NEW SOUTH WALES) - Does the honorable senator drink Australian whisky?

Senator GRANT - I can drink any kind of whisky. I do not know why a commodity which is so appreciated by many of our people should be taxed to this extent. The duty is unreasonable, and I therefore oppose it. I understand that, during the five or six months that the increased duties have operated, there has been a loss of revenue on imported whisky to the extent of about £80,000. I realize that there may be other reasons for that reduction of revenue. I am entirely opposed to the increased duty, and when we are dealing with the excise tariff, I shall move for the deletion of the excise on Australian whisky. We may then be able to buy a bottle of it for about 3s.

Senator Sir HENRYBAR WELL (South Australia) [3.21]. - I think we are entitled to have from the Minister the reasons which, in the opinion of the Government, justify this increase in duty. Honorable senators should not be required to debate the item in the dark. The Government has said that an increase in the duty is necessary. For what purpose? Is it for revenue, or for the protection of the Australian industry ?

Suggest corrections