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Wednesday, 2 June 1926

Senator LYNCH (Western Australia) . - It is only natural that the commodity which forms the subject of this discussion, and which on many occasions has provided exhilaration outside Parliament, should, on the present occasion, exhibit its outstanding characteristics. There is certainly a lot oflife in this debate, and properly so. Nevertheless, the subject should be approached rationally. On this occasion I do not profess to cast my vote logically. I have assured the Minister that I intend to use all the vigour at my command to make his task in connexion with this tariff the most gigantic failure ever seen in this chamber ; but I intend to vote for an increased duty on whisky. Because the public interests are many sided, one cannot be logical in dealing with a tariff schedule. One is compelled to adopt different attitudes from time to time. I remind honorable senators that a present-day writer has truly said that, if he were asked to prove that the square to the hypothenuse of a right angle triangle was equal to the square of the other two sides, he might be unable to do so. I am in a similar position. I am asked to vote for this increased duty, and I intend to do so, because I agree that this industry has not been accorded sufficient protection in the past. To the question whether the production of whisky is an Australian industry, the answer must be in the affirmative. But a negative answer must be given to the question whether it has been sufficiently protected.

Senator Ogden - It has been granted adequate protection.

Senator LYNCH - I submit that it has not been sufficiently protected. It has not been protected to the extent that other industries have been protected. Figures supplied by the Customs Department show that, for the year 1924-25, 57,405 gallons of whisky in bottles were imported into Australia., the value in bond being £76,000. Whisky imported in hulk for the same period amounted to 1,200,300 gallons, the value being £1,443,610. Thus, we had 1,257,705 gallons of whisky imported into Australia during that year, the value being £1,519,610. Those figures represent an average of 24s. a gallon, that being the value of the whisky before the imposition of the duty. The Minister said that, hitherto, the only protection afforded to Australian manufacturers of whisky was the difference between the excise and the import duties - a difference of 4s. a gallon. In other words, this Australian industry has been protected to the extent of about 17 per cent. only.It is now proposed to increase the duty by a further 5s. a gallon. The effect will be to raise the protection to about 37 per cent. Other industries are protected to the extent of 40 per cent., 45 per cent., or even 60 per cent., and in their case no supervision is exercised. What is the objection, therefore, to increasing the duty on this commodity to 37 per cent. ? The Government says that whisky must be produced, not in. a slovenly manner, as are boots and shoes, but strictly in accordance with certain regulations which are prescribed in order to ensure a wholesome article for consumption by the people. There is more warrant for a duty of 37 per cent. in the case of whisky than for the duties which are imposed on some other items. I admit that, if other industries were subjected to the same strict supervision as is the whisky industry, and if they sold the articles they produced at a price which is as reasonable as the price charged for Australian whisky, many of my arguments against the tariff would disappear. Australian whisky costs 7d. a nobbier, as against l0d. a nobbier for Scotch whisky. In Western Australia, Scotch whisky is 1s. a nobbler. Although the quality of Australian whisky is unquestioned, there is a prejudice against it. It is a matter of taste. Senator Graham will bear me out that when we landed on the Western Australian goldfields we were forced to drink condensed water, and that the taste was such that at times we spat it out. In time, we got used to it, for the sufficient reason that there was nothing else for us to drink. Taste is a matter of habit. A man can be induced to alter his taste, especially when to do so suits his pocket.

Senator Ogden - Whether it is good for his health or not ?

Senator LYNCH - The honorable senator's interjection raises the question of the quality of Australian whisky. I ask him whether it is unwholesome or unfit for Australian people to consume?

Senator McLachlan - The people think that it is unpalatable.

Senator LYNCH - Proof of the relative merits of imported and Australian whisky comes from a most unexpected source. It has been said during this debate that Australian whisky has been sold as Scotch whisky.Were Australian whisky of inferior quality it could not be passed off as Scotch. Those who favour imported whisky have testified to the quality of Australian whisky; they have acclaimed it as being at least equal to Scotch whisky.

Senator Ogden - No one said that it was not good.

Senator Reid - How does Australian whisky compare with Irish whisky?

Senator LYNCH - Only those things the quality of which it is desired to improve are blended. Irish whisky can not be improved, and therefore it is not blended. Australians naturally have a prejudice against wine. I have some figures here to show that the consumption of wine in Australia has declined. Sociologists may rejoice in the knowledge that Australia is becoming more sober. According to the Commonwealth Year-Booh the consumption of spirits in Australia for the year 1907 was 0.8 gallons per head of the population. In 1923-24 it was 0.4 gallons per head. Evidently the Australian still likes his glass of beer, because the consumption of beer has not decreased since 1907. In 1907, 11.07 gallons were consumed per head of population, and, in 1923-24, 11.08 gallons. Although that aspect of the question should not enter into this discussion, I suggest that it is not wise to drink intoxicating liquor to the extent that we have consumed it in the past. I support the increased duties for the reason that they will mean increased revenue. Whisky is not a necessity. A man can do without whisky, whereas he cannot do without a hat or a pair of boots. If this duty is likely to establish a profit^ able Australian industry, I shall be prepared to support it. but as far as other items are concerned, I shall not be so friendly towards the Ministry as I am in respect of this item.

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