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Wednesday, 2 June 1926

Senator BARNES (Victoria) .- I shall support the item, because the Tariff Board which has examined the whole of the facts has recommended it. It is impossible for Parliament to ascertain the whole of the facts surrounding any particular industry. That is the reason for appointing committees and commissions to inquire into such matters. I take it that the Government has been guided by the Tariff Board in proposing this duty. One honorable senator informed me that it was impossible to make good whisky in Australia. He said that we might make a good spirit, but not whisky, because we had no bog here. I asked him whether it would be possible to import a bog for the purpose. Although there is a great difference between the prices, there' is not much difference between the quality of Australian and imported whisky. As Australians, we should be concerned with the establishment of industries in this country. People who should know have told me that Australian whisky is made under conditions which are far superior to those imposed in any other part of the world.

Senator Thompson - The whisky importers did not say that.

Senator BARNES - No. The whisky importers hitherto have had things much their own way. A few years ago a bottle of imported whisky could be purchased for 4s. 2d. ; it is now 13s. 6d. Australian whisky is about half that price ; and I am told that, in all probability, its price will be reduced before long.

Senator Foll - Does not the fact that Australian whisky can be sold at a lower price suggest that there is no need for the additional duty?

Senator BARNES - I think that the argument is in the opposite direction. I admit that I am not acquainted with all the circumstances leading up to the recommendation of the Tariff Board, but there must have been some reason for it, and for its acceptance by the Government. The imposition of duties on whisky is not a party question. An Australian industry is concerned. Surely we in this chamber stand for establishing Australian industries! One honorable senator said that the establishment of this industry was not in the best interests of Australia, and that therefore he could not vote for its encouragement. "Whatever may be our private opinions regarding strong drink, we know that the fighting races of the world have always been drinkers. That disposes of one difficulty in the consideration of this question. The industry is here, and our own countrymen are engaged in it. Notwithstanding what may be said regarding Scotch, Irish, or other imported whiskies, we should stand by this Australian industry.

Senator Thompson - We have in Senator Reid a Scotch teetotaller !

Senator BARNES - In that case, he should be sent to the museum. My concern is that this industry should be firmly established in Australia.

Senator Grant - Then why not remove the excise duty?

Senator BARNES - That would not meet the situation. If I had my way, instead of its being possible to sell imported whisky for1s. a nobbler, I should increase the duty so that it could not be sold under 2s. a nobbler ; and if that resulted in the price of Australian whisky being unjustly increased, I should assist to pass laws to deal with the profiteers. Some honorable senators seem to fear something in that direction, but I do not. The additional duty of 5s. a gallon should enable an Australian product, produced under close supervision, and suitable to the requirements and the pockets of Australia's manhood, to compete on satisfactory terms with the imported spirit, which is manufactured under conditions of which we know nothing. So far as I am aware, there are no regulations governing the production of whisky manufactured in other countries, and imported into Australia.

Senator McLachlan - The export of whisky is controlled.

Senator BARNES - I am of the opinion that much of the whisky exported from England is gathered from midEurope, where it is produced without supervision.

Senator Sir Henry Barwell - That is n false statement.

Senator BARNES - That at all events is my opinion. I point out that no honorable senator who favours the importation of whisky has informed the Senate of any regulations governing the manufacture of the spirit which they desire the Australian consumer to drink.

Senator Crawford - So far as official information shows, the honorable senator is right regarding imported whisky.

Senator BARNES - I am glad to have the Minister's confirmation. I take it that the Government is concerned about the purity of the whisky consumed by the people of Australia; yet it has been unable to ascertain that there is any government supervision over the manufacture of whisky outside Australia.

Senator McLachlan - Then the Government has not found out much.

Senator BARNES - The honorable senator will have an opportunity to explain to the Senate the conditions governing the manufacture of the whisky which is imported into Australia. I challenge any honorable senator to supply the formula to which the whisky distillers of other countries have to conform, or the regulations imposed upon them. We should at least know whether the whisky imported into this country is manufactured under decent conditions. This Parliament has laid down definitely the methods of manufacture for whisky produced in Australia, and the standard to which it must conform. From the harvesting of the barley to the bottling of the whisky, the whole process is under the supervision of the excise authorities. Moreover, all spirit produced in Australia must be matured in wood for a number of years before it is placed on the market.

Senator Ogden - Two years.

Senator BARNES - I am informed that no Australian whisky is placed on the market until it is at least five years old. ^ ' '

Senator Thompson - The position is the same in Great Britain, both in regard to whisky for export and that required for home consumption.

Senator McLachlan - All whisky manufactured is regulated.

Senator BARNES - I accept the Minister's statement that the Government cannot ascertain the regulations governing the manufacture of whisky outside Australia. I ask honorable senators why they object to the additional duty of 5s. a gallon on imported whisky ?

Senator Sir Henry Barwell - It is not necessary.

Senator BARNES - The Government has said that it is necessary. It is not often that I am found supporting the Government; but the establishment of this industry is a matter of importance to Australia, and, because I am a protectionist, I. shall support the Government on this occasion. I am an Australian first, and I intend to do what I can to protect the industries of my own country.

Senator Thompson - Does the honorable senator drink Australian whisky?

Senator BARNES - I do my share of it. If the honorable senator wishes to get personal and first-hand evidence of my attitude towards Australian whisky, I suggest that, at the close of this debate, he should invite me to the place where we can get it. I cannot understand why any honorable senator should oppose this increase in duty, unless, as Senator Barwell interjected, it is because, in their opinion, the industry does not require protection.

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