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Wednesday, 2 June 1926

Senator FINDLEY (Victoria) .- I should not have spoken again but for the remarks made by more than one honorable senator in discussing this item. I have the greatest respect for those who hold certain fiscal beliefs, and who show some semblance of consistency, but it appears that some honorable senators are consistent only in their inconsistency. For instance, before Senator McLachlan had .completed one sentence he denned his attitude on this item. He said that, in the absence of full information, he would not vote for the increased duty. He also said that this was an artificial industry and should not, therefore, be supported. Why, then, is he anxious to obtain information in relation to it? He placed it in a different category from the wine industry. A section of the community - possibly a limited section - considers that wine, beer, whisky, brandy, gin, and other liquors are non-essentials.

Senator Crawford - Brandy has exactly the same amount of protection that we now propose to give to whisky.

Senator FINDLEY - Each of these industries should receive every possible encouragement from the people of Australia. The increase in the duty on brandy has had the effect of considerably increasing the output of Australian brandy, against which at one time there was a very strong prejudice. A similar prejudice existed against Australian wines, which, to use an Australianism, were not considered " classy " enough to place on the tables of " classy " people. To-day Australian champagne and other wines have a big market, principally because of the increased duties. Senator Payne said he declined to vote for this duty because he would not do anything to encourage the establishment of the industry iu Australia. It has been established for some years, and has had a struggle to exist. What attitude did Senator Payne take up in relation to it in previous debates on the tariff? Looking at the matter purely from the temperance advocate's viewpoint, he should vote for higher duties, because, according to some people, they will restrict the consumption of whisky.

Senator McLachlan - The Australian industry will be enriched.

Senator FINDLEY - Even assuming that the consumption of Australian whisky is increased, Senator Payne, to be consistent, should vote for the higher duty, because we are able to control our own industries. The Government propose to submit to the people a referendum in reference to the nationalization of monopolies. Have we not, time and again, by .legislation and the imposition of duties, assisted monopolies] I read, the other day, that there had been a merging of nearly all the hat mills in Australia. For what reason ? To save a certain amount of overhead charges, lessen the cost of production, and probably produce a superior article. If we accepted the argument that we ought not to increase this duty because the Australian article is being sold at a lower price than the imported article, we should have to apply that principle to almost everything that we manufacture. Our wines, our boots, our hats, are cheaper . than those that are imported. If a high protectionist is an " out-and-outer," then I am one. Some men are "inandouters" ; you never know when you have them ; they want the highest possible protection for industries that are established iu their States, but the lowest protection for industries that do not affect their States. There are also "roundabouters," who, on the fiscal question, dodge here, there, and everywhere. "When I hear Tasmanian representatives making a pathetic appeal for a lower duty in respect to this article, I am not unmindful of the fact that time and again they have appealed for higher duties on timber 1 Why ? Because imported timber is being sold at a lower and sometimes higher, price than Australian. Those honorable senators do not claim that the imported timber is inferior to the local. Some builders regard it as a better class of timber for certain work. We have frequently heard honorable senators from Tasmania pleading for assistance to be given to the hop industry. Temperance advocates from that State do not object to the imposition of a high duty on hops. The adoption by the Government of a recommendation of the Tariff Board is not necessarily an argument in favour of Parliament agreeing to it. But we must not forget that the board is composed of gentlemen who, at the time of their appointment, were said to be well fitted for their high and responsible positions. Importers and manufacturers can appear before that tribunal, and have done so from time to time. The Australian manufacturers of whisky asked the board to grant the following requests - 1, That the regulations applying to the manufacture and maturity of the Australian standard pure malt whisky he applied to all imported whisky, described as whisky, and that same be strictly enforced,

2.   That the same percentage of preference as that ruling in pre-war days be granted, by increasing the import duties from 30s. to 35s. per proof gallon.

From the second request it will be seen that they asked only for that preference which they had in 1914. The Tariff Board recommended the granting of that request. This was the only industry which suffered a decrease of duty during the war.

Senator THOMAS (NEW SOUTH WALES) - Did anybody appear before the Board on behalf of the consumer ?

Senator FINDLEY - Both inside and outside of this chamber I, and other members of the Labour party, have done our best to secure the representation of the consumers on the Tariff Board. The Labour party stands for that policy, but the Government of which the honorable senator is a supporter has never acquiesced in it. The consumers are certain to get a fair and square deal from the Australian manufacturer. The local spirit is distilled under the most rigid supervision. Australian working conditions are observed and the wages are fixed by either a wages board or an Arbitration Court, and not according to the law of supply and demand or upon the principle of freedom of contract. Similar conditions are not observed in the manufacture of imported whisky. It has been suggested that the excise should be reduced by 5s., the argument being that that would give an equal measure of protection to the local product. Let us examine that contention. When proof spirit is reduced to selling strength, a duty of 5s. per proof gallon amounts to½d. a nobbler. When that spirit is retailed, an increase of1d. and in some cases, according to some honorable senators, 2d. or 3d. has been passed on to the public.

Senator Ogden - I do not think so. In Tasmania nothing waspassed on.

Senator FINDLEY - I am reliably informed that since the imposition of the increased duties the price of imported whisky has been increased not only by the amount of the duty, but also by an additional charge. It is not a difficult matter to pass on an increase in duty. In fact, it is a simple matter to do so. It is also a simple matter to pass on something in addition to the duty, as the importers of whisky have done. If the excise duty had been reduced by 5s. a gallon, which would mean½d. a nobbler, it would have been very difficult for the manufacturer so to adjust his business that the consumer would be advantaged to the extent of that½d.

The CHAIRMAN (Senator Newlands - The honorable senator has exhausted his time.

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