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Tuesday, 14 August 1906

Mr POYNTON (Gray) .- Whilst I agree with the honorable member for

Bland, that the same conditions should apply to imported spirits as are imposed with respect to those produced within the Commonwealth, I would point out that in the question now under consideration, something more is involved. The basic principle underlying the taxation of spirits is that since they have a deleterious effect upon those who indulge in them, and their consumption leads to increased cost in civic government, high duties should be imposed. I view this question, however, from the stand-point of revenue. . Whether spirits be manufactured within or outside the Commonwealth, the effect of their use is to increase the cost of government. Looking over the returns published by the Commission, I find that there is nothing in them to warrant an increase in the import duty on spirits, and, as a matter of fact, no increase is recommended. The revenue derived from the import duty has decreased in proportion to the increase in the consumption of locally-made spirits, but, unfortunately, the cost of government has not been decreased by their use. In 1899 737,000 gallons of spirits were produced in Australia, whereas, in 1905 1,506,000 gallons were produced, the figures showing a large expansion in the local industry. On the other hand, although there was an increase of nearly 60,000 gallons in the quantity of spirits imported in 1905 as compared with the quantity introduced in 1899, the imports -last -year -were considerably less than those of a few years ago.

Sitting suspended from 6.30 to 7.30 p.m.

Mr POYNTON - When we adjourned for dinner I was pointing out that, in my opinion, the proposed duty of 15s. per gallon on imported spirits would be detrimental to the revenue ; and I am supported in that view by the figures presented to us by the Tariff Commission. I find that in 1899 the quantity of spirits imported was 2,504,926 gallons, while in 1905 the quantity was 2,560,813 gallons. In. the growth of this industry we see the effect of the protective incidence of the duty of 14s. per gallon ; and I venture to submit that if we raise the Tariff to 15s., there will be a marked falling-off in revenue. In 1901, the total imports were 3,000,096 gallons, which is much larger than the imports at the present time. it mustbe apparent to any one who takes an interest in these matters that the Australian distilling industry was then subject to much severer competition from imported spirits than it is to-day. In the meantime, not because the people drink more, but as the result of increased population, local production has increased at a much greater ratio than has the consumption. As I have already stated, the only justification we have for high duties are the effects, and consequent cost in other directions, of over-indulgence in alcohol. I take it that, even from the protectionist's stand-point, not much can be said for the distilling industry as an employer of labour; because, practically, in this connexion, it stands lowest. The marked increase in the local production of spirits in New South Wales is noticeable. In that State, the increase in the period indicated has been, in round figures, 566,000 gallons, as compared with a total increase for all Australia of 749,000 gallons. In other words, the output in this industry has been doubled in six years. Some capital has been made of the fact that Messrs. Joshua Brothers have practically closed their distillery in Victoria. This occurrence has created something of a panic in the State of Victoria, and has been attributed to the Commonwealth Tariff. The official figures, however, prove, if they prove anything, that the firm mentioned have suffered not so much from the Tariff as from the breaking down of the barriers between the States, and the consequent influx of spirit from New South Wales.

Mr Fowler - And Queensland. .

Mr POYNTON - And Queensland.

Mr Fowler - There is no doubt that that is responsible for the closing of Messrs. Joshua Brothers' distillery.

Mr POYNTON - I am now quoting from the figures which have been placed before us. I have been informed that Messrs". Joshua Brothers are large purchasers of spirits which are manufactured in New South Wales.

Mr Fowler - Purchasers or agents? They may be acting as agents for the distribution of the spirits in Victoria.

Mr POYNTON - In closing their distillery, and attributing their action to the effect of the Commonwealth Tariff, the firm have acted very wisely from their own stand-point, as they have in that way been working up public feeling in their own State in favour of an increased duty. Personally I cannot see that there is anything to justify an increased duty. The Tariff Commission, the members of which have gone fully into the question, recommend a duty of 14s, and in order to test the opinion of honorable members,. I desire to submit an amendment reducing the duty to that figure.

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