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Wednesday, 15 August 1906

Mr BROWN (Canobolas) . - I consider that the Tariff Commissioners have devoted a considerable amount of attention to the matters they have had in hand, and that the reports which they have submitted for our guidance are very valuable. But, while I am prepared to give due consideration to their recommendations, I am not prepared to follow them blindly. If they are not such as I can accept, or if I think that points have been overlooked, I shall require further information before supporting them. There are one or two points affecting the proposals now under discussion, in regard to which I require some elucidation. We are dealing with brandies of two descriptions, pure brandy distilled wholly from grape wine, and blended brandy distilled partly from grape wine and partly from other materials, such as molasses. In dealing with the subject, it must be borne in mind that the cost of producing spirit from grape wine is very much greater than the cost of producing spirit from molasses, which is a by-product. I agree with the honorable member for Bland that the term " brandy " was originally applied to spirit distilled from grape wine. But it has become customary to place on. the market under that name spirit distilled from grape wine blended with spirit distilled from other ' materials, such as molasses, potatoes, and wheat. This blended brandy. being cheaper than pure brandy, has competed very seriously with it. It is thought, therefore, that in framing the Tariff V distinction should be made between brandy and blended brandy, and I hold that view. I also agree with the honorable member for Bland that only spirit distilled wholly from grape wine should be allowed to be sold as brandy, other spirit being sold as blended brandy, so. that the public mav not be imposed upon. The recommendation of the Commission in regard to distinctive labels is an admirable one, so far as it goes, but, as the honorable member for Boothby has shown, purchasers do not pay much attention to labels. Behind the proposals to differentiate between the dutv on brandy and the duty on blended brandy is a large producing interest. We have been told by a circular that there are something like 56,000 acres under grape vines in South Australia, and large areas are being, cultivated in Victoria and New South Wales for the production of grapes. The Committee will therefore do well, in adjusting the Customs and Excise duties, to pav attention to the interests of that industry. It seems to me that if the re? commendation of the Tariff Commission is accepted there will not be a sufficient margin in favour of pure brandy to encourage its production, seeing that 75 per cent, of the spirit in blended brandy is distilled from materials other than grape wine, and that there is a public demand for blended brandy. The circular to which I have referred contains the statement that a difference in duty of 2s. in favour of pure brandy will be barely sufficient to give a living wage to those employed in the growing of grapes, and that a difference of 3s. would be better. I shall support the recommendation of the Commission in regard to the labelling of spirits, because, if carried into effect, it will achieve a good end : but I feel that a larger margin than they recommend should be made in favour of pure brandy, to prevent its production from being crushed out by the competition of blended brandy.

Mr Frazer - There is a good deal of protection about that suggestion.

Mr BROWN - I do not look upon it from that stand-point. The proposal appeals to me as being intended to accord fair treatment to the pure brandy distilling industry, and I think that we should do everything we cam to encourage manufacturers to place upon the market an article of superior quality. We should remember that the amount of labour employed in the industry in connexion with which the superior article is produced is much greater than that engaged in the production of the blended brandy. I should like to hear what the members of the Commission may have to say in support of making an even greater distinction between the pure grape brandy and the blended article.

Mr. ISAACS(Indi - Attorney-General think the Committee should adopt the proposals of the Government. It is proposed to fix the Excise duty upon pure brandy - - real brandy - at ios., and to impose a duty of 12s. upon what is called blended brandy, but which consists of some product blended with real brandy, and is not a pure brandy. This proposal would tend in the direction not only of encouraging a primary industry of very great magnitude and importance to Australia, but would also promote honesty in trade, and confer a benefit upon the consumers of spirits. The Government proposal is, in accordance with the recommendation of the Commission, to impose an Excise duty of ios. upon brandy distilled wholly from grape wine, and to levy a duty of 12s. upon what is called blended brandy, but which may contain only 25 per cent, of brandy, the remainder being spirit made from some material other than grape wine. Before these proposals were made, how did matters stand? Protection to the extent of 3s. per gallon was granted to pure brandy, and the proposal is to increase the preference to 4s. The increase will, therefore, be equivalent to a 33 per cent, advance upon the previous protection. With respect to the so-called blended brandy, it is intended to double the protection by increasing the preference from is. to 2s. per gallon. Therefore, the proportionate protection: proposed to be given to the inferior article is very much greater than that to be extended to the pure article. I think that the ' Government proposal has everything to commend it. Upon this occasion I find myself in practical accord with the honorable member for Parramatta, and I hope that we shall have many other opportunities of agreeing with each other.

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