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Tuesday, 28 August 1906

Sir WILLIAM LYNE (Hume) (Minister of Trade and Customs) . - I move -

That the Bill be now read a second time.

The object of the Bill is to give effect to the resolution' agreed to by the Committee of Ways and Means for the imposition o? duties of import on spirits, and to carry into effect the recommendations of the Tariff Commission on the subject. This is done in greater detail than it has hitherto been the practice to adopt. In one or two respects, however1, die measure requires amendment. For instance, medicines are to be interpreted to include " medicines for internal or external application." It has been pointed out to me that.if that interpretation ,were 'left as i't stands, injustice would be done, and unnecessary expense would have to be incurred. I therefore propose to add the words,' " other than liniments and veterinary medicines." I also propose to amend the provisions relating to "methylated spirit," because I have been informed that, for some time past, the law has been abused, owing to the practice of illegally treating the spirit so that it can be sold for human consumption. This, of course, is an evasion of the Tariff, with which I propose to deal very stringently. Scents are interpreted to include " all liquid preparations of perfumery and liquid preparations for toilet purposes." That interpretation and the definition of Australian standard brandy. which has already gained a high reputation, carry out the recommendations of the Tariff Commission. Clauses 10 and 11 provide -

10.   After the twenty-eighth day of February One thousand nine hundred and seven, no imported spirits shall be delivered from the control of the Customs for human consumption unless the Collector of Customs for the State is satisfied that the spirits have been matured by storage in wood for a period of not less than two years.

11.   Spirits distilled in Australia -shall not be delivered from the control of the Customs for human consumption unless they have been matured by storage in wood for a period of not less than two years.

It has been reported to me that those provisions will cause a good deal of trouble and, perhaps, create injustice unless we make arrangements for a supply of spirits during a period in which no supply would otherwise be available. With a view to partially meeting; the difficulty, I have already decided that no further action shall be taken until the 1st March next.

Mr Glynn - That W111 not be sufficient for wine spirit, although it may be sufficient for molasses spirit.

Sir WILLIAM LYNE - In Committee I shall place my information clearly before honorable members, and leave them to take the responsibility of making an alteration. If the words " two years " are allowed to remain as thev stand, I .shall have no power to do other than see that the provisions are complied with.

Mr Glynn - If the period is altered there must also be an amendment of the Excise Tariff Bill.

Sir WILLIAM LYNE - Yes. But I shall have no power to extend the time if the provision remains as it is. The term "two years" has been inserted in the Bill because that is the period recommended by the Tariff Commission. It is provided that gin shall be matured in wood, which, judging by samples which have been sent to me, tends to make it brown. I understand that chemists say that to mature gin in wood is to improve it, but those in the trade complain that the drinkers of gin and schnapps are so accustomed to a clear spirit that their business will fall off if a discoloured spirit is placed on the market. Moreover, I have been told that a large quantity of gin which has not been matured in wood has been ordered, and is on its way here. In dealing with the subject, the Committee will have to determine whether gin shall be matured in wood, and, if so, for what length of time it must be kept before being used. I have received so much information lately on the subject of wines and spirits that I arn almost in a position to lecture in regard to them. I have been informed that pot distilled spirit is received into iron* tanks which have been bricked and cemented, and is as good on the day of distillation as it ever will be.

Mr Glynn - The honorable gentleman refers, not to pot distilled spirit, but to rectified spirit. The former requires maturing, while the latter does not.

Sir WILLIAM LYNE - The honorable and learned member was with me when Mr. Seppelt explained the matter to us, on our visit to the distillery, where we saw the whole process. If spirit is put into wood, it may be discoloured, but it improves, although there is a considerable loss through absorption and evaporation. No loss occurs when the spirit is kept in iron tanks, bricked and cemented, and my information is that such spirit can be used at once, because keeping does not improve it. I discovered, in going through three distilleries I have visited, that the patent still eliminates the ethers, while the pot still allows them to pass over, and consequently makes a better spirit. That, no doubt, is why the Tariff Commission is so strongly in favour of pot stills. In the process of distillation, four tanks are used, numbered 1, 2, 3, and 4. The best spirit is that which goes into the tanks numbered 2 and 3, and the spirit in the tanks numbered 1 and 4, being equally good, is put through the still again, to bring it up to the same standard as that in tanks 2 and 3. I agree with the Tariff Commission that, where it is possible to use the pot still, it should, in the interests of the public, be used. I should, however, like to know what is the exact meaning attached to the words " pot still or other such method."

Mr Glynn - I think the words are " similar processes."

Mr Fowler - They mean processes giving somewhat similar results.

Sir WILLIAM LYNE - Mv desire is to ascertain how the words will be construed, and in Committee I hope to get information from- the members of the Tariff Commission on the subject which will enable me to prevent the leaving of a loop-hole of which advantage may be taken. In clause 13 I propose to insert the words -

Spirits to be used for the purpose of scientific investigation in connexion with universities and public institutions.

The use of spirit under that provision will be subject to strict supervision. I shall, however, deal with the matter more fully in Committee. I refer to these proposed amendments now in order that honorable members may know the course which I intend to take.

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