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Tuesday, 28 August 1906

Sir JOHN QUICK (Bendigo) - The Bill is intended to give effect to the general recommendations of the Commission, which could not have been included in the Excise Tariff Bill. I am glad to see that Ministers have seen their way clear to accept the recommendations of the Commission with regard to the spirit and wine industry generally. I hope that this Bill, in conjunction with the new Excise duties, will have the effect of placing the distillation industry of Australia upon a sure, satisfactory, and scientific basis, and that the industry will receive a great impetus. I trust that the manufacturers will welcome the opportunity to carry on their industry upon proper lines, and that the consumers will be able to feel assured that thev are obtaining a good article. I should like to draw attention to some of the features of the Bill with which I think the general public are not fully acquainted.

I refer more particularly to the provisions relating to what may be described as the standardization of spirits. Distillers will no longer be granted a concession by way of Excise duty without having to give something in return. As a compensation for the Excise advantages that are conferred upon distillers, they will be required to produce a good article, whether it be brandy, or whisky, or rum. Upon complying with the statutory requirements, they will te entitled to affix to their goods a Commonwealth certificate and trade name. Therefore, it seems to me that thev will have every inducement to comply with the law in order that they mav enjoy the advantage of. the standardized name whether it be " Australian standard brandy," ."Australian blended wine brandy," "Australian standard malt whisky," "Australian blended whisky," or "Australian standard rum.", I think that these provisions will give rise to a spirit of emulation as between distillers, and that they will take a pride in turning out a. good article. In the course of the evidence given before the Commission, very great stress was laid bv a number of witnesses, comprising manufacturers, Excise officers, and wholesale merchants, upon the absolute necessity of strong spirits being preserved in wood for a certain length of time before they were permitted to pass into consumption. There was a general consensus of poinion that spirits matured by being kept in wood - I believe that only one witness was doubtful upon this point - were much improved in character. It was pointed out that, owing to the process of oxidation of the secondary products., or, in other words, the evaporation of the strong volatile elements, the spirit became verv much purified. It was stated that one of the causes of the failure of Australian, and particularly of "Victorian, spirits, was that they were placed upon the market when they were immature. Mr. Joshua admitted that age matured spirits, and agreed that, perhaps, there should be a limit placed upon the introduction of immature spirits to the market. It was also urged that that time limit should apply not only to imported, but also to locally-produced spirits - in other words, that it should operate all round. To that proposition there was a general chorus of approval. The point upon which I have brought into conflict with the honorable and learned member for Angas 7- for whose opinion I entertain the very greatest respect - is that whilst throughout the whole of the evidence tendered to the Tariff Com mission it was laid down as a general proposition that young and immature spirits should not be allowed to pass into general consumption, not a single word was uttered in reference to differentiating between spirits which are distilled at a low strength and spirits which are distilled at a high strength. The general opinion was that the advantage to be derived from oxidation applied not only to spirits produced at a low strength by means of the pot still, but also to highly rectified spirits. There was no suggestion that highly rectified spirits did not require time for maturing. It was distinctly laid clown that all spirits should be kept in bond or " quarantine," as I might term it, for a certain term before they were allowed to pass into general consumption. What I complain of is that the point which has been raised by the honorable and learned member for Angas is a new one, which was never suggested by the wine-growers,by the distillers, themselves, orby the departmental experts who were called upon to advise the Commission. There may be something in the point, but I am guided only by the evidence. I know nothing whatever about what has transpired in private conversation. The recommendations of the Commission are based upon the sworn evidence of witnesses, and if certain gentlemen desired us to differentiate between spirits distilled at a low strength by means of a pot still and highly rectified spirits produced by the patent still, they ought to have brought that fact under our notice. I submit that the information presented by the honorable and learned member for Angas should not carry the same weight as should attach to the general views which are embodied in the recommendations of the Tariff Commission. As a member of that body, I am guided only by the evidence and not by the ex post facto statements which have been communicated to the honorable member and to others who have had no opportunity of cross examining their informants. Probably had the point been brought under the attention of the Commission, that body would have investigated it. I repeat that no distinction was drawn between spirits produced at a low strength and spirits distilled at a high strength, and, consequently, our recommendation is that no spirits intended for general consumption - irrespective of whether they are produced by means of the pot still or by any other method - should be allowed to be taken out of bond, unless they have undergone a certain period of probation.

Mr Glynn - But time ought to be afforded those who are directly interested to get their spirits matured.

Sir JOHN QUICK - I quite agree with the honorable and learned . member. I rose for the purpose of making a similar suggestion. What I complain of is that the honorable and learned member attacked the Commission for failing to discriminate

Mr Glynn - The honorable and learned member jumped to that conclusion before I had spoken. I merely asked what he himself apparently regards as a right thing.

Sir JOHN QUICK - I have the greatest pleasure in supporting the proposal that this limitation should not be brought into force suddenly, but that a certainbreathing time should be granted to importers as well as to local distillers. But I object to the honorable and learned member attacking the Tariff Commission merely because they acted in accordance with the weight of evidence.

Mr Glynn - I did not do anything of the sort.

Sir JOHN QUICK - If the honorable . and learned member and myself have arrived at an agreement upon the proposed suspension of the limitation, we need not continue the controversy. I believe that the remaining clauses of the Bill relating to methylated spirits will, upon investigation, be found to be highly beneficial to Australian industries. In the spiritswhich are derived from molasses there will be found an almost inexhaustible reservoir of power which can be utilized for industrial purposes, and the Commission have suggested a scheme under which those spirits may be made available for such purposes, whilst, at the same time, providing every safeguard for the protection of the revenue. I think that the House will have accomplished good work when it passes the Bill, coupled with the Excise resolutions, and that the work of 'the Commission will not have been altogether fruitless.

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