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Tuesday, 10 April 1973
Page: 1274

Mr GRASSBY (Riverina) (Minister for Immigration) - I rise to welcome this measure because it was one that I sought while in Opposition. I found that there was persecution, if you like, of the modest home brewer. Of course, it was in accordance with the law, but there were visits by excise officers.

Mr Chipp - What do you mean by 'persecution'? How many prosecutions were there?

Mr GRASSBY - There were prosecutions. I made representations to the honourable member for Hotham when he was Minister for

Customs and Excise. They are on file at present. I pleaded with him that action be taken. The letters are on file and I was proud to make those representations. I am particularly pleased that the Government is taking action to do something which I am sure the honourable member for Hotham wanted to do himself but in respect of which, under the weight of the Cabinet at the time, I have no doubt his voice was lost. That is all I wanted to say in relation to my own efforts. The point 1 make is that there was, in the case of the modest home brewer, the fear of a knock on the door in the middle of the night or perhaps in the early morning and his modest apparatus being the subject of very close scrutiny by the visiting officers. This, of course, would be upsetting to most fair minded members of the Parliament.

Despite the fact that the honourable member for Griffith (Mr Donald Cameron) has been riding a bicycle in two directions at once this evening - that is very difficult even under the influence of home brew - I believe that all honourable members opposite support the Government on this occasion. Of course, it has become a tactic to say: 'The Government's action is all right, except that . . .'.I do not think that there should be any qualification at all about this Bill. An honourable member is either for a tax on home brew or he is not. Let us be clear about this. I say clearly and definitely that the Government has taken the action that was sought by very many people. It has taken action which is fair. As a matter of fact, it is interesting to look at the brief on this subject and to find that the cost of home brewed beer is 7c a bottle and that the Opposition's sturdy freedom fighters for the workers seem to be defending the right of the worker not to have home brew at 7c but to buy commercial beer for 42c a bottle. It seemed to me that that was the impression that was given.

Mr Chipp - Name one Opposition speaker who said that. You are being very careless with the truth this evening.

Mr GRASSBY - The honourable member says that I am being careless with the truth. I have been listening to the opposition to this measure. An honourable member is either for it or against it. I suggest that the honourable member choose his words more carefully. Honourable members have been talking about the worker calling for his beer on the way home. There has not been much praise for this measure which the Government has introduced. There is such a thing as damning a thing with faint praise, and I think that is what honourable members opposite have been doing this evening. It has been a pretty poor performance. After all, if they are opposed to the Bill they should say so and vote against it.

Some honourable members opposite have linked their remarks on this Bill with references to the wine tax. I must make passing reference to the references members of the Opposition were permitted to make. It has been suggested that there was something discriminatory in lifting a tax which had been imposed by the previous Government on the only viable and sound industry that it had left in the countryside after its recent disastrous reign. This was the wine grape industry. The wine grape industry was not in trouble until the. Government got to it. When it did, it immediately applied an excise against the advice of its own people, against the cautions of its own advisers, against the wishes of the industry, and against the advice of the Australian Wine Board. The unanimous advice to the then Government was not to impose an excise, but the Government would not take that advice and it imposed the excise. Of course, it found that there was some trouble as a result. The predictions of trouble were coming true; so the previous Government, bending a little with the wind - the wind that was blowing was a pretty critical one - halved the excise.

Mr McLeay - It is nothing like what is blowing now.

Mr GRASSBY - I did not hear the emission of wind from the honourable member who interjected. I am quite willing to hear his interjections at any time and to deal with them on their merits. However, I must say that it is strange to have the Opposition almost pleading that there should be a raising of taxes on a beverage. This seems to mc to be the tenor of the remarks. Do Opposition members suggest that we should not have removed the wine tax? They had the opportunity to vote against that proposal when it came before the Parliament, but they did not do so. It seems to me that they are. trying to ride a bicycle in 2 directions at the one time. They should make up their minds on exactly what they want. Did the Opposition want us to retain the wine tax?

Mr Donald Cameron (GRIFFITH, QUEENSLAND) - Yes.

Mr GRASSBY - Did the honourable member for Griffith say yes? If he did, I respect him for his courage in the face of common sense. I will give the honourable member the opportunity to express himself clearly. I have been listening intently to this debate and I gained the impression that the Government was being criticised for lifting the wine tax. I gained the impression that the Government was being criticised for lifting the tax on home brewed beer. If that is what the criticism amounts to, let honourable members opposite say so clearly and definitely.

Mr Donald Cameron (GRIFFITH, QUEENSLAND) - There has been no benefit to the buyers of wine.

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Scholes)Order!The honourable member for Griffith will cease interjecting.

Mr GRASSBY - What is incredible is that the criticisms which have been made about the wine tax have been continued. I accept the point made by the honourable member for Griffith. As a matter of fact, it was a good one. He points out that there was been an upward spiral in the cost of wine. That is so. It is because of this sort of thing that the Government is giving serious attention to prices. There will be an opportunity for the honourable member and other members of the Opposition to-

Mr King - I rise to order, Mr Deputy Speaker.

Mr GRASSBY - Can I finish the sentence?

Mr McLeay - There have been 2 members of the Opposition-


Mr McLeay - It is not fair. There are only 3 Government supporters present.

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER -Order! I suggest to the honourable member for Boothby that if be wishes to speak in the debate he should rise in his place when the Minister has resumed bis seat. If he does not want to speak, I suggest that he remain silent.

Mr King - Mr Deputy Speaker, my point of order is that we are dealing with excise on one commodity and the Minister for Immigration is talking about another commodity. I appreciate that he said that it was a passing reference, but that was some minutes ago. I suggest that it is time he came back to the Bill and told us why-

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER -Order! The honourable member is taking a point of order; he must not debate the question.

Mr King - I am not debating it. I want to bring the Minister back to the Bill.

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER -Order! The Chair allows some tolerance in debate. The matters which are being referred to by the Minister have been raised previously in the debate and they are fairly closely related matters.

Mr GRASSBY - Thank you, Mr Deputy Speaker. The point of order was quite frivolous, as you have ruled, and I am surprised at the honourable member for Wimmera because normally he has an innate sense of fair play.

Dr J F Cairns - He certainly is not frivolous as a rule.

Mr GRASSBY - No, not really. I would never have thought that of him. I am somewhat hurt this evening that, on this issue, after making his contribution and referring to all these matters including the matter of the wine tax and perhaps questioning the stand taken by the honourable member for Angas (Mr Giles), he should take a point of order. All I can say, more in sorrow than in anger, is that he should at least be able to sit for a moment or two and listen to the facts in relation to an industry which, of course, he harmed by his vote which enabled the imposition of an excise which hurt the industry.

Before I was interrupted I was referring to the fact that there has been an upward movement in prices and that this is a matter of grave concern to all of us who are in government. It is not only on this one matter but on a whole range of matters. There has been price racketeering in our country. In respect of beverages there has been some fancy racketeering. This is known to anyone who drops in, perhaps without being properly briefed, on some of the places, particularly in Sydney and Melbourne, which can best be described as clip joints. The prices bear very little relationship to the product and very little relationship to what the grower receives. I think it is time that we had an examination of the justice of these things. If the honourable member raises these points in a spirit of frivolity I accept them in the spirit of seriousness.

Much has been made of this measure which seems to me to be a very fair one, a very just one and one of common sense. 1 feel that the Government stands in good light and is in good standing with the whole of the community for removing something which was obnoxious, which did not yield very much to the coffers and which was an impost on a few enterprising people who attempted to do something for themselves in the interests of their families and friends. I conclude by lifting a glass of good Riverina red not only to the wine industry but also, figuratively speaking, to the home brewers. God bless them all. The Government has done the right thing by them.

Question resolved in the affirmative.

Bill read a second time.

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