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Wednesday, 2 June 1926

Senator OGDEN (Tasmania) .- Because of the unusual circumstances surrounding the proposal to increase the duties on whisky, I, like Senator Barwell, expected from the Minister (Senator Crawford) a fuller explanation of the reasons actuating the Government in submitting this proposal. A duty is generally placed on a commodity to protect a struggling industry from unfair competition from abroad; but here we .are faced with a proposal to impose an additional duty of 5s. a gallon on imported whisky when the Australian distillery is selling its output at a price which is about 25 per cent, lower than that of the imported article. Senator Findley gets a good deal of pleasure from the fact that the decrease in the amount of revenue derived from the duties paid on whisky means a falling off in the importation of whisky. Let me remind the honorable senator that since the duty has been increased the revenue derived from the consumption of locally-distilled whisky has also decreased. Therefore, if the objective of the Government in placing this extra impost on imported whisky was either to protect a local industry or to raise additional revenue, it has not been achieved. The Minister (Senator Crawford) unintentionally I believe, misled the committee when he said that four Australian distilleries had been forced to close down. I do not think that such is the case. I have taken the trouble to obtain from the Registrar-General of Victoria a copy of the share register of the existing distillery company.

Senator McLachlan - Is there only one company?

Senator OGDEN - There is only one company operating now. It is the Federal Distilleries Proprietary Limited. It has a nominal share capital of 750,000 shares of £1 each. The total number of shares taken up is 565,000. No shares have been issued wholly for cash. The number issued as fully paid up, otherwise than for cash, is 565,000. I presume that they were issued by the company to existing concerns. The total amount of debts due by the company in respect of all mortgages and charges, which are required to be registered with the Registrar-General, is £80,000. These were probably taken over from the other companies.

Senator McLachlan - Has there been an amalgamation?

Senator OGDEN - Yos. The consideration for which these shares have been allotted is set out in an agreement between the Federal Distillery Company of the first part, the Australian Distillery Company of the second part, Brind's on the third part, Breheny and Kennar's Brewery of the fourth part, and the Federal Distilleries Proprietary Limited of the fifth part. The share capital is made up as follows: - Federal Distillery Company, £270,146; Australian Distillery Company, £194,469 13s. 2d.; 'Brind's, £131,456 17s. 6d. ; Breheny and Kennar's £37,418 9s. lOd. Thus we see that three other companies have been absorbed by the Federal Distillery Company. There is only one concern now operating in Australia, and we are asked to give it a monopoly of the distillation business by imposing an extra impost of 5s. per gallon on imported whisky.

Senator Crawford - There are four distilleries operating at the present time.

Senator OGDEN - What are their names?

Senator Crawford - The Australian Distillery, Brind's, Breheny and Ken.nar's, and the Federal Distillery.

Senator OGDEN - They have all been absorbed by one company.

Senator Crawford - That may be so, but there are four distilleries, just as there are many jam factories operating in Australia, although nearly every factory has been absorbed by Henry Jones and Company.

Senator OGDEN - The Minister is disputing a document supplied by the Victorian Registrar-General, showing that there is only one distillery company operating.

Senator Crawford - I said that four distilleries were closed down. Does the honorable senator dispute that statement ?

Senator OGDEN - I shall read The share list of the Federal Distilleries Proprietary Limited. There are a few private individuals in the list. John Wren, of 15 Studley Park-road. Kew, holds' 102,847 ' shares. Patrick F. Cody and Matthew J. Cody, merchants, of Flinders-lane, hold 102,846 shares.

Patrick F. Cody also holds one share separately. Frank A. Leith, of 20 Staniland-avenue, Malvern, holds 64,452 shares. F. E. Thoneniann, of 395 Collinsstreet, Melbourne; C. L. Brind, of 5 Camp-street, Ballarat, and J. P. Breheny, of Dent-street, Abbotsford, described as a brewer, each hold one share. The balance of the 565,000 fully-paid-up shares is hold by the Australian Distillery Company, Melbourne, 162,824 shares; Brind's Proprietary Limited, 110,023 shares; and Breheny Brothers and Kennar's Brewery Proprietary Limited, Melbourne, 22,004 shares.

Senator Crawford - Is not the position exactly the same in Scotland? Are not all the companies there in one combine?

Senator OGDEN - I am not troubling about the position in Scotland. Practically all the shares in the Federal Distilleries Proprietary Limited are held by companies that were formerly running the business.

Senator Reid - They have amalgamated their business. That is all they have done.

Senator OGDEN - Yes; but there is only one distillery company operating in Australia to-day.

Senator Crawford - No, there are four distilleries operating.

Senator OGDEN - Senator Barwell has already pointed out the advantage in price enjoyed by the local producer of whisky. I have with me an interesting little table giving the retail prices in the various States, and showing that the price of the local whisky is considerably below that of the imported whisky. The prices per nobbier charged! in the various States are as follow : -


Senator Sir Henry Barwell - The prices in Queensland have risen to 8d. and1s. respectively.

Senator OGDEN - Passing by one of the leading hotels in Melbourne this morning, I noticed a window filled with Old Court whisky. The price at which it was offered for sal© was7s. 6d. for the full bottle, and 3s. 9d. for the half bottle. That hotel would charge 12s. 6d. for a full-size bottle of imported whisky. I can see no justification for this increased duty. No case has been put up for it. Even the comments of the Tariff Board, in recommending the increase, show that there is no need for the extra duty. The board reported as follows: -

The provisions of the excise tariff relating to the manufacture of whisky were framed for the purpose of compelling the Australian distiller to place a pure and wholesome article before the public,

I am not saying that the article is not wholesome and pure - and yet while these restrictions apply to the local producer, cheap blended, i.e., Scotch and foreign spirits, can be imported and sold at prices with which it is impossible to compete.

That is not a fact. No imported whisky is sold at the same price as Australian whisky.

Senator Elliott - It may be sold at the same price to the retailer.

Senator OGDEN - I am speaking of the price charged to the consumer, who is the person that matters. The Tariff Board also said -

Operating under these stringent conditions, the local distillers are finding it difficult to maintain their existence.

Why do they not increase the price of their commodity ? During the war period they had the field to themselves. The brandy distillers took advantage of that opportunity to obtain the market, and they have held it ever since. They are, however, fleecing the public, because every increase of duty under the tariff means an increase in the price of brandy. That the whisky distillers could not hold the market which they obtained during the war period was due, not to any inferiority in the quality of their product, but to the fact that the public had acquired a taste for imported whisky. Teetotallers in this chamber have no right to say that those who drink whisky must drink Australian whisky. Personally, I do not care much whether any whisky is available for consumption in Australia.

Senator THOMAS (NEW SOUTH WALES) - If honorable senators have no right to say that only Australian whisky should be consumed, what right has the honorable senator to say that we' should only wear boots made in Australia ?

Senator OGDEN - I never said that. I hope, however, that all honorable senators wear Australian-made boots. The argument which applies to boots does not apply to whisky. We have no right to force Australian whisky drinkers to consume a spirit which they do not like. The effect of these duties will be to increase the price of Australian whisky and the dividends paid to shareholders in Australian distilleries.

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