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Wednesday, 2 June 1926

Senator THOMPSON (Queensland) . - In dealing with this item, we have in the Senate two small sections to whom my sympathies go out. The first comprises the teetotallers, represented by SenatorReid, Senator Thomas and, possibly Senator Hoare, who find themselves in the difficult position of having either to vote on an item affecting an industry to which they are opposed on principle, or to abstain from voting at all.

Senator Crawford - Not at all; they can express their opinion upon it.

Senator THOMPSON - They can express an opinion, but they would probably, be better advised to vote for the old duty, because unquestionably an increased consumption of the more unpalatable and cheaper whisky will have the effect of increasing drunkenness. That, of course, would be anathema to them. Therefore they should vote with those of us who support the requested reduction.

Senator Payne - How will the honorable senator vote ?

Senator THOMPSON - I do not think Senator Payne need ask me that question; I am in favour of the old duty. The other section of the Senate to which I refer comprises those Labour members who, because they are under the whip, are bound to vote for this high protection, and possibly, as soon as the item has been decided, will rush up to the refreshment room and order a Scotch whisky.

Senator McHugh - I object to the honorable senator stating that We are under the whip. We are not under the whip at all.

The CHAIRMAN (Senator Newlands - The remark is not unparliamentary.

Senator McHugh - But it is not fair.

Senator THOMPSON - I may not be thoroughly conversant with parliamentary procedure, but I am sure that if I transgress the Standing Orders, I shall be. called to order by the Chairman. Senator Lynch has urged that this duty will be revenueproducing. On very good authority I understand that if the item is agreed to as it stands, there will be a considerable decrease in revenue derived from importations of whisky. Again it is said that inasmuch as Australian whisky is sold as Scotch in many hotels, the presumption is that it is as good and as palatable as Scotch whisky. I am not saying anything concerning the basic production of Australian whisky. It is produced under the supervision of Excise officers, and consequently should be a pure spirit, but with whisky, as with many other things, it is a question of palate, and, obviously, Australian whisky is not as palatable as Scotch whisky, otherwise it would not be sold at a lower price. All whisky drinkers know that although they may call for a Scotch whisky, they do not always get the standard Scotch product. They may know that the whisky with which they are served is not that for which they asked, but few men care to challenge it at the time.

Senator Elliott - They cannot very well give it back.

Senator THOMPSON - The public demand is, after all, the real test, and the taste of the public is such that it will continue to drink imported whisky, and will pay the higher duty if the requested amendment is not made. Very many people prefer Scotch whisky, and will pay the higher price for it. And why should not Scotland be pre-eminent in the production of whisky ?

Senator Crawford.Why should it be?

Senator THOMPSON - Because it is distilled with water drawn from peat wells. The whisky that I am in the habit of drinking is Clynelish, the best of all the classic whiskies of Scotland. It is distilled at North Brora, in Sutherlandshire, with water drawn from the peat-wells that have been there for centuries. The same may be said of other distilleries throughout Scotland and Ireland. This is the reason why nearly all Scotch whiskies are pre-eminent in the world to-day. Several assaults have been made on thom by distilleries in other countries, but still, Scotch whisky holds its own. In South Africa an old Polish Jew named Sammy Marks got a concession from the late President Kruger, and established the Earste Fabriken distillery. Senator Cox, Senator Glasgow, and many others who took part in the South African war will remember the product of that distillery. . Marks brought over a fine distiller from Scotland, imported a quantity of matured Scotch whisky, and produced a very palatable beverage, which he described as a sixyears' old whisky. When the British army entered Pretoria the supply of sixyearold whisky was exhausted in a few days, and the product then available was aptly described as a six-day whiskey, because it was just as crude as any immature whisky could be. Canada and the United States have also been endeavouring to produce a good whisky, but still the Scottish and Irish product* retain their position of pre-eminence. The Tariff Board's report on this item, instead of being a recommendation, is really an argument for honorable senators to vote against the duty. If the increased duty is agreed to, it will have the effect of penalizing the moderate drinkers who prefer, and will have, Scotch whisky. And in the case of the immoderate drinker, the inability to get a good whisky at a reasonable price will probably make him a greater drunkard than he is at present. I think, therefore, that in all the circumstances, the teetotallers in the Senate should cast their vote in favour of a reversion to the old duty.

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