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Wednesday, 2 June 1926

Senator FOLL - That has nothing to do Avith the question. We have to face the position as it is. In this instance it is alleged that the Australian distillers are unable to compete with the distillers overseas, but the former are selling their spirit at a price which is about 33$ per cent, less than that of the imported.

Senator Crawford - In that case they ought to be protected.

Senator FOLL - What extra protection do the local manufacturers require when they are already able to sell their product at a cheaper price than that of the imported spirit? Had the Minister admitted that it was necessary to impose additional duties for revenue purposes, I should not have hesitated to support the item, because I think that in such circumstances it is preferable to raise revenue on whisky rather than on certain other commodities. For the six months ended 28th February, 1926, the total decrease in revenue in five of the States as the result of the combined operation of the whisky duties, amounted to £76,452. Senator Findley 's remarks this afternoon we're a direct contradiction of those he made on the second reading of the bill, when he complained that, owing to the imposition of high duties, the value of shares and the dividends paid by certain protected companies had been increased.

Senator Findley - I did not say that.

Senator FOLL - I understood the honorable senator to say that the shares of many of the protected industries had been booming during the last few months, and that the value of the shares and the dividends paid, in the case of woollen mills particularly, had been advancing. The honorable senator does not object to distillery shares being boomed, and additional dividends being granted to the shareholders. As the Australian distillers are not suffering from unfair competition, as are the manufacturers of knitted and woollen goods, I do not think they are entitled to additional protection.

Senator Crawford - They suffered to the extent of having to close down three distilleries.

Senator FOLL - Senator Ogden explained what has been done, and the Minister knows that it is a common practice for manufacturers in the same line of business to combine in order to save overhead expenses by using one big plant.

Senator Crawford - In this instance the whole of the plants were practically idle.

Senator Elliott - And since the higher duty was imposed they have recommenced operations.

Senator Mclachlan - The manufacture is now controlled by one company.

Senator FOLL - We have to consider whether additional duties are necessary for the protection of the industry, and if the local spirit is faced with unfair competition.

Senator Findley - Would the honorable senator apply the same reasoning to the duties on Australian wines which are being sold at less than the charge for imported wines?

Senator FOLL - The duty on wines is not at present under consideration.

Senator Findley - The honorable senator did not object to the increase in the duties imposed on wines which are higher than those imposed on whisky.

Senator FOLL - The honorable senator will have an opportunity later of testing the feeling of the committee on wine duties. Even if the quality of the Australian spirit was superior to that of the imported product it would not alter my opinion as to the way in which I should cast my vote. I believe that the Australian whisky is a pure spirit, but the question of whether it is superior to that distilled in Scotland, Ireland or else* where, has not to be considered. The fact that the Australian product is manufactured under the supervision of excise officials, and that it has to be kept in the wood for a specified period, is a guarantee of its purity. It is stated in to-day's newspapers tha,t the revenue obtained from Customs and excise is £2,000,000 in excess of that estimated by the Treasurer (Dr. Page), and consequently it is unnecessary to impose high duties on whisky for the purpose of raising more revenue, but if the result of the imposition of this additional duty on whisky had been £350,000, as anticipated, it would have been one of the strongest arguments that could be used in asking the Senate to maintain the present rates. I should prefer to see revenue raised from whisky rather than from boots and clothes; but my information is that this duty has not produced more revenue. Our revenue has not been affected. Australian whisky is sold at a price 25 per cent, below that of the imported article, consequently it does not need this additional protection. I am consistent in that I believe that an Australian industry ought to be- protected against the possibility of being under-sold by oversea manufacturers. But I consider that on this occasion I shall be justified in voting to request the House of Representatives to reduce the item by 5s. a gallon.

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