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Wednesday, 2 June 1926

Senator ELLIOTT (Victoria) .- I should not have risen had it not been for the assertion of Senator Ogden that I had misrepresented the position in regard to the undertaking of the local distillers not to increase the price of whisky. In support of his contention the honorable senator read a circular issued by the distillers to certain persons in Queensland. I must congratulate the honorable senator on the adroit manner in which he twisted its meaning. It is quite obvious from the tone of it that the letter was urging a decrease in the price, but

Senator Ogdenhad pencilled on the margin the words " from 6d ", and read them as if they were part of the letter.

Senator Ogden - I did not.

Senator ELLIOTT -The letter is as follows : -

We ave forwarding yon under separate cover two allow cards representing the four advertised brands of Australian whisky. We feel sure if these cards arc placed in a prominent position it will assist greatly in notifying the public of the decision of the United Licensed Victuallers Association, Brisbane, to charge 8d. per nobbier for Australian whisky.

Obviously if it meant an increase in the price they would not have been too anxious to notify the public. But even if it had meant an increase, it would not have disproved the contention that the distillers ' were not increasing their price, because the increase would have been made by the licensed victuallers and not by the distillers. As a matter of fact, the letter shows clearly that the licensed victuallers were being urged to reduce the price.

Senator Thompson - I read that letter as indicating that the posters forwarded would be good advertisements for the Australian product.

Senator ELLIOTT - The posters were to assist in notifying the public of the decision of the Licensed Victuallers Association to charge Sd. a nobbier. Why should they seek to do so if they were proposing to increase the price? The fact of the matter was that as they were bringing about a decrease in price it was of great advantage to them to bring that fact prominently before the public.

Senator McLachlan - Was it not clearly an increase on the previous rate, that is to say, an increase from 6d. to 8d. ?

Senator ELLIOTT - No. After quoting comparative prices, the letter proceeds -

It will be seen by these figures that the Australian nobbier at 8d. returns 47.1 per cent, greater profit than imported at lOd.

Senator Lynchhas shown that the charge on the Western Australian goldfields is ls. If the distilleries in urging the licensed victuallers on these goldfields to charge 10d., pointed out that it would be in their interest to do so, because it would give them a greater percentage of profit than they could get out of imported whisky at ls., they would be doing just what they were doing in the circular for warded to the Brisbane licensed victuallers. This letter proceeds: -

Another very important factor is, the Australian nobbier at 8d. is bound to increase the consumption of whisky.

How could an increase of price, if this was what they were urging, increase the consumption of whisky? Yet honorable senators who heard Senator Ogden, accepted the suggestion made by him that it was an increase in price that was meant. Obviously it was the very contrary. The letter proceeds: -

There is room for this. The consumption of whisky in Australia fell from approximately 3,000,000 gallons in 1914, to approximately 1,000,000 in 1924.

Showing, as Senator Payne is aware, that as a people we .are becoming more abstemious at any rate in regard to the consumption of whisky -

Australian whisky is now distilled and bottled in bond under Government supervision, and being described as " old," complies with a strict Government regulation which insists that whisky bottled in bond and described as " old " must be matured in wood for a minimum period of five years.

Senator Grant - The Minister says that the period is two years.

Senator ELLIOTT -- Whisky is not classified as such until it has been matured in wood for at least two years. But if it is described as old whisky it must be matured in wood for a period of five years. The letter concludes: -

Your esteemed support in this movement cannot fail to result to our mutual advantage.

How would it result to the mutual advantage of the public and the Australian distilleries if the price at which Australian whisky was sold to the public was increased, when the obvious intention was to increase the consumption of the article ?

Senator Ogden - That letter was addressed to the trade and not to the public.

Senator ELLIOTT - Yes; but it rests with the trade to bring these particulars before the public. In any case how would an increase in the price increase the sale of their article? Obviously the best way to increase sales is to decrease the price.

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