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Wednesday, 2 June 1926

Senator NEEDHAM (Western Australia) . - I am somewhat surprised at the interest which has been taken in this item. I cannot see why there should be any objection to the proposed duty, particularly as the prices now in force have been in operation since last September, and, so far as I have been able to gather, whisky consumers have been paying the higher rates without complaint. I have not, to my knowledge, tasted the Australian product known as Old Court, but I may have partaken of it Under another name. It may be quite as good as the imported spirit. 'We should give the protection proposed; and if we do not we should prohibit importations. I can understand some honorable senators saying that we should not have any whisky at all in Australia; but if we are to allow the foreign products to come here, we should help the product of our own country. During last year, 1,147,011 gallons of imported whisky were taken from bond, which, at the then prevailing duty of 30s. per gallon, produced £1,721,978 in revenue. The Australian whisky taken from bond, upon which excise at 20s. a gallon was paid, totalled 127,291 gallons, and produced £165,479 in revenue. Therefore, the total quantity of whisky cleared for consumption was 1,274,302 gallons; and the amount received in revenue from Customs and excise, £1.887,457. In considering this subject, we have also to study the health of the people, and the standard of purity of the Australian spirit. I quote from a speech delivered in another place by the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Pratten). He said. " I shall not enter into that aspect of this question; but I shall say, because of the way our excise regulations are framed, there is no purer whisky in the world than Australian whisky. No whisky can be purer than ours, which is produced according to the standard set up by our excise regulations." We have set a standard for Australian whisky, which is manufactured from pure malt. If any honorable senators are opposed to the use of whisky as a beverage, they should assist in making the duties as high as possible, and thus support the doctrine which they preach. If they will not do that, they must be reasonable and consistent and protect an industry which is employing hundreds of men and handling a primary product. I intend to support the item as it stands, because, in doing so, I shall give effect to my fiscal beliefs.

Senator SirHENRY BARWELL ( South Australia) [8.46]. - I should not have spoken had not the Minister (Senator Crawford) shifted his ground from that which he took up this afternoon. In his earlier speech he told us that the extra duty was required, not for revenue purposes, but for the further protection of the industry. When he found that his case had been torn to pieces, he used the argument that the revenue would suffer if the extra duty were not agreed to. Of course, it will ; but it can afford to lose the amount involved. We know very well that the increase is not required for revenue purposes, and we have proved that the industry already has a protection which enables it to undersell the imported article by 3d. a nobbler and 38s. a case. Surely that is sufficient ! A higher duty would simply mean increased cost to the consumer. Why should we penalize the consumer ? A lot of rubbish was talked this afternoon. The issue was clouded - especially by Senator Lynch - in a multitude of words. The Government practically admit that they have no case, but they say to us, " You have not established a case against the increase." The onus is on the Government to show that the increase is justified. Even if that were not so, we have made out a very strong case against the extra duty.

Senator Guthrie - Is the industry in Australia in a flourishing state?

Senator Sir HENRYBARWELL.No. That argument was used by Senator Lynch and the Minister. The Minister said that there was only a limited demandfor Australian whisky. The reason is that that whisky does not suit the palate of the public.

Senator Guthrie - The reason is the prejudice that exists against Australian goods.

Senator Sir HENRYBARWELL.It is absurd to make that statement. Is there any prejudice against Australian brandy ?

Senator Cox - There was for a long while.

Senator Sir HENRYBARWELL.There has not been since the time when it, reached its present quality. I know that Australians prefer the Australian brandy. I always ask for it.

Senator Guthrie - That has been the case only recently.

Senator Sir HENRYBARWELL.No; I have called for Australian brandy from the time that I first used brandy. Does Senator Guthrie drink Australian whisky ?

Senator Guthrie - If the honorable senator will invite me, I shall do so at his expense.

Senator Sir HENRY BARWELL - I have no doubt that the honorable senator would make a martyr of himself. I know what it is compared with Scotch whisky, and I shall not drink it. Neither will the public drink it. Since the increased duty has been collected, the only result has been a decrease in the total consumption of all whiskies of 75,000 gallons. That covers a period of four mouths.

Senator THOMAS (NEW SOUTH WALES) - That is very good.

Senator Sir HENRY BARWELL - I do not admit that it is. It might be a good thing from the point of view of a teetotaller like Senator Thomas if it meant that men who formerly drank whisky had become teetotallers. That has not happened ; they have merely been driven to drink something for which they can afford to pay, and which is not as good for them as whisky. Whisky is a better and safer drink than any other liquor.

Senator Foll - It. is better to drink whisky than petrol.

Senator Sir HENRY BARWELL - I rose merely to ask honorable senators to approach this matter in a proper spirit, and to decline to vote for the increase unless it was shown to be necessary. We should simply be following the Government blindly if w'e voted for the increase when no case had been made out in favour of it.

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