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Tuesday, 15 May 1928

Mr GULLETT (Henty) .- £ must confess to some surprise and disappointment at the Minister's statement to the committee. I voted for the secondreading, and I intend to vote for tlie bill through the committee stage; but it seems to me that the effect of the new British preference, which has now been in operation for more than a year, should be open to clear and definite proof. Thewhole point at issue is whether or not that preference is worth 9d. or more per gallon to the Australian wine exporter.. After this delay I expected the Government to be able to furnish those honorable members who supported the1 second reading with unchallengeable evidence of the effect of the bounty on the Australian price in London. I must say, however, in fairness to the Government, that those who oppose the reduction of the bounty have failed to disprove any benefit from the British preference. I should say that, if this preference is not worth 9d. per gallon, it should be easy tcn prove it. Altogether the position is unsatisfactory. I move -

That the following words be added to the clause: - "Provided that no bounty shall be pay- able in respect of wine which is not shown, to the satisfaction of the Minister, to be the product of areas actually planted with vines on the 31st day of March, 1928."

This amendment is no stranger to the? committee. I submitted the proposal in March last year, and I should like to> refer briefly to its history. It was originally mooted by the Prime Minister,, when he moved the second reading of the first Wine Bounty Bill in 1924. Then hs obviously feared that the bounty of 4s,- would have the effect of inducing vignerons to extend the areas planted. He finally declared, however, that as the bounty would operate only for three years, it would not be necessary to impose the condition that I now wish to incorporate in the bill. When I submitted a similar amendment iti March last, the late Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Pratten), who was in charge of the bill, said that at first glance he was not prepared to accept it. That was on a Friday morning on the last day of a sessional period; but immediately after luncheon he called me to the table and said that he had submitted the amendment to the Prime Minister (Mr. Bruce), who strongly approved of it, and expressed the wish that I should move it. The Minister also suggested that I should secure the assistance of the AttorneyGeneral (Mr. Latham) in drafting the amendment, which I did. Later I moved the amendment, which was accepted by ths then Minister for Trade and Customs on behalf of the Government, and supported by the present Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Scullin), who was then Deputy Leader, and it appeared that it would pass on the voices. However, a certain amount of opposition came from honorable members representing winegrowing districts, and as it was a Friday afternoon and the last day of a sessional period, very reluctantly, at the request of the Minister, I withdrew it. I mention these facts to show that the amendment was accepted by this Government on a previous occasion. I do not know the intentions of the Minister in this instance; but seeing that a similar amendment was moved by me in March last at the wish of the Prime Minister, the Government should not oppose it to-day, particularly as the conditions are now practically the same as they were in March last. Although the bounty is being reduced by 9d. a gallon, a bounty of ls. a gallon will still be paid until September, 1930, which

Trill involve the expenditure of some hundreds of thousands of pounds annually, which will have to be met by Australian taxpayers. The continuance of the bounty, even at a reduced rate, "will, of course, be of great benefit to Australian grape-growers; but I remind the committee that a wine bounty was not paid in the first instance to encourage the planting of additional areas. It was intended merely to assist the industry, and, as every one knows, was regarded only as a temporary measure of relief. It was especially intended to assist an industry in which a large number of returned soldiers were engaged. They had been directed to plant large areas with a particular kind of vine which, before the bounty was payable, was being grown unprofitably. I submit that the additional wine exported as a result of the bounty only increases the financial loss to the Commonwealth. The bounty would never have been granted if it had been thought that the industry would not be on a proper basis within a few years and unable to carry on without governmental assistance. It may be urged by the Minister that the bounty will be paid only until September, 1930; and if I were confident that no further payments would be made after that date I would not press my amendment. Studying the matter from a political viewpoint, however, I think there is every possibility of it being paid after 1930, as when once a government starts spoon-feeding an industry it finds it exceedingly difficult to stop. It cannot be denied that assistance in this form has resulted in larger areas being planted, not only with doradillo vines, which are used for the production .of fortifying spirit, but also with other wines, the grapes from which are used for wine-making. To this extent the bounty has been detrimental to the taxpayers. All the amendment provides is that the bounty shall be payable only on wines produced from areas planted before March of this year. The bounty would be paid on the product of vines which were renewals ; but if new areas are planted the growers will not benefit from governmental assistance. I shall probably be told that the amendment, if incorporated in the bill, will be difficult to administer. That may be so; but difficulties in administration do not constitute sufficient reason for rejecting an amendment which provides a safeguard. We are not sent here to be told by customs officials what we should and should not do. If we make it clear that after a given date persons applying for the wine bounty must make a statutory declaration that the wine on which the bounty is claimed is the product of areas planted before March last, there should be no difficulty.

Mr Fenton - The employment of a squad of police would be necessary to enforce the law.

Mr GULLETT - I do not believe that the grape-growers are so criminally disposed that they would plant vines with the object of defrauding the Customs Department. The adoption of an amendment such as I have moved will check planting, and the further extension of an industry which is already unprofitable. So far as I am aware the wine bounty is the only Commonwealth bounty on which there is no limit as to the total amount payable. The total amounts of the bounty payable on sugar, cotton, and iron and steel are limited.

Mr Paterson - There is no bounty on sugar.

Mr GULLETT - It is not actually a a bounty, but the assistance given the industry is limited by the Australian market.

Mr Gregory - The bounties payable on wire and wire netting are not limited.

Mr GULLETT - I did not mention wire and wire netting; but so far as I know, the wine bounty is the only one on which there is no limit as to total expenditure. I do not wish to delay the committee, but I contend that there is a sound, businesslike, and economic principle underlying this amendment, which honorable members in performing their duties to the taxpayers should support. In view of our financial and economical position, it is the duty of honorable members to support the amendment, as the wine bounty has already cost the taxpayers two or three times more than was contemplated when it was first adopted.

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