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Tuesday, 18 September 1906

Debate resumed from 14th September (vide page 4657), on motion by Senator playford-

That the Dill be now read a second time.

Senator Lt.-Col.GOULD (New South Wales) [3.8]. - The Senate is not by any means confined to the report of the Tariff Commission in dealing with the question of the spirit duties, for some years ago the House of Commons appointed a Select Committee - to consider, amongst other things, whether, on grounds of public health, it is desirable that certain classes of spirits, British and foreign, should be kept in bond for a definite period before they are allowed to pass into consumption, and to inquire into the system of blending British and foreign spirits in or out of bond, and into the propriety of applying the Sale of Food and Drugs Act and the Merchandise Marks Act to the case. of British and foreign spirits and mixtures of British and foreign spirits, and also into the sale of ether as an intoxicant.

It will be seen by honorable senators that the scope of the inquiry was very, extensive. In its report, the Select Committee says -

Your Committee are instructed to limit their inquiries, in regard to the bonding and blending of spirits, to their effect on public health.

The duty of the Select Committee was also, amongst other things, to ascertain when the sale of the articles was deleterious. It consisted of wellknown men possessing very great skill and ability. Besides the Chairman, Sir Lyon Playfair, it included ten members. It took evidence in 1890 and 1891. During the course of the investigation, it became necessary to obtain evidence from well-known chemists as to the effect of spirits, and also to . take a large body of evidence as to how far it would be justified in recommending any change which might tend to harass or interfere with trade. At a later stage, I shall allude to the report, and I shallbe able to show by extracts that there was a general conclusion arrived at to the effect that it was very undesirable and unnecessary to impose any time restriction upon the bonding of any spirits, whether distilled by patent still or by pot still. It was shown by the evidence that itwas unnecessary in that country to take any of the precautions which are proposed to be taken in this Bill. I take it that the object of the Government in requiring the maturing of spirits in, bond for a period of at least two years is to meet the requirements of the public from the health point of view, and not to harass or interfere with trade generally. In his speech on Friday, Senator Pulsford stated that, from the revenue stand-point, the proposed change is very important, and that, although a deficiency of , £80,000 or £90,000, as estimated by the Government, might result during the first year, yet the loss would gradually increase until it amounted to £200,000 or £300,000 a year. I desire to reiterate that statement. I am quite sure that honorable senators do not want to be reminded of the fact that the expenditure of the Commonwealth is increasing year by year, that there are many additional services which have yet to be taken over, and that when the transfer is made we shall be confronted, at a veryearly date, with the alternative of either materially reducing expenditure or materially increasing taxation. It would be utterly useless for the Commonwealth to take over those services unless it intended to deal with them efficiently. The difference between the Excise duty and the Customs duty is so great that there can be no question but that the revenue would suffer materially, especially if, as Mr. Joshua anticipates, his firm should distil 2,000,000 gallons of grain spirit in each year, and thus overtake the present consumption of imported whisky. We are all perfectly willing, I take it, to give fair and reasonable assistance to the distillers in the community, but not to such an extent that it would practically wipe out the revenue from the Customs, and leave the Commonwealth de- pendent solely upon the revenue from Excise duty. As honorable senators are aware, there is a difference of 3s. or 4s. a gallon between the Customs duty and the Excise duty ; and while the Government propose to give this great advantage to the local distillers, it is markedly given in favour of grain distillation in lieu of distillation from molasses.

Senator Higgs - But if the honorable senator is prepared to give any protection, is not that an abandonment of free-trade?

Senator Lt Col GOULD - We are not raising the question of free-trade at the present time. We recognise that certain principles of government have been laid down for the Commonwealth, and while they remain in existence we are prepared to do what is fair and reasonable as between the various parties. I trust, however, that honorable senators will be able to see their way to alter the rate of Excise duty. When they bear in mind that the introduction of whisky into this State through the Customs represents 60 or 6 1 per cent, of the total quantity of spirits introduced, they will see how very seriously the revenue will be affected by the distillation of grain spirit. While it was shown the other day by the figures how distillation had grown in the Commonwealth since 1901, I do not think that special allusion was made to the way in which brandy distillation had increased in South Australia. Senator Drake pointed out that while the distillation of spirits in Victoria in 1899 had amounted to 470,000 gallons, in 1905 it had fallen to 163,000 gallons. On the other hand, within the years from 1889 to 1905, the production of molasses spirit in New South Wales increased to 655,500 gallons; and in Queensland the distillation of the same class of spirits increased from 143,000 gallons to 390,000 gallons. These increases were pointed out as a counterbalance to the decrease in Victoria. But when we carry the case still further, we find that in South Australia, the brandy distillationin 1901 amounted to 172,000 gallons, as compared with 296,000 gallons in 1005. It is abundantly manifest that the distillation from wine and from molasses increased by leaps and bounds. While it is true that the distillation in Victoria decreased, it is equally true that in the Commonwealth, as a whole, there has been a more than commensurate increase. When these matters were mentioned the other day, an honorable senator interjected that Victoria had been contributing very freely to Queensland in connexion with the sugar duties. I have a memorandum here which will show what has been the facts in this connexion, so far as the revenue is concerned. Honorable senators must bear in mind that the duty is payableto the States, in accordance with the quantity of the article consumed within each State. Where in a State a larger amount is collected front Customs duties than from Excise duties, naturally there is a larger amount from the former source to 20 to the benefit of the State.

Senator McGregor - How long will that continue?

Senator Lt Col GOULD - Such are the conditions of trade, that Victoria will be slower in beginning to consume the locally-produced sugar than the other States. The effect of the position is very curious. I find that during the years1 902-3 to 1905-6, Victoria received .,£173,800 more than she would have been entitled to on a population basis. That, no doubt,is due, as I have already said, to the larger importation, into Victoria of foreign-made sugar than of sugar made within the Commonwealth. While Victoria received the amount named in excess of what would have been her population proportion, New South Wales received ;£i 58,000 less, and Queensland, ,£54,000 less on the same basis. I quote this to show that whatever operations may take place within the Commonwealth, the revenue, or benefits derivable, will not be' exactly equivalent for many years to come. This is, I think, a reply to the interjection, to which I have referred, that Victoria has contributed towards the bounty paid on sugar produced in Queensland. The fact just mentioned should not be taken as an argument for undue consideration being given to any industry that may be located in one State, as against an industry in another State. Where there are natural opportunities and advantages for any particular class of production or manufacture, the Commonwealth Parliament has no right to disregard the general prosperity, in order to add to the prosperity of any one State to the disadvantage of another. If honorable senators will refer to the Distillation Bill, they will find that distillation from grain is put in a far better position than distillation from grape wine, a.nd we may justifiably ask why this should be. We know that, while, there is a fair amount of production of wine, in Victoria, the great bulk of Australian wine is produced in New South Wales and South Australia, where the natural advantages are such as to lead to that result. If honorable senators will turn to the schedule attached to the Excise Tariff Bill, they will find an anomaly. Brandy distilled wholly from grape wine by a pot still or similar process, at a strength not exceeding 40 per cent, overproof, matured by storage in wood for a period of not less "than two years, and certified by an .officer to be pure brandy, will bear a duty of 10s. per gallon. Then, whisky distilled wholly from barley malt by a not still or similar process, at a strength not exceeding 45 per cent, overproof, matured by storage in wood for a period of not less than two years, and certified bv an officer to 'be pine malt whisky, will also bear a duty of 10s. per proof gallon. In these two cases the Excise is equal. But we find that blended spirits distilled partly from grape wine and partly from grain, will bear a dutv of 12s. per proof rail nr : while blended whisky, distilled partly from barley malt and partly from other grain, will bear ai duty of us. It will be seen that there is a difference in the dutv of is. per gallon in the case of the two products last mentioned. How can the Government regard that as fair dealing with the wine growing industry of the country ?

Senator Playford - The honorable senator ought to ask the Tariff Commission.

Senator Lt Col GOULD - But the Government, and not the Tariff Commission, are responsible for the Bill, and have taken it on themselves to depart from the recommendations of the Commission in several respects. Under the circumstances the Government cannot turn round and disclaim their responsibility ; and I do not think that the proposals correspond exactly with the recommendations of the Tariff Commission i in this regard. In any case, the responsibility is with the Government ; and if the Government desire to deal justly as between the wine grower and the producer of grain spirits, the one and only course to adopt is to put them in exactly the same position in regard to quality as compared with those who produce other distillations. I recognise at once that distillation from molasses is much less expensive - the whole of the evidence clearly points to that conclusion - and there may be some justification for making the difference between the Excise charged on that class of distillation, as compared with the distillation from the grape or from grain. But there ought not to be so great a discrepancy as I have pointed out. Then I desire to direct the attention of honorable senators to the fact that there is a very unfair differentiation in regard to the ageing of spirits. Clause 10 of the Spirits Bill provides that after the 28th February, 1907, no imported spirits shall be delivered from the Customs for human consumption unless the Collector of Customs is satisfied that the spirits have been, matured by storage in wood for a period of not less tha two years. On the other hand, clause 11 provides that spirits distilled" in Australia shall not be delivered from the Customs for human consumption unless they have been matured bystorage in wood for a period of not less than two years, providing that the clause shall not come into operation until the 1st January, 1908.

Senator Best - That is rather an anomaly.

Senator Lt Col GOULD - According to this clause, an extended period is granted in which Australian spirits under the age of two years may be put into consumption. It may be said by the Government in reply that there is a comparatively small quantity of Australian spirits to be obtained, and that it is, therefore, desirable that a longer period should be allowed in order to comply with the requirements of the Bill. But if the matter be regarded from the health point of view, I contend that there is a much better opportunity to obtain matured imported spirits than there is to obtain matured spirits produced locally. Spirits, before they are sent out from England or elsewhere, are fit, or presumably fit, for human consumption, and, in addition, there is the time occupied on the voyage, and the detention in bond. Under these circumstances, imported spirits ought to be very much more matured than would be the bulk of Australian spirits produced at any time between now and the 1st January, 1908. In any case, the Government have taken care to provide in the Bill against immature or unfit spirit going into human consumption. Clause 12 provides that if a Commonwealth analyst, after examining a sample of any spirits subject to the control of the Customs, certifies that the spirits are of bad or inferior quality and unsuitable for human consumption, the Minister may Order that they shall not be delivered until they have been methylated, and that thereupon the spirits shall be methylated before they are delivered. In the case of imported spirits, the clause provides that the Minister may permit the spirits to be exported or to be redistilled in Australia. With a provision like that, it is absolutely unnecessary, from a health point of view, to have clauses 10 and 11. I will show honorable senators later on that in Great Britain there is no time limit, under the law, for the maturing of any spirit. Of course, if any attempt were made to put into consumption a spirit unfit for human use, other laws would no doubt operate. There has been some discussion as to the effect of placing gin, Geneva, schnapps, Hollands, and such spirits in wood for the purpose of maturing. It is claimed that this is entirely unnecessary, and that such spirit matured in wood will become deteriorated by discolouration, and unsaleable. This matter was referred to the Minister of

Trade and Customs in Sydney, and I suppose in Melbourne also, by the wine and spirit merchants. Sir William Lyne was so much impressed with the representations of these men, whose business it is to know what good spirits are, that he promised that steps would be taken to overcome the difficulties they had pointed out. To their verv great astonishment and disappointment they found that the only way in which the Minister proposed to overcome those difficulties was merely to delay the evil day for a little while. .

Senator Findley - What the Minister said was that he would give their representations consideration.

Senator Lt Col GOULD .- He led them to believe that he would give them the relief they sought. They represented, in the first place, that these spirits are absolutely fit to go into consumption as soon as they are placed on the market, that if they are kept in wood for a period of two years they will become discoloured, and almost unsaleable, and that possibly the quality of the spirit will be deteriorated. Their view is that the only way in which they are being met by the Minister is that, so far as they are concerned, the evil day is being put off for a further period of ten months by the following proviso to clause 10 of the Spirits Bill: -

Provided that this section shall not, until the first day of January, One thousand nine hundred and eight, apply to Gin, Geneva, Holland, Schnapps, or Liqueurs.

There must be some reason for this proviso. The quantity of these spirits imported is small' in comparison with the quantity of other spirits imported. From a return I have I find that during the past year the revenue derived from importations of gin, Geneva, Hollands, schnapps, and liqueurs was only 18 per cent.; as against 61 per cent, represented by importations of whisky. If, as is contended by wine and spirit merchants, it is unnecessary, from a health point of view, to mature these spirits in wood, and they will become deteriorated in appearance and, possibly, in quality if thev are so matured, as a matter of fairness and common justice, I believe the Senate will be prepared to make some amendment in the Bill. The Minister, in dealing with this subject, produced two samples of gin in order to satisfy honorable senators that the maturing of gin in wood had no effect upon the spirit so far as its colour is concerned.

Senator Playford - Only a slight effect, and that was shown in only one of the samples.

Senator Lt Col GOULD .- The Minister must be as well aware as I. am that a man who buys gin expects it to look as clear as water, and if he notices any discolouration at all he becomes doubtful as to its quality and value. I am in a position to produce two samples of gin which were handed tq Senator Millen at a meeting which the honorable senator and I attended. They are samples of spirit imported into this State two years ago. Some of the spirit was racked off at once, and through some unforeseen circumstances a quantity was left in wood. I produce a sample of that which was racked off at once, and honorable senators will see that it is perfectly clear; and another sample of the spirit which was allowed to remain in the wood for a period of twelve months or mo:e. and it will be seen that it has become discoloured, and has the appearance of whisky rather than gin. The discolouration of the second sample is clue to the fact that the spirit was allowed to remain in the wood. If it could be shown that it is necessary in the interests of the public health that spirits of this kind should be matured in wood there could be no objection to the provision made in the Spirits Bill, but if it can be shown that this is not necessary in the interests of the public health there is, therefore, no reason why the Senate should pass a provision requiring these liquors to be kept in wood after the ist January, 1908, for a period of two years. I am satisfied that the public who are gin drinkers would prefer a pure clear gin or schnapps to a spirit which has the appearance of whisky. In dealing with this matter I may refer to the Minister of Defence as one witness who supports my contention. The honorable senator pointed out that where spirits are highly rectified, practically all by-products and impurities are eliminated, and the spirits become colourless, neutral, and without any special characteristic. Gin, Geneva, and such spirits ate the product of this highly rectified spirit, with the necessary flavouring to produce the article of commerce. If that be the case. I contend we have no right whatever to do anything which would place any restriction on the trade. In the House of Commons report of 1901, to which I' have previously referred, I find this statement with regard to patent spirits -

Patent spirits made in this country, and an unknown quantity of foreign spirits of the same kind, is distilled bv rectifiers to remove the small percentage of fusel oil and byproducts which they contain, in order that the purified spirit may be converted into gin and other beverages. The basis of these is nearly pure alcohol, to which is added approximate flavouring materials.

Again, they say -

Patent spirits distilled in London are chiefly sold to rectifiers, and contain only minute quantities of by-products, and this is true as regards foreign spirits of a like kind which approach still more nearly to pure diluted alcohol. With regard to spirits of that chemical purity, there is no improvement, but rather a deterioration, by being kept in bond for the purpose of ageing.

Senator Playford - Who says that?

Senator Lt Col GOULD - That is an extract from the report of the House of Commons Committee, to which I have referred. The Committee examined two of the foremost dietetic physicans, and I find that one of them, Dr. Pave\ - considers that the silent spirit acts like other spirits in relation to health, although they are insipid and flavourless from the small amount of by-products, just as the extract of meat is, unless condiments are added to convert it into a pleasant flavoured soup. The by-products are the condiments to the insipid alcohol of silent or patent spirits.

Unfortunately, I have not had time to go through the whole of the evidence taken by the Committee. Their investigation extended over a period of from fourteen to sixteen days, during which they examined a large number of witnesses at very great length. I take this from the evidence given by Sir Algernon West, Chairman of the Board of Inland Revenue -

Is it not a fact that the spirits for making gin remain in bond only about one month ? - They vary. For instance, I have samples here where the length of time is thirteen days, eighty-four days, twelve months, tWo months, three months, and so on. I take it that it is the convenience of the market that is considered only.

In a communication which you sent to me, I see you mentioned the time as from one month to four years, according to the demands of trade? - Yes, I believe it is the demands of trade that govern it. I do not say that old gin is not considered rather finer than the other, but I do not believe it is really more wholesome.

Senator Styles - He was considering the Question from a market, and not from the consumers', point of view.

Senator Lt Col GOULD - Perhaps Senator Styles was not present when I referred to the scope of the Committee's inquiry, and showed that it covered an investigation of the subject from the point of view of public health. I quote the following evidence from the same witness: -

What is the effect of the silent spirit used in blending upon the character of the whisky? - I should say that the patent still spirit is the purer spirit, and therefore it would have the effect of purification.

That shows how valuable it is when used for blending with grain spirit. The witness was asked again, at question 136 -

Does patent still spirit not improve by keeping as well as pot still spirit? - I do not think they improve by keeping long. It may be a fancy taste.

It is more the flavour that is improved, you think? - It is more the flavour.

But you do not consider they are more wholesome ? - No.

Patent still spirits you say are almost absolutely pure? - Very nearly so. I think you would have an opportunity of seeing how nearly if you would be good enough to come to our laboratory at Somerset House. They are practically pure.

But pot still spirits are not? - No.

So that mixing patent still spirits with pot still spirits will produce a more wholesome spirit? - Yes, I am supposing, of course, that the whisky is newly made, and in that case if rectified spirit was mixed with it so far it would go to purify it.

Senator Henderson - Is the honorable senator contending that these spirits should not be kept in bond for any specified time?

Senator Playford - They are in Canada.

Senator Lt Col GOULD .- That is the only place to which Senator Playford can refer in support of the Government proposal, but in Canada it is not required that these spirits shall be matured in wood. The whole of the evidence given to the House of Commons Committee goes to show that this silent spirit, from which all bv-products have been eliminated, is an absolutely pure spirit. When it is utilized' to make any of the white spirits of commerce they are absolutely chemically pure and are not dangerous to public health. An honorable senator has asked me whether I am in favour of doing away with the time limit. I reply that, in the first place, the Government is unable to point to any country in the world except Canada where it is necessary to mature spirits for any time. But Canada is not a country in which white spirits are produced. Whisky is the spirit that is principally produced there; but while I admit that the ageing of whisky improves it, I still contend that there are other reasons that would induce persons to mature their whisky apart from any legislation we may pass. Not a word is said in the Canadian Act about spirit being matured in wood or otherwise. I have looked up the Act to make sure on the point. The whole question was considered by the English Committee, which says in its report -

Your Committee, with the consent of the Treasury, deemed it to be advisable to ask two of the highest authorities in dietetics, Dr. Pavy, F.R.S., and Dr. Lauder Bruton, F.R.S., to consider the whole evidence existing in this country, and abroad, in order to give their professional opinions for the guidance of the Committee. Their opinions coincide with those of the public, that old mellowed spirits are less irritating to the stomach than newly-distilled spirits. It is possible, as Dr. Lauder Bruton suggests, that some new bodies hitherto unrecognised by chemical analysis may explain the fact that old spirits are more wholesome than new, but on this point we are in the region of conjecture, and not of established truth. Our present knowledge is insufficient to justify your Committee in recommending that all pot-still whiskies should be kept in bond for a definite period of time until the byproducts contained in them become mellowed by age, for it is only in pot-still whiskies that they occur in marked quantity, while their retention in bond would give an unfair advantage to the patent-still whisky made in Ireland and Scotland, as well as the chemically purer spirits made in England or imported abroad.

It is perhaps rather a shock to honorable senators to learn that a great deal of the whisky imported from Scotland and Ireland is patent-still whisky.

Both the medical men referred to hold the opinion that old spirits were more wholesome than new, though they did not think that there was sufficient justification for inflicting this hardship upon the distillers of pot-still whiskies. It is true that Canada has passed an Act to compel compulsory bonding of whisky for two years, but ,your Committee do not consider that it would be desirable to follow this example.

Then the Committee says -

The conclusion of your Committee is that, as the public show a marked preference for old spirits, which the trade find more profitable, and as the practice has arisen of blending whiskies with patent spirit, to fit them for earlier consumption, it is not desirable to pass any compulsory law in regard to age, especially as the general feeling of the trade is that such an obligation would harass commerce, and be an unfair burden on particular classes of spirits.

I think that that evidence may be taken as a satisfactory answer to the question whether we should insist upon keeping all spirits in bond for a definite period. Again, the Committee says -

Our general conclusion from the evidence submitted to us is, that compulsory bonding of all spirits for a certain period is unnecessary, and would harass trade.

There are many other passages in the Committee's report indicating that what is now proposed would harass trade, and that there is every incentive on the part of the seller of whisky - and I presume that the same would apply to the seller of brandy - to produce a good article for the purpose of sale. I venture to say that no evidence whatever has been given before the Commonwealth Tariff Commission that counterbalances the evidence given before the English Committee. It is not as though the Committee reported without making full, complete, and ample investigation. It had certain duties to perform, and undoubtedly pursued its investigations conscientiously. It came to the conclusion that it was wrong to insist on maturity in bond, because it would harass trade, that there was no necessity to compel people who were producing pot-stilled whiskies to mature their spirits in bond, and that they themselves might be trusted to see that their whiskies were mellowed by age before being placed on the market. In any case, if this Bill be passed with clause 12 in it, ample protection will be provided for the general consumer. Under that clause, if an officer of the Commonwealth certifies that amy spirit subject to the control of the Customs is of" Bad or inferior quality, and unsuitable for 'human consumption, the Minister may order that the spirits shall not be delivered until they have been methylated, or, in "the case of imported spirits, permit their re-exportation or distillation in Australia. While I recognise the desirableness of maturity in the case of grain and grape spirits, I contend that, so far as concerns other spirits, what is proposed is absolutely unnecessary, would' be unfair, would harass trade, and would treat importers improperly and unreasonably. Allusion has also been made to rum or molasses spirit. Some honorable senators are probably under the impression that it is necessary that rum should attain a certain age before it goes into' consumption. But if rum is distilled at a low percentage of alcohol, it becomes an unsaleable production. I believe the technical term used in the trade is that it " stinks," and is unfit for use. When it is distilled at a high rate it becomes saleable.

Senator Playford - The distillers must not go beyond 45 in the distillation of rum. If they do, they take out all the flavouring matter, and it becomes silent spirit.

Senator Lt Col GOULD .- I think that the honorable senator is not correctly informed. My reading shows me that rum can be distilled to a higher percentage than is customary with brandies and whiskies, and that there is no necessity for it to be kept for any period before being consumed. The wine and spirit trade authorities say in respect to rum -

This is distilled at a very high strength, and therefore does not gain any benefit from being stored in wood for a period. From cable communication received from the largest shipper of Demerara rum to this market, the chamber gather that this shipper " cannot give the required guarantee." This is in answer to a cable asking " whether rum can be supplied two years old in wood." This means that after 1st March, 1907, Demerara rum will be prohibited from coming to this market, and as the revenue derived from this source in the Commonwealth is over ^185,000 per annum, it is a question of serious moment.

Reverting, again, to the question of Geneva, these authorities point out -

The Minister of Customs has acknowledged that these spirits must be treated separately, but has only provided a temporary relief. As from cabled information the Chamber understand that these lines cannot be stored in wood. These lines are also distilled at a very high strength, and therefore do not materially benefit; in fact, they would become discolored and thus unmerchantable.

I have a copy of a cablegram sent to Messrs. Thomas Lowndes and Company, London, together with their answer. This firm is the shipper of the well-known " Lowndes " Demerara rum, and the London export agents for Messrs. Blankenheym and Notlets' " Key " Geneva. The cable is dated 31st August, 1906 -

Can you supply rum Geneva, two years old in wood. Telegraph quotations.

Answer received 1st September, 1906 -

Cannot give the required guarantee.

Then, with regard to whiskies, I have a copy of .a cablegram sent by Ferguson and Company to their Glasgow house. The date of it is the 23rd August -

Glasgow Customs voucher necessary certify every future shipment spirits two years old.

Another cablegram was sent on the 27 th August -

We cabled you on the 23rd inst., and are without your reply. Wire at once. It is important. Youngest whisky in blend determines the age.

Again, on the' 29th August, the following cablegram was sent : -

Telegraph immediately can you supply Customs vouchers from this date.

The reply received on the 31st August was -

Customs refuse vouchers.

Senator Playford - Usher sends his whisky here, and guarantees it to be ten years old.

Senator Lt Col GOULD - But the honorable senator knows that the Minister of' Trade and Customs will not take a declaration from any importer as to the age of the spirit. He will require conclusive evidence. If the Customs in Great Britain refuses to supply the evidence, how is it to be obtained?

Senator Trenwith - We can make the spirit here.

Senator Lt Col GOULD .- And then we shall lose a large amount of revenue.

Senator Trenwith - We can make it up in some other way.

Senator Lt Col GOULD .- By a land tax. I presume the honorable senator means?

Senator Trenwith - We can increase the Excise.

Senator Lt Col GOULD .- I also have a cablegram from Messrs. W. A. Gilbey and Company. London, who are large exporters of gin and schnapps, to Mr. Edmund Collins, of Melbourne. They say -

Do your utmost to obtain immediate reversal of regulation with regard .to gin schnapps being two years in wood. All experts declare keeping does not improve, involves discoloration, change of flavour, and general deterioration. This can be proved by affidavit. If passed by Representatives, try to get it rejected by Senate.

I think that a cablegram of that character ought to carry a considerable amount of weight with regard to this question.

Senator Playford - Here is a sample of s;in which has been kept in wood for two years and has not lost its flavour.

Senator Lt Col GOULD .- And here is a sample of gin which has been kept in wood for that period, and has lost its colour. I would impress upon honorable senators the necessity to deal with this matter on a clear and fair basis, and, while taking great care to safeguard the revenue, to do nothing which would interfere with commerce or harass trade, as the Select Committee of the House of Commons reported that a restriction of that kind would do. If an arrangement could be made for the acceptance of a certificate sent out by the exporters, or a declaration by the importers) that the whisky and brandy were of the full age of two years, there might not be much objection to the provision in the Bill, because we all recognise that those spirits are improved by that treatment.

Senator Trenwith - They can get over the difficulty by importing the spirits, and keeping them in bond for two years.

Senator Lt Col GOULD .- The money would be lying idle for that period.

Senator Trenwith - It would have to lie idle somewhere.

Senator Lt Col GOULD .- Probably the imported spirit would be more than two years old when exported, but because there was no evidence that the Minister would be prepared to accept, it would have to remain in bond here for two years.

Senator Playford - They will find a way to get over the difficulty.

Senator Trenwith - They will get over the difficulty by buying the spirit when distilled and storing it here for two years.

Senator Staniforth Smith - But they could not gauge the rate of consumption.

Senator Lt Col GOULD - Exactly. I ask honorable senators to consider whether clause 12 would not provide a remedy if spirits unfit for human consumption were sent out? My own idea is that we ought to increase the Excise duty. I recognise that we cannot increase the import duty.

Senator Trenwith - Why?

Senator Lt Col GOULD - I believe that there are very good reasons why that should not be done, but I do not intend to go into them now, because that course is not proposed. When, the report was first presented, .there was a large number who desired to make the difference between the Excise duty and the import du'tv is. per gallon less than is now proposed. I desire to increase the Excise duty in order to deal more justly with the revenue, and also more fairly between the States, and thus prevent an undue advantage from being given to one State. With regard to storage, I trust that the Senate will see its way to so modify the Bill as to provide that clause 10 shall not apply to gin, Geneva, Hollands, schnapps, or liqueurs, so that without a limitation as to time, those spirits may be introduced under fair and reasonable conditions. If we were to insist upon rum being matured in wood for two years, it would mean that the price to the consumer would be materially increased; in fact, we should be without a supply of the spirit for a considerable period after 28th February next. No doubt all the stocks would have been cleared out by that date, and then there would be none coming into the Commonwealth for a considerable period, because it would be utterly impossible for an importer to obtain any certificate or any evidence as to the rum being of the full age of two years. I do not suppose that it would be practicable to get other than the very much more expensive quality.

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