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Tuesday, 18 September 1906

Senator MILLEN (New South Wales) . - There is only one point on which I desire to offer a few remarks. I understand that Senator Best takes up the position that the two classes of spirit are not suitable for the same purpose - that molasses spirit cannot be used and placed on the market as whisky. In support of that contention, Senator Best brought forward some very incomplete evidence submitted by Messrs. Joshua Brothers, to the effect that they had made the experiment, and that it had failed.

Senator Best - I did more. I gave the opinion, of the world.

Senator MILLEN - I am going to accept the statement of the honorable senator for the purposes of my argument. If it be a fact that molasses spirit does not enter into competition with the other spirit - if it is not possible for molasses spirit to enter into competition with the spirit manufactured bv Joshua Brothers - what are Joshua Brothers afraid of ? What does it matter to Messrs. Joshua Brothers whether there is, or is not, any Excise duty on molasses spirit?

Senator Best - Why are we afraid of margarine ?

Senator MILLEN - For the simple reason that manufacturers use margarine as a substitute for butter - as Messrs. Joshua Brothers have been using molasses spirit as a substitute, and are, I suppose, prepared to do so again.

Senator Trenwith - If the honorable senator proposes to reduce the Excise on molasses spirit, I shall be prepared to support him.

Senator MILLEN - I am glad to hear the honorable senator say that. One of the principal inducements held out to the people of Australia to form the Commonwealth, was that there would be struck down all the barriers which separated the trade of one State from the trade of another - all internal barriers, were to be removed. If, however, we have a. differential duty which will handicap the production of one State as against the production of another, we shall have a reversion to the old principle of Inter-State Tariffs.

Senator Staniforth Smith - It will mean a re-erection of the internal barriers.

Senator MILLEN - That is so. I can only regard the proposal to differentiate between molasses spirit and other spirits, assuming them to be used for the same purposes

Senator Col Neild - As 'they will be. *

Senator MILLEN - If we are going to differentiate between those States which produce molasses spirits, and those States which produce spirits from other materials

Senator McGregor - There is no differentiation between Victorian grain and grain grown in New South Wales and Queensland.

Senator MILLEN - No; but where a differentiation is made in the case of a product which is more largely grown in one State than in another, it. becomes in essence and in practice ,ai differentiation between State and State. *It does not matter whether molasses spirit can be produced here or not ; the fact remains that Queensland is the largest producer of the article, and New South Wales produces it in a minor degree. I may be told that Victoria, if she pleases, can produce molasses spirit; but the fact is that she does not. Similarly, grain might be grown in large quantities on the Darling Downs ;' but for some reason or another it is not. and we have to take the facts as they are. We find one State producing an enormous quantity of one form of raw material from which spirits are made. Another State produces none of that raw material, but produces spirit from some of her substance ; and then I say that, if we impose differential duties with respect to spirit produced from these two forms of raw material, to all intents and purposes we re-erect the internal barriers which were supposed to have been removed bv Federation, and confer a favour upon one State while we handicap the other. I come again to the point from which I started, and on which I lay particular emphasis in my answer to Senator Best, because of the time the honorable senator has devoted to the matter. The honorable senator's contention was that there is no conflict between the two forms of alcohol, one produced from molasses and the other from' grain, for the simple reason that it is impossible to substitute the one for the other. If that be so, it should make no difference whether these prohibitive duties are imposed in the case of spirits made from molasses or not. If molasses spirit can in no sense come into competition1 with grain1 spirit, it cannot matter to the producers of grain spirit whether there is a differential duty imposed on molasses spirit or not. This argument is the more conclusive if I can accept Senator -Best's full assurance that there can be no competition between the two forms of spirit, for the simple reason that the public will not consume whisky or brandy made from molasses spirt. If the public will not consume them, what can it matter to those who are producing spirits made from grain spirit whether the duty on molasses spirit is higher or lower? In the circumstances, I may well ask: Why this keen anxiety on the part of those interested in grain spirit to put an additional impost on liquors produced from molasses spirit? The reason is obvious that molasses spirit can be, is being, and will be, used for making whisky in spite of the evidence presented to the Senate and to the Tariff Commission.

Senator Lt Col Gould - There is nothing in the Spirits Bill to prevent it.

Senator MILLEN - Absolutely nothing. Without wishing to be offensive to my Victorian friends, I say that the whole matter comes to this : that in this particular instance they take a purely local view of the question. They say that, as a result of the Federal Tariff, certain Victorian industries have been injured, to the advantage of corresponding industries elsewhere. That is exactly what was to be expected. The reverse has happened in the case of the ordinary manufacturing industries, and Victoria has been the greatest gainer from Federation, whilst New South Wales has also gained to some extent. To my mind, this proposal is absolutely destructive of all we understand by Federation and the Federal spirit. Whenever we find that as a result of Federation certain industries have been transferred from Victoria, to another State, Victorians apparently are prepared to say, " We desire Federation, and its consequences, so long as they will benefit this State, but the moment the benefit goes to another State we should by some artificial legislative construction re-erect the original barriers, the effect of which will be to enable us to retain all that we have, and to get as much more as we can."

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