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Tuesday, 18 September 1906


Senator DRAKE - I have looked through the evidence as far as I can, and I cannot find that there is any witness who says that . spirit distilled from molasses is not as wholesome as spirit distilled from grain. If any witness has said so, the onus is with honorable senators on the other side to quote that evidence.


Senator Best - Let the honorable senator refer to a witness, who says that it is whisky.


Senator DRAKE - They make whisky from it, and under the Bill before us 75 pur cent, of blended spirits may be rectified spirit.


Senator Higgs - The honorable senator's point is that we should not differentiate between molasses spirit and grain spirit used for a certain purpose.


Senator DRAKE - That is quite right. Mr. Preston also said -

Molasses spirit cost about is. 6d. ; the material had to be brought from Queensland, and the freight paid, &c.

I have already referred to the evidence he gave that with regard to molasses spirit he could not possibly compete with Queensland, where the material was on the ground, and there is no freight nor cartage t-> be paid. For the production of this particular kind of spirit, the southern States cannot compete with northern New South Wales and Queensland, for the reasons which I have indicated, and any suggestion that molasses spirit is bad, is rebutted bv the evidence of experts who have said that there is no inferiority in spirits made from molasses. I. object to the alteration of the recommendation of the Tariff Commission, which the Government have proposed in the schedule to this Bill. According to the recommendation of the Commission, item 3 of the schedule was worded in this way -

Blended spirits distilled partly from grape wine and partly from grain or other materials.

According to the Government proposal that item reads -

Blended spirits distilled partly from grape wine and partly from grain. and here is the important point - and containing not less than 25 per cent, of pure grape wine spirit (which has been separately distilled by a pot still or similar process at a strength not exceeding 40 per cent, over proof), the whole being matured by storage in wood for a period of not less than two years, and certified by an officer to be spirit so blended and matured, per proof gallon, 12s.

That allows 75 per cent, of the blended spirits to be rectified or silent spirit.


Senator McGregor - Then the public will know that.


Senator DRAKE - How will thev know it?


Senator McGregor - Because it will be branded in that way.


Senator DRAKE - The honorable senator does not see the point. Seventy-five per cent, of this blended spirit may be silent spirit. The Tariff Commission in their recommendation, instead of using the words "and partly -from grain," use the words "and partly from grain or other material," so that any kind of silent spirit might be used to make up 75 per cent, of the blended spirits referred to in item 3 of the schedule. As the item stands, 75. per cent, of the blended spirit may -be a spirit distilled from any low-class, damaged grain, rice, or anything else. It might be produced from any sort of grain, and all the evidence is absolutely overwhelming that spirit distilled from grain is indistinguishable from spirit distilled from molasses. In making the alteration to which 1 have referred, the Government have distinctly differentiated to the disadvantage of a raw material produced in Northern New South Wales and Queensland. Exactly the same remark applies to item 5. The item reads -

Blended whisky distilled from barley malt and partly from other grain, containing not less than 25 per cent, of pure barley malt spirit (which has been separately distilled by a pot still or similar process at a strength not exceeding 45 per cent, overproof), the whole being matured by storage in wood for a period of not less than two years, and certified by an officer to be whisky so blended and matured, per proof gallon, us.

Again, it is perfectly clear that the blended whisky referred to in item 5 is to contain 25 per cent, of spirit distilled from barley malt by a particular process, but with regard to the other 75' per cent, it may be a spirit distilled from any material and in any way. There is only the limitation that it must be from grain, and there is here again a clear discrimination, with regard to the 75 per cent, of blended spirit, against the spirit which is the product of molasses, and which has been so largely manufactured in northern New South Wales and Queensland within the last few years. I shall ask the Senate to consider that matter very carefully, and, in justice to the industry carried on in those States, to alter the schedule to the form in which the items I have referred to appear in the recommendations of the Tariff Commission. I hope that in discussing the matter we shall not deal with any false issues. I am not raising any question of comparison between this silent spirit and spirit distilled at a low strength from grape wine, malt, or barley. I say, however, that all the evidence is to the effect that silent spirit made from one material is indistinguishable from silent spirit made from another, and there should, therefore, be no discrimination.


Senator McGregor - That is the opinion we held.


Senator DRAKE - Then I hope that honorable senators who are members of the Tariff Commission will assist me to have the alterationI have suggested made. If silent spirit is to be used at all, I say that the distillers should be allowed to use it whether it is made from the one material or from the other. All arguments used with respect to the cost of production are entirely by the way. It is absurd to suppose that we are going to have a protective system graded according to the difficulty of producing an article from certain raw materials. Some one might attempt to distil spirit from some material even less productive than grain, and he might then claim that he should get special protection on account of the advantages enjoyed by distillers carrying on their operations in a State producing in abundance a raw material from which spirits could be much more easily and cheaply produced. The fact that molasses spirit can be cheaply produced does not in anyway indicate that it is inferior. It is as wholesome as silent spirit produced from other materials, and it is the good fortune of Queensland and northern New South Wales that they should have in abundance the raw material from which spirit can be so advantageousily produced.

Question resolved in the affirmative.

Bill read a second time.

In Committee:

ClauseI agreed to.

Clause 2 -

In lieu of the duties of Excise imposed by the Excise Tariff 1902 on spirits, duties of Excise shall, from the seventeenth day of August, One thousand nine hundred and six, be imposed on spirits in accordance with the Schedule.

Provided that spirits distilled wholly from grape wine and spirits, n.e.i., which were on the seventeenth day of August, One thousand nine hundred and six, in the spirit store of any distillery or in any Customs warehouse, may, until the first day of March, One thousand nine hundred and seven, be delivered at the rates of duly specified in the Excise Tariff

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