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Wednesday, 19 September 1906

Senator HIGGS (Queensland) .- I agree with a great deal of what Senator Clemons has said. I am quite sure that if the Tariff Commission had thought for a moment that the Government would propose to postpone for two years the maturing of spirits it would not have recommended a difference of 4s. between the duties. Ithink that the distillers who have no matured spirit in hand should receive no consideration, because that very fact shows that for some time they must have been poisoning the public. All the evidence we had went to show that the raw spirit is quite unwholesome, and that a period of at least two years' storage is necessary in order to give a wholesome spirit.

Senator Playford - Then we could strike out the proviso to clause 11.

Senator HIGGS - I do not agree with the Minister that that is the proper-way to proceed, because it might bring about a crisis when there would be available very little, if any, spirits matured for a period of two years. I suggest that the first item in the schedule should be allowed to stand. Then if there are any spirits two years old in the Commonwealth they will get the benefit of 4s. protection. But we should have a provision, following the wording of the first item, but without the words " matured by storage in wood for a period of not less than two years." It would read -

Brandy distilled wholly from grape wine by a pot still or similar process at a strength not exceeding 40 per cent. over proof, and certified by an officer to be pure brandy, per proof gallon,11s.

SenatorDrake. - Would that be permanent, so that immature spirits could be sold for all time?

Senator Clemons - I am afraid that clause 11 of the Spirits Act is in conflict with Senator Higgs' suggestion.

Senator Playford - We could not deal with this matter under clause 11 without interfering with the schedule.

Senator HIGGS - I do not see that clause 11 affects the matter, if the additional paragraph be inserted. At any rate, the difficulty might be met by fixing a rate at which the Excise duty should be collected. It does seem to me to be quite an unnecessary concession to Australian distillers to give them a protection of 4s. straight away on raw spirit. If we cannot now make an amendment, I think the Minister might very well consider the advisability of postponing the item.

Senator Playford - We can deal with the point in the Spirits Bill.

Senator HIGGS - The Bill states that the duty must come into force as from the 17th August, 1906, and it is proposed in another Bill to suspend that particular provision until 1908, which means that the

Australian distillers of raw spirit will have a protection of 4s., and may put the raw spirit at once on the market.

Senator Sir JOSIAHSYMON (South Australia) [10.33]. - I think the Minister would do well to accept the suggestion to postpone the first item until he has had an opportunity to consider what has been pointed out by Senators Higgs and Clemons. A further reason is that it would be inadvisable to deal with this matter and then proceed to deal with clause 11 of the Spirits Bill. The difficulty could not be met under that clause, because the Excise duty is fixed by the schedule, and the Spirits Bill merely imposes certain conditions and limitations. It is quite apparent that there is a muddle, as the Minister will see if he asks himself the question, what is the duty that is to be charged up to January, 1908, on brandy distilled wholly from grape wine which has not been matured by storage in wood for a period not less than two years.

Senator Playford - Does the honorable senator mean brandy to be distilled in the future ?

Senator Sir JOSIAH SYMON - No, I mean brandy already distilled.

Senator Playford - Such brandy will pay dutv under the present Excise Act.

Senator Sir JOSIAH SYMON - There is a proviso, but the proviso is limited to brandy that is in bond or in store on the 17th August, this year. Such spirit and spirits n.e.i. may until the1st March, 1907, be delivered at the rates of duty specified in the Excise Tariff 1902. In the Spirits Bill the period of exemption has been extended from 1907 to 1908, and therefore there will be an interval of one year, during which there will be no Excise duty applicable to this kind of Australian spirit.

Senator Playford - Brandy already distilled will have to pay the present Excise duty.

Senator Sir JOSIAH SYMON - What will become of the brandy distilled at the next vintage in South Australia?

Senator Playford - That will pay10s.

Senator Sir JOSIAH SYMON - But there is a proviso that clause 11 of the Spirits Bill is not to come into operation until the1st January, 1908. It is the object of the distillers of grape spirit to be able toget out the spirit distilled at the next vintage, without having to subject it to the maturing process.

Senator Playford - We will stop that.

Senator Sir JOSIAH SYMON - I shall resist thatbeing stopped. But we cannot deal with that matter at the present time, and the Minister will have to bring down some scheme in connexion with the first item. I suggest that it would be well to postpone the item until the Minister has consulted his experts as to how the difficulty may be avoided. The growers of South Australia, at whose instance, and very properly, this concession has been made, in order to enable them to get their stocks up between 1907 and 1908, would be able to get out their spirit under the proviso, and there would be no scale of duties applicable.

Senator Givens - They could put it into consumption directly they distilled it.

Senator Sir JOSIAH SYMON - That is the intention and object of the enlarged period, and it is quite evident that the first item will have to be dealt with as Senator Higgs has suggested.

SenatorGivens. - Amend the Spirits Bill.

Senator Sir JOSIAH SYMON - We cannot pass this item on the assumption that the Spirits Bill will be amended, because there may not be the necessary majority to amend it. Distillers of spirits from grape wine will not be satisfied unless they have that extension to enable them to get up their stock and comply with the provisions of this Bill.

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