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Monday, 24 September 1906

Senator CLEMONS (Tasmania) . - Section 59 of the Distillation Act provides -

NoAustralian wine shall be fortified under this Act so as to contain more than 35 per centum of proof spirit.

Under this clause the percentage of proof spirit which it may contain will be increased to 40. In other words, we shall allow Australian wine to contain up to 40 per cent, of proof spirit.

Senator Col Neild - That is pretty heavy.

Senator CLEMONS - It is. I think I am right in saying that the object of this proposal ls-to induce Australian wine-makers to undertake the manufacture of heavy wines such as port. Their contention is that unless they are allowed to fortify it up to 40 per cent, of proof spirit they will be unable to compete with imported ports. Personally, I wish that they would not attempt to do so. I believe that the future of the industry depends upon the production of the lighter classes of wine.

Only one or two wine-makers who appeared before the Tariff Commission expressed any desire to go in for the manufacture of ports. I believe that the great majority of them prefer to make light wines.

Senator Playford - In South Australia we are making ports.

Senator CLEMONS - And some of the vignerons there are making bad ports. The fact remains that we cannot make a port of good quality in Australia. Under cover of this proposal, the wine-growers will be enabled to compete, so far as alcoholic contents are concerned, with imported ports. Except in the case of port, nobody wants to fortify wine up to more than 35 per cent.

Senator Playford - What about sherry ?

Senator CLEMONS - I do not think that sherry ought to contain more than 35 per cent, of proof spirit. In the best interests of Australian wine-growing, we should discourage the fortification of wine with spirit of a high degree of alcoholic strength.

Senator Sir JOSIAHSYMON (South Australia) [4.59]- - I am very glad that attention has been called to this matter. I am inclined to agree with Senator Clemons that it is verv undesirable that we should extend the opportunity to fortify Australian wine up to 40 degrees of proof spirit. We ought in every way we can to restrict, rather than extend, the facilities for fortifying our wines. In the case of Australian wine the great ' difficulty which has to be contended with is its natural strength. I do not think there is any need whatever to provide opportunities for increasing that strength. The finest Australian wines are the lightest. We have no desire to restrict their production. It is nonsense to urge that imported wines are of an alcoholic strength of 40 degrees of proof spirit. There is very little df that class of wine imported. We all recognise the danger that exists of wine being placed upon the market in a rough-and-ready way, and made palatable by being highly fortified. I think we should be acting wisely in the interests of consumers if we were even to place impediments in the way df that happening, rather than to give increased facilities. If we were to' give liberty to fortify to 40 Der cent, over proof, we should, in my opinion, be making a very great mis- take from the point of view of the winegrowers and producers.

Senator Col. NEILD(New South Wales) [5.1]. - I remind the Minister of Defence that a few days ago, when we were discussing the Canteen Bill, he announced his intention to issue regulations abolishing the -use of spirits in canteens, and restricting the members of the Forces to beers and wine. If the honorable gentleman carries out that intention, and yet, at the same time, succeeds in passing the clause now under consideration, he will provide a tipple that will enable the soldiers to " go on the tare " just as readily as with any watered whisky or other spirit provided in the ordinary way. It is well known that one of the difficulties which have beset the introduction of Australian wines to the British market has been their high strength. It would be infinitely better, and more calculated to facilitate the sale of Australian wines in England, if wines of a lighter character rather than those of the exceedingly heavy mature suggested by this proposal were offered to the British wine-loving public. If the Minister of Defence is going to permit the use of these heavy wines in the canteens, he cannot hope the result to make for sobriety, having regard to the strength of the whiskies in ordinary consumption. I agree with Senator Symon and other honorable senators who have urged the reduction of this exceedingly high strength.

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