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Monday, 24 September 1906

Senator DRAKE (Queensland) - The Minister has just told us that there is no danger of wine being too highly fortified for consumption in Australia, because it does not pay the producers to fortify it to the extent of. 40 per cent. But section 58 of the Distillation Act is as follows : -

Unless otherwise prescribed no spirits shall be used for fortifying wine unless they are approved by the officer and of a strength of at least thirty degrees above proof in the case of wine spirit and of at least sixty degrees above proof in the case of any other spirit.

Senator Playford - That deals with the character of the spirit to be used in fortifying; we are now talking about the strength to which wine may be fortified.

Senator DRAKE - The Minister told us just now that there is no danger of the over-fortification of wine, on account of the cost of making the spirit, which has to be produced from grape wine. I am showing that in section 58 of the Distillation Act, there is provision for two different kinds of spirit to be used for the fortification of wine, and that one of those spirits may be distilled from any material whatever. My desire is to point out an apparent inconsistency, which no doubt can be explained. The' next section of the Distillation Act is -

No Australian wine shall be fortified under this Act so as to contain more than thirty-five per centum of proof spirit, nor with any other spirit than pure wine spirit of a strength of at least thirty degrees above proof.

What is the spirit referred to in section 58 ? There is a provision that wine may be fortified with any spirit - with silent spirit distilled from molasses. It costs 6cl. per gallon, and under this Bill there will be a duty of only 6d. per gallon upon it, so that, as far as the question of expense is concerned, there would be no obstacle in the way of the excessive fortification of wines. In the interior, astonishing though it may seem, many people regard colonial wines as nonintoxicating. A great many people in the bush, who call' themselves teetotallers, are prepared to take a glass of colonial wine, being under the impression, apparently, that it is non-intoxicating. Honorable senators are, doubtless, aware that in nearly all the States colonial wine licences are issued, and that the holders ofl them are not under the complete supervision to which publicans are subjected. It is considered that those who sell colonial wine vend a liquor which is not so fiery and dangerous as spirits. In tea gardens and other pleasure resorts there are shops or booths for the sale of colonial wine, which is regarded as a. comparatively innocent drink; but under this Bill wines sold at such places may contain 40 per cent, of proof spirit.

Senator Playford - At the present time they may contain 35 per cent.

Senator DRAKE - I fail to see why the maximum should not be reduced to 30 per cent. The fact that wine may be fortified at the present time to the extent of 35 per cent., affords no ground for the proposal to increase the limit to 40 per cent. The Minister has told us that the alteration is necessary to enable certain vignerons to produce a wine that will compete with the imported article. As a matter of fact, there is no attempt in the Bill to discriminate between colonial wine, as ordinarily understood, and that for which he desires an extension of the provision with regard to fortification. I think that the proposal is a most dangerous one.

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