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Wednesday, 15 August 1906

Mr POYNTON (Grey) .- I intend to support the recommendation of the Commission that the duty be maintained at 14s. I am prompted to do this in the interests of the revenue. I find that the local production of spirit has increased by 50 per cent, during the last few years, and that it is at present nearly equal to half the total consumption of the Commonwealth. This development has taken place, whilst there has been a margin of only is. between the import and Excise duties, and we may assume that if further protection is granted to the local distillers the production will very largely increase, and that in the very near future the whole of our requirements will be met by the local distillers. Within six years the production of spirits in the Commonwealth has been increased from 700,000 gallons to 1,500,000 gallons, whereas in four years the importation of spirits has decreased from 3,000,000 to 2,500,000 gallons. I should think that the Prime Minister and the Treasurer would be alarmed at the prospect qf a greater margin being allowed between the import and Excise duties, because a great shrinkage of revenue must take place. If we insist, however, upon raising the import duty to 15s., our position will be worse still. I would point out to honorable members that we pay se. very high price for the maintenance of the local distilling industry. Even assuming that there is no increase in the local production, we shall, under the Government proposal, lose 2s. upon .every gallon of spirit locally produced, and will thus pay £150,000 per annum towards the support of the Australian industry. These figures are enormous when we consider the very small advantages that are conferred upon the community. Very few hands are engaged in our distilleries. Messrs. Joshua Brothers, who, perhaps, have the only uptodate distillery in Australia, admit that they do not pay more than about £100 per week in wages. Mr. Joshua told the Tariff

Commission that he could, in the very near future, supply the whole of the spirit required for consumption in the Commonwealth. Joshua Brothers' distillery is really the outcome of London enterprise, because 78,000 shares in the company are held in London.

Sir John Quick - Seventy-eight thousand sovereigns were spent in Victoria.

Mr POYNTON - It is proposed to allow a very big margin between the Excise and import duties, for the advantage of a London company, which threatens in the near future to deprive the Commonwealth of a great amount of revenue by displacing imported spirit with their product.

Mr Hutchison - From what article are they making spirit?

Mr POYNTON - From the refuse of sugar.

Sir John Quick - That is not correct.

Mr POYNTON - Sugar spirit is largely used in the manufacture of Joshua Brothers' brandy. According to the evidence of the manager of a mill in New South Wales, this firm was the biggest purchaser of the spirit which was distilled from morasses.

Sir John Quick - They do not say that in respect of brandy. The spirit to which the honorable member . refers was- sold for methylating purposes.

Mr POYNTON - At any rate, it is largely used in the production of blended spirits.

Mr Hutchison - Last year half of it was used for industrial purposes.

Mr POYNTON - In my judgment, the Government proposal represents protection run mad. If we allow that we are losing 2s. per gallon by differentiating between the import and the Excise duties upon spirits, it represents a sum of ,£156,000 annually.

Sir John Quick - That money is spent in the country.

Mr POYNTON - We could obtain a large amount of labour for that sum. If we allow a difference of 3s. per gallon as between the import and the Excise duties upon spirits, it means a loss' of revenue of £225, 000 annually, and in my opinion 3s. per gallon more nearly represents the loss which we incur than does 2s. I shall vote for the imposition of a duty of 14s. per gallon.

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