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Thursday, 16 August 1906

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) . - As far as I have been able to see the proposed new classification is, on the whole, an excellent one, but I wish to make a brief allusion to the probable consequences of the classification. In the first place, the word " grain " extends over a very wide range. For instance, it would include rice and rye, and I am told that some very deleterious compounds are manufactured from those classes of grain.

Mr Johnson - And from maize also.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I understand that maize spirit is not so harmful as that distilled from rice or rye. If we grouped pure wine spirit and grain spirit, we should exclude molasses, potato, and other kinds of spirits, which I take it for granted would be grouped under the head of spirits n.e.i., and would be dutiable at 13s. But whilst we should be excluding these inferior spirits from the classification now before us, we should not prohibit their use, and as a result a large quantity of inferior brandy would be placed upon the market in competition with the purer article. The1s. difference in the Excise duty between blended grain spirit and spirit n.e.i. would not compensatethe manufacturers of the former for the extra cost they would have to incur, as compared with that involved in turning out the inferior classes of spirits. There would probably be a difference in the cost of production amounting to several shillings per gallon. And thus we should have a cheap inferior spirit placed upon the market, which I am afraid would to a great extent take the place of the purer article.

Mr Conroy - It may not be inferior spirit.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - The classification proposed by the Government has been adopted om the assumption that it is inferior spirit. The Tariff Commission appear to me to have made the first attempt to adopt a scientific classification of the various kinds of spirits.

Mr Conroy - The members qf the Commission were never fully informed upon the subject of molasses spirit.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I think that it is fair to assume that after twelve months of strict inquiry they were fully informed. I cannot conceive of their adopting a principle of classification such as they have followed without going thoroughly into the question of the purity or otherwise of molasses and every other kind of spirit. They have, at any rate, adopted a classification which assumes that some kinds of spirits are inferior to others, that molasses and potato spirit, for instance, are inferior to grape spirit. In amplifying the classification adopted by the Commission, the Government are really confirming that principle. My point is, however, that, although we are excluding the cheaper classes of spirit from the classification now under consideration, we shall not prohibit their consumption.

Mr Deakin - How would the honorable member propose to deal with that?

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I do not know. There is the difficulty. It seems inevitable that the market will be flooded if an inferior class of spirit, which can be' produced very cheaply, indeed, for almost nothing, and which will come into competition with the superior spirit proposed to be classified in the paragraphs! now under consideration. That is the difficulty that I foresee, and it is a very serious one. I should like to hear if the Customs officials have any information they can offer upon this point.

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