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Thursday, 16 August 1906

Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) . - I spoke upon this matter last night, and I have no desire to add much to what I then said. I merely wish to point out that the honorable member -for Wide Bay is at least justified in objecting to the proposals of the Government, unless they can assure him that the consumption of molasses spirit is more injurious than is that of grain spirit. There are only two logical positions which can be taken up in reference to this matter. One is that which has been assumed by the honorable member for Hindmarsh, who contends that if brandy is to carry the imprimatur of the Government approval

Mr Deakin - I confess that that is still open to argument.

Mr Kennedy - But the labelling of an article will only be of use for Excise purposes.

Mr Robinson - It cannot affect its sale.

Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Exactly. But let us suppose that spirits were bottled under the supervision of an Excise officer. For the convenience of their trade, merchants very frequently keep stock in bond in the form in which it is likely to be purchased. If stock is put up in that way the Government will grant to that portion of it which complies with the conditions which are here prescribed the use of a special label. They will also exercise control over any other label which it is sought to attach to a portion of the goods. It seems to me that under these provisions, whilst the Government would permit their special grain brandy label to be applied to a brandy which was made partially from grain spirit, they would refuse to allow the term " brandy " to be attached to a blend which was obtained from the use of molasses spirit. That would be perfectly right, and a proposal of that character will command my support if it can be , shown that the consumption of molasses spirit is more injurious to the people than is that of grain spirit. But if that cannot be demonstrated, the Government, if it believes that only spirit from the grape should be called brandy, should say, " We will only allow our label to be placed upon brandy which is the product of pure wine spirit." That is a perfectly logical position to fake up. But when they go beyond that, and permit an admixture of other spirits in an article - an admixture to the extent of 75 per cent. - and when they say, " We will recognise only grain spirit," they take up a position which is only tenable if it can be shown- that grain spirit is better from a health stand-point than the other spirit which they exclude. Whilst I am perfectly willing to support the proposal of the honorable member for Hindmarsh that brandy to which the Government, label will attach must be wholly the product of the grape, I do not say that we should prevent the manufacture of another article which has a market, and which is not more deleterious, from a health stand-point, than are spirits generally.

Mr Johnson - The honorable member simply wishes to guard against a misdescription ?

Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Yes. If we are going to apply a Government label to brandy, it is preferable that it should be confined to what the Government recognise as the only pure brandy - that is, an article which has been distilled wholly from grape spirit. If we are to go beyond that, I would rather see this provision left out entirely; and thus subject other blends of brandy to the duty of 13s. per gallon. The honorable member for Coolgardie has said that some State feeling has been imported into this discussion. The only way in which such a feeling can be imported is by_ the selection of certain articles for special treatment. If we merely say that a particular duty shall be levied upon approved spirit - that is, upon spirit from either grain or molasses the consumption of which is not injurious to human beings - we make no State selection whatever. But if we approve of' spirit which is produced from certain articles only, we at once create a distinction as between State and State.

Mr Mahon - If molasses spirit is cheaper than grain spirit, surely the former will drive the latter out of the market under equal conditions.

Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - If that contention were correct, by this time all the spirit would have been made from molasses. I cannot say whether molasses spirit is as palatable or agreeable as is grain spirit - I confess my utter ignorance of that aspect of the question - but as long as molasses spirit is not detrimental to health--

Mr Fisher - Every one admits that it is not.

Mr Page - We, are told that Nelson's body was preserved in rum.

Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Many people, including some medical men, hold that good rum is the least injurious spirit, and we have no evidence that molasses spirit, is more injurious than is raw grain spirit. That being so, I do not see why the Ministry should be prepared to allow a blend of grain spirit and grape spirit to be described as "brandy," and to bear the Government label, whilst, at the same time, they refuse to acknowledge as " brandy " another blend consisting of a mixture of wine spirit and a rectified spirit similar to grain spirit. There may be some reason for charging the higher duty on that in which molasses spirit is used, since the cost is much less; but if the Government are going to place themselves behind a label, that label should be applied only to pure brandy.

That having been done, they should say that a blend of wine spirit and grain, or any other spirit that is not detrimental to health, may be offered for sale. They certainly ought not to allow the Government label to be placed on anything; that is unwholesome, but, at the same time, they should not permit it to be applied to a certain blend as being a good article, whilst, at the same time, another blend, which may consist of a mixture of grape spirit, with an equally good rectified spirit, is inferentially treated by them as bad.

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