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Thursday, 25 November 1971
Page: 3655

Mr GORTON (Higgins) - Mr Deputy Speaker,I should like to make it clear right from the outset that I do not support this motion, as it has been put forward. Nor can I, for reasons which will be immediately apparent, regard the present tax as an ill-considered piece of bureaucratic nonsense. That point T wish to make in the first instance. Secondly, if I may, I should like to comment on the remarks of the honourable member for Riverina (Mr Grassby). It was noticeable that when this motion was first brought on not one member of the Opposition appeared to consider it of sufficient importance to put his name down on the Speaker's list. It was a virgin list, as far as the Opposition was concerned though I would not now regard it as a virgin list, after listening to the speech of the honourable member for the Riverina. After all, he told us that actions speak louder than words. So far he appears to be the only speaker from the Opposition side. The first thing he did was to try to gag the debate and suggest that there should be no further speakers in it. It is noticeable that there are no Opposition speakers from the State of South Australia - the State which is alleged to be so badly affected by this legislation. Therefore, I believe that this is evidence that there is no real interest by the Opposition in this matter, and there appears to be no interest by honourable members opposite who come from South Australia. This seems to bear out the suggestion made by the honourable member for Angas (Mr Giles) that the industry in South Australia has been unable to receive a clear answer from the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) as to what the Opposition's policy will be. I do not know whether that is true or not, but it has been alleged by the honourable member for Angas, and the actions today at least lend some colour to it.

I have 2 reasons for speaking. The first is that I feel and accept a great measure of responsibility because the measure imposing the excise was introduced by a government which I led. I want that to be thoroughly understood by the House. Nor do I think it at all wrong that an alcoholic beverage such as wine should be subjected to the same kind of taxation, or at least to taxation, as are the competitors of wine - beer, whisky and other spirits. Why should one alcoholic beverage be selected to be. free from what is imposed upon its competitors? Secondly, I would suggest - this has been argued very often, and it is of course true - that what happens in the wine industry gravely affects primary producers who produce the grapes from which wine and other spirits are made. That is quite true. But it is also true that what happens in the beer industry affects primary producers who produce barley, malt and the other primary products from which such beverages are made. So there is no significant difference in these respects. I would go further and say that for those reasons I do not think it wrong that a tax should have been imposed on this beverage. I do not believe that the results of the excise which was imposed have been such as have been suggested by the honourable member for Riverina and other speakers. I say that for this reason: The excise imposed was the equivalent of 8c a bottle, and the honourable member for Riverina admits that. He says that the Government gets 8c a bottle out of it. But as a result of the imposition of excise of 8c a bottle, the vignerons, the sellers of wine, raised the price of a bottle not by 8c but by 15c.

Mr Grassby - But you put it on at the wrong end.

Mr GORTON - They put it on, we did not; they raised the price by 15c, not by 8c, and this clearly has an effect.

Mr Grassby - You put it on at the end, not at the beginning.

Mr GORTON - We did not put it on; they put it on. That is the point. Further, on the half flagon - and it is really the bulk sale of wine in half flagons and flagons which has most been affected - the excise imposed by the Government was 25c, which was immediately raised by the sellers to 45c a half flagon. So if there has been a considerable increase in price, and of course there has because these initial impositions have mark-ups-

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