When the Parliament were considering introducing a beer tax in South Australia, a public meeting was held in the Hamley Bridge Institute to vote on the matter ..... some of the thoughts were very naive, like .. publicans wouldn't put up the price of beer because of the tax!
On Friday evening, September 12 1884, a meeting was held in the Hamley Bridge Institute to consider the proposed tax on beer. Around 50 people attended. Mr. R. P. Annear was voted to the chair. Local resident and J.P., Mr Joseph Bell moved – “That this meeting considers a beer tax desirable, fair and equitable and that it should be included in the taxation scheme now before Parliament”.
In the Parliament, Mr. Symon had moved the motion in the Assembly, but the Government thought that if it were carried they would have to sacrifice some of their other proposals.
The thoughts at that time were that, “a beer tax would be a most desirable means of helping to meet our present deficiency. If an income tax were imposed we would stand alone amongst the colonies, for in none of the others did it exist “.
At that time in England the brewers were paying a tax of 6s. 3d. per barrel on beer, besides an annual licence fee. In America they had to pay a duty of 4s. per barrel of 32 gallons, and anyone who brewed over 5,000 gallons had to pay an additional tax of £20 per annum. Tasmania had already imposed a duty of 3d. per gallon, besides which there was a heavy duty on sugar and hops, whilst in Victoria they had a duty of 2d. per gallon upon an annual rate of 12,000,000 gallons.
Mr. Bell said there wouldn’t be so much police protection if it were not for drink, which was much of the cause of most of the crime, destitution and pauperism. A tax on beer was a legitimate one, and he thought it was unjust that the poor struggling farmer should be compelled to pay duty on wire and other necessary articles whilst the brewer was allowed to go free. There was a big applause from the crowd and Mr. J. Black seconded the motion and also said that a beer tax would be for the general good and would bring in an annual revenue of £50,000 from those who at present went scot free, and it was a mistake to think that the price of beer would rise, as he was confident that publicans would never charge more than 3d. a glass.
Mr. Charlton supported the motion. Mr. M. Kearns thought the publicans paid very dearly for the police protection which Mr. Bell had stated was afforded them. He also said that the working man, if the tax were imposed, would not get his beer at the same price, as he was sure the, publican and brewers would not lose. At present the publicans alone paid an annual sum to the revenue of £12,000 or £13,000. Mr. Finey thought it very desirable to get £50,000 a year out of the brewers. Mr. M. Murphy considered that the tax would be an imposition on the public and it was a ‘side wind got up’ by a few moneyed men to escape the land tax. He moved as an amendment—" That the proposed tax would be an imposition upon the pubic" It had simply been laughed at throughout the colony. Messrs. Wilson and Henry Bell supported the motion. Mr. Williams said the proposal for the beer tax was lost by only a small majority, and he was sure Mr. Symon would yet be successful. After a short discussion the motion was put and carried by a large majority. On the motion of Mr. H. Bell a vote of thanks was accorded to Mr. J. W. Castine, M P., for having voted in favour of the tax.