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Friday, 11 November 1910

Senator GIVENS (Queensland) . - I have listened to the eloquent tirade from the Honorary Minister who made a laboured apology for the impertinences which are disguised in these questions. What have personal matters to do with the taking of a census ? Would itnot be an impertinence if Senator Findley, as a young man and a bachelor, were asked how many times a week he kissed his sweetheart? Information to be of any value must be reliable. If it is not reliable it is worse than useless, because it will only lead us to form wrong conclusions. The object of taking a census is to obtain reliable information from which fair conclusions may be drawn on matters of public interest. Hitherto in the taking of a census it has been the practice to put certain questions to householders, and as a result we have obtained valuable statistics in regard to the number, the prosperity, and the progress of the people. If we could obtain any extended knowledge upon these points by putting more questions to our citizens, this Parliament would heartily approve of those questions. But looking at the additional questions which it is proposed to put to them, I fail to see that we shall attain any such object. Indeed, I cannot understand what public interest attaches to some of these questions. Take, for instance, the question of whether or not a man is an abstainer from alcoholic beverages. The individual who has not taken a drink for an hour previous to filling in the census-paper can conscientiously say that he is a total abstainer.

Senator Long - No.

Senator GIVENS - Then must he never have tasted alcoholic liquors ?

Senator Long - Absolutely.

Senator GIVENS - Why, in Scotland, as soon as a baby is born, it is the practice to give it a little drop of mountain dew. It is impossible to get reliable information upon a question of this sort. The Honorary Minister has said that underlying it is a desire to ascertain the social condition of the people and the progress of the forward movement - in other words, to determine whether our citizens are temperate or intemperate. What has this question to do with temperance or intemperance? As a matter of fact, the word "temperance" implies a moderate use of anything, not total abstinence from it. Is a man, merely because he swallows a glass of good Australian wine with his Sunday dinner, to be classed as intemperate?

Senator Long - No, but he cannot be classed as a total abstainer.

Senator GIVENS - Yet the Honorary Minister stated that the object of asking this question is to ascertain whether people are temperate or intemperate.

Senator Findley - I admit that I used those terms, but I ask the honorable senator not to pursue that line of reasoning. He must credit me with knowing the difference between temperance and total abstinence.

Senator GIVENS - Is an infant to be regarded as a total abstainer?

Senator Long - Obviously.

Senator Millen - If we start with an infant, at what age shall we draw the line ?

Senator GIVENS - There are many points connected with this matter which require consideration. If we are to ask persons what they drink, why should we refrain from asking what they eat? A great many persons, indeed some of the highest scientific authorities in the world, hold that there are more evils from overeating than from over-drinking. If it is reasonable to start a crusade against drinking at all, because certain evils accrue from drinking to excess, would it not be just as reasonable to start a crusade against eating, because certain evils accrue from eating to excess ?

Senator Long - Is there not a difference between asking a man to come and have a drink and asking him to come and have a sausage?

Senator GIVENS - There is a marked difference, especially in the tone of voice in which the question is asked. There are certain very good persons in the world who claim that it is a piece of cannibalism, and that it is positively injurious, to eat animal food of any kind. They argue that in order to do so life has to be sacrificed, and that all life should be held sacred. Why not ask persons whether they are vegetarian, carnivorous, or omnivorous ? The only reason why we have not a question regarding vegetarianism is simply because the vegetarians so far have not been so clamorous as have the total abstainers. I have no objection to persons advocating any of these things to the fullest extent of their power. I have no objection to them trying to do their level best to induce moderation or total abstinence. They are probably doing what they think is right, but why in the name of goodness should we take up their cause, and invade the private life of every individual in Australia in order to placate their clamour? Is there any reason for it? If reliable statistics are required, we have undoubtedly a better means of obtaining reliable information through the general conduct of the Government Departments than we have by asking questions of this sort. We know how much alcoholic liquor is introduced into Australia every year, how much is made here, and how much is exported. We have every available figure for finding out the consumption of alcoholic liquor per head of the population without putting this question at all. If we have that information in regard to the population in general, why should you pry into the private habits of persons?

Senator Findley - We know the wealth of Australia, but we do not know the wealth of each individual therein.

Senator GIVENS - Before you can say whether a man is a good or bad citizen must you -ask the impertinent question as to whether he has ever tasted a drop of alcoholic liquor in his life?

Senator Long - Total abstainers are included in the aggregate.

Senator GIVENS - Of course they are. We know whether Australians drink to excess or not. As a matter of fact, every one knows from our statistics that Australians are a comparatively sober people, and that, instead of increasing, the consumption of alcoholic liquor is tending to decrease year by year. Nobody will answer this question in a reliable way.

Senator Long - Surely they will.

Senator GIVENS - No. I announce my intention to refuse to answer the question as being a mere impertinence.

Senator Long - The law of the country will compel the honorable senator to give an answer.

Senator GIVENS - It will not compel me to do anything of the sort.

Senator Long - Wait and see.

Senator O'Keefe - If it did compel every person to answer there would be an uprising against the law very soon.

Senator GIVENS - It is no business of the community as to whether Senator Long, Senator Henderson, Senator Givens, Senator St. Ledger, or anybody else, drank one, two, or three glasses of whisky during the last year, or whether they occasionally had a baby bottle of Australian wine at lunch.

Senator Findley - In the census-paper there is no desire to elicit whether Senator Henderson or Senator McColl takes a glass of wine, or not.

Senator GIVENS - The question will be put directly to each of us. They can ask me the question as long as they please, but they will receive no answer, because the inquiry is a mere impertinence. It has been included in the census-paper in response to a lot of busybodies who are not content with ordering their own lives, but are trying to order the lives of everybody else in the community in accordance with their own pattern.

Senator de Largie - No. The object of this question is to find out the wowsers, and make them sensible men.

Senator GIVENS - I thank my honorable friend for the hint. I had forgotten for the moment that very expressive word.

Senator ALBERT GOULD (NEW SOUTH WALES) -Colonel Sir AlbertGould. - If the honorable senator declines to answer the question, he will be regarded as not being a wowser.

Senator GIVENS - If a man is not drinking at the time when he has to fill in the census-paper, he can conscientiously put himself down as a total abstainer. What is the good of including a question of that sort?

Senator O'Keefe - What are alcoholic beverages anyhow? Do they include all our great medicines?

Senator GIVENS - Senator St. Ledger will remember the case of the wheat tonic, which had an immense vogue in Queensland. Every wowser, every Christian temperance person in the community, I think - and there were many of them there - was making a rush at this splendid tonic. It had a terrible vogue, but when it was analyzed, it was found to contain almost as much alcohol as does colonial beer.

Senator O'Keefe - Was there not a great run on Peruna some time ago for the same reason?

Senator GIVENS - Everybody knows that 75 per cent, of the patent medicines are alcoholic, because alcohol is the only thing which will preserve medicine for all time. That is why patent medicines are so popular. Even the " wowsers " are very partial to them occasionally. Of course, I do not insinuate that it is because patent medicine is largely composed of alcohol. Possibly, they think that it is like that blessed word Mesopotamia, it brings comfort to their souls.

Senator McGregor - Why are they so partial to trifle at a banquet ?

Senator McColl - And to plum pudding, with brandy sauce?

Senator GIVENS - When I was a boy, I knew a clergyman of the Church of England - the Reverend Mr. Gaunson - who was a most excellent man in every way, but a real crank on the question of total abstinence. He would preach it by the mile on every possible occasion. But at a banquet where there was a plum pudding he would want a soup plate to put his portion in, and he would cover it with brandy. That is not an overdrawn picture in any way. It is a case within my own experience. In Australia, that gentleman would be put down in the census returns as a total abstainer, while a man who occasionally had a modest drop of Australian light wine, in which there is very little alcohol, would have to be classed as a nonabstainer, and therefore intemperate. The whole thing is ridiculous, and I am' astonished at the Government yielding to the clamour of a noisy section of busybodies who, no doubt, mean very well, but who are continually interfering with the private affairs of other persons, which should be no concern of theirs, and no concern of the Government either. I do not intend to say any more regarding that particular question, because I think that the absurdity of it is patent to every honorable senator, and,. I believe, will be patent to every person in the community, with the exception of those well-meaning people who think that they have a right to order the personal affairs of their fellow-citizens. The other questions in the census-paper savour largely of mere impertinence. I want to know why one particular class has been singled out.

Senator Findley - What class are you speaking of?

Senator GIVENS - - I am speaking of the great mass of the people - the workers.

Senator Findley - In what way have they been singled out?

Senator GIVENS - They have been singled out to answer personal questions, while other persons in the community are allowed to go scot-free.

Senator Findley - What others?

Senator GIVENS - I shall name some of them directly. We have means of getting reliable information from the workers to a very large extent, owing to the operation of Arbitration Courts, Wages Boards, and other things of that kind. The information which these questions are likely to elicit from the workers will not be nearly so reliable as the general information which could be got from the sources I have mentioned. Let me remind the Minister of a case in point, and which must be within his own knowledge. The workers will not always, of their own free will, disclose the conditions under which they are working, because they are afraid to do so. It must be within the Minister's knowledge that when it was proposed to put the employes in a certain industry in Victoria under a Wages Board, or to bring them under the Commonwealth Arbitration Act, they gathered together, and signed a petition saying that they were perfectly satisfied with their position, and did not want any alteration or change. I need not name the instance, but I can do so if the Minister so desires.

Senator Findley - I know it, but what bearing has it on this question?

Senator GIVENS - It shows that you cannot always rely upon the informationwhich is got from the workers. Every one knows that the employes in the industry referred to were sweated, and that their conditions were not good, and yet these poor unfortunate people, rather than be thrown out on the world without remunerative employment, went and signed that which was a lie on the face of it.

Senator Findley - Where is the analogy between signing that petition, and replying to this question?

Senator GIVENS - I quoted that instance to show that you cannot always rely on the information which is got over the signature of a worker, because very often he is in a cleft stick. I ask the honorable senator if it is not a fact that information regarding the rates of interest on the capital employed in industries, and the profits which accrue to the retailer and the wholesaler, is not as important to the people of this community, as what a worker earns is ? Why is not the usurer asked the rate of interest which he charges? Why is not the wholesaler asked the rate of profit which he expects to get on goods passing through his hands? Why is not the retailer asked a similar question? It is well known that for one article which is made both here and in Sydney the manufacturer gets about 4s. 6d., the wholesaler 6s. 6d., and the retailer 10s. 6d. That shows the way in which consumers are fleeced generally. Yet in the census-paper not a single question is proposed to be asked of these persons. But the workers - a class, who, as a rule, cannot help themselves very much -are singled out to be asked various questions of that kind. Workers generally do not keep a diary or an account. If at the end of a year, you were to ask a workman how many days he had lost, or how much he was out through loss of time during the year, the probability is . that he would be able only to give you a mere guess estimate. Under question ii., persons are asked to give an accurate account of matters which it must be evident that not five per cent. of the workers will be able to give. What is the use of information if it is not reliable? A man in regular and steady employment might be able to answer questioniii., as to the number of hours worked per week or per day, but there are hundreds of other instances in which men would not be able to give the information. Take the case of a member of Parliament. How could he state how many hours a day he worked? Many a member of Parliament, when walking about, and supposed to be taking recreation, is really cudgelling his brains to the fullest extent with regard to public problems. Work of that kind is as wearying as any other work. It is also impossible to give accurate information in answer to question iv. , which requires an account to be given of the amount of money in coin or notes in the possession of every person recorded at the census. Take the case of the Grand Hotel, in which there may be 200 guests on census night. The manager is supposed to give, not only details regarding the coin and notes in his own possession, but also similar data regarding every person in his hotel on that particular night. Suppose I was staying there, and the manager came to me, and asked how much money I had in my pockets. I should regard the question as an impertinence, and should be very likely to give a rather uncivil answer. But if this question were insisted upon the manager of the hotel would be compelled to be guilty of that impertinence. Then, take the case of an individual who has three or four women working for him, and residing in his house. There are thousands of such cases all over Australia. Is the head of the household to go to a girl or to a gardener, and say, " How much money have you in your possession tonight?" Such a question could only be regarded as impertinent, and I do not think that it would lead to the obtaining of any reliable information. It is also well known that in some parts of the world there are many people who have a passion for hoarding. The habit is particularly prevalent in India, where the people seem to have little use for banks, and are fond of hoarding coin and precious stones in order that they may be in possession of wealth in its most compact and portable shape. That habit exists also in a more limited degree in every part of the world. A case occurred recently in Melbourne, where a poor woman who was supposed to be an object of pity on account of her poverty died, and was found to be in possession of a very large sum. Within my own experience I have known of a case in which an old man lived alone, in absolute want and misery, and continually on the verge of starvation. He lived in a frightful state of filth, simply because he would not allow any one to come near him. But when he died it was found that he had . £1,170 in cash in his possession. There are scores of other cases of the kind. If a man or a woman will endure hardships, and live in a condition of actual starvation and misery while being possessed of large sums of money, it is quite evident that such persons will not give accurate information to the Government. In addition to the questions being objectionable, on their own account, they will fail to elicit information of a reliable character, and I would emphasize the fact that absolute ignorance is less liable to lead one astray than unreliable information. For these reasons, I trust that the motion will be carried.

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