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Thursday, 14 September 1911

Senator O'KEEFE (Tasmania) . - Like Senator Blakey, T have no desire to give a silent vote on this question, because I take it that Senator Rae is going to press his motion to a division. In submitting this proposal its mover stated that if it were carried, we' should1 free ourselves from any reproach- which, might otherwise attach to us for countenancing the sale of intoxicants. Personally, I think it would be a greater reproach to us if we allowed it to go forth to the world that the Commonwealth Parliament had found it necessary to abolish its refreshment bar. Surely there can be no stigma attaching to this Parliament in the light of the figures which were quoted by Senator Blakey. Moreover, it has been repeatedly affirmed in the press that no Parliament in the British Empire can point to a lesser expenditure per head upon intoxicants than can this Parliament. Surely that ought to be an excellent advertisement of our sobriety^ The figures quoted by Senator Blakey ' related to the year 1904. I think it would be found that an even smaller expenditure per head" is at present incurred, upon in toxicants because this Parliament now. contains a larger proportion of total abstainers..

Senator Needham - We are getting too good altogether. That fourpence:per head includes tobacco and cigars.

Senator O'KEEFE - I scarcely think that statement is correct. If it is, I must make up for four or five of my colleagues,' because I purchase about is. 6d. worth of tobacco in the Parliamentary Refreshmentroom each week. I do not apologize for- that, nor do' I apologize for spending sixpence occasionally upon any kind of liquor that I may wish to take. In spite of the moderate terms in which Senator Rae- has couched his motion, and the apologetic tone of his speech, it does seem to me that, we shall cast a reproach upon this Parliament if we abolish our refreshment bar. It must be borne in mind that the average expenditure of 4d. per head per week at the refreshment bar includes such drinks as Senator Rae may take sometimes,, if he is a teetotaller, such as soda water, O.T., or that very refreshing and invigorating beverage called sparkling Tasmanian cider, which I. tried to induce him to sample tanight. Speaking seriously, die bare fact remains that there is no necessity,, from the temperance point of view, to abolish the refreshment bar. If the honorable senator brings forward a motion that it is desirable to abolish the refreshment-rooms - that is, that neither meals nor drinks of any kind shall be provided for the use of the members of this Parliament - and submits it on the ground that money is being lost by maintaining the refreshment-rooms, then it seems to me that it will present itself in stronger terms than will, I feel sure, the motion which he has moved to-night, because it is well known that there is an annual loss on the up-keep, not of the refreshment bar alone, but of the rooms of which it 'is a part.

Senator Chataway - I am told that the loss would be a great deal if it were not for the refreshment bar.

Senator O'KEEFE - The annual loss could not be a great deal more if it were not for the refreshment bar, because, as the figures quoted show, there is practically no expenditure there.

Senator Chataway - You pay 6d. for a drink of lemonade, and there is a profit on that.

Senator O'KEEFE - There is a very big profit on it. I feel quite satisfied that the good sense of honorable senators, while giving Senator Rae credit for the utmost sincerity in submitting the motion, as we should do, will save the Senate from recording a vote which would announce to the world that we do not think that we can be trusted within sight or reach of intoxicating liquor. It seems to me that while we derive a very large proportion of the revenue necessary for governing this country from the imposition of Customs and Excise duties on intoxicating liquors, and are prepared to allow the public to drink these liquors, and to subject them to all the dangers of intemperance, we are not prepared to subject ourselves to the temptation which is put in our way when intoxicants are kept within a few steps of us, and are available if we care to use them.

Senator Rae - Do you argue that the imposition of the duties makes persons use intoxicating liquor?

Senator O'KEEFE - No. I only argue that there can be only one reason in the honorable senator's mind, and that is that, generally speaking, the use of intoxicating liquors is injurious to the community. But this is not the time to discuss that question, which we know always has been, and probably will continue to be, much debated. The reason which impelled the honorable senator to submit the motion surely must be that, if carried, it will set a good example to the public to abstain from the use of intoxicating liquor. If that is so, it seems to me that the motion carries with it the inference that we are afraid to subject ourselves to the temptation of having intoxicants within the precincts of Parliament House. I do not believe that there would be one member of the Senate, and probably not more than one or two members of the other House, during the session who, if the refreshment bar were abolished, would leave the precincts of the Chamber for the purpose of getting a glass of intoxicating liquor, although they would onlyhave to go across the road. At the same time, I do not think that, for the sake of an odd member here and there, who may feel inclined to take a glass of intoxicating liquor, we should abolish the bar. Sometimes there may be an occasion on which it will do a member of Parliament good totake a stimulant. There may have been occasions on which it has done so. I do not know that any member of Parliament ever feels that he requires a stimulant to do him good ; but I have heard it said that sometimes intoxicating liquor is taken medicinally. If such occasions should arise, it may be a convenience to members of Parliament to have a refreshment bar. I do .not care a jot whether the motion is carried or not. If the bar is abolished, and I should require a drink, and think that a divisionis not likely to take place for some time, I should go and get one without bowing to the opinions of those who do not share my views on this question. I have no more to say, except to repeat that I do not believe that the good sense of the Senate will allow the motion to be carried.

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