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Friday, 20 November 1914

Senator PEARCE (Western Australia.) (Minister of Defence) . - I cannot accept the amendment, and I trust that the Committee will not do so. The prohibition in the Defence Act appliesto a large number of places. It isgenerally referred to merely as a prohibition in camps, but as a matter of fact it is something more than that. At the present time we have camps of Naval and Military Forces which are composed of our Citizen Forces. The prohibition in regard to wet canteens applies to youths who have not quite reached 18 years of age, and in time it will apply to men of the age of 25 years, At present in camps where there are youths who are just over 11 years and men up to 25 years of age, wet canteens are prohibited. Then there are the camps of our Expeditionary Forces in which there are youths of 18 years of age and upwards. There are the troop-ships on which these Expeditionary Forces will embark, and there is also the overseas Tropical Force, which is distinct from the European Expeditionary Forces. Finally, we have the ships upon which our Naval Citizen Forces are trained as distinct from the Naval Citizen Forces camp. Under the Act and the Regulations, in all these cases no wet canteens are allowed. But wet canteens are not prohibited in forts or ships where none but the Permanent Forces are at work. I make this explanation because honorable senators may not be familiar with the extent to which, the amendment of Senator Turley goes. That honorable senator has referred to a number of intemperate speeches which have been delivered elsewhere on this question, and has asked me to take upon myself the responsibility for them. I must respectfully decline to do so. I am not responsible for these wild and whirling statements, and I am not going to defend them. They do not express my sentiments and they have nothing to do with this Committee.

Senator Turley - The statements were made in this Parliament, and I asked the Minister whether they were correct.

Senator PEARCE - I am not going to explain, defend, or attack those statements. I am prepared to put up my own defence of the section that is embodied in the Act and to leave it to stand on iia merits. In my opinion, the proposal of Senator Turley, even if carried, will prove most unsatisfactory in its operation. The honorable senator proposes that paragraph c of section 123a should be omitted, and that paragraphs a and b ' should be retained. Let me point out that if we omit paragraph c ' we shall be declaring that no canteen shall be established in any naval or military camp, fort, or post, except as prescribed for purely medical purposes while cadets' are being trained there. But as they arc never trained there, such a provision would be a farce. It would be far better for the honorable senator to move to strike out the section altogether.

Senator TURLEY - There is no objection to canteens in those places.

Senator PEARCE - If the honorable senator's amendment is to be carried we ought not to leave in the Bill a provision which will be a farce, but ought rather to strike out the section in its entirety.

Senator Lynch - Is liquor allowed on our ships for medicinal purposes?

Senator PEARCE - Yes ; on all of them. In the stores of the Army Medical Corps, liquor is allowed for medicinal purposes..

Senator Keating - The amendment would extend beyond the camps of our Expeditionary Forces.

Senator PEARCE - Yes. I made au explanation of that before the honorable senator entered the chamber.

Senator O'Keefe - Is not the present position that no wet canteens are allowed in any of the camps which have been enumerated by the Minister?

Senator PEARCE - Yes. But in the forts, when no Citizen Forces are present, wet canteens are allowed. Senator Turley has told us what is the experience of military officers in regard to these canteens. I am not a military officer, and I do not profess to have had experience from that stand-point. But honorable senators will admit that I have had a fair amount of experience of the Defence Department. Each year that I have occupied the position of Minister I have regarded it as my duty to visit the camps. In addition I have entered and remained in camps for three of four days at a time during the period of training. After all, it is the onlooker who sees most of the game, and it must be recollected that I was actuated only by a keen desire to obtain a practical knowledge of this matter.

A few years ago - although I was a strict teetotaller - I was in favour of wet canteens, because I recognised that there was a danger that if the sale of liquor in camp were prohibited the men would obtain inferior liquor outside of camp. Consequently I believed that the evil would be checked under a properly regulated canteen system. But as the result of n\y experience in the Defence Department, I have entirely changed my views. I have arrived at the conclusion - more especially since the old militia force passed away, because in that force the men were generally of greater age than are those to be found in our Citizen Forces - that the wet canteens are a danger and an evil, and that they lead to drinking amongst men who, prior to entering camps, did not drink at all.

Senator Needham - That is no reason why the wet canteen under proper supervision should be abolished.

Senator PEARCE - I am not assigning that as the only reason for its abolition. I can tell the honorable senator that during a portion of the time I have filled .the position of Minister of Defence in the present Government the Broadmeadows camp had a wet canteen. During the remaining portion of its existence the wet canteen has been abolished. I can truthfully say that I received far more complaints of drunkenness amongst soldiers in the streets of Melbourne during the period that the wet canteen was in operation than I have received since.

Senator Keating - How many men were in the camp?

Senator PEARCE - There was a greater number in camp after the wet canteen had been abolished than there was previously, and there has practically been a cessation of these complaints since its abolition.

Senator Needham - Has the Minister seen four soldiers carrying another soldier to the railway station on their way to the camp at Broadmeadows?

Senator PEARCE - No. I have not seen a great deal of drunkenness amongst the soldiers about our streets. But during the period that the wet canteen was in existence at Broadmeadows scarcely a day passed on which I did not receive letters complaining of drunkenness among soldiers who were on leave, and who were to be scon about the streets of Melbourne.

Senator Turleyspoke as if some different system of leave had been in operation during the continuance in camp of the wet canteen. As a matter of fact, the question of leave does not enter into this matter at all. The same facilities exist for getting men drink outside camp, if a wet canteen be established there, as exist if only a dry canteen is established. I say this in order to remove any misapprehension which the honorable senator's remarks may have caused.

Senator Turley - But the leave is in the discretion of the officials.

Senator PEARCE - The honorable senator implied that if a wet canteen were established in camp the same amount of leave would not be granted.

Senator O'Keefe - Would not fewer men desire to get leave ?

Senator PEARCE - The experience is that every man who obtains leave gets out of camp as soon as possible. I would direct honorable senators' attention to the ° fact that a decided change is coming over public opinion in regard to this matter. Only a few months ago a general order was published in the United States Navy, under which no intoxicants are allowed - not even wines for the officers' table. Right down to the gun-room no liquor is obtainable except for medicinal purposes.

Senator Needham - Then abolish your table money for Admiral Patey

Senator PEARCE - In the last camp for her Expeditionary Forces, at- a place called Valcartier, Canada prohibited the sale of liquor absolutely. The New Zealand Government, whose troopships are alongside of our own to-day, have also prohibited the sale of liquor on board those vessels, except for medicinal purposes. Those ships, I repeat, are steaming alongside of our own, and whilst their troops cannot obtain liquor on board except for medicinal purposes, our own have the right to secure it under Naval regulation. It is assumed that each man shall have but one pint of beer each day, and that it shall be supplied and drunk in the presence of an officer.

Senator Turley - Hear; hear ! That is control.

Senator PEARCE - Does the honorable senator think that it is effective?

Senator Turley - It should be.

Senator PEARCE - I have here a file of papers, which' some honorable senators have read.

Senator O'Keefe - I read them, and they refer to one isolated case.

Senator PEARCE - I cannot refer to that case for the reason that to do so would harrow the feelings of the relatives of a particular individual. <.

Senator O'Keefe - It would not strengthen the honorable senator's argument if he did refer to it.

Senator PEARCE - I ask honorable senators to read that file of papers.

Senator O'LOGHLIN (SOUTH AUSTRALIA) -Colonel O'Loghlin. - They show that the control is not effective.

Senator PEARCE - Quite so. If on board a troop-ship, where the men are living under the eyes of their officers, we cannot get effective control in this matter, how can we expect to secure it in a military camp, where the space is one hundred times greater for the same number of men?

Senator Shannon - What is the use of a pint of beer to a man who wants drink ?

Senator PEARCE - I remind honorable senators that Russia, one of our Allies, has absolutely struck away alcoholic drink, not only in the Russian Army, but for the whole of her people. The Government of Russia, by one stroke of the pen, have, in this time of war, when every penny of revenue is needed, sacrificed £90,000,000 of revenue from drink. Why was this done ? It was not done wildly or blindly, but because it was felt that to prevent drinking would increase the efficiency of the Naval and Military Forces.

Senator O'LOGHLIN (SOUTH AUSTRALIA) -Colonel Sir AlbertGould. - How long is it since that was determined upon ?

Senator PEARCE - That was done during the first or second week of the war.

Senator O'LOGHLIN (SOUTH AUSTRALIA) -Colonel Sir AlbertGould. - Does it apply to the whole of the people of Russia, or only to the troops?

Senator PEARCE - To the whole of the people. That was the effect of the rescript of the Czar, because it should be remembered that the Government in Russia, to a great extent, control the consumption of liquor.

Senator O'Keefe - That was under Czardom, and not under government by the people.

Senator PEARCE - I am not dealing now with varying methods of government, but I am showing what various Governments have done in this matter from the

Democratic Government of New Zealand to Czardom in Russia. It must be assumed that they have taken this action with a definite purpose, and there can be no question but that the purpose is to secure the efficiency of the troops.

Senator Needham - Has the Imperial Government stopped the issue of grog in the British Navy?

Senator PEARCE - I do not know whether they have or not, but I- can tell Senator Needham that the British Government have closed the hotels at an earlier hour than was the practice before the war.

Senator Needham - That is not the point.

Senator PEARCE - I think that it is to the point, because the Imperial Government knew that the British soldiers had opportunities to secure liquor in the hotels. The question of the supply of drink to those who are in the habit of taking it is not the only question at issue. Honorable senators should remember that many of the men who volunteered for our Expeditionary Forces were teetotallers when they first went into the camps, and the associations formed there and the presence of the canteen have tempted them to become drinkers. We know that there is a feeling amongst misguided young fellows that, if they refuse to take a glass of beer when their mates are drinking it, they may be looked upon as milksops. That feeling is not so strong to-day as it used to be. It is gradually dying out, but the fact remains that many men in the camps who previously did not touch liquor took it there for the first time, and because they were not used to it, took more than they could carry, and got drunk. Senator Turley referred us to statistics to show that the Belgians are a hard-drinking people. I wonder he did not also refer us to the cables received describing the brutalities committed by the German soldiers when they were drunk, and particularly to the fact that their brutalities and excesses increased, and they butchered women and children, when they took possession of the champagne producing districts of France.

Senator Needham - Did they get the champagne at a canteen?

Senator PEARCE - No. These are the men Senator Turley holds up to us as examples because they are big drinkers.

Senator Turley - I did not hold them up as examples.

Senator PEARCE - The honorable senator invited us to believe that the endurance and fine fighting qualities of the Belgians were due to the fact that they are big drinkers. I have reminded him of other results from drinking by soldiers. We are sending our men into those scenes of temptation, and it would be far better for them if we could inculcate habits of sobriety and the habit of total abstinence amongst them. It is better that they should go to the front as total abstainers than that they should be left open to the temptation to indulge in drink when, if bereft of their senses by drinking, they might commit excesses which would bring shame and disgrace upon the Commonwealth.

Senator Turley - On the honorable senator's argument, we should only enroll total abstainers.

Senator PEARCE - On the question of efficiency, I would ask honorable senators what are the orders given to men training for athletic sports or for a football premier- « ship. The order issued by their trainer to the team that is to battle for the football premiership is that they shall take no beer and no alcohol. The men we are training in these Expeditionary Forces are being trained for the grimmest game in human experience, a game in which the stakes are not the premiership of a football season, but the lives or deaths of individuals, and even of nations. If, in connexion with our athletic sports, we recognise that, to secure efficiency, our athletes must swear off liquor, the men we are training for the grimmest game on earth may well be called upon to refrain from any indulgence calculated to impair their efficiency. The members of a football team in training for a premiership are directed to cut out alcohol. We do not go in this matter as far as does the trainer of a football team, since footballers are obliged to abstain from alcohol, not only while they are in the training sheds, but for the whole twenty-four hours. We do not ask that of our soldiers, but that they should not take liquor whilst they are in camp preparing for the grim game of war.

Senator McDougall - Surely the honorable senator does not think that his statements are correct?

Senator PEARCE - I do.

Senator Mcdougall - Why, they train on beer.

Senator PEARCE - Senator McDougall cannot get that down my neck.

Senator McDougall - I have been in the game.

Senator PEARCE - The pugilist who expects to succeed must cut out alcohol. I know that men who are being trained are directed to cut out intoxicating liquor. I am hopeful that the amendment will be defeated. I regard this as a very serious matter. It would be a calamity in my opinion if, when this system is going on so well without the wet canteens, we should now decide to establish those canteens. There has been practically no demand for them by the soldiers at the camp. They are contented.

Senator Turley - Are they?

Senator PEARCE - Yes. No complaints have been made, and there is no dissatisfaction amongst the men. Many of the officers, I have no doubt, like their liquor, and would like to have canteens established, but I can inform honorable senators that one of our InspectorsGeneral, who at the outset of his career in Australia was in favour of the wet canteen, told me before he left the country that he had become converted to the establishment of the dry canteen.

Senator O'LOGHLIN (SOUTH AUSTRALIA) -Colonel O'Loghlin.- Was that Sir Ian Hamilton?

Senator PEARCE - No, I refer to Inspector-General Kirkpatrick. He was at first afraid that if wet canteens were not permitted liquor would be brought into the camps, but he told me that he had kept a strict watch, and that, so far as he could see, the rule was well enforced, and that officers and men, with a few isolated exceptions, were loyal to it. I do not propose to labour the matter further, but I appeal to the Committee not to make the drastic change proposed, especially at this time when the war is in progress, and we are training men to take part in one of the bloodiest conflicts in history. We know that they will need to be at the highest Ditch of physical perfection. Everything which might have the effect of hindering their preparation or impairing their efficiency should be thrown aside. Our men must be trained to the limit, and medical testimony is against the use of alcohol, and condemns it as a means for securing physical efficiency. I refer honorable senators to the records of our hospitals. Ten years ago the drink bill of the Melbourne Hos pital ran into thousands of pounds. Today, when the hospital serves five times as many patients, the liquor bill is not one-tenth of what is was ten years ago. It is recognised that even for medical purposes alcohol is not useful. On the other hand, the milk bill has taken the place of the alcohol bill, and you will scarcely find a medical man anywhere in Australia to-day who will not assert that alcohol impairs physical and mental efficiency. I put it to the Committee that this is not a question to be decided by the personal likes or dislikes of honorable senators. They are not themselves taking part in this grim game of war, but they are dealing with the men who will have to do so. I ask honorable senators not to decide this question on the ground that, because some of them take a drink occasionally, they would like to give it to others. I invite every member of the Committee to ask himself the question, " Do I believe in my heart of hearts that liquor will be of any assistance to the men who are being sent on this grim mission ? " I ask honorable senators to consider whether it would not be wise to remove all danger of temptation to drink, either in moderation or excess, from the men whom we are sending out on so terrible and dangerous a mission. I appeal to the Committee to reject the amendment.

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