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Friday, 20 November 1914

Senator McDOUGALL (New South Wales) . - I have received several communications from temperance organizations in New South Wales advising me to vote in a certain way on this amendment. I speak on the subject from the point of view of a man who does not know the taste of beer. I have not tasted it for thirty-seven years, and if I live for thirty-seven years more I do not think I will taste it. I was a total abstainer for twenty-five years, and my first public appearance was made in connexion with a temperance organization. Speaking from this point of view, I am going to give my vote for wet canteens, on the ground that I have not the right to deprive any man of the privilege of drinking beer if he wants it. I have read that an army chaplain attending the Presbyterian Assembly claimed that he had not seen a great deal of drunkenness in the Broadmeadows Camp when there was a wet canteen there. When we have such evidence, we ought not to fear to trust the men in this matter. When I was a strict temperance advocate I worked with men who did just as good work as I did, but who had a glass of beer at 11 o'clock if they could get it, and another when they knocked off at 5 o'clock. They were just as good men as I could claim to be, I say we have no right to deprive such men of what they regard as a luxury if they want it, and think it is good for them. I visited the camp of the Garrison Artillery in my own State several times. I saw men there who had given their lives to military 'work, and they were very much aggrieved because they were not permitted, as they previously had been for many years, to obtain beer at their canteen and at the sergeants' mess. I say that it is not right to deprive those men of a privilege because a few would abuse it. Senator Pearce has used the argument that men training for football premierships and athletes generally are always prohibited from taking intoxicating drink. That is a fallacious argument. I happen to know that men in training for athletic sports, football matches, and so on, are permitted to drink beer under certain conditions, but, of course, those who indulge freely and become sodden with drink are turned out. I say that any man who, in the camp, abuses the privilege to obtain beer should be dealt with. I have seen some disgraceful things in connexion with the Expeditionary Forces. On "Wednesday afternoon I saw a blackfellow in uniform making an exhibition of himself in Flindersstreet. Men who are clearly so disposed should not be allowed to go with our Forces. The men who do these things should be punished, but we should not punish all the men because of the indiscretions of a few. That is what the Minister is doing in depriving men who would not abuse the privilege of what they consider a luxury and a right. I should not care if all the hotels in Australia were closed, and if there were not a brewery in the country. It would mean nothing to me.

Senator Watson - It would mean a lot to the community.

Senator McDOUGALL - That is so, and those who advocate the principle of total prohibition will always have my support. I will not tell honorable senators why I left the temperance organization, but it was not because I did something to which they objected, but because I considered that the organizations were not making for the goal for which they should make. The Minister of Defence based an argument against the wet canteen' on the atrocities committed by the Germans. If they were due to drink, I am sorry to say that we have some in our own community who would behave in exactly . the same way if they had the opportunity. I say that that was an unfair argument to use. There is no proof that the atrocities committed by the Germans were due to drink. They might very well be at tributed to some other causes. I know what a maddened soldier is. We have read of the awful atrocities that occurred during the war between the Balkan States, and I suppose we shall get many more particulars later on of evil things done during the present war. The horrors of war are such that it is the last thing we should desire to see, but we shall not get our best men to go to the war if we say that we will not send any who take a glass of beer. I can see what is occurring in the streets of our cities, and what many of these men are doing. I say that there are greater sources of danger to the men in the streets than the taking of a glass of beer. There is great danger that they may introduce into their camps evils which have been the cause of the downfall of many an army. To mention these things is not considered Christian, and they have to be covered up; but I say that if the Minister and the Defence Department would see that the men are not inflicted with some of these awful diseases before they leave our big cities they would do more for them than they will do by preventing them having a drink in a canteen. I did not think it right to vote for the amendment without giving my reasons. I support it because I do not consider that by any vote of mine I have a right to deprive any man of what he considers a right and a luxury. I speak from a temperance point of view. I can recognise quite as well as Senators Watson and Pearce tha awful crimes that are committed as the result of over indulgence in drink. I am prepared to admit that it is the curse of civilization, and those who will advocate the prohibition of its manufacture altogether will have my assistance. Those who wish to uproot a rotten tree will not accomplish the end they have in view by lopping off a few leaves at the end of the branches. I shall give my vote for the amendment, because I am not willing to deprive a fellow citizen of what he regards as a right.

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