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Wednesday, 25 November 1914

Senator PEARCE - Such an amendment would be absolutely impracticable.

Senator STORY - I do not think so; it would simply throw the onus on the Defence Department. If the Minister admits that his officers are incapable of giving effect to regulations, then my proposal might be an impracticable one. But in a military encampment where all soldiers are bound to obey orders, surely it is possible to instruct the officer in charge of the canteen that he must not supply any lad under the age of twentyone years with intoxicants, unless they are ordered by a medical officer. Perhaps later on the Minister will point out how it would be impossible. Men accustomed to drink beer cannot be prevented from doing so by merely framing a regulation that they shall not be permitted to obtain it in a military camp. If they cannot get it there they will go outside to get it, and going outside they will be much more likely to indulge to excess than they would be if they were able to obtain what they want in a camp canteen where the supply would, be regulated. If our soldiers canobtain a glass of beer in a canteen they will remain in camp, and if they are compelled to go outside into the cities to obtain what they require, they will be exposed to other forms of temptation to* which many men from the country are more susceptible than they are to the temptation to 'drink. The amendment I move should meet the objections to the new clause proposed by Senator Turley, as it would remove the temptation from mere boys. We know very well what occurs in connexion with our general experience. Honorable senators must be aware that at Wonthaggi and at Mildura, where hotel licences are refused, there has been a great deal of sly-grog selling, and the evils of the drink traffic are felt at such places more acutely than anywhere else. In my opinion it would be in the interests of the Government, and of the men they employ, if they decided to establish wet canteens on all great railway works. Any one who knows anything about railway works must know that people with vans and carts follow up the men as the work is proceeded with, and supply them with spirits of a very inferior quality. On every railway works grog selling is rampant, and no one has yet attempted to prevent it. The same thing applies to military camps, and if liquor is supplied to the soldiers under regulation, the quantity can be limited according to the capacity of the soldier to carry drink, and drunkenness in the camps may be almost entirely done away with. I know of no organization that should be better fitted to regulate such a traffic in a proper manner than the military organization. I believe that, if the Committee accept the new clause, as I propose to amend it, the results will be found to be really and truly in the interests of temperance. Many of the leaders of temperance organizations have never tasted drink, and know nothing of the conditions prevailing in large encampments of men, but, reading reports of a few cases of drunkenness, they come at once to the conclusion that the men get drunk because beer is supplied to them in a camp canteen. Men will have beer, and I think they should be allowed beer.

Senator Shannon - Would the honorable senator give them free licence to drink ?

Senator STORY - Senator Shannon is talking about free licence, and I am talking about supplying men with a perfectly wholesome beverage under regulation. The men who have most to say about the injurious effects of beer are men who have never tasted it.

Senator Shannon - I have tasted it, and I can speak from both sides of the question'.

Senator STORY - I will amend my statement, and say that the men who have most to say about the injurious effects of beer are nien who have never tasted it, or reformed drunkards, who, when they took liquor, could not help taking it to excess. We know that the reformed drunkard is always the most bigoted prohibitionist. I have been drinking beer for fifty years, and I am sure that I am not one bit the worse for it. Throughout my life I have been working with other men at laborious work, and I know, in spite of all that may have been said by Lords Kitchener and Roberts, that a pint of beer given to a man who is nearly exhausted will put new life into him. Only yesterday in the newspapers we read a cablegram from the front stating that an officer had demolished a whole German regiment with the assistance of a little drop of brandy. A friend gave him a little brandy, and it stimulated him to keep his gun going. Fortunately there was enough brandy at hand to enable this officer to stand up long enough to wipe out the enemy. If he had not been able to get that little drop of brandy he would have fallen exhausted, and the Germans would have taken credit for another victory. Many of us may perhaps be prone, when we get an idea into our heads, to fight for it irrespective of everything else, but I think that the amendment I have moved should overcome the difficulty, which, in the minds of some honorable senators, is raised by the proposed new clause. If the temptation to drink is withheld, as I propose, from boys under twenty-one years of age, it can hardly be said to be a source of danger to those who are over that age. I submit the amendment in the hope that it will be accepted by the Committee as a means of settling this vexed question.

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