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Wednesday, 25 November 1914


The CHAIRMAN - May I ask if the honorable senator intends to connect these remarks with the question before the Committee ?


Senator SHANNON - The point I wish to make, sir, is that Australia is as much at war as the Old Country. This is the greatest war of all times. I hope that Australia will assist the British Government to carry the war to such a successful issue that it will never be possible for such a conflict to take place again. I am strengthened in that hope by the fol lowing remarks, which I read in the South Australian Register yesterday -

The Prime Minister (Mr. Asquith), Mr. Balfour, and Lord Rosebery, have signed an appeal in support of the Central Committee for National Patriotic Organizations. This body is intended to educate public opinion regarding the causes and issue of the war, and to place before neutral countries a clear statement of Great Britain's case. The appeal declares : - " Come what may, there must be no weakening, no wavering, and no patched truce which shall expose our children to a revival of the German menace."


Senator de Largie - What has that to do with the wet canteen, though?


Senator SHANNON - The point I wish to make is that we want to send our soldiers to the front in the fittest possible condition.


The CHAIRMAN - Will the honorable senator direct his remarks to the question of a wet canteen ?


Senator SHANNON - I will get down to that question as soon as I can, sir. Our duty is to send our men to the front as efficient as possible. The amendment of Senator Turley is in favour of wet canteens. In support of his proposal he quoted a lot of statistics as to the greatest beer-drinking nations throughout the world. He said that little Belgium was the greatest beer-drinking nation, and yet it had put up a defence of which every British-speaking people was proud.


Senator Turley - I said, " all the people in the world."


Senator SHANNON - Will the honorable senator or any one else say for a moment that it was because the Belgians drank more beer than the people in any other part of the world that they put Up that defence? Certainly not. No one has the courage to make that statement, "because he knows that it would not be correct. The only inference to be drawn from the figures of Senator Turley was that the Belgians put up that magnificent fight because they were great beer drinkers. We might as well say that if they had been teetotallers they would not have allowed Germany to invade Belgium at all.


Senator Long - Evidently it did not militate against their military efficiency, and that is your strong argument against wet canteens.


Senator SHANNON - There is no logical argument in that. I am not prepared to say whether the Belgians would have put up a better or worse fight if they had not drunk so much beer. For whom is a wet canteen sought to be established? Not for staid men such as are in the Senate. I fail to see any analogy between a military camp and the Senate. As Senator Lynch said very forcibly, these soldiers are altogether different from any other class in the community. They are the very cream of the community. We are sending away the pick of the nation. They are in camp to-day for the purpose of discipline.


Senator de Largie - And those who favour the dry canteen are treating them as if they were children.


Senator SHANNON - Those who advocate the wet canteen charge us with repression; but they themselves advocate restriction, and the line of demarcation between restriction and repression is very difficult to find. They say there is not as much drunkenness under the wet canteen as under the dry canteen. If that is so, Senator Pearce has misled us, and I am sure he would not wilfully do so, in telling us that he has had fewer complaints under the dry than under the wet canteen. The Committee ought to accept his assurance., unless it has very strong evidence in rebuttal of it.


Senator Long - He did not refer to the frequent Police Court proceedings.


Senator SHANNON - Were there none under the wet canteen ?


Senator Long - They were very rare. The men did not come into the city and get a " skinful " and go mad.


Senator SHANNON - That serious assertion should be dealt with by the Minister.


Senator Pearce - It was during the wet-canteen period at Broadmeadows that the collisions with the police occurred in Swanston-street


Senator Long - One of them.


Senator SHANNON - Senator Long ought to be extremely careful in making an interjection of that kind.


Senator de Largie - The newspapers refer every day to prosecutions of some kind or other.


Senator SHANNON - Did they have no references to prosecutions when there was a wet canteen f


Senator de Largie - I failed to see a single one mentioned.


Senator SHANNON - There is none so blind as he who will not see, and none so deaf as he who will not hear.


Senator de Largie - Go down town any night, and you will see a lot of drunken soldiers in uniform.


Senator Pearce - Yon will see a lot of men parading in uniform who are not soldiers.


Senator SHANNON - The granting of a wet canteen will not in any way prevent the men at the camp from getting as much drink as they can to-day with a dry canteen when they get out. They will be able not only to get drink in the camp, but also to go outside and obtain as much as they can now. This means that they will get a double quantity. Some people say, " I would not do what Soandso does"; but no man can say what he will do until he is tempted. A wet canteen puts temptation before these young men, large numbers of whom probably have never known what intoxicating liquor is, and the very first drink they get from the canteen may be the first step towards their downfall.


Senator Long - Does the honorable senator really believe that because there is no canteen in the camp the men will not get drink?


Senator SHANNON - I believe these young men who have never known temptation will most probably never know it without a wet canteen.


Senator Long - You are charmingly simple.


Senator SHANNON - The honorable senator is welcome to his opinion. With all deference to Senator Turley's statement that he was a temperate drinker, and had been so all his life, the kind of speech he made the other day, with its egotistical references to more work being done for temperance by the organization to which he belongs than by all the temperance bodies throughout Australia, does more harm to, and puts more hindrance in the way of, the work of the temperance societies than probably any other cause.


Senator Turley - Is that because it is the truth?


Senator SHANNON - It is because when these impressionable young ' men read such speeches, recognising what Senator Turley is, and remembering that he has occupied in this Chamber one of the highest positions to which his fellowmen can call him, they say, " Senator Turley says you can be a moderate drinker and get along all right."


Senator Turley - Hear, hear! I saythat everywhere.


Senator SHANNON - The honorable senator may be like the Pharisee of old, who smote himself on the breast and said, " God, I thank Thee I am not as other men are." He has evidently not made much study of human nature. Has he ever seen a drunkard recruited from the temperance ranks ?


Senator Turley - I know a number - men who have been at the head of the temperance movement.


Senator SHANNON - Drunkards are recruited from the moderate drinkers. I challenge the honorable senator to show me any individual who has taken his first glass of intoxicating liquor with the intention of becoming a drunkard. These men all take the first drink with the intention of being moderate drinkers - somewhere between a glass and a barrel, according to one's capacity for holding liquor. Those are the ranks from which the drunkards come.


Senator Long - It is a good job you were never tempted.


Senator SHANNON - I told the Committee that I had been. I honestly ask Senator Turley and those who are supporting him to reconsider their position, and not to put this temptation in the way of young men. We open the meetings of this Chamber daily by reading the Lord's Prayer, the greatest line in which is " Lead us not into temptation." If we carry the proposed new clause, we shall be putting temptation in the way of these young men; and I ask Senator Turley to reconsider the matter, because he and his supporters have not shown us one case to justify it, except Senator Story's tale about a man who was sustained by a little brandy for a few minutes while he fired a gun.


Senator Story - Hundreds more can be made out.


Senator SHANNON - Where drink has assisted men to win a battle? I should like to hear them. On the contrary, alcohol as a stimulant is so reactionary in its effects that its use leads to more disease than any other known cause, because it eats up the white corpuscles of the blood. Senator Turley said, " I do not want to deprive the men of the good things of life." Alcohol has caused more crime, misery, accidents, unhappiness and degradation than all other known causes put together. If the honorable senator calls that one of the good things of life, what does he call the bad things ?


Senator Long - Deeming was a teetotaller.


Senator SHANNON - He may have been; he was a fiend incarnate.


Senator Watson - He could not have had the nerve had he been a drunkard.


Senator SHANNON - The honorable senator has furnished a very apt reply. He says that if Deeming had not been a teetotaller, he could never have been Deeming. He would never have had the courage to carry out his atrocities if he had been addicted to alcohol.


Senator Long - In other words, if be had "not been a teetotaller, he would not have been a murderer.


Senator SHANNON - After all, these soldiers are going to the front to slay their fellow men, and in that capacity they do not want any stimulant to do their duty. The greatest difficulty is to restrain them from going too fast, and they do not require Dutch courage. We are charged with repressing our soldiers, and with doing for them what we should not do for ourselves. Are those in favour of the wet canteen prepared to give the men complete licence? They propose to give them the canteen under certain restrictions, so as to make temperate men of them, but that sort of restriction will never do it. Instead of adopting halfmeasures, we must go the "whole hog," and keep the canteens in our camps dry. The Minister of Defence gave the Committee valuable information about hospitals. The reduction of the hospital bills for alcohol and the increase of their bills for milk show that the medical profession are realizing that alcohol does not possess the curative properties which have frequently been attributed to it. I am sorry that Senator Blakey is not present, because he contended that there had been more complaints of drunkenness amongst the troops of our Second Expeditionary Force at Broadmeadows under the dry canteen than there had been amongst the members of our First Expeditionary Force under the wet canteen. The Minister of Defence, however, gave this allegation a flat contradiction. Thus we have two conflicting statements - one by the Minister, who is in a position to know the facts; and the other by Senator Blakey, who has not the same opportunity for acquiring reliable information. In. these circumstances I am impelled to the conclusion that Senator Blakey has permitted somebody to " pull his leg."


Senator Story - Senator Blakey said that he had visited the camp, and had made inquiries from the officers there.


Senator SHANNON - Of course nobody in camp would dream of pulling Senator Blakey's leg upon the question of the desirableness or otherwise of the wet canteen. I extremely regret that Senator Blakey, who would prohibit the manufac- ture and sale of liquor within the Commonwealth, and Senator McDougall, who has been a teetotaller all his life, should so far forget their temperance principles as to support the establishment of a wet canteen. Senator Needham, during his speech on Friday last, had a good deal to say about " wowserism."


Senator Findley - What is a "wowser"?


Senator SHANNON - A " wowser " is a man who stands at an hotel bar eating free lunches and sponging free drinks until he develops warts on his chest. When Senator Needham inquired why the Minister did not call for recruits who were teetotallers, Senator Turley asked, by way of interjection, how many would be forthcoming. Do those honorable senators mean to insinuate that if the Minister called for applicants for service abroad from teetotallers alone, there would be no response? Do they suggest that, if we do not establish wet canteens in our camps, men will not enrol? If they do not, what do they mean? Such remarks, I contend, cast the greatest slur possible upon our Expeditionary Forces.


Senator Story - Did anybody say that?


Senator SHANNON - Senator Turleyinquired, " How many would apply for enrolment if enlistment were limited to teetotallers? " I say, unhesitatingly, that there is not a man in our Expeditionary Forces to-day who would not have enlisted had the dry canteen been in operation from the very beginning. If there be one such individual, it were better, fifty thousand times, that he should stay behind and drown himself in a barrel of beer, than that he should go to the front, because he would only be a hindrance when he got there. Is there any Britisher who has not felt the blood course more rapidly through his veins as he read of the arrival of the British "Tommies" in Paris, where the Frenchwomen acclaimed them as the "Brave, brave English"? Fancy Senator Needham as Brigadier-General in a Bantam battalion there, and a French lady putting her arms around his neck and exclaiming, " You brave, brave Englishman." We can imagine how his heart would thrill. Why, he would be in the seventh heaven of delight. But what would happen if he had a cargo of beer behind the fifth button of his waistcoat? In support of my contention that alcohol, at the best, is merely a false stimulant, I need point to no higher authority than Dr. Nansen, who, until recent years, had penetrated farther north than had any other explorer. During his second expedition to the Arctic regions he absolutely prohibited the use of alcohol amongst the members of his expedition. Why? Because he had proved upon a previous journey that men could withstand extreme cold better without alcohol than they could with it.


Senator Long - I wonder how cases bearing the name of John Dewar and Sons found their way to the Arctic regions ?


Senator SHANNON - I do not know. But I am told that when the North Pole is reached a Scotchman will be found sitting upon it. I wish now to say a word or two on behalf of the fathers and mothers of our young men who are bound for the front. I have received more correspondence in one day upon this question of the abolition of the wet canteen in our camps than I have ever received in the same time in my parliamentary experience. With the indulgence of honorable senators I would like to read an extract or two from some of these communications.


Senator Long - We have all had them. We will take them as read.


Senator SHANNON - One letter is from Mr. Fletcher, of Port Adelaide. He says -

In my church to-night, with more than 500 people present, I put the following resolution, at the same time frankly inviting any one who did not agree with it not to vote, but every man and woman in the church rose to their feet in protest - voting in favour of the resolution - with a spontaneity that was marvellous.


The CHAIRMAN - I will call the attention of the honorable senator to standing order 414, which reads -

No senator shall read extracts from newspapers or other documents, except Hansard, referring to debates in the Senate during the same session.


Senator SHANNON - I shall refrain from making any further quotations. But I wish to say, on behalf of the parents of our young men who are now bound for the front, that we should sedulously avoid placing them in the way of temptation. I think I am safe in saying that the average age of the members of our Expeditionary Forces is about twenty-six years.


Senator Pearce - I do not think it is so high.


Senator Mullan - It is more likely to be twenty-three years.


Senator SHANNON - So much the better for my argument. It will thus be seen that those Forces are composed of young men of a very impressionable age. In these circumstances, is it to be wondered at that their parents are anxious that the wet canteen shall not be countenanced in camp? Certainly not. My sympathies are with these parents, who deserve some consideration at the hands of this Committee. I feel that they would fifty times rather their sons perished by the sword at the front than that even one of them should return a drunkard. In the 23rd chapter of Proverbs and the 32nd verse, we are told that at the last strong drink biteth like a serpent and stingeth like an adder. I repeat that there is not one of the parents of our men who are going to the front but would prefer that they should die there by the sword than return drunkards to their households. Why do I say this? It is because to be slain in battle is honorable, whilst a man who gives way to liquor to excess becomes a disgrace not only to himself but to his family. I implore the Committee to think twice before they accept Senator Turley' s amendment. I realize that men may get drunk from other causes than by drinking liquor to excess. I have seen men who might be described as drunk with enthusiasm or excitement.


Senator Long - I have seen men get blind drunk on water.


Senator Guy - The honorable senator has also seen men get drunk on land.


Senator SHANNON - I am not good at conundrums. I have never seen a man blind drunk. Senator Long probably intends to say that in crossing Bass Strait on the Loongana he has seen men drunk on board the ship.


Senator Long - Not on the Loongana.


Senator SHANNON - Well, on some other boat. The honorable senator wishes only to mislead the Committee when he says that he has seen men get blind drunk on water.


Senator Long - The point I wish to make is that it is just as easy to get drunk on water as it is on land.


Senator SHANNON - I agree with the honorable senator if he wishes to suggest that we should not permit wet canteens on board our transport ships any more than in our camps.


Senator Long - Is the honorable senator aware that every British transport has its wet canteen?


Senator SHANNON - I know that Lord Kitchener's last word of advice to the British soldiers as they left the shores of Great Britain was that they should refrain from liquor.


Senator McDougall - That is our advice to them, too.


Senator SHANNON - Then what more do honorable senators want? What better evidence can they have of the view entertained by the Imperial military authorities? What arguments will sway honorable senators if they do not wish to be swayed?


Senator Long - The honorable senator has not answered my question. Is he aware that every British transport has its wet canteen ?


Senator SHANNON - I am not aware of it.


Senator Long - Is the honorable senator aware that every Australian transport when it comes under the Imperial authorities will be similarly equipped?


Senator SHANNON - I understand that when the men get to the front they will get no spirits or beer at all.


Senator Long - The honorable senator will get a rude awakening.


Senator Bakhap - According to the press the most complete arrangements have been made to supply the men at the front with the best liquor.


Senator SHANNON - That is for medicinal purposes.


Senator Pearce - That is a medicinal issue.


Senator SHANNON - I am glad that the Minister has indorsed the reply I made to Senator Bakhap, that the provision of liquor for men at the front is for medicinal purposes. I have said that I realize that men lose their presence of mind from other causes than a too great indulgence in liquor, and at the present juncture it behoves us to see that we are not intemperate from a source other than that of liquor. It behoves us to bring sane minds to the settlement of this question. We want our Forces to be efficient, and we want the fathers and mothers of Australia whose sons are going to the front to be under no misgiving from the causes involved in this question. I implore the Committee to reject Senator Turley's amendment, and to decide that only dry canteens shall be permitted in our camps. I conclude with this quotation from Kipling -

If,drunk with sight of power, we loose

Wild tongues that have not Thee in awe -

Such boastings as the Gentiles used, Or lesser breeds without the Law -

Lord God of Hosts, be with us yet,

Lest we forget - lest we forget.







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