Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
Wednesday, 25 November 1914

Senator FERRICKS (Queensland) . - The debate which has taken place upon this question, including the few sermons and lecturettes that have been delivered, has not been altogether a dry one. But I am somewhat at a loss to understand the grounds upon which those who oppose the establishment of wet canteens base their objections. Do those objections spring from a desire to preserve unsullied the innocence and sobriety of the youthful members of our Expeditionary Forces or from a wish to advance the temperance movement as a whole ? If the former, all the speakers who have entertained that view have been anything but flattering to members of our Expeditionary Forces. Are we to understand from :the sentiments which have been uttered that practically all of the members of those Forces are young fellows who have just left the apron strings of their mothers? . Is it to go forth to the world that they are the class who constitute the greater portion of our Expeditionary Forces. I beg to take an opposite view. I have met many of these men from Queensland, and I have found that they are seasoned' bushmen. Many of them are as old as I am, and some of them are older. They_ are men who have seen all phases of life in the north and west of Queensland. Is it to go forth uncontradicted that in the ranks of our Expeditionary Forces there are none but juveniles? On the other hand, if the opposition to the wet canteen springs from a desire to advance the temperance movement as a whole, then I differ from the view which has been expressed by certain honorable senators. I have always held that, in the interests of temperance reform, the desired change should not be brought about by any repressive legislation or restrictive administration. Australians, as a whole, cannot be charged with insobriety. That has been conclusively proved by Senator Turley. As a nation we are one of the most sober people in the world. But if it were a fact that we are not given to sobriety, my opinion of Australian feeling is that Australians are never going to be " sand bagged " into sobriety. We can never make them sober by legislative enactment or by repression in any form.

Senator Lt Colonel O'loghlin - We can remove the temptation to insobriety out of their way.

Senator FERRICKS - I contend that 95 per cent, or 99 per cent, of the men of our Expeditionary Forces have seen various phases of Australian life as we know it. They have had these temptations before them for years past. I do not wish to say that 99 per cent, of them are men of from twenty-five to twenty-six years of age, but I do say that the young Australian of eighteen or nineteen years of age is no simpleton. His fond or indulgent parent may imagine that he does not know the ways of the world, but, in my opinion, young men of eighteen or nineteen years of age to-day are well advanced in wisdom, and in experience of the pitfalls and ills of life. I have no fear that young Australians of that age can be trapped and enticed into the ills foreshadowed by the opponents of the wet canteen.

Senator Turley - The proposed new clause, as amended, will apply only to those over twenty-one years of age.

Senator FERRICKS - I cannot say that I am very enthusiastic about Senator Story's amendment. I know that, when in the Queensland Parliament a restrictive measure was introduced in an endeavour to make people sober by legislation, I opposed the provision forbidding publicans to supply liquor to persons under twenty-one years of age. Events have proved that the position taken up by those who opposed that provision was justified, because, in various parts of the State, persons under twenty-one years of age are being served with liquor, the reason being that it is almost impossible for a policeman to discriminate between persons just under that age and over it.

Senator Turley - The hotelkeeper is penalized in every case.

Senator FERRICKS -The onus of proof that the person served is not under twentyone years of age is upon the hotelkeeper all the time. We contend that, with the closer regulation and more intimate control of the wet canteens in military camps, such a provision should be far more effective than if applied generally. If it be held that opposition to wet canteens is in the interests of the temperance movement, I suggest to our friends inside and outside this Chamber who feel keenly on this question that they very often start at the wrong end. The way to bring about temperance reform is to better the condition of the workers. That is the Labour party's idea. They believe that, by bettering the condition of the workers, people will be given a worthy ambition, and will find something better to do than waste their substance in drinking.

Senator Turley - The platform of the Labour party is control of the liquor traffic throughout.

Senator FERRICKS - Quite so. It is our policy to have State control of the traffic. We have here an opportunity to approach that policy by providing for control of the traffic by the Defence Department. If that Department cannot control a wet canteen, what becomes of the boasted discipline in connexion with military operations, of which we hear so much 1

Sitting suspended from 6.80 to S p.m.

Senator FERRICKS - I was referring, before we adjourned for .dinner, to what I regard as a genuine system of temperance reform, which takes the shape of a movement to better the conditions generally of the people. I believe that the Minister of Defence, in proposing the abolition of the wet canteen, is under the impression that his action is consistent with that genuine system of social reform. Australians as a people are becoming every day more sober as time goes on. The first generation of Australians drank less than did their forefathers, and the people of the second generation less than those of the first. This is particularly noticeable in Queensland, and especially in the northern districts of that State. There could be no better illustration of the effect in the direction of temperance reform of the improved general conditions and standard of living of the community than is to be found in the sugar districts of Queensland. I am sure that my colleagues from Queensland will be prepared to bear me out in this, irrespective of the views they may take on the question now before the Committee. In the past, when the workers in the sugar mills and cane-fields of Queensland were called upon to work for eleven or twelve hours a day, and for a wage as low as 4½d. an hour, or 25s. a week, they could not be excused if they were without ambition. A change in their conditions was brought about by a Federal Labour

Government, when Mr. Tudor, as Minister of Trade and Customs, issued a regulation providing for the payment of a wage of ls. an hour. I contend, and I think with every justification, that that action brought about a more genuine temperance reform in the sugar districts of Queensland than had previously been achieved there by the work of the combined temperance organizations. If a man is asked to work seventy hours a week for 25s., how can he be blamed for seeking relaxation on the Sunday at a hotel bar ? I say that he is more to be pitied than blamed. I wish to remind those who are associated with the temperance cause that on election day some are to be found, in effect, going arminarm to the ballot-box with the brewers, the wine and spirit merchants, and the publicans to vote against -the Labour party - the party of true social reform. In common with other members- of the Senate, I have been the recipient of a number of circulars and letters from many of these temperance organizations.

Senator Turley - Thanks to me.

Senator FERRICKS - Yes, thanks to Senator Turley. From one temperance body in Queensland I received two wires in the same terms, so that they made sure they would reach me. I admit that they are at liberty to circularize honorable senators in this way; but we have equal liberty to refuse to act in accordance with their directions. It will be a sorry day for the Labour party when it is dictated to by any outside section or faction in the community. If ever that time arrives, we can say farewell to the Labour party as the party of social reform in this country. I have treated the communications just received in connexion with this question as I treat similar communications from every section of the community. I do not answer them, and do not give any pledge to any section on any matter of public importance outside the Labour platform, but invite them all to come along and put their views forward in a public manner. I say to the members of the Queensland societies such as the Women's Christian Temperance "Union, the Independent Order of Good Templars, and the Temperance Alliance, that, as organizations, they are to be found at election time voting, not for the party of social reform, the Labour party, but for the party of vested interests in the brewing and spirit line. I do not doubt that there are many sincere and earnest temperance advocates in all these associations, and I say to them that, if they will direct their energies to bringing about social reform in the general uplifting of the community, they will achieve very much more in the direction of temperance reform. There are also amongst these temperance organizations a number pf double-dyed hypocrites. That is a strong term to use, but it is the only one that fits the situation, speaking of some of them as we know them in Queensland. The Queensland Government tried repressive legislation of the kind sought to be introduced by the abolition of the wet canteen. The name of the anti-Labour Government in Queensland at the present time is synonymous with low wages. The head and sub-head of that Government are two of 'the loudest and most blatant, self-styled social reformers and temperance advocates in that State. Mr. Barnes, the Treasurer of Queensland, who is supposed to be the power behind the throne in the Government of that State, never loses an opportunity to advocate in public the cause of temperance and social reform ; but, when the sugarworkers were working for twelve hours a day at 4id. an hour, we found Mr. Barnes ranged alongside the Colonial Sugar Refining Company, and placing the whole of the machinery of the State Government at the disposal of that corporation in the endeavour to defeat the efforts of the men to obtain an eight-hours day and a wage of 5s. a day. If men of that calibre were offered the choice of total prohibition of the liquor traffic in Queensland as against a system under which men would be called upon to compete one against the other for their labour, or to work at sweating wages for vested interests, they would go for the low-wage system every rime. Therefore, there is no sincerity in the social reform advocated by men of that character. It is all very well for these people to blatantly assert the virtues of temperance and social reform, but the past history of Queensland shows that they have been prepared to enslave men, to work them eleven and twelve hours a day, and on the Sunday to give them a sheaf of biblical quotations and temperance tracts for recreation. That is only so much arrant hypocrisy. Such people are the enemies of real social reform and the uplifting of the people generally. I feel keenly on this question, having been in a position to contrast existing conditions in the sugar districts of Queensland with those which prevailed prior to the improvement of those conditions. As soon as wages in the sugar mills and cane-fields were raised to 9s., 9s. 4d., and even 10s. per day, we found that the young men engaged in the work came into the towns on Saturday nights with their lady friends and took them to dances, theatres, and other social entertainments. They were no longer found hanging over the hotel bars, as they did when they were only paid 4£d. an hour for their work.

The CHAIRMAN - Order ! I remind the honorable senator that, while the matter to which he is referring is of very great interest, it is scarcely relevant to the question before the Committee.

Senator FERRICKS - I bow to your ruling, sir, but it is rather amusing to hear Senator Shannon say, " Hear, hear," seeing that, in his speech, he traversed the ' history of the war from A to Z.My idea of temperance and social reform, which I have no doubt prompted the Minister to abolish the wet canteen, is to endeavour, to the best of our ability and power, to uplift the people industrially, and to give them something better to do than to hang over hotel bars, and not to drive them to such places by virtue of wage slavery operating under sweating conditions which would continue if our opponents had their way. Referring to the action taken by the Minister, there is one feature which has not been mentioned yet, and it is that the abolition of the wet canteen, to a degree at any rate, will irritate some persons. N/ow, some persons take and enjoy a glass of spirits, while other persons, including myself, take and enjoy a glass of beer. Such persons will be subjected to some irritation in not having the means at their disposal when they enter upon arduous work' to satisfy their desire.

Senator GRANT - But no spirits are sold in the canteen.

Senator FERRICKS - I think there should be.

Senator Grant - But there is not.

Senator FERRICKS - It is a matter of administration, and does not affect the principle of my argument. So far as I am concerned, if any persons prefer tea they are welcome to it. My honorable friend, Senator Watson, sang the virtues of ammonia; as a stimulant he can use it. Those who prefer smelling salts can use them; but, by all means, a man who has been in the habit of taking a glass of beer should have the facility of getting what he desires. In all seriousness, I advise the Minister not to introduce too many irritating phases into the defence scheme. Before the war occurred, we were in a position to gauge public opinion regarding the defence system. Judging from my experience in Queensland, which, no doubt, is typical of Australia, the Australian people as a whole, were only tolerating the defence system. I believe that after the conclusion of the war that feeling of toleration will return. The outbreak of the war, and of course the present serious situation, have impressed upon the people the stern necessity of having a system of defence, but the Australian people as a whole are not going to submit to too much flummery and frippery in connexion with professional militarism. They will not stand, for instance, too many Admiral Pateys receiving a table allowance of £4 10s. a day. If irritations of that kind are imposed upon the people, and little comforts such as a wet canteen for some persons are withheld, it will only make the position irksome, and our defence scheme will not be so popular as it has been. I am a firm believer in a compulsory system, not so much from the martial aspect as from the physical aspect. It is good, undoubtedly, for young men to go through a course of physical training. It is the finest thing to which growing youths can be subjected. But I do not think that the Australian people, as a whole, will ever come to embrace a cast-iron system of militarism. We, as Labour advocates, hope to see the day when, in advancing temperance and social reform, we shall also advance the idea of international peace. We hope to see the day when the workers of the world will have sufficient sense that, when a war is declared, they will throw down their tools and take a holiday, and tell those who bring about the war to go and do the fighting. I submit that then there will be little warfare. But until that time comes a system of naval and military defence is necessary, and in order to retain the popularity of the system about which the people were not over enthusiastic prior to the war, I think that the Minister and the Department as a whole would be well advised not to introduce too many irritating conditions. Let me consider the other aspect of the question. It might be said that persons are buoyed up to a state of greater efficiency by total abstention from liquor. That argument has been urged here time and again during this debate. I do not admit for a moment that the argument is correct, because I think that indulgence in a stimulant, whether it be beer or spirits, is no bar to efficiency. But assuming the contention to be true, how will it appeal to a lot of persons outside? They will ask, " Is it the intention of the National Parliament to make perfect an instrument of butchery, to build up a man as a gamecock might be fed up prior to battle, so that he can slay as many people as possible ?" It will be seen that there are two sides from which to view the arguments which have been advanced. Only this afternoon it was pointed out here that, owing to the abstemious life of the late, but unlamented, Mr. Deeming, he had sufficient nerve to commit a large number of atrocities, and that, if he had not been a total abstainer, he would not have had the nerve to do what he did. Would it be fair for me to ask, Is it the desire of the people of Australia that we should build up Deemings? That is the logical sequence of the argument which was advanced by my honorable friend in all seriousness.

Senator Shannon - Where does your logical conclusion come to?

Senator FERRICKS - The honorable senator advanced that argument.

Senator Shannon - No, not in that way at all. You are turning it round to suit your own ends, and you know it.

Senator FERRICKS - The honorable senator deliberately said that had not tha late, but unlamented, Mr. Deeming been a teetotaller he would not have had the nerve to do what he did.

Senator Shannon - He might not have had it.

Senator FERRICKS - I hope that in Australia we shall never see the day when our objective will be to rear up a nation of Deemings. In support of the amendment of Senator Turley, I submit that it is quite unreasonable that men in au Expeditionary Force, or men in the Militia Forces, or men between eighteen and twenty-one years of age in the Citizen Forces should he deprived of the opportunity to get anything which they think they need, or from which they think that they might derive a slight comfort or pleasure. The comforts and the pleasures of the working people of Australia, in common with the workers all over the world, are not many. If it be a pleasure to some persons to have at their hands the facility for obtaining liquor, it is not the duty of the Defence Department to prohibit them from having it.

Senator Shannon - Would you give them free license?

Senator FERRICKS - No ; I would not be so narrow-minded as to say that an able-bodied soldier, who is considered sufficiently strong physically to go to the front to fight the battles of the British nation, should bo restricted to one glass or one pint of beer a day. .1 would say, give him more if he wants it, but I would throw upon the Department the onus of not giving a man too much.

Senator Shannon - You would have some restriction ?

Senator FERRICKS - Only the restriction of common sense under the control of the Department in carrying on the canteen. We have been referred again to the youth of Australia. I ask the parents who have been appealed to by honorable senators this afternoon to remember that their boys of eighteen and nineteen years of age may not be quite so innocent as they think.

Senator Shannon - Is that a reason why we should put further temptation in their way ?

Senator FERRICKS - I do not admit that it is a temptation. It is the duty of fathers and mothers to enlighten their sons as to the conditions prevailing in the world.

Senator Shannon - How are they going to do it?

Senator FERRICKS - This afternoon I said that, in my opinion, 95 per cent, of our Australian youths over the age of nineteen years are quite conversant with the conditions of Australian life. If ever I am blessed by God with a son I will take him into my full confidence long before he reaches that age. I think it would be a good thing for the Australian nation if every father had a heart to heart talk with his son long before he became eighteen years old - not only from the temperance stand-point, but from other points of view - in the interests of the young men themselves.

Senator Watson - Surely you would not initiate him into the use of drink?

Senator FERRICKS - That raises another question. Let us recall the days when we were between twelve and fourteen years of age. I remember very well that when I was twelve years old my elder brother did not swear in my presence; but let me assure Senator Shannon that whenever I was dealing with a refractory cow or a jibbing horse, I could let go a flow of good Australian just as well as my elder brother.

Senator Shannon - That did not help the cow or the horse.

Senator FERRICKS - I did not say that it did. I am only exposing the fallacy of the honorable senator's argument about the evil example.

Senator Long - Did your elder brother ever express admiration at your flow of language ?

Senator FERRICKS - No; I took fine care that he did not hear me, just as the youth of Australia to-day take good care that their fathers do not hear their language. Returning to the interjection of Senator Watson, let me relate an experience which I have had repeatedly. In our knocking about days I have gone into a hotel with a young man and heard him call for a' glass of beer, sometimes for a pint of beer; I have gone into a hotel with the young man and his father, but in the presence of his father he would have a glass of lemonade. That is hypocrisy, and I do not think it should be encouraged. It would have been far better for the father of that young man to have allowed him to have beer in his presence.

Senator Shannon - Better.

Senator FERRICKS - I agree with the honorable senator for once.

Senator Shannon - I do not believe in hypocrisy, let me tell you.

Senator FERRICKS - There is a lot of hypocrisy in a great majority of those who are attached to the associations which have been circularizing honorable senators ' on this question.

Senator Senior - No.

Senator FERRICKS - In Queensland, anyhow. I sincerely trust that the Senate will view seriously this question of abolishing the wet canteen. I am quite prepared to take any responsibility attaching to my vote "for Senator Turley's amendment. I think that Senator Lynch was rather unfair in expressing the opinion that Senator Turley by his action was liable to get a certain vote. I know Queensland, perhaps, as well as Senator Lynch does, and know that Senator Turley by the action he has taken stands to lose more votes than he will gain. He has moved the amendment because he thought it was right to do so. I am supporting him for the same reason. Senator Lynch was entirely wide of the mark, and of the aspirations of the people of this country, when he said the first duty of a soldier was to obey. It may seem a strange doctrine to disagree with that dictum.; but I trust that the day will never come when the first duty of an Australian soldier will be to obey. Let him obey what is just and right, but not submit to everything that comes from some military-adorned person who may want to show his authority, however briefly it may be vested in him. I assure Senator Lynch that that doctrine will not go down with the people of the Commonwealth, and the sooner the Defence Department realize it, and shape their administration in accordance with the feelings of the people on that question, the better. I shall support the proposed new clause because I am against restrictive legislation and repressive administration. It is not in the interests of the Department, the people, or the soldiers themselves. We may be asked where we find the publicans at election time. We find them against the Labour party, but we may expect that.

Senator Bakhap - The honorable senator is inferring too much. There are some against the Labour party, and others who are whole-souled supporters of it.

Senator Gardiner - They put their money into your funds to defeat the referenda.

Senator Bakhap - I know nothing of that. I do not know of a sixpence that any hotelkeeper handed in to defeat the referenda.

Senator FERRICKS - In Queensland, I fought, from conviction, tooth and nail against a drastic piece of liquor legislation. When I went back to my electorate, fully twenty-one out of twenty-three publicans there gave not only their votes but their time and money to defeat me, and they did, and good luck to them. I take no exception to that, but I was not considering the publicans when opposing that law; I was considering the public, and am considering the public, and not the publican, now. If the publicans had a vote in connexion with the proposed abolition of the wet canteen, it is certain that those who run one hotel in Russell-street would vote for the retention of the dry system. On any night you will find military men, young and old, issuing from that hotel. I have been informed that they take with them what is called a " pocket pistol " - a small flask of spirits. In some of the hotels in the larger cities, this cheap brand of spirits is often nothing but pure white spirit. That is the sort of stuff that the men take into the camp.

Senator Shannon ---Would a wet canteen prevent them getting it?

Senator FERRICKS - I do not say so; but if the wet canteen were established at the camp, many men would not bother to go into town at night. They would have a drink or two and be quite ready to turn in . If they cannot get a drink in the camp, two or three get together and make up their minds to go to town to get it. When time hangs heavily on the hands of two or three men it is an inducement to them to have an excursion somewhere, very often, as in this case, into town or to a hotel.

Senator Shannon - More especially if the appetite has been already whetted.

Senator FERRICKS - When mining, I used t.o go down town at night, after tea, for a glass of beer. If I had it on my way home, I should not have bothered to go out afterwards.

Senator Shannon - It is human nature to want two or three if you have had one.

Senator FERRICKS - My experience of human nature is that it is entirely opposed to restrictive and repressive legislation, and I trust the Senate will record its objection to anything of the kind.

Suggest corrections