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Wednesday, 25 November 1914

Senator LONG (Tasmania) .- During the past few days I have been inundated with communications from different temperance bodies, and, like other senators, shall experience considerable difficulty in answering them individually. I propose, therefore, to give them a collective answer through the pages of our official record. I am sure that those who favour the amendment and those who oppose it are both anxious to achieve the same object - to do away with the immoderate use of alcohol in military camps. Those who support Senator Turley have adopted the most common-sense attitude. To permit the soldiers to have liquor under proper supervision which will insure that it is of the best quality is the proper system for us to adopt.

Senator Shannon - How are you going to confine the soldiers to the liquor they get at the canteens?

Senator LONG - Like Senator Ferricks, I say without hesitation that I should throw on the officials at the camp the entire responsibility of seeing that those who are served with liquor conduct themselves in a manner worthy of the traditions, nob only of the Australian, but of the British, Army. We are all animated with a desire to bring about a set of conditions that will make the immoderate use of liquor in the military camps impossible. No one has given more attention to the subject than the Minister, but, in my opinion, he is not going the right way about it. If he and those who support him want to drive these young men into the hotels in the outer suburbs, or the big hotels in the cities, and in a sense compel them to take more than they want, and certainly much more than is good for them, all they have to do is to deprive them of the opportunity of getting beer at the camp under proper regulation and supervision. The sinner - if I may regard the man who takes a glass of beer as a sinner - has a mighty hard row to hoe. Quite recently there was an agitation all over Australia against the execessive use of cigarettes.

Senator Shannon - A good thing, too.

Senator LONG - I quite agree. The smoking of cigarettes is much more calculated to destroy the mental and physical efficiency of our troops than the drinking of beer. Yet in to-day's paper a mighty appeal is made to the people to contribute generously cigarettes for our soldiers who are going to the front. That appeal is signed by the secretary and treasurer of an organization, the latter being an M.B. If I had to choose between prohibiting the use of cigarettes and the use of beer, I should not hesitate which course to follow. Honorable senators who argue that beer destroys the efficiency of men have given no attention to the history of the subject.

Senator Guy - I can give you the opinion of a dozen of the finest surgeons in the world.

Senator LONG - I have had opinions on the question from leading medical men in Australia who drink more beer or whisky than I do. A number of honorable senators have referred to-day to the gallant stand the Belgians have made, and the splendid fight the French are putting up, and others have in no measured terms paid a tribute to the part the British troops have played. I assert that the great majority of these men - 90 per cent, of them - enjoy their beer to-day, and have done so for years past.

Senator Guy - That is doubtful.

Senator LONG - It is not. We know as an absolute fact that the men on the Continent consume twice as much beer-

Senator SENIOR - Some of them.

Senator LONG - We must take the aggregate. The history of warlike, expeditions shows that the physical efficiency of men does not deteriorate in consequence of their taking a glass of beer.

Senator Senior - If your argument is worth anything it means that the more a man drinks the better he fights.

Senator LONG - Not necessarily, but a number of honorable senators during this debate have confused spirits and beer. I am not arguing in favour of spirits, which, I believe, have a very bad effect. I am speaking simply of beer and its effects upon different people. We know that beer is the national beverage of people on the Continent, and those honorable senators who, like myself, have been privileged to visit Europe will bear out my statement that a drunken man there is a sight which rarely meets the eye.

Senator Pearce - I saw plenty of drunks in Berlin in 1911.

Senator LONG - I did not, and I am quite as observant as are most honorable senators. Let me come now to the question of the desirableness or otherwise of establishing a wet canteen at Broadmeadows. It is all very well for my honorable friends who differ from me to argue that the members of our Expeditionary Forces, who are daily required to undergo a forced march of about 10 miles as part of their military training, should be obliged to return to the camp and satisfy their thirst with the water which is provided there.

Senator Senior - Is the water deficient in quality?

Senator LONG - It is as good as the water that is obtainable in any other part of Melbourne.

Senator Shannon - The water in Melbourne is good. The honorable senator is not now in Tasmania.

Senator LONG - I am quite aware of that. I have visited the encampment at Broadmeadows, and have personally .conducted inquiries there, and I am satisfied that if honorable senators could be supplied with the figures showing the number of men who have been rendered temporarily inefficient by the use of the water supplied there, they would be staggered. Now we are face to face with the question of whether a dry canteen shall be established in that camp and on board our transports. In connexion with the latter, I would remind honorable senators that the moment these ships 'leave our shores they come under Imperial control, and are subject to Imperial regulations. As a result, every one of these troopships is provided with a wet canteen.

Senator Needham - The moment they are 3 miles from the Commonwealth.

Senator LONG - The moment they get outside the territorial limit the men on the troopships have their alcoholic requirements catered for.

Senator Watson - Most unfortunate.

Senator LONG - At the present moment, although liquor is forbidden in camp at Broadmeadows, one would not experience much difficulty in finding it in most of the tents there.

Senator Shannon - Is not that a reflection on somebody?

Senator LONG - It is not. If I were in the camp, and if I had been deprived of my social rights by the Defence Department after I had accepted service, I should take care to please myself.

Senator Shannon - Did not the men accept service under the Defence Act as it stands?

Senator LONG - No. The wet canteen was in existence when they enlisted. It is only since their enlistment that it has been abolished. We ought not to make fish of one and flesh of another. If we are going to insist upon the prohibition of liquor in military camps it should apply to every individual, from the highest official downwards.

Senator Gardiner - It does so apply.

Senator LONG - I know it is intended that the regulation shall apply equally all round; but does it?

Senator Gardiner - Of course it does.

Senator LONG - I have no desire to say anything which would place me under the imputation of being an informer; but I do say that there is little difficulty in obtaining what one may require in the shape of spirituous liquors, either in the camp at Broadmeadows or in any other concentration camp in Australia. I do not wish to delay the taking of a vote upon this important question, and I should not have addressed myself to it had I not been desirous of giving a definite answer to those persons who have communicated with me in regard to it. I want them to know exactly what is my attitude towards it. I do not wish to dodge the issue. It is the duty of every honorable senator to declare himself either one way or the other, and I have no hesitation in declaring myself in favour of the wet canteen, for the reason that, under proper military supervision, it minimizes an undoubted evil.

Senator Shannon - What about the dry canteen under proper military supervision to-day?

Senator LONG - I do not see the application of the honorable senator's interjection.

Senator Shannon - The honorable senator said a little while ago that under military supervision there is no dry canteen in operation to-day.

Senator LONG - Does not Senator Shannon see that if a wet canteen were established there would be no need for members of our Military Forces to surreptitiously introduce liquor into camp?

Senator Shannon - Is the honorable senator going farther than Senator Turley? Is he going to give the men an unlimited supply?

Senator LONG - I am not.

Senator Shannon - The honorable senator will do neither one thing nor the other.

Senator LONG - I thought I had made my position clear. Senator Turley wishes to see the wet canteen established under proper supervision, with a view to minimizing, as far as possible, the immoderate use of liquor.

Senator Shannon - Yet the honorable senator says that the authorities cannot control the dry canteen.

Senator LONG - It is impossible to do so.

Senator Shannon - Then how can they control the wet canteen ?

Senator LONG - I have told the honorable senator thirteen times already, but for his own special edification I will tell him once more.

Senator Shannon - How can the authorities control the wet canteen if they cannot control the dry ?

Senator LONG - On the same principle that it is much easier to control and regulate the properlylicensed trade than it is to suppress sly-grog selling. When men know that their requirements in this connexion can be supplied by a permissible application to the canteen in camp, there will be no occasion for them to visit the little " pub." at the end of the road, and to take with them into camp a bottle the contents of which would kill the Kaiser if he could only be prevailed upon to swallow a dose or two. In such circumstances the soldiers would not drink themselves into unconsciousness, because by so doing they would incur the disapproval of their officers-

Senator Watson - A restricted supply would not gratify men of that type.

Senator Shannon - If the authorities cannot control the dry canteen, how can they control the wet ?

Senator LONG - Every man who likes a glass of beer must not be regarded as a beast.

Senator Shannon - I have not made the slightest insinuation of that kind.

Senator LONG - The honorable senator has done nothing else all the afternoon.

Senator Watson - The honorable senator himself has spoken of men who can take a bucketful. How will a glass satisfy them ?

Senator LONG - I do not know anything about men who can take a bucketful. I have made no reference to them. I merely wish that men in camp who like a glass of beer shall be able to exercise their absolute freedom in that connexion.

Senator Shannon - The honorable senator is not prepared to do that.

Senator LONG - I recognise that it is useless to talk to the honorable senator, because either he cannot, or will not, understand reasonable argument. I intend to support Senator Turley's amendment.

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