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Wednesday, 25 November 1914

Senator BAKHAP (Tasmania) . - At this late hour I shall not indulge in anything very discursive in regard to Senator Turley's amendment. I have to say that I present, on this occasion, one of the rare instances of an individual member of Parliament whose vote has been altered by a speech. Prior to hearing the Minister of Defence, it was my intention to vote for the amendment. I was moved rather by the manner in which Senator Pearce delivered his speech, than by the matter of it, to a train of thought which determined me to vote against the amendment, although personally I have been all my life a believer in a moderate consumption of alcoholic liquors. I wish to say that, although, in common with other honorable senators, I have been inundated with literature, authorized by temperance or total abstinence associations, my vote will not be cast out of deference to their opinions. I am one of those who believe that the soldier is best served by the condition of affairs which evidently obtained in Shakspeare's time. We find in his pages, I suppose, the most characteristic soldiers' drinking song we are ever likely to read in the literature of any country -

And let me the canakin clink, clink,

And let me the canakin clink :

A soldier's a man; man's life's but a span;

Why, then, let a soldier drink.

The speeches we have heard in the Senate are, I must admit, indicative of the fact that a very considerable change has come over public opinion since the days of Shakspeare.

Senator Pearce - In those days one was not a man unless he went under the' table.

Senator BAKHAP - One was not a man unless he could stand his liquor, as Shakspeare says in connexion with the famous song he put into the mouth of Iago. Men were "most potent in potting" in those days. The English were people who might compare with what Shakspeare characterized as " the swagbellied Hollanders " ; the Germans and the rest of the Continental tribe. He said that in England lie had learned to respect the drinking capacity of the Englishman. I do not mean to say that the drinking of. alcohol brings about national stability or national prosperity, but it is singular that the dominant races of the world are consumers of alcohol and that the only Asiatic people who are in the future likely to come into conflict with the European world are two hard-drinking Asiatic nations, namely, the Japanese and the Chinese; for, notwithstanding all that is said about the abstemiousness and the temperance of these two races, I, with a considerable experience of their habits, assure honorable senators that they are very hard drinkers. The only thing is that they, although like the Englishmen of Shakspeare, are " most potent in potting," are able to carry their liquor sensibly and well. I have very little regard in one way for the opinions of the total abstinence tribe. They are worthy people, no doubt. Many of them have the courage of their convictions, and sincerely believe that liquor is something damnable, and that it operates most prejudicially to the interests of humanity. Total abstinence doctors tell us, with a great appearance of medical lore, that alcohol is a poison, as if we did not know that. Why do they not tell us at the same time that it is a preservative? Are we going to condemn for one instant a commodity because of the excess indulged in by certain people? To show the logic of total abstinence people, if I cared to descend to such a level I could prove, or attempt to prove, that marriage is a most abominable institution, because it is productive of a very great amount of human infelicity. But who would denounce marriage on that account ?

Senator Shannon - The evil is not very general.

Senator BAKHAP - To judge by the list of cases to be heard in the Divorce Court, marriage is productive of a great amount of human infelicity, but, singular to say, these people forget to tell us in connexion with such an institution that it is productive of a great amount of human happiness as well. It is the same thing with alcohol. . I admit that you may poison a man with alcohol. I admit that it may consume all his substance. I admit that he may act very unwisely, but for that reason is there to be no ale for the future ? Is the moderate man not to have a chance?

Senator Keating - Are we to say that " There shall be no more cakes and ale ?"

Senator BAKHAP - I say that there shall be. As a matter of fact, the people who call themselves total abstainers are poor, pale shadows of total abstinence. How would they like to be put alongside that very numerous Russian sect that holds opinions which I will relate briefly for the benefit of smokers of tobacco, consumers of tea, and drinkers of coffee?

Thunder slays the coffee-drinker.

The smoker is brother to the dog.

Tea - The Chinese arrow has pierced the Russian heart.

What a nice cheerful lot of folks to live amongst !

Senator Keating - Is that from Brother Dowie?

Senator BAKHAP - No. This is a Russian sect of total abstainers. What about those persons who do not consume alcohol, and have the conviction that tobacco soothes their rest? Although, in the language of Shakspeare, I am " most potent in potting," I do not smoke; but shall I start a crusade and ask that tobacco shops shall be closed, and that nobody else shall have a pipe of tobacco ? A great deal has been said of the wonderful deeds of prowess that we may expect from the soldiers when they all become total abstainers. Senator Guy, whose convictions I respect - for I know that he has held them all his life - rather resented my interjection when I told him that, if abstinence was going to win victories, we could hardly hope to withstand the power of the Turks. I venture to say that victory will not rest with the Turks, but with the rumconsuming Tommies pitted against them. One of the reasons why I am going to vote against the amendment is that all soldiers on active service are not to be deprived of alcohol. In the Age, singular to say, in the same issue in which there appeared a leading article condemnatory of the wet canteen - illustrative of the fact that a regular maelstrom of argument of a most confusing kind is indulged in in regard to this question - there was a paragraph which stated that as a first instalment 150,000 gallons of rum had been ordered by the Imperial Government. For what purpose? To be given to the Tommies who are fighting the battles for civilization on the fields of Flanders. That quantity, at the rate of eight rations to the pint, works out at 9,600,000 drinks, as a first instalment for an army of about 200,000 persons. And let it be remembered that this rum is for the consumption of British soldiers. I ask honorable senators, who talk about alcohol being a poison, who speak about the medical profession, and who talk about all the great commanders who anticipate wonderful deeds before which the past history of the British Army will fade, if the Tommy eschews all liquor, what have they to say about the giving of rum and water to the men who were in the trenches and who fought through all the slush, and drove back the German forces to their lines on the Aisne? Why did the authorities give the soldiers the liquor if the reaction was going to be so dreadful that the benefit conferred by the stimulant should not be taken into consideration at all? They are going to give this liquor in pursuance, I suppose, of that wisdom which is embodied in the biblical instruction, " Give strong drink unto him that is ready to perish, and wine unto those that be of heavy hearts."

Senator Senior - The same Scriptures say, " Look not thou on the wine when it is red."

Senator BAKHAP - I do not want to discuss this question atany great length. The Turks are total abstainers. The Mahomedans say that wine is a very bad thing, but Mahomet took very good care to promise them plenty of wine in Paradise -

The just shall drink of a cup of wine mixed with the water of Zingebil.

Which I take to be a kind of celestial ginger beer; therefore we shall have shandygaff in Paradise -

And beautiful youths who shall continue for ever in their bloom shall go round about to attendthem with goblets and beakers and a cup of flowing wine, and upon them shall be garments of fine green silk and of brocades, and their Lord shall give them to drink of a most precious liquor, and shall say, " Verily, this is your reward, and your endeavour is gratefully accepted."

That is from a teetotal prophet. I respect the Minister's conviction just as I respect those people who believe that alcohol is a bad thing; and the question at issue is the efficiency of our soldiers . I believe that a soldier is none the worse if he drinks in moderation. Nobody believes that a drunken army is efficient, but I think that the victories that are likely to be won by a purely teetotal army would be rather watery, indecisive ones. But, nevertheless, this is a time of war. The Minister, in whose administration we all have a certain amount of confidence, irrespective of party, spoke with great vehemence and with a force of conviction which I respect. Seeing that the law providing for the existence of dry canteens only in connexion with the Citizen Forces was in existence before I came into this Parliament, and seeing that the Minister believes that the efficiency of our Expeditionary Forces will be increased by the prohibition of drink in camp, I am going to throw upon him the responsibility of seeing that his policy is justified by results. As I say, the members of the Expeditionary Forces will get plenty of alcohol ; they as soldiers are to have their share of the 150,000 gallons of rum, which is only a first instalment, and may it do them much good. That is all that I have to say on that score. There is such a lot of washy talk about this temperance business that I almost, as a matter of chagrin, felt inclined to vote for the amendment. We have heard that a man should not take his son into a hotel, and that they should not have a friendly glass together. I was in the habit of having a drink with my father, who lived till he was seventy-five. I have a clear recollection of an occasion when my father and myself put a good many other men under the table when we ate turkey and drank a bottle of square gin together. My father had a drink every day to the close of his life, and in pursuance of certain ceremonies which I respect, I have since his death once or twice poured out a libation on his grave, and I am not ashamed of having done so.

Senator Watson - You were brought up in a wet canteen all right.

Senator BAKHAP - I was brought up in the school which teaches a man to be strong by indulging his appetite only in moderation. As the Minister believes in the dry canteen; as the law provides for a dry canteen, and as the dry canteen imposes very little hardship on our citizen soldiers - who, I am sorry to say, are only in camp for a few weeks at a time - and as the members of the Expeditionary Forces will get lashings of drink if they require it, I have no hesitation in voting against the amendment, although I do not for a moment ask anybody to believe that I have been instigated thereto by any members of the total abstinence associations} whose exaggerated use of statistics I deprecate and despise.

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