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

Senator NEWLANDS (SOUTH AUSTRALIA) . - During the debate on this proposal we have had very admirable expositions of the virtues of temperance, and also of the virtues of moderate indulgence in strong drink. I do not propose to discuss the merits or demerits of drinking to excess, because I do not think that they enter into the consideration of this proposal at all. We had better confine ourselves to the realities, to what Senator Turley's amendment will mean in every-day practice, and to what the position will be if the Act is left as it is. I do not intend to traverse very much of the ground which has been gone over by honorable senators. I consider that nearly all that can be said from that stand-point has been said, but I want to emphasize a statement made by my friend, Senator O'Loghlin. For a great many years he was an officer in the Military Forces of South Australia; that is, before compulsory training was brought into vogue. For the benefit of honorable senators generally he has related his experiences in camp under dry and wet conditions. I think that one ounce of practical experience of that kind should influence honorable senators very considerably. On one day last week, in South Australia, a send-off was given to some of our soldiers, and a soldier who was going to the front with the men - a splendid man and an excellent soldier - gave his experience. I refer to the officer who is leading the South Australian portion of the Second Expeditionary Force - LieutenantColonel Meil. His experience related at the gathering was precisely the same as that of Senator O'Loghlin, and they both served a very extensive period in the Forces of the State. Lieutenant-Colonel Meil expressed the hope that the Senate would not agree to an alteration of the present conditions, and establish wet canteens. I am not speaking from the stand-point of a teetotaller. I am not a teetotaller by any means. I hope that I can claim to be what my teetotal friends say is impossible, and that is a moderate drinker - a man who takes as much liquor as he thinks will do him no harm.

Senator Shannon - We say that the moderate drinker proves the rule very often.

Senator NEWLANDS (SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - My honorable friends say that there is no such thing as a moderate drinker. At any rate, I can claim that I am not speaking on this question from the stand-point of a teetotal bigot. I am not speaking from the standpoint of many of those excellent citizens who have bombarded us with correspondence during the last few days. Most of these correspondents are teetotallers, or represent organizations who would eradi- cat© the liquor traffic, root and branch, and, therefore, they are bigots.

Senator Watson - Rather say zealots.

Senator NEWLANDS (SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - If that word will please my honorable friend better, I will substitute it for bigots. Still, I do not know that the first word does not suit these persons better than the second. In addition to speaking from the standpoint of a man who is not a teetotaller, I am also speaking from the stand-point of a parent. I am speaking from the standpoint of one who has a son on his way to the front. I am speaking from the stand-point of a parent who has another son in the Cadets, that within the next year or two will be in the Citizen Forces. I am speaking on behalf of men such as myself and of women such as my wife is, and thousands of other parents in this country who have sent their sons to the front. Is there one parent in this chamber that would take his son by the hand and lead him into a hotel or canteen and offer him drink ? There is not one worthy of the name of a man but would give his son the best possible advice, even if himself not a teetotaller, saying, ' ' You do not require this, young fellow ; it will not do you any good; leave it alone." Every parent here who thinks in that way will vote against the amendment, which is intended to put in the way of these young men a quite unnecessary temptation. Something has been said of the fact that we think a great deal more of a young man if he has sufficient backbone and courage to refuse a drink when it is offered. It is not a question of backbone or courage, it is merely the necessary consequence of the youth, inexperience, and want of knowledge of the lad. There will be found in the camps, as well as outside of them, men who may be addicted to drink, and somewhat thoughtless. They may ask a young man to have a drink, and he may refuse, and be twitted with his refusal, so that the next time he is asked he will take one. I am anxious that no such temptation shall be placed in the way of our young men. The lads who have enlisted to go to the front have enlisted under the Defence Act as it stands, and that Act provides for a dry canteen. We are told that there is a wet canteen on the troopships, but under the regulations each man is allowed only one pint of beer a day, and has to drink it in the presence of an officer. I am very feud of a pint of beer on a hot day, but would go without it every time before I would drink it in the presence of an officer on board a ship or anywhere else. If wet canteens are to be carried out on the principle that a man has to go to an officer and say, " I am thirsty and want my pint of beer now," or has to line up at a given hour every day for it, it is far better to leave the canteens dry. Let the men have what teetotal drinks they fancy, or water, which is recommended by so many of my friends, and of which- I can speak very highly myself. No reasons have been advanced for altering the existing conditions. No applications have been made by the men inside the camp or by persons outside for a wet canteen. The letters that have reached us - and I do not want to place any undue weight on them - embody resolutions carried throughout the Commonwealth against the wet canteen by thousands of persons. People have a right to write to us on the question, and it is our duty to take notice of them when they do write. If I had received a request from one elector to support Senator Turley I should not be able to speak as I am doing, but in the whole sheaf received there is not one request, or even a suggestion, to support the amendment. It is not asked for; but, of course, Senator Turley has as much right to move it as I have to oppose it. I am not finding fault with him for attempting to do what I am satisfied he thinks is the right thing, but I should have liked to hear reasons from some person somewhere why we should assist him in his action. Comparisons have been drawn between tho military canteens and the canteen in our own Parliament, but the conditions are totally different. In every branch of the Public Services of the Commonwealth the men are prevented from obtaining intoxicating liquor during working hours. The railway men on every line in the Commonwealth are prohibited by regulation from drinking while in uniform. The keepers of railway refreshment rooms and canteens are specially instructed by the Railway Commissioners not to supply railway men on duty. The police are debarred from drinking liquor when iu uniform.

Senator Story - Do they ever do it?

Senator NEWLANDS (SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - That is another question, but the restriction is there. I am not going to say that they do not do it ; in fact, I have been told that they do, but I cannot vouch for the correctness of the- story. I was on the Port Augusta railway the other day, and the weather was hot enough to make any reasonableminded teetotaller long for a pint, of beer, but there was no beer on the job. There were 1,500 or 1,600 men working there, and no canteen, while the water supplied was anything but appetizing. No plea is put in for those men, although if any section of the community deserves consideration in the way of liquor the men on that railway do, yet we are not making any provision for them to get it. We are asked to do it for another section of the community, who are not so much in need of it, in a way which will be of very little benefit to them. If they are to be allowed only a pint each per day it will make very little difference to them whether they get it or not. There is no comparison between the canteen here and the canteen at the camp. Every honorable senator is fairly well seasoned, and not likely to be led astray. We all have a pretty good idea whether liquor is good or bad for us and how much we ought to take. There is no question of putting temptation in our way, so that those who would draw comparisons in that direction have not found a very good illustration.

Senator Turley - One applies to us, and the other to the other fellow.

Senator NEWLANDS (SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - I have noticed during the debate that the honorable senator is: most apt in twisting interjections in directions in which they were never intended. I do not think that kind of thing will help to secure the passage of the proposed new clause. There is no kudos to be obtained by twisting an honorable senator's statement or interjection in a direction in which it was never intended to be used. I say there is no analogy between this Parliament and the camp, not because I am here and the soldiers are there, but because there are two entirely different classes of people in the two places. Our system of military defence is compulsory. If we were training the men on the volunteer system., and there was no wet canteen in the camp, it would be quite competent for the man who wants a drink to refuse on that ground to volunteer; but we do not give our young Australians that opportunity, and we rejoice in the fact.

Suggest corrections