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Wednesday, 25 November 1914

Senator KEATING (Tasmania) . - It is not my intention at this hour to protract my utterances upon this question, which has already been so long debated. Previous speakers have alluded to the necessity of honorable senators declaring themselves on Senator Turley's proposal, and I have no hesitation in doing so. I have listened to several of the speeches made for and against the amendment, and I may be excused for saying that much of the argument advanced has been to a certain extent irrelevant to the subject under discussion. Senator Senior said that he did not regard this discussion as one upon the abstract merits of total abstinence or of moderate drinking. The honorable senator seemed to imply that we are here to discuss a definite concrete proposal in relation to a definite set of facts, and we should as far as practicable abstain from generalities with regard to the merits or demerits of total abstinence as a profession and practice. Notwithstanding that, the honorable senator, during a good deal of the time he was addressing the Committee, devoted himself to arguments which would have been more appropriate to a discussion of the merits of total abstinence as a practice or profession. I hope that when I sit down I shall be free from any imputation or suspicion of that kind. Senator Senior asked those' who support the amendment to give something in the nature of a guarantee or undertaking that if wet canteens were established, the regulation of the conduct of the troops in camp in the matter of indulgence in intoxicating liquors would be more rigid than it has been in the past. He seemed quite satisfied that there was no answer to that argument. The answer to it is what is generally called the tu quoque - if dry canteens are to be established, will those who support them give any undertaking or guarantee that the object which they wish to achieve will be achieved ?

Senator Senior - The honorable senator should bear in mind that we are starting with a dry canteen, and we have a right to ask that those who think . there should be a wet canteen should show that the change will lead to improvement.

Senator KEATING - But the honorable senator forgets that the change has been made from a wet canteen to a dry canteen.

Senator Senior - No; the dry canteen is provided for by the Defence Act, and the wet canteen was established by administration.

Senator KEATING - In the camp of the First Expeditionary Force there was a wet canteen. In the camp of the Second Expeditionary Force a dry canteen has been established, and those who support it should show that it is an improvement.

Senator Senior - It is up to the honorable senator to show that it is worse than the wet canteen.

Senator KEATING - No, it is not.

Senator Senior - Certainly, the honorable senator has to prove an affirmative,

Senator KEATING - It is not up to me to prove that the conditions with the dry canteen are worse than those with the wet canteen. But it is up to those who made the change from the wet canteen to the dry canteen to prove that the change was called for, and has effected an improvement.

Senator Shannon - The Minister of Defence has said that he has less complaints now than he had when there was a wet canteen in the camp.

Senator KEATING - The Minister has certainly said so. But other members of the Senate have given us the results of their own observation and inquiry. I went out to the Broadmeadows camp of the First Expeditionary Force. I had no idea at the time that a debate of this kind was likely to take place. Quite casually I asked an officer, high in the authority at the camp, what they sold at the canteen. He told me what they did sell. He said that there was one thing excepted, and that was cigarettes. He explained to me that in no circumstances were cigarettes sold in the canteen but he added, " We cannot prevent the men from getting them in town." The canteen of the First Expeditionary Force was then a dry canteen in the matter of cigarettes, and yet all who went about the city with their eyes open could see the men smoking cigarettes. There was no means of restraining them from' indulging in the vice of cigarette smoking when they left the camp. And if men desire to have liquor, there is no means of restraining them from indulging that desire when they leave the camp. I agree with those who say that if the men are to indulge in liquor it is better that they should do so in a wet canteen, under supervision, than that they should indulge in it in the ill-regulated way to which they may be forced by the abolition of the wet canteen.

Senator Lt Colonel O'loghlin - They will do both.

Senator KEATING - They will do both in either case, whether the canteen is dry or wet. If there is a dry canteen, there can be no guarantee that the men will abstain from consuming liquor even in the camp itself, though they will do so in defiance of the regulations. I do not intend to support Senator Turley's amendment, because I think it goes too far. Had it been designed to make it abundantly clear that the law regarding dry canteens should not apply to Expeditionary Forces, I should have been prepared to support it. So far as regards our Citizen Forces, and those who go to the annual camps of training under the Defence Act, I have seen no justification for any amendment of the law. When the section which Senator Turley proposes to amend was put into the Act, I voted against it. At the time, there were men going into camp to whom it would apply, who were less than twentyfive years of age. Those who were twenty or twenty-one years of age when the Act of 1909 was passed have now reached the age of twenty-five years, and so far as they are concerned, these provisions do not apply. I have seen no justification for an amendment of the law, as agreed to in 1909, so far as it applies to those referred to in section 125, to which section 123 relates - Cadets from twelve years to fourteen years; Senior Cadets from fourteen to eighteen years of age, and members of the Citizen Forces from eighteen to twenty-five years of age. It must be remembered that our camps of Citizen Forces are annual camps of iu- struction, and Senator Guy, quoting Inspector-General Kirkpatrick, has shown that the prohibition upon the use of intoxicating liquors in these camps applies only to a limited period during each year. I do not think that in the circumstances it is any very great hardship upon the men in those camps who, going in since 1909, know the conditions. I put the Expeditionary Forces in a totally different class. They are drawn from all over the Commonwealth; the men volunteer for service abroad, and they are not in camp under compulsion but as a matter of choice. Many of them are men, comparatively speaking, of mature age who have been accustomed to take liquor in moderation. I see no reason why the provisions in this connexion which apply to camps of our Citizen Forces, under the Defence Act of 1909, should govern the camps of Expeditionary Forces. If Senator Turley had seen his way to make his proposal for the establishment of wet canteens apply only to camps of Expeditionary Forces, I should have been prepared to support him heartily. The honorable senator has, however, gone further. He seeks to amend the general Defence law of the Commonwealth in connexion with a provision which operates every year, whether in time of peace or in time of war., and applies to the annual training camps of our Citizen Forces. I see no justification for such a sweeping amendment of the law.

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