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Wednesday, 9 June 1915

Mr FINLAYSON (Brisbane) . - It is fortunate for me that I have been present during part of the speech of the honorable member for Wentworth. If one could hear that honorable member without seeing him, one would think that he meant what he said, and it would not be evident that to-night he has tried to make a farce of so serious a matter as the sobriety of the people of the Northern Territory. It is most unsatisfactory that the honorable member, notwithstanding his high abilities, which have been developed by special training, should utilize his eloquence to cast ridicule on a good cause, and to make fun of what, at the present time, is for the nations of the world one of the most serious and perplexing questions that they have to face. The honorable member continually descends from the sublime to the ridiculous, and generally ends in making himself ridiculous. I owe him an apology for a statement that I made some two years ago, under the mistake that he had received his training at Oxford. Having discovered that I am wrong, I apologize to Oxford.

Mr Kelly - Why does the honorable member wish for a referendum in the

Northern Territory if he thinks that it will benefit Bung?

Mr FINLAYSON - I have always taken the stand that the liquor question should be settled by the people concerned. It is for them to say what they want. I may be defeated on this occasion, as I have been defeated before, but I am confident that ultimately good sense will prevail. I agree with the Minister that we cannot entirely reform this generation; in this generation that reform comes by stages, and that often victories are achieved by defeat. The wave may be defeated, but the tide is sure to win, and in a Democratic country nothing has a better educational effect than the free exercise of the franchise on questions of national importance. There could be nothing better in Victoria and the Northern Territory, or in Papua, than to allow the people to determine, in regard to the liquor question, what is best for themselves, as they did in South Australia a few months ago. I want to refer to the fact that the honorable member for Barrier, when he was Minister over the Department, also promised that a referendum vote should be taken. That has not been done yet, but I am quite satisfied with the announcement of the Minister to-night.

Mr Groom - Will the' vote be taken on the basis of adult suffrage of the white population ?

Mr FINLAYSON - Certainly; on the widest possible franchise.

Mr Mahon - Every person over twentyone years of age has a vote there now.

Mr FINLAYSON - The Minister of External Affairs has stated to-night that he is prepared to give the people of the Northern Territory a vote on this question, including every one who drinks as well as everybody who does not. I disagree entirely with the Minister's statement that a person living in the tropics generates such a thirst that strong drink is necessary. That statement is absolutely contradicted by every medical and scientific authority on the subject.

Mr Mahon - Well, I have lived there, and the authorities have not. That is the difference.

Mr FINLAYSON - Sir WilliamMcGregor, the late Governor of Queensland, had more experience in the tropics than the Minister, and his testimony is absolutely and strongly in favour of continuous and total abstinence.

Mr Thomas - .The officials at Papua are total abstainers.

Mr FINLAYSON - Yes. The LieutenantGovernor of Papua is a total abstainer, and so is the Administrator of that Territory. It is just as wrong to say that strong drink is necessary in the tropics as it was wrong to think that alcohol was necessary in the Arctic regions. In all expeditions in Arctic and Antarctic regions alcohol is now specifically left behind except for medicinal purposes.

Mr Boyd - Because it gets frozen.

Mr FINLAYSON - No, because it may be the means of allowing men who take it to become frozen. The same argument against alcohol in the Arctic regions applies against alcohol in the tropics. Evidently the Minister needs to look up some authorities in order that his mind may be disabused of the ideas he holds now that because people get thirsty they must drink strong liquor.

Mr Page - What does the Administrator of the Northern Territory think about it ?

Mr FINLAYSON - I do not know. Now coming back to the statement made by the honorable member for Wentworth, I want to say that while it is true that if a referendum vote were taken in the Nor. thern Territory, it would probably result in favour of nationalization, that is no> guarantee that it will be the final decision. Local option polls on this question have been held in various countries of the world for many years, and yet we have not seen the end of the liquor traffic, but they have all done something to educate the people concerning the effects of alcohol. At any rate, I am prepared to stand by the result of a referendum vote rather than the statutory decision by a Parliament sitting in Melbourne with regard to the conditions in the Northern Territory. This Parliament has no right arbitrarily to determine such a question for the Northern Territory. I know of no more satisfactory method of settling this question than by the referendum.

Dr MALONEY (MELBOURNE, VICTORIA) - Would you give the people there a vote for other things besides liquor?

Mr FINLAYSON - I would give them a vote for everything. I am so thoroughly democratic that I am prepared to trust the people in all circumstances, because

I believe in government of the people by the people and for the people. I believe that people in the Northern Territory are just as intelligent and capable of deciding what is best for the Northern Territory - indeed, I think they are more likely to know what is best for them - than we here in Melbourne are, for they have to live there, and they know what suits them best. They might be wrong, and they might do things of which I do not approve; but that would not prove I was right and they were wrong. The mere fact of being in a minority on a question does not necessarily mean that the minority is wrong. For instance, we were in a minority on two occasions over the referendum questions in Australia, but we are so convinced that we are right, although the people said we were wrong, that we shall submit the questions again. There is no better educational method in any country than the exercise of the referendum, which requires people to give an intelligent vote on all great questions. In regard to the Northern Territory, on this and on any other question I am prepared to abide by the will of the people, and to allow them to determine under what conditions they shall live.

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