Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
Friday, 3 November 1905

Senator PEARCE (Western Australia) - It was on my amendment that the Senate last session introduced the principle of State ownership in lieu of prohibition. I am still strongly of opinion that State ownership is the best method of dealing with the liquor question, both in Australia and in Papua. But I recognise that we have to compromise on this matter, as on many others, and that the Bill contains many principles which it is absolutely necessary should become law as soon as possible. I do not intend to fight for the principle of State monopoly when it would mean withholding the grant of a Constitution to the Possession. I cannot resist the temptation of saying that last session Senator Smith took up an attitude which he has not yet explained away. This afternoon he has told us that, as a result of his later visit, he has altered his ideas as regards the circumstances of the Possession.

Senator Staniforth Smith - I am still in favour of prohibition, but the method I proposed would be ineffective and injurious.

Senator PEARCE - That was not the ground on which the honorable senator opposed my amendment last session. It was not opposed merely because of his experience of the Possession, and that fact, I believe, won for him the support of a large number of honorable senators, who attributed to him a local knowledge which they did not possess. Dealing with my proposal, he said, at page 7916 of Hansard -

Senator Pearce,who is undoubtedly actuated by that desire, states that he has been a life-long teetotaller, and I am sure no one is more desirous of promoting temperance in the community than he is. But he seems to me to have advanced a most extraordinary proposition, and one which on analysis is seen to be altogether untenable. It is a negation of the whole policy of government in British New Guinea, and an absolute negation of the system which we are laying down.

Senator Smiththen went on to deal with the question of prohibition. The visit of that honorable senator did not in any way alter the circumstances in the Territory. I refer to this matter simply because the honorable senator singled me out for attack, not on the ground of my want of local knowledge, or his superior knowledge of New Guinea, but on the ground that I was opposed to what he believed to be the fundamental principle of government in connexion with a place like New Guinea. It is strange that Senator Smith should have changed his opinion, and have given us no reasons for the change.

Senator Staniforth Smith - I regard the present proposal as a compromise which we ought to adopt.

Senator PEARCE - I am not even now convinced that the Government could not safely undertake the manufacture and sale of liquor in New Guinea. .The advantage of the present proposal of the House of Representatives over the last proposal is that there will not be the inducements to smuggle or illicitly manufacture drink that there would be if we imposed prohibition on an unwilling community, or a community which had not been; consulted. To me. as a teetotaller, it seemed then, and it seems now, altogether unfair to force on those people what we are not prepared to ask the people of Australia to accept. On the mainland we have not yet gone so far as to propose a general local option appeal ; and yet we are prepared to force on New Guinea absolute prohibition. The House of Representatives has struck a happy via media in abandoning their prohibitionist proposals, and, while refusing to accept State monopoly, introducing local option. New Guinea is a mineral country, where, owing to the discovery of rich gold-fields, there may be, at any time, a rapid growth of population. There are now twenty-two licensed houses, and it can readily be imagined that a mineral discovery of any magnitude might result in a large increase of white residents. In such cases, those licences would confer very valuable monopolies.

Senator Trenwith - We can legislate again.

Senator PEARCE - That is our safeguard. I brought this point under the attention of the Prime Minister, and he informed me that the licences in New Guinea hold good only, from year to year. It appears that under the New Guinea Ordinance, these licences are not even so permanent as those on the mainland, but may be revoked at any time, without any reasons being given. Under the circumstances, there is always the power vested in the Government to take over the liquor business ; and, therefore, I do not intend to submit the amendment which I indicated, providing that the licences should hold good only from year to year. I trust that, in voting for the proposal now before us, it will not be thought I am in any way abandoning my principles. I support it because I recognise the absolute necessity of giving a Constitution to the Territory.

Suggest corrections