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Friday, 3 November 1905

Senator GUTHRIE - No, a test vote on the question whether or not we shall accept OCR,1 ( option.

Senator Playford - It is not a question of whether we shall accept local option. Senator Stewart says that the white residents ought to have the right to increase as well as to diminish the number of licences, and the vote will be taken on that point.

Senator GUTHRIE - If that is the case I am against Senator Stewart. I understood him to say that the vote on his amendment would be taken as a test vote onhe qquestion whether the Senate would ad here to its own proposal or accept that of the other House. Last year I voted in favour of prohibition, but the Senate, in its wisdom, substituted Government monopoly. I prefer Government monopoly to the proposals which are put forward by the other House. I wish to keep the number of r'-e licences as low as possible, therefore I shall vote against the amendment.

Senator STEWART(Queensland).- By the amendment of the House of Representatives we are asked to place the control of the liquor traffic in Papua in the hands of the white residents, with one reservation, namely, that while the licences may be reduced in number or abolished, they cannot be increased.

Senator Givens - That is one-sided local option.

Senator STEWART - It is local option with a limitation. To my mind, it is neither more nor less than an insult to the white residents of Papua.. Practically the Commonwealth Parliament says to them : " We place in your hands the power to say whether a reduction of licences shall be made, but we shall not trust you to increase their number." This appears to me, first, to be undemocratic, and, secondly, to be out of harmony with the conditions which are expected to arise there before very long. I should not be at al! surprised to hear of a proposal of this kind being brought forward in a nominee or elective Legislative Council, because class government is the creed of the men who sit in those Houses. But I am astonished that such a proposal should emanate from a purely democratic Parliament. A few years ago the Imperial Parliament placed the fullest powers of self-government in the hands of the people of this Continent. Either we ought to give the white population in. Papua full and unreserved control of the liquor traffic, or we ought not to give them any control of it If thev aire competent to decide whether the licences shall be reduced in number or abolished, surely thev can be trusted to av 1 whether the number ought to be increased. It is exceedingly illiberal to say to these people, " We give 'OU S semi-control over theiquor ttraffic." We will not trust you wholly, bbut only up to a certain point." I claim that the Senate ought to be democratic above everything, and always keep the fixed principle before its eyes - trust the people fully. It would have been very much better for the

Senate to agree to absolute prohibition rather than adopt a half and half measure. My second objection is that the proposal is not in harmony with probable developments in New Guinea. We ought to make some allowance for expansion. We all hope that within the near future, instead

Senator Turley - The population is ten times less now than it was a few years ago.

Senator STEWART - That proves that the white population of New Guinea is subject to extreme fluctuation. A few years ago people nocked to a gold rush, but though the gold fever has in a great measure, abated, we do not know when it may break out again. Honorable senators will remember the Palmer rush in North Queensland, when men, women, and children from nearly every State in the Union" flocked there by the thousands, and we know how people jostled each other in their efforts to get to Western Australia in the early days, and also to Klondyke. We do not know when similar conditions may arise in New Guinea; and if we are wise we will provide for any probable expansion. I quite sympathize with those honorable senators who wish to limit the number of licences. Their intentions, I nave no doubt, are most honorable, praiseworthy and humane; but our legislation, if not properly considered, may have an opposite tendency. Why is it proposed that we should reverse the decision we came to last year? Why has Senator Pearce and Senator Smith, the latter of whom is our greatest authority on New Guinea, abandoned the idea of prohibition? Both honorable senators have changed their minds for 'the simple but very sufficient reason that they have been persuaded that prohibition is unworkable. and will only defeat their own purpose by giving rise to sly-grog selling and smuggling. When other honorable senators and myself suggested to Senator Smith that smuggling was not only quite possible, but very probable, he scorned the idea.

Senator Givens - Smuggling is prevalent there even to-day.

Senator STEWART - If it were competent for me to do so, I might refer to the undoubted fact that smuggling prevails to a large extent even at the present" moment.

Senator Guthrie - Even <;in England.

Senator STEWART - And even in Australia. Unless we are pressed for time, I may probably direct the attention of the Senate to this matter when we are dealing with the Estimates for New Guinea. The purpose of the honorable senators whom I have mentioned, in changing their minds, is to promote temperance ; they have realized that absolute prohibition would mean the slygrog shop and the itinerant smuggler. However bad licensed houses may be, the slygrog shop and the illicit still are a thousand times worse, and with those honorable senators, it is a case of choosing the lesser of two evils. I ask honorable senators to realize what the result may be if the people of New Guinea have not the power to increase licences as well as to reduce them.

Senator Pearce - I have not changed my opinion.

Senator STEWART - But the honorable senator has had to bow to circumstances, and to compromise. I can tell the honorable senator that if I thought prohibition possible I would not consider local option for a single instant; but I think it is not possible. I know that the coasts of British New Guinea are accessible to smugglers, not only from the mainland of Australia, but from other parts of the island of New Guinea itself. I know, also, that if no smugglers plied their trade in New Guinea, illicit stills would be started there. If we cannot altogether prevent the sale of liquor in the Territory, let us regulate it in the best way we can. Where we have houses established under legal sanction, and under Government supervision, we can reduce the evils connected with the liquor traffic to a minimum ; but where we have not licensed houses we have unlicensed houses selling, in many cases, most noxious poisons, and places where all kinds of vice is carried on without let or hindrance, so far as the law is concerned. Not only is drinking practised there, but gambling and many other vices as well. In any case, we are here making laws for an outpost of Australia, for a Territory in which there is, comparatively speaking, a small number of white men "with a large body of natives, and it behoves us to seriously consider every step before we take 'it. I know that Senator

Pulsford will accuse me of endeavouring to hang this Bill up for another session, and I may possibly be blamed for preventing New Guinea getting a Constitution. I repudiate any share in whatever blame there may be if this question is not now settled. Parliament has been sitting since June last, and, if I do not make a huge mistake, the honorable senator's own friends in another place are probably more responsible for the late hour at which this measure is being dealt with than are any other' persons connected with Parliament.

Senator Playford - Could not the honorable senator give us a chance to vote on it?

Senator STEWART - I should like to exhaust all the arguments I can possibly bring forward, in the hope that I may be able to persuade honorable senators that to vote for my amendment is the right course for them to adopt. If I did not believe that I was moving, an amendment which, if carried, would improve the Bill, I should not inflict myself upon the Committee for a moment. I should not have assurance sufficient to enable me to lend myself to such a course of procedure. I have been endeavouring, in my own halting fashion, to give reasons to the Committee why I think that, having adapted the principle of local option partially, they should go a step further and adopt it wholly. A thing is worth doing wholly or not at all. I ask honorable senators again to consider the position in which this Bill will place the people of New Guinea, if carried as it now stands. In the event of even a small increase in the population of 100, 200, or 300, the restraints of this measure will be made evident. A new township might be created by a discovery of gold, and the result that would follow would be that we should have a number of sly-grog shops established. They would contribute nothing to the revenue, and yet all the evils associated with licensed public-houses would be practised, with the additional evils which inevitably follow in the train of the sly-grog shop. We have this measure being accepted by men who profess to be ardent advocates of temperance. I am doubtful of their judgment. Why should we not trust the people entirely?

Senator Playford - The honorable senator has said that a hundred times.

Senator STEWART - .Continual droppings wear away the stone. I. trust my remarks may have that effect in the present instance. If they do not, they will have been in vain. I again appeal to honorable senators who believe in temperance, and in the Government control of the liquor traffic. Do they not think they are incurring a most serious responsibility whenthey refuse to the people of New Guinea the power to add to the number of licences ? No matter how the population may increase, not one can Be added to the number of licences at present existing. That is a ridiculous position. If we are prepared totrust the people with the control of the liquor traffic, let us do it wholesale, and say to them, "We leave it to you; we trust you ; we think you are competent to do the best that is possible in the interestsof the Territory." That would be a praiseworthy attitude for the Committee toadopt. But it is absurd to give the people a half-control.

Senator GIVENS(Queensland). - We ought to consider the reasons why the proposals adopted by the Senate last year were not acceptable in another place. The reason why the nationalization of the liquor traffic in New Guinea was not favoured was undoubtedly that the Government were, too cowardly to take the responsibility uponthemselves. The Government is merely the Executive of Parliament, and should not shirk duties-thrown upon it by Parliament. This Parliament was elected by the people for the purpose of enacting legislation. But if all that we hear and all that has been, reported in the press is true, it is not Parliament that is enacting this legislation. It is one or two members of another place, who happen, to have the ear of the Government, and who represent a particular section of the community. They have made a compromise with the Government to override the will of the Senate. Two members of another place earwigged the Ministry, and said, " We are not prepared to accept the Senate's decision., and on behalf of a section whom we represent we ask you toaccept this amended proposal." The Government weakly caved in. They would not agree to the national control of the liquor traffic in British New Guinea, because it was not acceptable to a noisy section of the community outside.

Senator Millen - What section?

Senator GIVENS - The cold-tea section.. Thev were perfectly within their rights in trying to give effect to their will; but I maintain that they have no right to try onNew Guinea a system which they are not game to try on any other portion of Australia.

Senator Henderson - They are game to try it anywhere if they can gel a show.

Senator GIVENS - Are the members of another place to whom I have referred prepared to make the same proposal applicable to any portion of the Commonwealth? I have talked to a dozen of them, and I have not found one who is in favour of adopting this principle in Australia. One of the most important results of this proposal would be to enhance enormously the value of the present licences in the Possession. Those who are so much in favour of doing away with the liquor traffic, and of taking it out of the hands of individuals, are prepared to make a present of thousands of pounds to a few holders of licences. Owing to the discovery of new gold-fields, and the increase of population, there may be a need for fresh hotels in new centres. There will be no chance under this measure of securing an addition to the number of licences.

Senator Walker - Licence? can be transferred from one part to another.

Senator GIVENS - -Of course; but that would mean buying out the old licences, and the number is so exceedingly limited that there would be. a corner iri licences, by means of which the present holders would be enabled to exact any terms they chose. So that the result achieved by the advocates of temperance would be that they would make a present of thousands of pound? to holders of licences whom they had previously denounced as no better than licensed poisoners.

Senator Playford - A licence can be removed from one place to another.

Senator GIVENS - A licence is the property of the holder, not of the Government or the Local Option League.

Senator Playford - At the end of each year it is the property of the Government.

Senator GIVENS - Will the Minister subscribe to that principle in regard to Australia?

Senator Playford - A licence can be shifted to another place in which there is a large increase of population.

Senator GIVENS - It would have to be taken from its present holder, or he would have to Le compelled to shift to the new place.

Senator Walker - The probability is that the holder would take the licence to another place.

Senator GIVENS - If he did, that would leave the old place short of a licensed house, and presumably there are only enough licensed houses there at the present time. If a very big rush were to take place, we might have the twenty licensees rushing to the new gold-field and leaving every other place without a licence. What would be the result of this lop-sided system of local option? Smuggling and sly grogselling would be rampant; in fact, every evil and vice imaginable connected with the abuse of the liquor traffic would be rampant. I held strongly the view that the national control of the importation and sale of liquor was the only means by which the interests of the natives could be properlysafeguarded, and I regret exceedingly that the provision we inserted has been removed from the Bill. It was infinitely better than any system of local option or total prohibition. If the amendment of Senator Stewart be defeated I intend to move an amendment to another cla.use which will provide for a departure in the direction of the national control of the liquor traffic. In every State on the mainland it has been found to be utterly impossible to restrict or safeguard the trade so as to prevent the aborigines from being wholly; demoralized by having liquor supplied to them, not in retail but in wholesale quantities. All these evils will, I think, eventuate under the system proposed for Papua. But if national control were adopted, the evils, if they existed at all, would be reduced to a minimum. I fail to see why this Parliament should try to impose upon' an outpost conditions which have never been imposed upon or accepted by the people of any portion of the Commonwealth. Why should we compel the people of Papua to be subject to a set of conditions which no persons in Australia have, so far, been subjected to? It seems like an exemplification of the old saying that when- you are ip doubt about the advisability of using any thing, it should be tried on a dog. I do not advocate that. I am not in favour of trying an experiment in this Possession without the full consent of its people, and also without being prepared to try it upon ourselves. What is good for the Commonwealth should also be good 'for the people of a Territory controlled or governed by it. We should hesitate before we impose upon the people of Papua - a people who live under great disabilities and disadvantages, and who at times endure great hardships - a condition which is not imposed by any law of the Commonwealth or of a State. Everybody knows that the white residents in Papua live under conditions which impose a great deal of hardship. They do not possess nice comfortable houses,, like the people in the Commonwealth. They have not the comforts, sometimes not even the necessaries of civilization, which are within the reach of every person! on the mainland. They take their lives in their hands when they go to the Possession. They go into unexplored country and endure untold hardships. They suffer all sorts of climatic conditions. For days and days they are out in the midst of heavy tropical rains. Yet it is proposed to deny them the opportunity of getting a drop of spirituous ' comfort to perhaps ward off the diseases which are incidental to a new country. I know that there is a great difference of opinion on this point. There are persons, including some medical men, who consider, that spirituous liquor is of no use either as a medicine or as a comfort, but I think that the weight of opinion is against that view.

Senator Millen - Most of them take a little,, though.

Senator GIVENS - All whom I know do. When I was a boy in the old country, a clergyman, who was an ardent temperance advocate, would not touch a drop of liquor as a beverage ; but he would put two glasses of the strongest brandy on his plum pudding. These are some of the methods by which such persons apply a salve to their conscience. I do not mind what they do when it is done at their own expense, but it should not be done at the expense of others. I do not think that there is a person in the Commonwealth who does not desire that the Papuans shall be safeguarded from being demoralized by the illicit supply of spirituous liquors, as the aborigines of Australia have been demoralized and practically destroyed. I think that the supply of spirituous liquors and of opium to the Australian aborigines has been the greatest curse which could possibly have overtaken them, and the whole people of the Commonwealth are largely responsible for it. We have evaded our responsibility in not devising a method by which such a regrettable state of affairs could be obviated. But with that example before us, we should take the strongest measures possible to preserve the Papuans from being de moralized and ultimately wiped out by a. similar curse. How is that to be done? No system of prohibition or local 'option! will suffice. Either system, strictly applied,, only results in rampant sly-grog dealing. New Guinea has a long coastline, frequented by beachcombers engaged in> island trade or pearl-fishing; and grog, would be smuggled wholesale. The country offers unsurpassed facilitiesfor illicit distillation, away up. the rivers, far from police or departmental control ; and. drink of the vilest character would be supplied to -the natives without restraint. The only proper method to adopt is .national control ; and Senator Stewart is right in asking that the whitepopulation shall be given full power over the traffic. Large numbers of miners are continually going over; to New Guineato prospect, and new gold-fields may be discovered at any moment. To my knowledge, miners often return from New Guinea with their health almost ruined, andthey have told me that their greatest hardship and difficulty is in obtaining the comforts of civilization. All those experienced miners tell us that one of the chief necessaries on a trip, in order toprovide against the evils incidental to the. climate, is a little good spirituous liquor;, and if facilities for obtaining it are not provided, we may, to some extent, block prospecting work. I have no desire te multiply the opportunities for getting, drink, because I recognise the enormousevils which arise from its excessive use. But gluttony is as bad as excessive drinking; and it would be just as logical to provide that, because certain evils arise from the former, nobody should be allowed to eat.. I regard Senator Stewart's amendment as a very fair compromise. I am preparedto go a long way in order to meet the desires of members of another place, but all the concessions ought not to come from, this Chamber.

Senator STEWART(Queensland). -I was in hopes that some other honorable senator would have thrown fresh light on this very important subject. Honorable senators who have made up their mind to support the Government have not, I am afraid, given the question, the careful consideration it deserves. There is aprovision which absolutely prohibits an increase in the number of licences ; but if the population expands as we hope it will, some change will have to be made in this connexion. As to the population

The CHAIRMAN - I do not desire to unduly restrict the honorable senator, but I think he has said that several times.

Senator STEWART - I am very much obliged to the Chairman for suggesting that I should be prohibited from proceeding with a line of argument which I think necessary to the unfolding of the position I take up. I would really like to know whether Senator Playford, the leader of the Government, is open to argument. If the honorable senator has made up his mind, then, so far as he is concerned, I need say no more. But there are other honorable senators, to whom I may address myself. Those honorable senators are equally interested, and their votes count for as much as that of the leader of the Government. No doubt I was merely restating something I had referred to before, when I talked about an increase in the population of New Guinea. But this is the bearing it has on the question at issue : If the population increases, and the number of these licences cannot be added to, their value will be very largely enhanced ; and if a time comes when it may be found necessary to deprive one of the existing houses of its licence, so that it may be given to another house in a different portion of the Territory, we shall be faced with a claim for heavy compensation.

Senator Henderson - No; it cannot be demanded.

Senator STEWART - I remember the time when the question of compensation to publicans was very actively discussed in the old country, more than a quarter of a century ago. The advocates of temperance unanimously maintained that they were entitled to no compensation. They took up what was, from their point of view, a perfectly logical position. They said, and I agreed with them, that the publican's licence was granted for twelve months only, and at the end of that period the licensee had to come again before the Court for a renewal of it, and the Licensing Court might renew the licence or refuse to do so. If the Court refused to do so, it was contended that the licensee had no claim to compensation. On the other 'hand, the licensees put their case before the public. They said : " We have been called upon to spend considerable sums of money in building houses, furnish ing them, making them suitable for public accommodation ; we have paid large sums for the good-will of our businesses ; we have invested our capital in the industry, having full confidence in the sense of justice of the people as a whole ; and to deprive us of the licences, upon the possession of which all our' capital depends, would be to do us a rank injustice." That aspect of the question was recognised at our own doors, when, as the result of a local option poll taken in Melbourne, the number of licences in a particular district had to be reduced, a number of the hotels in that district were closed, and compensation was paid in each case. Senator Henderson may be satisfied in his own mind that no compensation would be allowed ; but there is no ground on which to found such a belief. If an hotel in New Guinea is closed by the action of the public, I am as sure as that I am standing here that a claim for compensation will be presented-

Senator Playford - It will not be paid if it is presented. I had it from the Prime Minister only a few minutes ago that the holders of the existing licences would not have the slightest claim to compensation.

Senator STEWART - Why should we create a condition of affairs in which not only would compensation be demanded, but large compensation would inevitably have to be paid in case the decision went against the Government?

Senator Playford - They would have no claim to compensation ; the licences are granted on that condition.

Senator STEWART - We are, by this Bill, deliberately establishing a monopoly. We refuse to permit the people of New Guinea to increase the number of licences, no matter how the population may grow. A father might just as well say to a child three years of age : " Here are a pair of boots for you ; you must wear boots of that size until you are twenty-one years of age, and beyond my control."

Senator Pulsford - There are licences enough in New Guinea now for twenty or fifty times the present white population.

Senator STEWART - If Senator Pulsford had made himself acquainted with the literature published in connexion with New Guinea, he would know that the white population of the Territory is scattered over it in driblets, twenty here, fifty there, and seventy in another place. Broadmindedness should be a characteristic of the people of Australia, and it is disappointing to find narrow-mindedness of the worst description in this Committee. It is proposed that we shall say to the people of New Guinea: " We trust you, but not wholly. You are fit to reduce the number of existing licences, but not to increase the number." Perhaps' I have said this before; but I must repeat that this is insulting to the people of New Guinea. We propose to give them local self-government in the matter of liquor licences, but with a very distinct reservation where there should be no reservation. Either they should be allowed to deal with the question as a whole, or they should not be trusted to deal with it at all. Coming back to the question of compensation, it is idle to assume that the hotelkeepers will not put in claims if they happen to be deprived of their licences. Whatever may have been the feeling twenty or thirty years ago, it is now becoming recognised, more in Australia than Great Britain, that if hotel-keepers are deprived of their licences they must be compensated. And there is some reason on their side. They put up buildings and provide accommodation of a certain character for the convenience of the public. They spend, perhaps, thousands of pounds. Although nominally licences exist only for twelve months, in reality they have come to be recognised as properties. That seriously affects the position before us. We propose deliberately to limit the number of licences in British New Guinea. The inevitable consequence will be to increase the value of those licences.

The CHAIRMAN - I shall be glad if the honorable senator will make a few fresh observations.

Senator STEWART - If those remarks are stale, I will try to dig up a few fresh ones. There are other persons to be considered in_connexion with the question of compensation. The employes in hotels may be said to have acquired a vested interest in the industry. Take the barmaid, who lives by dispensing smiles and medicine over the counter to any "Johnnie " who may come in. Has she no claim to compensation ? I suppose there are barmaids in New Guinea, though I do not know whether they are native or imported. If they are suddenly deprived of their living, surely they are entitled to compensation. Then, again, there are the servants employed in the industry. There are also the brewers, the undertakers, the medical men, and the keepers of lunatic asylums, who are all more or less interested in the hotel business. It is true that the leader of the Government in the Senate has told us that no compensation will be paid in New Guinea. But upon what authority? He says that the Prime Minister has just informed him'. Of what value is the Prime Minister's assertion in this relation? What does he know about it ? All that any man knows, as far "as I can see at present, is that if there is any interference with the hotels in British New Guinea claims for compensation will have to be met.

Senator Croft - Does the honorable senator seriously advocate the payment of compensation ?

Senator STEWART - No, I am opposed to it ; but I am trying to look at the question from both sides of the shield. There is in Australia a very strong feeling in favour of paying compensation to publicans whose licences are taken away. Consider what has happened in Victoria. Compensation is allowed here, and if many more hotels are closed more compensation will have to be paid. . The question has created a crisis in connexion with the Victorian Government. These facts indicate the rocks ahead. My own opinion is that if we wish to avoid these difficulties, or, if it is impossible to avoid them, to minimize them, the way to do it is to place the control of the traffic wholly in the hands of the people, and so allow them to act as they please. By limiting their power, as is proposed, we reserve to ourselves, whether willingly or unwillingly, a certain degree of responsibility. It is giving the people of the Territory a one-sided local option. Unless they are competent they ought not to get full control of this traffic. I ask honorable senators to seriously consider what the result of this clause will be. To my mind it will create a monopoly. It will add to vested interests. It will enormously increase the difficulties of dealing with the question at a future time. I ask them to liberalize the measure by giving effect to the democratic ideal that the people should be trusted fully in matters of national or local government.

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