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Thursday, 26 July 1906

Senator CROFT (Western Australia) . - The Senate is indebted to Senator Turley for the great amount of care and trouble which he has taken in presenting a mass of evidence in regard to this Bill. While I intend to vote against the second reading, I shall not do so on the same grounds as are taken up by the honorable senator. In the first place, I object altogether to the introduction of such a Bill. It is quite unnecessary. If the Minister of Defence had before him complaints from his officers as toany of their men being addicted to drink to such an extent as to impair the efficiency of the Military Forces, he could immediately order that arrangements should be made to prevent that kind of thing occurring. He could even direct the total prohibition of the sale of liquor to our soldiers and the closing of canteens. I challenge the Minister to say whether he does not possess that power.

Senator Playford - I could have done thatby regulation.

Senator CROFT - The Minister admits that he could control this matter by regulation. Consequently there was no need for the introduction of this Bill. Had he received any complaints from his officers or fromany one else he could have put an end to the evil without any trouble. Anotherpoint which I bring under the notice of the Minister is thatlast week hetook exception to a motion with respect to the appointment of the Lieutenant-Governor of

Papua. He said that the motion interfered with the powers of the Executive. I voted against the Government on that occasion.

Senator Playford - There is a difference between a motion and a Bill.

Senator CROFT - I know that. The motion in question commenced with the words, " That in the opinion of the Senate it is desirable " to do certain things. The Minister of Defence then appealed to the Senate, and took some of us to task fpr supporting a motion which interfered with the Executive in the exercise of its functions. To be consistent", the Minister should, on this occasion, ask the Senate to protect him against a measure which is also intended to interfere with the exercise of his authority over his Department. But T think I understand why this Bill has been introduced. As an old secretary of the Political Labour Council, and a campaigner who has had some experience on behalf of others in political fights, I have always found that in the last session of a Parliament there is what I may call a political silly season - a time when many members of Parliament endeavour to make themselves conspicuous in regard to a number of questions in order that they may placate certain organized forces in the constituencies.

Senator Col Neild - Properly speaking, it is a death-bed repentance season.

Senator CROFT - Possibly the honorable senator is right. He is a very old hand in politics, and I adopt his suggestion. It appears to me that in view of the agitation that is taking place in Melbourne just now, a number of members of Parliament think that it is good business to bring forward a Bill of this kind to placate a certain party. But I am not going to support the measure for any such reason. I do not intend to assist to pass a Bill which, would have the effect of offering a gratuitous insult to a number of citizens who have banded themselves together for the defence of this country. For it is an insult to pass a Bill which involves the suggestion that there is drunkenness in the Military Forces.

Senator Col Neild - There is certainly an implication of drunkenness.

Senator CROFT - Undoubtedly. I have no sympathy with that. But while I would defend the members of our Defence Forces against such an implication as is contained in this Bill, I desire to point out that I am in no way open to a charge of inconsis tency. When the Papua Bill was before the Senate, I voted for total prohibition. I should do so again under similar circumstances, thereby not' only keeping my pledge to my constituents, but acting in accordance with my ideas of what is right. For many years, in co-operation with some honorable senators who are present - Senator de Largie, Senator Henderson, and Senator Pearce - I fought in Western Australia - and in the end we were partially successful - with the object of securing State control over the liquor traffic, with a view to its probable ultimate abolition. Nevertheless, I do not feel justified in supporting this Bill. First of all, I repeat, it is absolutely unnecessary, because the Minister has power to control the Military Forces in this respect. Secondly, I oppose it because I consider that it is nothing better than a little cheap electioneering on the part of some members of Parliament. Thirdly, I oppose it because it conveys a stigma on the Military Forces of the Commonwealth.'

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