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Thursday, 26 July 1906

Senator MULCAHY (Tasmania) . - I intend to oppose the second reading of this Bill, but not because I am an enemy of temperance, or even of total abstinence, where the latter may be necessary. It appears to me that the question presented to us is not whether soldiers are to be made more temperate than they are, and drunken- ' ness prevented, but whether we are to prevent the men from getting good, wholesome drink - if any drink may be said to be wholesome - whether we are to prevent them from getting the best of drink within barracks' boundaries, subject to military discipline, in reasonable hours, and under conditions which are not likely to lead to excess, or whether we are to compel them to go elsewhere and obtain, possibly, inferior drink at a higher price over more extended hours. Military canteens are not restricted to supplying drink, but are a social affair amongst the soldiers themselves, the profits being devoted to useful purposes for their benefit. The following is an extract from a letter which appeared in one of the Sydney newspapers: -

The canteen in the Victoria Barracks, and those at the various out-stations, are conducted on co-operative lines, somewhat akin to the Gothenburg system, all profits on the sale of liquor being returned to the men in the shape of comforts of one kind or another. Liquor is sold at the lowest possible prices, and is of the best quality obtainable. For instance, a glass of spirits,which would cost 6d. in the city, is sold to the soldier in barracks at 3d., and other articles at equally cheap rates. The gymnasium, reading-rooms, billiard-rooms, football and cricket clubs, &c, are maintained out of the profits of the canteen, and each member of the Permanent Military Forces receives a gift at Christmas to remind him of the festive season.

Rightly or wrongly, it is said that the people behind this proposal are those who deal in drinks themselves - someof the outside saloon-keepers.

Senator Col Neild - That statement is openly made in the Sydney morning press.

Senator de Largie - The men whointroduced the Bill would not be aparty to any suchtrickery.

Senator MULCAHY - We may all admit that the Bill has been introduced with the best possible intentions ; at any rate, every honorable senator will give that credit to Senator Pulsford. It must be remembered, however, that the Bill was not introduced originally in the Senate.

Senator de Largie - No honorable member of another place would be a party to such trickery.

Senator MULCAHY - I am not imputing motives to any one; but we have seen people, actuated by the best of motives, going to extremes most injurious to a good cause which they may wish to promote. The Bill, which was passed without discussion and practically unanimously in another place, would seriously affect one of the principal Departments of the Commonwealth; and yet it is introduced in the Senate by a private member. I am a thorough believer in Government responsibility ; and if the Government approved of the Bill, it should have been introduced by a representative of the Government who should have given us some reasons for that approval. There are some restrictions in which I do not believe, however strong may be the support behind them. There is a certain amount of individual liberty that the law has no right to take away. Personally, I should1 not allow any man, any body of men, or any legislation to rob .me of anything which I conceived to be an individual liberty, so long as it did not interfere with the individual liberty of others. T should not hesitate to violate a law that would attempt to rob " me of such a right or liberty.

Senator Fraser - The question is whether the example of the honorable senator, might not be injurious to others.

Senator MULCAHY - In regard to this -particular measure, ray example is, I hope, one of moderation. I do not think that drunkenness can be charged against our Military Forces; but, even supposing that some men do get drunk occasionally, this Bill would prevent those who do not from indulging in good, wholesome liquor, and compel them, possibly, to drink bad liquor outside, subjecting them, at the same time, to many other temptations. The speech delivered by Senator Turley is sufficient to annihilate this Bill. It was a capital speech, and the evidence he brought forward is absolutely unanswerable. Therefore, I hope that, whatever honorable senators' views may be on the question of temperance or total abstinence, they will reject the Bill as unnecessary, and likely to be mischievous.'

Debate (on motion by Senator Col. Neild) adjourned.

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