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Thursday, 16 August 1906

Senator DOBSON (Tasmania) . - When the Defence Bill was before the Senate in 1903, I supported Senator Barrett in trying to insert a clause to the effect that the sale of intoxicating drink should be prohibited in canteens. In the interval, I have seen no reason to alter my opinion that about the best thing we can do for our soldiers is to take that step. I have, therefore, risen to support this Bill as earnestly and forcibly as I can. In the first place, I desire to refer to a return which the Minister of Defence has tabled so that we may see to what extent the evil has grown. It shows that the average number of men quartered at the Victoria Barracks, Sydney, and other barracks of permanent troops during the past year was 723, and that, last year, of that number thirty-seven men were reported for being drunk in barracks.

Senator Col Neild - But only eight in connexion with canteens.

Senator DOBSON - Only eight of these men were reported as having received drink in barrack canteens, and twenty-nine of ' them were reported as having received drink outside the canteens. How does Senator Neild think that the return helps his case? In 1903, we were promised over and over again by the then Minister of Defence that the canteens would be properly regulated under military discipline, and that it would be quite impossible for any man to get too much liquor there.

Senator Sir Josiah Symon - But eight is a very small proportion.

Senator DOBSON - It is only " a little one," I know, but still, under perfect regulations, we find that in connexion with the canteens eight men were reported . as being drunk. I should like to call attention to the twenty-nine men reported to have received drink from outside sources, and to ask the Minister of Defence whether he will venture to say to what extent the canteens were responsible for those men getting drunk. He said that thev might have had half-a-dozen glasses outside. These returns are not worth the paper they are printed on for the purpose of those' who are opposing the Bill, but they throw a great deal of light upon the system of introducing wine, beer, and spirits into the midst of a soldiers' camp, and encouraging the men to become drunkards. The next return that I hold in my hand is exceedingly valuable as showing the extent of the mischief which some of us want to stop. It appears that in Victoria Barracks, Sydney, 278 men drank no less than £479 worth of liquor, or £2 worth each, during the year. At Middle Head, 31 soldiers drank £5 worth per head. At South Head, 55 soldiers spent about £5 each in drink. At Bare Island, 7 soldiers spent £6 each. At

George's Heights, 30 spent £10 each. In Victoria, 91 men at Queenscliff spent over £5 each. At Victoria Barracks, Melbourne, 72 men spent over £j.i each.

Senator Playford - That figure is accounted for by the large number of men who go to the barracks, but do not belong to the Permanent Forces.

Senator DOBSON - At Franklin, 25 men drank £6 worth, of liquor each; and at Nepean, 11 men drank £11 worth of liquor each. At South Channel, 6 men spent £9 each at the canteen. At Swan Island, 45 men spent £13 each. In Queensland, at Victoria Barracks, Brisbane, 70 men drank over £4 worth each. At Lytton, 15 men spent £13 each. At Townsville, 17 men spent £9 each, and at Thursday Island, 81 men spent £6 10s. each. In South Australia, at Fort Largs, 23 men spent £3 each. In Western Australia, at Albany, 30 men spent £12 each. In Tasmania, where we do not appear to have canteens, the amount is nil. I find that £4,782 was spent by 887 men, being an average of .over £5 for each man. If we look at the statistics of New Zealand, and other places where the facilities for drinking are decreasing, we find that the average consumption is far below the figures which I have quoted. In New Zealand, the drink bill for 1905 declined by £132,000, or £2 os. 8d. per head, although the population was increased by 25,000. In Canada, the drink bill for the year 1904 was £2,600,000, with a population of 5,000,000, whereas in Victoria, where there are 1,400 hotels more than are necessary to supply the needs of the people, the expenditure on drink was £4,200,000, which comes to about £7 17s. 11d. for each family. For the whole Commonwealth the drink bill is £13,463,000, or £3 8s. id. per head. So that, owing to our unwise practice of allowing drink to be introduced for the use of soldiers in their camps, canteens, and homes, their consumption is far above that of the average of Australian, New Zealand, and Canadian citizens.

Senator Styles - But the honorable senator must remember that soldiers are all adult males.

Senator DOBSON - The reasons why I support this Bill are, first, that I am totally opposed to giving our soldiers, who are comparatively young men, facilities for drinking. The statistics show that whereever facilities for drinking are given, the consumption of drink increases1, crime becomes more rife, and the police have to be augmented. Another reason in favour oi it is that the Bill seeks to discourage drinking amongst our soldiers, whilst those who are opposing it are, I say most distinctly, guilty of encouraging drinking amongst them. Senator Turley and Senator Neild seemed to take no account of the great temperance movement, which is almost the most important movement in the world to-day. I did not gather that Senator Neild had even a glimmering of the fact that there was a temperance movement.

Senator Col Neild - The honorable senator should not be so silly !

Senator DOBSON - I did not gather from him, with his handful of telegrams and letters from officers, that any one of them riad a glimmering of an idea of the dimensions of the temperance movement, either in the Commonwealth or elsewhere.

Senator Millen - Has the temperance movement attained to those dimensions in places where regulation has been attempted, or where prohibition has prevailed?

Senator DOBSON - It has taken place under all systems; but there can be no doubt that in New Zealand particularly the temperance movement is spreading. Whilst people are becoming more sober, crime is decreasing, and the consumption of drink is being diminished.

Senator Sir Josiah Symon - Is not just as much liquor sold in New Zealand now as ever?

Senator DOBSON - Unless honorable senators will take account of the fact that the temperance movement is spreading, they will never view this matter from my standpoint. The next reason why I support the Bill is that it is most important to remember that we shall have in our camps any barracks numbers of young soldiers. We hope to have numbers of senior cadets, who will be trained to be soldiers there. Do we wish to allow drink to be brought before these young men, so that' they will be corrupted and brought to disaster? On account of the young mem, therefore, I support this Bill. I have not the slightest belief in a great part of the evidence which Senator Turley quoted, because it came from a land for which I have very little respect in regard to some matters. When. we consider the drink traffic in America, we must remember that we are dealing with men who. will sell their very souls and murder people for the sake of drink.

Senator Turley - Does that apply to officers of the United States army ?

Senator DOBSON - It does not apply to officers, but it does apply to the habitue's of the dives or low saloons which are allowed to be established outside the barracks.-

Senator Col Neild - That has happened since the canteen system has been done away with.

Senator DOBSON - I will read some evidence on that point from newspapers which support the temperance movement, and which contradict almost everything" that Senator Turley read to us. Of course, if we look at this matter- from the standpoint of a man who is fond of drink, we may come to a certain conclusion.

Senator Millen - -Is it fair to suggest that those who support military canteens are fond of drink"?

Senator DOBSON - If we look at it from the point of view of the man who thinks that every one should be free to drink as much as he likes, naturally we shall oppose the Bill. But I do not look at it from that stand-point.

Senator Millen - That is not a fair way to regard it.

Senator DOBSON - I regard this Bill as far more important than the Anti-Trust Bill, over which we are likely to spend weeks. Let me quote a passage from Major-General Miles, who says -

In this most important hour of the nation's history, it is due to the Government from all those in its service that they should not only render their most earnest efforts for its honour and welfare, but that their full physical and intellectual force should be given to their public duties, uncontaminated by any indulgence that shall dim, stultify, weaken, or impair their faculties and 'strength in any particular.

We are considering this matter at a veryimportant time in our history, and it is of the utmost consequence that we should not take a step which will have a most injurious effect upon the moral and physical welfare of our soldiers. I shall support the Bill for the protection of our citizen army. As to the American opinions which Senator Turley quoted, I wish to read an extract from a newspaper called the Union Signal. The article is headed " Abolish the Dives," and it expresses the opinion of an officer who has been in half the military posts in the United States -

The claim that the low dives and drinking places in the vicinity of our military posts developed subsequent to and because of the abolishment of the canteen, is not correct so far as pertains to any post at which I have ever been stationed. These places existed before the days of the canteen, and during its existence, just as they are to-day, and just as vile. Let the citizens outside the reservations properly police their slum districts, enforce the law against the lawless, cease granting licences to low dives, and there will be no trouble about disorderly soldiers. So long as this is not done the lowest class of enlisted men will seek the congenial companionship found only outside the reservation, whether beer is sold on the reservation or not. The condition is one created by the citizen and not by the soldier, who is a mere incident, and in my opinion he cannot be improved by any attempt to assimilate, on the reservation, any part of the dive system.

Senator Neildtold us that if we drive the drink out of the canteens the men will go outside to get it. Does he imagine that, if Parliament passes this Bill, we are going to allow hotelkeepers to get' licences to establish their drinking places just outside our camps and barracks? I never heard such nonsense !

Senator Col Neild - That remark simply arises from the fact that the honorable senator is talking about something of which he knows nothing.

Senator DOBSON - I know that the Temperance Party have had a great victory in New South Wales, and that such results as Senator Neild predicted in connexion with canteens have not followed under the new licensing law of that State. Senator Neild does, not seem to understand the development of the temperance movement in the mother State, where, under the new Act, it would be impossible for the conditions which Senator Neild foresaw to arise.

Senator Col Neild - I did not state what I foresaw, but what I know.

Senator DOBSON - The honorable senator cannot possibly know what the licensing authorities of New South Wales will do, or where camps may be placed in the future.

Senator Col Neild - Then how does the honorable senator know?

Senator DOBSON - I do not know. I know, however, that the Licensing Benches are not likely to run counter to the Licensing Act which has just been passed, and which represents a great stride in the direction of temperance.

Senator Styles - Was it an American publication from which the honorable senator quoted ?

Senator DOBSON - Yes.

Senator Col Neild - Just now Senator Dobson said he would not believe what: was said in America.

Senator DOBSON - What I do not believe is the evidence which comes from those interested in the drink traffic, which, like the trusts in' the United States, is. carried on by the aid of much corruption.

Senator Col Neild - The honorable senator is making a reference which has no basis in fact. The evidence I quoted! was that of officers high in the" American. Army, and not that of persons interested inthe drink traffic.

Senator DOBSON - I have here a quotation which speaks of a typical garrison town in the United States -

The mayor of Highwood is a saloon-keeper, and the town is notorious as a resort for vicious characters, civilian as well as soldier. Conditions at Highwood are simply a duplicate of" those in any small town which licenses an unlimited number of saloons and offers every inducement to drunkenness and other vices on the part of the men who are residents or regular visitors. Again quoting Colonel Ray, " the soldier is a mere incident" in the case, and the all-knowing newspaper representative must needs put up a better argument for the sale of liquor in the post exchange, or revise his present statements in accordance with facts.

I gather from that, and dozens of other quotations, that in many places in America: the saloons far outnumber the requirements of the people, and that they are f reqented, as we are told, by low -people, soldiers as well as civilians. I quite understand the argument presented by Senator Turley and Senator Neild ; but these gentlemen seem to forget the temperance: movement. Our desire is to encourage. temperance, not only inside the barracks, but outside; and to that end efforts, are being made to get rid of hotels, and not allow low saloons to be opened at every street corner.

Senator Findley - What have low: saloons to do with canteens?

Senator DOBSON - I am replyingto the argument that if the canteens are closed the soldiers will be driven to, the saloons outside the barracks, and I am showing that the conditions which prevail in America cannot prevail in the Commonwealth. Surelv that is a plain argument?

Senator Col Neild - It is an assertion, not an argument.

Senator DOBSON - Another Military Commandant says -

A Department Commander stated to the Secretary of War that " saloons and low dives have sprung up like mushrooms around army posts since the canteen was abolished."

Senator Col Neild - That is just what we say.

Senator DOBSON - The quotation proceeds

While, for instance, at Fort Thomas, the post at which i last served, when the law abolishing the canteen went into effect, there were nine saloons adjacent to the post, at the time when the report just referred to was made that " saloons had sprung up like mushrooms," there were only seven.

The claim that the law has had a fair trial is equally misleading. It was contemplated that the post exchange would continue to render its useful service, and be supplemented by gymnasiums, libraries, &c.

The writer goes on to say -

The lessons of the late war between Japan and. Russia point conclusively to the doctrine of total abstinence for officers and men in armies and navies. Many officers in our last war urged total abstinence. ' The safe rule for our army now, and for all the future, is the encouragement by every possible means of the practice of total abstinence from the use of intoxicating liquors

Senator Millen - Would the honorable senator make total abstinence a condition before enlistment?

Senator DOBSON - No, but when we have hotels and public houses at every corner, far outnumbering the requirements of the people, I see no necessity to open others in barracks. I see no necessity to create drinking places at Christmas or Easter camps, which are attended, not by old men, but middle-aged and young men. The man who would encourage drinking at those camps is. not taking a wise- view for the Commonwealth.

Senator Turley - No one is endeavour-* ing to encourage drinking either inside or outside camps.

Senator DOBSON - I am trying to show that in order to attain the object we have in view, we must not be content to rely on legislation relating to canteens, but must pay some attention to the regulation of ordinary drinking shops. 'In this connexion every State is taking part in the reform. Liquor has been abolished from canteens in America, and my authority goes oh to say -

An. effort is being made in many States to secure, through their legislatures, a limit law, prohibiting the sale of liquor within one, two, or three miles (five miles is better still) of an army post.

The object of the law in America is to abolish drinking in barracks, and to take care that there shall not be a public house within a mile or two of the gates. Some honorable senators seem to take it for granted that the temperance people desire silly reform inside the barracks, while doing nothing to abolish the drinking evil outside. This publication goes on to say: -

.   . The contention that low dives have sprung up since the closing of the army saloon is not true. They have always been there, and have flourished because of their location, for the man who starts with beer, ends on whisky ; and the more men drinking beer, the more patronage for stronger drinks. As an instance, when the beer was taken out of the army, there were nine low dives adjacent to Fort Thomas, Ky. ; now there are seven. At Fort Meyers, Va., just across the Potomac river bridge from Washington, were a number of these vile places, which the soldiers were compelled to pass every time they went over to the city, and some of the men, knowing they were a constant menace, started a petition among themselves, with the result that Judge Nicol, of Alexandria. County, Va., refused every one of the eleven applications for license, thus closing all of the* dives in proximity to the post.

Senator Turley - Whose evidence is that?

Senator DOBSON - It is the evidence of an officer.

Senator Turley - What is his name?

Senator DOBSON - The name of the officer is not given.

Senator Turley - We gave the names of all our authorities.'

Senator DOBSON - What I have read answers every single word of the evidence laid before us by Senator Turley and Senator Neild. Cannot we bring about a similar state of affairs in Australia? Are we to everlastingly perpetuate all the vices the race is heir to? Are we to make no attempt to get rid of drinking and gambling?

Senator Turley - Has the Federal Parliament any power to interfere with the drink question in Australia?

Senator DOBSON - I do not say that the Federal Parliament has any such power.

Senator Playford - If we cannot interfere, what is the use of talking about the matter ?

Senator DOBSON - I am simply showing that those who take ria.rt in' the temperance movement in America are endeavouring to induce the States Legislatures to act with them. r,bes Senator Turley know that the temperance movement is about the liveliest movement in every State of the Commonwealth ? We are going to have local option in every State.

Senator Turley - The honorable senator does not believe in local option in connexion with canteens?

Senator Playford - Senator Dobson would not like to take a plebiscite of the soldiers.

Senator DOBSON - Does the Minister suggest that the soldiers themselves should be consulted? I say that) nothing of the kind should be done. Soldiers are young men, and it would be simply ridiculous to license public houses in their midst.

Senator Turley - Have soldiers not sense enough to know whether or not they are in favour of canteens?

Senator DOBSON - No, they have not.

Senator Col Neild - Has the honorable senator ever done a bit of soldiering?

Senator DOBSON - This is a very important Bill, and those who take the temperance side deserve to be listened to seriously.

Senator Playford - We, every one of us, take the temperance side.

Senator DOBSON - I should like to read the following quotation: -

The assertion is repeatedly made by the canteen advocates that abolishment of the canteen creates disorder among the soldiers. Let us reply to this in the language of an army officer. Colonel Ray says : "It is an insult to every officer in the United States Army to say that the army canteen assists in the management of his men."

I think Senator Neild told us something of that sort.

Senator Turley - Colonel Ray is the only officer, whose name has been given, quoted by Senator Dobson.

Senator DOBSON - Colonel Ray proceeds to say : -

He adds, " If I had an officer under me who made this statement I would certainly relieve him as soon as possible." No reliable statistics have been brought to prove that the men were better morally and physically under the canteen system than they have been since its abolishment. Quoting again from an army officer : " The regular canteen is not allowed to sell liquor to soldiers when they are drunk. Therefore, the men who want to get drunk will go up town any way. A canteen that keeps the men at the post will have to be as low and vile a hole as any saloon in town."

Senator Col Neild - Read something sensible !

Senator DOBSON - Colonel Ray is just as sensible as Colonel Neild, and Colonel Ray says : -

If the canteen is what it was first intended to be, it does not keep these drinking soldiers, about whom so much has recently been said, at the post. They want to go somewhere where they can get drunk.

That is proved by the statistics laid before us by the Minister, showing that out of thirty-nine men who drank to excess, twenty-nine got drink outside the canteen. Colonel Ray proceeds: -

There is no need of liquor in any army post in the country. Do they have a bar at your newspaper offices in order to regulate the drinking of reporteis and editors?

Senator Findley - Yes.

Senator DOBSON - Colonel Ray goes on : -

In your department stores is a bar maintained simply because a clerk here and there is liable to 'leave his work, go outside of the store, and get drunk? The statements that are being made about the army and its drinking propensities are libels.

Then I have another quotation : -

I here reiterate our recommendation of several formers years that the States having no prohibitory law will endeavour to secure the enactment of a law prohibiting the sale of intoxicating liquor within a radius of three miles from all army posts and Government reservations.

I have another quotation, which states that the whole of the statistics go to show that conditions are improving since liquor was abolished from the canteens.

Senator Millen - Are these American statistics? .

Senator DOBSON - I propose to read only one more extract, because I think some of my honorable friends have treated me in a very ungenerous fashion. I know that the time will come when the temperance movement will make itself felt in every State, and some of my honorable friends will then recognise that this is a more serious matter than they are at present aware of.

SenatorPlayford. - Not the matter of the canteens. The general question of temperance may be.

Senator DOBSON -I beg to differ from the honorable senator. I say that the canteen question is very serious. I have known some soldiers who have ruined their lives by drink, and if I can do anything which will make our soldiers temperate I shall certainly do it. Honorable senators are unable to point to a single historical fact which is not in favour of the principles of this Bill.

Senator Col Neild - Oh, bosh !

Senator DOBSON - Let Senator Neild read the history of the Siege of Ladysmith, where men had to undergo hardships as great as any soldiers have ever had to suffer, and he will find that officer after officer, and pressman after pressman, asserted that the absence of crime and of all disturbances during that terrible time was almost entirely, owing to the fact that there was not a drop of liquor to be got in Ladysmith.

Senator Turley - The most successful canteen ever established was that conducted in South Africa during the Boer War.

Senator DOBSON - We have the great historical fact before us that in the war between Japan and Russia the Japanese were almost teetotallers.

Senator Playford - I have it from Colonel Hoad that they had canteens all through the war.

Senator DOBSON - The Japanese were exceedingly temperate, and they defeated the Russians, who consumed a good deal of drink.

Senator Playford - Sake, and all sorts of liquor, could be. bought right through the war in the Japanese canteens.

Senator DOBSON - Senator Neildwill surely admit my contention that the Japanese were far more sober than the Russians.

Senator Col Neild - If the Russians could get no drink they had to be sober also.

Senator DOBSON - The Russians had drink.

Senator Playford - Both Russians and Japanese had drink.

Senator DOBSON - If Senator Neild desires some evidence -with regard to the results which have followed the canteen system amongst English soldiers, he has only to consider what happened during the Boer War. Perhaps the honorable senator is aware, as I certainly am, of the effect upon one general high in rank, and who occupied a most important post during the war. Perhaps he knows, and if he does not I do, of officers whose nerve was disturbed, whose courage, I might almost say, and whose fitness for the performance of their duty, were seriously impaired as a result of the way drink was carted about in South Africa.

Senator Millen - What has that to do with' the abolition of the canteen?

Senator Col Neild - It has nothing whatever to do with it?

Senator DOBSON - I am arguing generally as to the advisability of trying to make the men of our army temperate.

Senator Col Neild - Let the honorable senator introduce a' Bill to make all the members of the Defence Force teetotallers, and I shall assist him.

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