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Thursday, 16 August 1906


Senator PLAYFORD (South Australia) (Minister of Defence) . - There is one thing to which I very strongly object, and that is that Senator Dobson should attempt to brand every honorable senator who opposes this Bill as a person opposed to temperance. We are not opposed to temperance. If Senator Dobson had paid the slightest attention, to Senator Turley he would have known that that honorable senator took the stand he did in the interests of temperance. He has advocated the continuance of the canteen system in the interests of temperance. I have nodoubt that every member of the Senate is in favour of temperance. Personally, I favour local option as a means of decreasing the unnecessary number of public-houses in the Commonwealth. But there is one thing I am not in favour of, and I believe never will be in favour of, and that is prohibition. So far as the canteens are concerned, this Bill proposes absolute prohibition. I ask honorable senators to reflect a little on that question. A year or two ago, I read an account of a visit by two teetotallers to the United States in order to ascertain how the prohibition laws were working in the various States, principally in Maine. They drew a map of the chief city in Maine, and marked with a red cross the buildings in which liquor was sold as openly as it is sold in any part of Australia. When they asked how this traffic could exist, they found that, when the prohibition laws were put in force, sly grog shops sprang up wholesale, that the authorities were not in a position to put a stop to the illicit traffic, and that the corporation agreed to allow certain persons in different parts of the city to put up bars. Photographs of the bars are given to visitors, and once a year every man who sells liquor in a bar is brought before the Courts for having sold liquor illegally, and fined £60 or £70. The men quietly pay the fine, and continue to sell, liquor. That is the result of prohibition in Maine. After getting evidence in other parts, the two teetotallers came to the conclusion that prohibition was a mistake, and advised their teetotal friends in England to go in for regulation and not prohibition.


Senator Best - But local option may mean prohibition.


Senator PLAYFORD - Not necessarily.


Senator Best - The honorable senator is in favour of local option.


Senator PLAYFORD - I am in favour of local option to decrease the unnecessary number of public-houses, but not to prohibit them.


Senator Guthrie - The South Australian law, which the honorable senator helped to pass, provides for prohibition by a two-thirds majority.


Senator PLAYFORD - Tt may be that in certain towns a two-thirds majority may say that there shall not be any pub- lie-houses, and I do not know that my honorable friend need grumble at that. As I develop my argument, I shall mention a few matters which very likely will astonish Senator Dobson. There are two kinds of canteen, namely, the barrack canteen, and the camp canteen. In the former, not only liquor, but groceries, draperies, and such articles as are kept in a general store are sold. I have a list of the various articles which are stocked. The profits which are derived from the sales are utilized for the maintenance of recreation rooms, including libraries, reading-rooms, billiard-rooms, gymnasia, &c, outdoor sports, including cricket, football, handball, rackets, tennis, and athletic sports, payment of wages of canteen employes ; care of soldiers' graves, " and grants in aid of men's mess. Really) a canteen is a co-operative store, with the addition that liquor is sold.


Senator Guthrie - There has been no profit from the canteen at Queenscliff for a long time. On the contrary, there has been a large debit.


Senator PLAYFORD - I do not knew! Out of the profits from the canteen in Sydney, .£500 has been spent in that direction. It must be remembered that there are ill managed and well managed canteens. During the recess, I paid a visit to Western Australia, and then went to Sydney, Brisbane, and Thursday Island. I inspected each barrack canteen, and found that where the commanding officer took a little pains, it was fairly well managed ; otherwise it was very indifferently managed. Under the regulations the commanding officer has to appoint a committee of management consisting of three officers. Amongst other things, I found that the accounts of the canteens were riot system1atically kept. In many instances the accounts were very badly kept ; in fact it was very difficult to understand how they were kept. In some instances the balancesheets were almost as bad as a Chinese puzzle. I found that in many cases excessive credit was given to officers and men. I think it is a very great mistake to give' credit, especially for drink, and that the system ought to be stopped. A man who goes to the bar of a canteen for the purpose of getting (liquor should put .down ibis money. Sometimes the credit was given for more than a month ; in some instances the officers had very large credits. To my mind the whole system was bad, and called for alteration in that respect. I found that in some cases the commanding officer had deliberately put the canteen money into his own private banking account. Of course, that was utterly indefensible. He got the accounts of the canteen and his private accounts so inextricably mixed up that at Thursday Island two special auditors had to be called in to go through the books. They discovered that he was considerably short in his accounts. He disputed the amount, and paid a portion, leaving a balance of, I think, £40 or ^"50 owing to the canteen. In consequence of the manner in which the accounts had been kept, it was impossible to charge the man - he is out of the service now - criminally, because it would have been difficult to prove a case to the satisfaction of a jury.


Senator Higgs - Does the same system pf keeping the accounts prevail in all the States ?


Senator PLAYFORD - No. I found out that case, and possibly in other placed it may have occurred, too. It showed the necessity for revising the regulation. Upon my return to Melbourne, I, after careful consideration, decided to revise the regulation, by providing for a uniform system of keeping the accounts, and also a uniform form of balance-sheet, and gave an instruction to the proper officer to draw up the forms. As the men are many, and the officers are but few, I do not see why the former should not be represented on the committee of management of the canteens, therefore I propose to frame a regulation. At the present time the whole matter is left to the commanding officer, who, however, is only allowed to appoint officers to the committee of managament. In my opinion the officers, the non-commissioned officers, and the men ought to be represented. I have not vet determined in what proportion they shall be represented, but the .question was under consideration when this Bill was sprung upon us. In England the canteens are not allowed to sell spirits, as the following extract from the Army and Navy Gazette, of the 16th June last, will show : -

The Secretary of State for War states that the Imperial Yeomanry, when out for training, are under military law, and as regards their canteens, are subject to the same rules as govern the canteens of the Regular Army and Militia. Under these rules the sale of spirituous liquors of any description is prohibited at home. No unfavorable reports upon the management of yeomanry canteens have been received in previous years.

That does not mean that because the sale of spirituous liquors is prohibited the sale of wines and beers is not allowed. I intend to make a regulation to the effect that only beers and light wines shall be sold in our canteens.


Senator Millen - That is prohibition.


Senator PLAYFORD - So far as the sale of spirits in canteens is concerned, it is prohibition ; but in the United States Army the sale of spirits was forbidden long before the sale of beer was prohibited. We du not desire to stop the sale of all intoxicating liquors, but we look upon spirits as a most dangerous beverage, and therefore we propose to restrict the men to practically light wines and light beer.


Senator Pulsford - But, as a matter of principle, will the Minister explain how he justifies prohibition in one case, and cannot justify il in the other?


Senator PLAYFORD - As a matter of principle, I should say that I was justified in prohibiting the honorable senator from taking some poison, if he was likely to take it to excess at times.


Senator Pulsford - That is not an answer.


Senator PLAYFORD - I think that I should be perfectly justified in preventing my honorable friend from taking laudanum, if I thought that he might injure himself. We know that alcohol is a poison, which, if taken in large quantities, produces death.


Senator Best - Beer is a poison also.


Senator PLAYFORD - A man would burst before he showed any signs of poisoning from drinking lager beer.


Senator Styles - Does not the honorable senator think that the men will go outside to get whisky if they cannot get it at the canteen? Will they not go to low grog shops?


Senator PLAYFORD - There are no low grog shops here, I believe, and we need not trouble about what occurs ir. America. The experience that we have gained in regard to our soldiers is that they are a wonderfully sober lot of men. That applies, not only to our permanent men, who have the privilege of the canteen, ordinarily, but also to the militia and volunteers. The honorable senator who moved the second reading of this Bill made the following remark : -

T am glad to know that the measure has the approval of the late Minister of Defence, Mr. McCay, and also the support of the present Minister of Defence.

As to that, I have to state that I never heard that this Bill had been introduced in another place until it was under consideration there. The second reading was moved, and the measure was rushed through in a very short time. I happened to be working in my room when my colleague, Mr. Ewing, came in, and asked, "Are you in favour of doing away with the sale of spirituous liquors in canteens?" That was the very thing that I was in favour of and I told him so. He said, "All right," and then he went into the House of Representatives, and said that the Minister was in favour of the Bill. I had not seen this Bill at that time. I suppose that my colleague, was justified after my answer to 'his Question in saving that I was in favour of the Bill, but I merely intended to refer to the sale of spirituous liquors.


Senator Walker - I think that the Min- .ister's colleague said that the Government was not against the Bill.


Senator PLAYFORD - I am not quite sure how he put it. But if any one quotes me as being in favour of the Bill, I desire it to be understood that what I am in favour of is the abolition of the sale of spirituous liquors at canteens. As to mv having moved the first reading of the Bill in the Senate, I have to say that when the measure came up I thought that it was a, Government Bill, and jumped up to move the first reading perfectly innocently. Now I desire to answer the question whether we have ever tried prohibition in any of our barracks, and with what result. The experiment has been tried im South Australia. We prohibited the sale of alcoholic liquor at Lares Ba*for a time; and I have a letter from a gentleman who was then a noncommissioned officer. He relates what the result was -

I beg to state that about twenty years ago the sale of liquor was abolished in the Permanent Artillery canteen in South Australia, by order of the Commandant, presumably under instructions from the Minister of Defence, South Australia. The result was that as the men could not obtain the liquor they were accustomed to in barracks, they went outside for it to the hotels. As they had to dress properly before leaving barracks, and also had about a mile to walk to the nearest hotel, they did not content themselves with their usual glass or two, but as a rule spent all the money they had before returning to barracks; the quality of the liquor supplied to them by the hotels was also very inferior, the consequence being that the increase of drunkenness became alarming, and instructions were soon received to again allow the sale of liquor in the canteen. Almost as soon as this privilege was restored, the cases of drunkenness rapidly decreased, and in a very short time drunkenness became almost an unknown offence in the South Australian Permanent Artillery.


Senator Guthrie - How many men were there ?


Senator PLAYFORD - It does not matter whether there were ten, twenty, or 100. The point is that we tried to prohibit the sale of intoxicating liquor at the canteens, and that the result was exactly what Senator Turley pointed out in his very able speech, and exactly what my honorable friend Senator Neild laid great emphasis upon.


Senator Guthrie - What the Minister has quoted is not an official document.


Senator PLAYFORD - I do not care whether it is official or not - it is the truth. The. gentleman who writes to me was on the spot at the time, and knows what he is talking about.


Senator Fraser - The habits of the people have improved since then.


Senator Millen - The improvement took place when the old system was reverted to.


Senator PLAYFORD - Yes. It is but human nature that when you prohibit the use of a thing which people desire, they will try to get it. From the beginning of the world it has been so. The American example has been quoted as one of the reasons why we should adopt this Bill. On the other hand, we have been told by Senator Turley, who has read extracts from the reports of officers in the United States Army, that the result of abolishing canteens has been bad. I have made inquiries, and find that directly canteens were abolished in the American Army drunkenness increased. There is more drunkenness now than there ever was. That is admitted by Major-General Chaffey. Do honorable senators suppose that, if we abolish the canteen at a place like the Victoria Barracks, Sydney, we shall prevent the men from getting liquor if they want it? They will simply cross the road, and get what they like. When canteens were abolished in America, institutions called clubs were established. The men can get anything they like at the "club." I shall quote from a letter from a young Canadian officer who has come out to Australia in exchange for one of our own officers, Lieutenant Innes, who has gone to Canada. In this letter he refers to what he has seen in the United States. The officer's name is Lieutenant Clairmont, and he writes to Major Clarke, of Queenscliff, as follows : -

Queenscliff Hotel, Queenscliff, Monday.

My dear Major Clarke : -

I enclose two letters for you that arrived since you left. I overheard you talking about can teens the other night, and you query as to what the American methods were, and it has struck me that it may interest you to know that when I was visiting an American post (9th U.S.A. Inf., N.Y. State) a short time ago, I saw personally there methods of carrying on places of refreshment. Both officers and other ranks had what they called " clubs " instead of messes and canteens, which I think were contracted under a civilian, but of this point I am not sure. At any rate, when I was being shown round I was taken into the rank and file "club" to have a glass of whisky. I mention this in case it maybe of use to you.

Yours sincerely,

E.   Clairmont, Lieut. R.C.A.

There we see the result of attempting to establish prohibition. If the men in barracks desire to obtain a glass of liquor, what right have we to stop them? Have they not a right to turn round and say to us, " Do awaywith the sale of liquor at your own refreshment rooms. What right have you to consume liquor at your clubs and refuse us the right to have a glass, when we want it?" I am satisfied that if we do away with the canteens the men will go outside, and that drunkenness will increase. Possibly the men will form clubs, as has been done in America, and we shall not be able to stop them, except by special legislation.


Senator Best - Would not that take . place also with regard to spirituous liquors the sale of which the Minister desires to prevent ?


Senator PLAYFORD - It may to a certain extent. I am not saying that it will not take place in the case of certain old topers. But to the more temperate and moderate men, it will not, I believe, make any difference.


Senator Sir Josiah Symon - If it is an interference with the liberty of the men to stop the sale of beer, is it not equally an interference to stop the sale of spirituous liquor ?


Senator PLAYFORD - Sometimes we have to interfere with the liberty of the subject in certain directions, in order that good results may flow therefrom. I have asked a series of questions of responsible officers in regard to the canteens at the barracks at Sydney, Melbourne, and Brisbane, and at Queenscliff. I have asked' for particulars of the alcoholic liquors sold during 1905. At the Victoria Barracks, Sydney, there were consumed 2,997 gallons of beer, and 121 gallons of spirits. The average number of men who are stationed at the

Sydney Barracks is 278, but it must be remembered that a number from outside attend for. instruction and other purposes, and are allowed to use the canteen.


Senator Sir Josiah Symon - Visitors?







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