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Thursday, 16 August 1906

Senator PLAYFORD (SOUTH AUSTRALIA) (Minister for Defence) - No.

Senator Sir Josiah Symon - Would an officer not be allowed to treat his friends ?

Senator PLAYFORD - Yes; but no visitors are allowed to pay for drink. The total amount received from the men at the canteen for drink was £479, and for this it is estimated that they obtained refreshments which outside would have cost £800, showing a verv large difference. The number of convictions or punishments for drunkenness and for other offences of which, it was believed, drink was the cause, was three out of verv ne'arly 300 men during the whole twelve months. In my opinion, that is a wonderfully low percentage and, moreover, there is this note attached to the return : -

In all these cases the offenders had obtained the drink outside barracks, and the canteen was in no wise responsible.

That is marvellous sobriety, and all the officers of New South Wales, whose opinions 1 shall quote shortly, declare that were the canteen abolished there would be considerably more drunkenness than at present. Who are on the side of temperance ? Whose method would deter men, to the greatest extent, from excess in drinking? That of those who are opposing this Bill. Honorable senators who are in favour of the measure are, unconsciously of course, advocating- something that would have the effect of increasing drunkenness. That is the purport of the evidence we have received, and that is the position which has to be faced. In my own State of South Australia, one in' who is a thorough teetotaller, and who, Like myself, would abolish all drinking in canteens if good results would follow, told, me that he "could not conscientiously advocate its abolition, which would c,nl v mean an increase of the very evil he desired to diminish to the utmost possible extent.

Senator Fraser - It is denied that the abolition of canteens would have any such results.

Senator PLAYFORD - The foll lowing are questions I asked, and the answers given : -

Whether other refreshments, such as tea, coffee, sandwiches, &c, are supplied, and what efforts are made in the direction of a temperance canteen ? - Attempts have been made at times to encourage the sale of tea and coffee as beverages, but have met with no manner of success, it being . found that the Government rations were apparently sufficient to meet the wants of the men in this respect. The same applies to food supplies, such as ^biscuits, tinned meats, &c. These are kept for sale, but such are usually bought by the married men only

Whether there is a comfortable room apart from the canteen, where men could assemble for recreation? - Yes; billiard room, reading room, room for cards and games, all recently reconstructed and tastefully furnished by the canteen, in accordance with their several requirements, at a cost of about ^500. There is also a fully and thoroughly equipped gymnasium, and a theatre furnished with stage.

That has all taken place in barracks which are situated in the suburb of Paddington, where, if there were no canteen with its recreation room, reading room, and so forth, the men would perforce find themselves in the street, surrounded by numerous public- houses.

Senator Fraser - There would be recreation rooms in any case.

Senator PLAYFORD - The chances are that, under any circumstances, there would be more drinking and drunkenness than now. I am sorry to say that the Victoria Barracks, Melbourne, came out very badly in this connexion, when compared with the Victoria Barracks, Sydnev. In Melbourne the state of things is not nearly so satisfactory ; and I am endeavouring to find out the cause, but experience much difficulty in doing so. In the Melbourne Barracks and the Queenscliff Barracks together, there are 199 men, who drank 7,932 gallons of beer, as compared with the 278 men in Sydney, who drank 2,997 gallons, in the twelve months. . In Svdney the amount of moneyspent bv the men was £479 2s. 9d., whereas in Melbourne and Queenscliff the amount expended was no less than £1,447 I4S. 4-d-

Senator Best - That includes visitors, I suppose ?

Senator PLAYFORD - Then, as compared with three cases of drunkenness in Sydney, there were twelve cases in Melbourne; and further, in the case of Melbourne, it is only possible to say that in two of the cases it was clear the men had obtained the drink outside of the barracks. This, of course, leaves ten cases in which offenders obtained the drink in barracks.

Senator Dobson - Does not that condemn the present system?

Senator PLAYFORD - It does- not condemn the system, but it appears to' me that it may condemn the management. My desire is to put the matter fairly and straightlv to the Senate - to present both the bane and the antidote. If the unsatisfactory results in Melbourne condemn the system, then the magnificent results in Sydney support it in the most unmistakable manner.

Senator Higgs - Perhaps the Queenscliff regulations drove the men to drink.

Senator PLAYFORD - I do not know whether that is so or not, but I have been making inquiries, because at present the difference in this connexion as between Melbourne and Sydney seems to me inexplicable. I promise honorable senators, however, that I shall make further inquiries, though I have not been able to do much as yet, having received this return only this morning. In Brisbane there areseventy-two men. but they drank more beer than did the 278 men in Sydney, and the fact appears utterly strange to me. In the Victoria Barracks, Brisbane, the seventy-two men consumed 3,200 gallons of beer, as compared with the 2,997 gallons consumed by the men. in the Sydney barracks. How Senator Higgs may explain that fact I do not know. Of the seventy-two men in Brisbane, eight of them were found guilty of drunkenness, as compared with three offenders out of 278 men in Sydney. Of the eight offenders in Brisbane. I am informed that three were apprehended by town escort, so that apparently a picket had to be sent to fetch them home. What was done with the men who obtained the drink at the canteen I do not know, but, as honorable senators will see, there were five. All these figures are very astonishing. I do not know whether my' Sydney friends: have been minimizing the matter at all; but statistics are very awkward to deal with. The difference in the figures relating to drunkenness, as between two towns, is very often explained by the fact that the police are more active in one than in the other; and I do not know how the statistics I am now quoting are made up. I read, however -

With reference to the average number of officers and men stationed at the respective places mentioned, it must be borne in mind that in addition to the troops permanently stationed there, on many occasions during the year schools of instructions and other parades of the permanent, militia, and volunteer forces are held in barracks, the troops attending which would be privileged to use the canteen.

That statement, of course may offer some explanation of the figures I have quoted.

Senator Dobson - What about the amount of money the soldiers spend?

Senator Millen - They do not spend half as much in the canteen as they would spend outside.

Senator PLAYFORD - The return shows that the men at the canteen pay about half what they would have to pay outside. Senator Pulsford a little while ago asked for a return showing where canteens are established, and the receipts from them and the number of men at each barracks or fort where canteens are established. That return I have here, and this, too, discloses a most extraordinary state of things in regard to the Melbourne barracks. In this connexion I sent a special memorandum to the barracks this morning, and have received an answer that is fairly satisfactory. The return shows that in the Victoria Barracks, Sydney, there are 278 men, who spent last year £479 2s. 9d. in drink. In the Victoria Barracks, Melbourne, there are only 72 men, and they spent £820 3s.1d. in drink. That was perfectly astounding to me.

Senator Col Neild - That can be explained.

Senator PLAYFORD - It has been explained to a certain extent, and I will read the explanation directly, though I do not think it entirely satisfactory. At Middle Head, with 31 men, the receipts from the sale of alcoholic drinks during last year amounted to £155 10s. 3d., and at the Victoria Barracks, Brisbane, with 70 men, the receipts were £291 2s.10d. At Thursr day Island, 81 men spent £683 10s.,. but I can understand that they would require a little extra drink. Building operations have been going on at Thursday Island for some time, and the men engaged on the works used to give the soldiers1s. to buy them a drink, and that would probably account for some part of the large consumption reported from Thursday Island. I asked a question concerning the discrepancy between the expenditure at Victoria Barracks, Sydney, and at Victoria Barracks, Melbourne. My letter was as: follows : -

Melbourne, 16th August, 1905.

Military Commandant, Victoria.

From a statement recently presented to Parliament re military canteens, it appears that the receipts from the sale of alcoholic drink during last year at Victoria Barracks, Sydney amounted to £479 2s.9d. for 278 men ; whilst in the case of Victoria Barracks, Melbourne, the receipts amounted to ^820 3s. id. for 72 men.

The Minister wishes an immediate report as to this extraordinary difference.

This is the reply I received -

It would appear from the way that the return was rendered that only officers and men of the Royal Australian Artillery were included. It is pointed out that the number of persons using the canteen at Victoria Barracks, Melbourne, is 76 members of the Royal Australian Artillery, and I02 other persons who are allowed to make use of the canteen ; thus there is a total o'f 178.

That brings the number more nearly to that of the number of men using the canteen at Victoria Barracks, Sydney, but the discrepancy is still very great.

Senator Styles - Could the Minister explain who the other persons are who go to the canteen at Victoria Barracks, Melbourne, to help themselves to cheap grog?

Senator PLAYFORD - The reply to which I have referred continues -

In addition tr- the above total of 178, it has to be taken into consideration that whenever a Guard of Honour is held, an extra 80 men are on the Station for a day or two days, as the case may be, and during Cup Week, for the whole week.

Also that parades of the militia and volunteer forces, Schools of Instruction, and Courses of Equitation held at the barracks bring extra custom to the canteen, but it is impossible to strike an average, as no record has been kept of the actual numbers making use of the canteen.

It is further pointed out that those persons outside the Regiment who are allowed to use the canteen are principally the ones who buy spirits by the bottle, to be consumed in their own quarters.

I.   have here statements from the different Commandants in the various States in reply to certain questions I submitted to them. These cover the opinions of Commandants and commanding officers on the question of prohibiting the sale of intoxicants in canteens. All the papers are here for the perusal of honorable senators who desire to see them, but I propose to give only the substance of them. I take New South Wales first, and I find that in that State brigadiers ar.d commanding officers unanimously and resolutely oppose prohibition of the sale of intoxicants in canteens, and the Commandant says -

Personally I am totally opposed to proposed prohibition.

Without exception, every commanding officer in New South Wales is opposed to the prohibition of the sale of intoxicants in canteens.

Senator Sir William Zeal - Then they do not agree with the Minister, who proposes to abolish the sale of intoxicants?

Senator PLAYFORD - I do not propose to abolish canteens, but to abolish the sale of spirituous liquors. The Bill proposes the abolition of canteens. In the case of Victoria, nineteen commanding officers have expressed the opinion that the sale of intoxicants in canteens should not be prohibited whilst three are in favour of prohibition. The Commandant says -

I am strongly of opinion that in the interests of discipline and sobriety, the prohibition of the sale of intoxicating liquors would be a mistake. Personally I am of opinion that spirits should be prohibited, and only beer and wine sold.

Now I come to Queensland, and I have this report from that State -

Strongly recommend retention of" canteens for the following reasons : -

Induce members Permanent forces regard barracks as home.

Profits of canteen devoted to maintenance of library, billiard table, piano, and* light refreshments, for which no provision on Estimates.

Militia profits distributed to corps concerned for sports.

If canteens closed with object of suppressing drink, fear result disastrous to discipline and esprit de corps; men will join institutions in town not under supervision of officers.

Misdirected influences will replace military influence, and thus military thought, and consequently efficiency, will suffer, and our task will then be more difficult.

Offences caused by drink generally committed outside barracks.

Majority of Commanding Officers favour retention and sale of intoxicants.

In the case of South. Australia, seven commanding officers are of opinion that the canteen is desirable, four are opposed" to canteens, and one asked that he should be relieved from expressing an opinion. The South Australian Commandant states -

From an experience extending over fiveandtwenty years, I am strongly in favour of permitting the sale of intoxicating liquors in canteens.

It has the great advantage of the sale being carried out under strict military control, and at the same time the best liquors are being provided for the men.

I am perfectly convinced that if such sale is prohibited, it will cause most serious dissatisfaction throughout the Commonwealth Military Forces, and will lead to a great deal of illicit drinking in barracks and in camp.

I find that in Western Australia all the commanding officers, ten. in number, and including the State Premier, strongly op pose the abolition of the sale .of intoxicants in canteens. The Senior Chaplain, Bishop

Riley, concurs in this, and the Commandant states -

I also indorse the opinions of my Commanding Officers.

In Tasmania, ten commanding officers are unanimously in favour of continuing the sale of intoxicants in canteens. The Acting Commandant concurs, and there is no dissentient.

Senator Col Neild - Then ' there are only seven commanding officers in the whole of the Commonwealth who are in favour of the Bill?

Senator PLAYFORD - Honorable senators will see that the immensely preponderating opinion of those who have the best means of knowing what will be the effect ' of doing away with the sale of intoxicating liquors in canteens is that it will be injurious, and will lead to an increase of drunkenness. The experience in South- Australia may be only in a small 7Vav in connexion with Largs Fort, and for a. limited period, but the Commandant of that State is of opinion that to do away with the canteens would lead to an increase of drunkenness. That is also the experience of the United States', so far as I have been able to gather from mv reading. 7 have before me a report on the subject from one of the most important officers of the United States Army, Lt. -General Adna R. Chaffee, Chief of Staff of the United States Army. He says -

The lowest ratio of alcoholism was for the year 1898, when beer and light wines were sold under regulations established by post authority.

I shall not quote the whole of his report, because I have already occupied a greater length of time than I usually do when addressing the Senate. But I gather from the report that in the opinion of General Chaffee, drunkenness has increased in the United States Army since the canteens have been done away with.

Senator Turley - Why not read the whole of the report?

Senator PLAYFORD - I think that Senator Turley has already quoted even a stronger statement.

Senator Turley - Not from General Chaffee.

Senator PLAYFORD - He says, amongst other things -

Prohibition creates in soldiers a wish for drink rather than banishes it.

That is the opinion of one of the most important officers of the United States Army.

Senator Sir William Zeal - Then what becomes of ' the honorable senator's suggestion to prohibit the sale of spirituous liquors in canteens? He is condemning himself.

Senator PLAYFORD - We cannot all be logical like the honorable senator. I am content to quote the opinion of a man who is able to describe what took place when the canteens of the United States Army were allowed to sell only beer and light wines, and his statement that, having done away with the sale1 of beer and light wines in. the canteen, as is proposed by this; Bill, the' result was an increase of drunkenness in the United States Army. This officer expresses the opinion that prohibition increases rather than decreases the desire for drink on the part of the soldiers. After all inquiries, I believe that the result of doing away with the sale of at least certain intoxicating liquors in military canteens in the Commonwealth will not be what our teetotal friends think it will. I believe that it will not lead to a. decrease of drunkenness amongst the men. From the experience of our officers, and from my reading on the subject, I have no doubt that the effect would be to increase rather than decrease the amount of' drunkenness. It would cause the formation of clubs in. which the men would lie able to obtain drink without the supervision to which they are subjected under I he canteen system. I believe as strongly as does any member of the Senate, or anyone in the community, that it is advisable that we should do all we can to promote temperance, not only amongst the military, but throughout the whole community ; but T still shrink, as the teetotal officers of the Defence Force do, from consenting to the passage of a measure like this, because I believe its effect will be the very reverse of What is expected from it by our teetotal friends.

Senator FINDLEY(Victoria) [5.29I - The agitation being carried on, particularly in the State of Victoria at the present time by various temperance organizations for the abolition of military canteens, is one that has received a good deal of prominence in the columns of the dail v press. If ona were to be moved bv the numerous letters he receives, asking his support for the Bill, without giving consideration to the other side, I feel that he would be casting a wrong vote. I can understand a prohibitionist strongly favouring a Bill of this kind, but I cannot understand any. other person being in favour of the abolition of military canteens. I believe that if the liquor traffic were under strict control and regulation, there would be a less consumption of alcohol than is the case to-day. It ' is because I believe that the consumption of alcohol is restricted in military canteens that I do not wish them to be abolished. The 'speech made by Senator Dobson in favour of the Bill, and some of the arguments he adduced, will not stand verv strict analysis. When he was reminded of the fact that a vote had been taken amongst the parties concerned as to whether thev were favorable or unfavorable to the Bill, he said that they had not enough common sense to exercise a vote on a matter which seriously affected them. That was a very unfair and unmanly statement for the honorable senator to make in regard to a number of men who have probably as much intelligence and capacity as he has. At all events, if they had not enough common sense or intelligence to exercise a vote on the question as to whether the canteen should' be abolished, then on his line of reasoning they have not enough common sense to be intrusted with a rifle to protect the shores of the Commonwealth. The honorable senator also quoted from a temperance magazine to show that newspapers would not favour the establishment of a canteen in a newspaper office. I know that for a period of fifteen or sixteen years there has been in existence in the Argus office a well conducted canteen, where the men are never in a state of intoxication, and where thev are supplied with beer and every kind of spirituous liquor at a' cost much less than that which they would have to pay outside, The canteen has been a very great convenience to the machine:men, the linotype operators, the reporters, and the editorial staff, and never during its existence have I heard of a case of drunkenness having been brought before any of the responsible men who conduct that establishment.

Senator Fraser - The men are selected from the staff.

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