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Thursday, 23 August 1906

The PRESIDENT - I must really ask Senator Dobson to restrain his impetuosity.

Senator MILLEN - As to the question of local option, I find on going through the figures contained in some papers which were laid upon the table, that something like 239 men of the Permanent Forces are in favour of the maintenance of the canteen, while only 28 are in favour of its abolition. I do not know what majoritySenator Dobson would require to determine the question of local option ; but, in face of the figures I have mentioned, two things are apparent - first, that an overwhelming majority are in favour of the maintenance of canteens, and, secondly, that the men most competent to form an opinion, see no evil in the canteen. I am of opinion that of 250 odd men there must be a considerable percentage who, even if they themselves took drink in moderation, would still vote for the abolition of the canteen atsome personal inconvenience, if they, thought its maintenance detrimental to their fellow soldiers. I understand from the Minister of Defence that I am at liberty to read a letter which he has received, and which he has been courteous enough to hand to me this afternoon. This is a letter addressed to Lt.-Col. Wallace, Commandant in Western Australia, by the Rev. Edward Makeham, of the Chaplains' Department, Commonwealth Military Forces, and late chaplain in the Royal Navy. I ask the indulgence of honorable senators while I read this letter, which appears to me to nut the case in a remarkably clear and able fashion. It is written by one who, both from his experience and calling, may safely be accepted as a competent and thoroughly reliable guide. The letter is as follows : -

With regard to the proposed abolition of canteens in barracks and military camps, may I be permitted to enter a plea for their continuance.

During 12^ years service in the Royal Navy, and nearly 15 as a Seamen's Missionary and Harbour Chaplain, I have had abundant opportunity of noting the advantages and disadvantages of the canteen system, and have always found a properly conducted canteen conducive to good order and discipline.

The establishment of naval canteens at Malta, at the Naval Barracks at Sheerness, and on the guardship at Portsmouth, with each of which I was for a short time connected, considerably reduced the number of offences, especially leavebreaking, smuggling liquor, and breaking bounds; while on the other hand an endeavour to close the canteen at the Sailors' Home in Hong Kong resulted in increased drunkenness and crime arising therefrom.

The establishment of a canteen places the sale of liquor under control ; the men themselves are also interested in the preservation of order - the canteen being at once closed if any breach of discipline occurs by the privileges being abused.

The absence of a canteen invites the establishment of public houses and grog shops in the vicinity of camps and barracks, and these places are, as a rule, not managed by the most desirable characters. There is also the sly grog seller to be taken into account - a class of occupation which always flourishes where total prohibition is established.

The Commonwealth Force, being a Citizen Force, is necessarily more free than the Imperial, but in this particular matter the conditions are not widely different.

The legislation proposed does not prohibit the use of intoxicants in camps, &c, but only the sale. It may naturally be expected then that men who are not total abstainers will take their own supplies of liquor into camp with them, a practice which, I think, would most certainly lead to grave trouble.

In the management of a canteen I would suggest that : -

1.   Beer and wines of good quality be sold.

2.   Temperance drinks, such as lemonade, ginger ale, &c, be always on sale.

3.   The sale of spirits be strictly prohibited.

4.   The President of the Canteen Committee be a commissioned officer not below the rank of captain.

5.   All profits, after necessary working expenses are paid, to be devoted to the recreation or other fund for the benefit of the men.

That letter should arrest the attention, of those who desire to deal with this matter apart from any pledges. The case is stated with moderation, and the opinions expressed ought to weigh with honorable senators I desire now to give a few figures as to the relative percentage of drunkenness within barracks and forts, and amongst the general community. I do this because Senator Dobson, in dealing with the same figures some time ago, brought out results quite different from those I am forced to draw. I find, from a return placed on the table by the Minister of Defence, that the value of the drink consumed in all the canteens represents an average of £5 7s. nd. per head of the men. That, however, has tbe discounted, though to what extent I cannot say.

Senator Playford - To a very considerable extent discounted.

Senator MILLEN - At the foot of the return is a note stating that, in addition to the permanent troops attached to the barracks or forts, the members of the citizens' forces, who attend parades, classes of instruction, and so forth, also use the canteens. It will be seen, therefore, that the average of 7s. nd. must be very largely reduced as applied to the members of the permanent forces only.

Senator Dobson - It would be reduced to about per head, I suppose.

Senator MILLEN - It is no good supposing.

Senator Playford - There are hundreds of volunteers and others who attend drills, and so forth.

Senator Dobson - How many times a year - two or three?

Senator MILLEN - I am not going to dogmatize on figures, but merely say that an allowance must be made. Whether that allowance should be is., ros., ox £1, noone can say, although we may be inclined to guess. The true figures could only be obtained by a very careful noting! of the number of casual visitors attending the barracks and forts. But I take the figures as they stand, and regard £5 7s- as representing the' value of the liquor consumed per head by the men within the forts and barracks. In New South Wales the amount consumed per head within the barracks is ^4 3s. 6d. ; in Victoria, £7 os. yd. ; in Queensland, £7 5s. : in South Australia, ^3 os. rod. ; and in Western Australia, £12 6s. 8d. The average for the whole general population of the Commonwealth is ns. id. per head, and I find some difficulty in bribing the figures down to a common standard. It is generally accepted that we may take one adult male for every five of the population, but it would be unsafe to assume that all the ladies are teetotallers, and, therefore, it is impossible to say how much the adult males of the community do drink. If we take the adult males as one to five of the population, this means an expenditure of £1715s5d for every adult male in the Commonwealth. Honorable senators may reduce that amount as much as they think proper in consideration of drink supplied to those under twenty-one years of age, or to the females of the community. What I desire to show is that, subject to this allowance, while every adult male in the general community consumes drink to the value of £17 15s. 5d., the men inside barracks consume drink to the value of only £5 7s.11d. per head. While we cannot dogmatize as to the figures, we may safely draw the conclusion that the difference is so great as to justify us in assuming that men within barracks, as compared with the general population, are moderate drinkers.

Senator Playford - Hear, hear; very moderate !

Senator MILLEN - I should like now to draw attention to some figures relating to the arrests on the charge of drunkenness.

Senator Dobson - Before the honorable senator leaves the figures he has just quoted, he ought to bear in mind that of thirtyseven drunkards, twenty-nine got drunk outside canteens. See what the honorable senator's statistics are worth - not a dump !

Senator MILLEN - The fact is that twenty-nine men got drunk at those places which Senator Dobson would not prohibit, while only eight got drunk in the canteens which the honorable senator would prohibit. We have to remember, in a question of this kind, that there is remarkable difference between civil and military drunkenness.

Senator Dobson - That is very wonderful !

Senator MILLEN - Senator Dobson will understand when I point out that while a civilian, though very drunk, is not interfered with as he walks along the street, so long as he is able to take care of himself, and does not annoy anybody, a soldier, if he shows the slightest sign of liquor within barracks, or when he is in uniform, he is looked after. It means that drunkenness, in a military sense, is much more serious than it is in a civil sense; and, therefore, the light percentage of arrests within barracks must be regarded as even lighter in reality than it would appear from a mere consideration of the figures. It is an unfortunate thing to have to say, but the charges of drunkenness dealt with by the Courts of the Commonwealth amount to 11.68 per1,000 of the population, which, assuming all those charged to be men, at the rate of one to five of the population, amounts to 581/2 per 1,000 men. Of course, an allowance may be made for the fact that some of those charged are our unfortunate sisters; but still, there are the figures. In connexion with canteens, however, I find that all the charges, even including those where the drink was got outside, amount to only 41 per 1,000; and if we have regard only to those who are charged with offences as the result of drink obtained at the canteens, the proportion is 9.3 per 1,000 as against 581/2 per 1,000 outside. All this seems to me to point to the fact that, as we cannot abolish liquor at the present stage of society - as it is generally admitted that prohibition would absolutely break down, and that we must rely on proper regulation and control: - it would be remarkably foolish for us as a Legislature, with those facts and figures before us, and unkind to the men themselves, if we abolished the canteen and left no place for. social meetings, and for the obtaining of moderate refreshments except those public houses, saloons, and dives which Senator Dobson has again and again affirmed are the real cause of the demoralization of the American Army. For those reasons, it is my intention to oppose the second reading of the Bill.

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