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Thursday, 23 August 1906

Senator HENDERSON (Western Australia) . - I desire to say a word or two in support of the Bill. After having listened very carefully to the long speeches made in opposition to the measure, I ask myself what it is we desire to accomplish. To answer the question, we have first to ask ourselves whether canteens are a necessity. If the answer to the latter question be in the negative, why should canteens be allowed to exist, in so far as they are what may be termed grog shops. A great deal of argument has been culled from outside sources for the destruction of the efforts put forward in support of the Bill. It struck me that many of the arguments used by honorable senators had the, no doubt unintentional, effect of heaping anathema upon the head of our soldier. Whilst they have been endeavouring to defend the soldier, and certain so-called privileges, they seem to have forgotten the fact that they have been making the soldier out to be one of the most wretched creatures who can be found on God's earth. They have been describing him as a veritable slave to his own appetites; as a man who, if liquor be placed within his easy reach, will become one of the most inebriate, disconsolate, disreputable beings of whom we can conceive. I am really astonished that any honorable senator should regard the person to whom, in certain circumstances, we are prepared to intrust the welfare of the nation, and upon whom we depend for its defence, as being absolutely impotent when it comes to a question of controlling his appetites. Surely if a man is not able to control himself in small things, the money that we spend in endeavouring to make him a defender of the nation might as well be thrown into the sea !

Senator Gray - Is not that an argument which could be used against closing publichouse bars?

Senator HENDERSON - I do not think that my argument has anything to do with either the closing or the opening of public-house bars.

Senator Gray - But men are the same whether soldiers or otherwise !

Senator HENDERSON - Yes, and when the opportunity arises I shall take a similar attitude in respect to publichouse bars.

Senator Playford - In order to be consistent, the honorable senator had better close the bar upstairs.

Senator HENDERSON - I am prepared to do that. There is no one in the Chamber who is more anxious than I am to record his vote for the closing of the bar upstairs, for I always believe in setting my own house in order. I thought that I . had already indicated very clearly my view on that point. At the present moment, however^ we are dealing with a Bill, not for the abolition of the canteen, but for the abolition of the traffic in strong drink within the canteen. Surely there are a thousand-and-one attractions besides those of strong drink which may be introduced to the canteen. If the use of strong drink is calculated to benefit humanity, and to make pleasant out communications, social and otherwise, there ought to be a canteen at every man's door or backyard.

Senator Trenwith - There is very nearly.

Senator HENDERSON - I do not know whether there is or not. All I know is that the nearest canteen is at a considerable distance from my place. If strong drink is held up as an attraction to keep our soldiers under discipline, and within barracks, in order to perform their dutiesto their King and country, I am satisfied' that we as a people have degenerated toa very great degree. I wonder what thesoldier will think of this.

Senator Trenwith - He has already stated what he thinks.

Senator HENDERSON - I am half inclined to think that the soldier has not yet thought out the matter.

Senator Playford - He was asked the question, and he answered it.

Senator HENDERSON - We know how questions are asked at times.

Senator Millen - In many cases he expressed arn opinion on the Bill before he was asked the question.

Senator HENDERSON - In many cases the soldier may have expressed anopinion. But in his reflective moments he may say to himself, " The legislators of the country are urging that, unless the canteen be upheld - unless we have at our command drink of every kind, in order that we may spend at the rate of £5 or a head per annum - we shall go outside the barracks and make beasts of ourselves. "

Senator Playford - Oh, no.

Senator HENDERSON - Has not that been the drift of the argument in opposition to the Bill?

Senator Millen - No.

Senator HENDERSON - Has it not been attempted to be shown that if thestrong drink were taken away from thesoldier in his canteen he would be drivento go outside for his liquor? There wasone honorable senator who went so far asto say that the abolition of the canteen would drive the soldiers into the drinkshops and the brothels surrounding the barracks, leaving us to draw the inference that the men whom we are training for the defence of the country are, when let loose, the basest members of the community. I am not prepared to admit that. I believethat a soldier has all the sterling qualities of manhood, and that he cannot be called1 a pig any more than can any one of us.

Senator Playford - Let him have his. drop of grog inside the barracks.

Senator HENDERSON - In the same way the honorable senator might say, io respect of the whole of the community, " Let the people have their drop of drink wherever they will."

Senator Playford - So the)' can.

Senator HENDERSON - Then why

Senator Playford - We regulate the sale of drink in the canteen. It is also regulated outside.

Senator HENDERSON - The regulation is illogical.

Senator Millen - Surely the honorable senator would allow a man to have bread.

Senator HENDERSON - Most decidedly.

Senator Millen - We regulate the sale of bread bv law.

Senator HENDERSON - Yes, by saying that a man shall only have what he pays for.

Senator Millen - There are other regulations.

Senator HENDERSON - We say that a man shall have 2 lbs. or 4 lbs. of bread in his loaf.

Senator Millen - So far as New South Wales is concerned, the honorable senator us quite wrong, for we do more than that there.

Senator HENDERSON - In what' way is the sale of bread regulated in New South Wales?

Senator Millen - As to the hours within which it mav be sold.

Senator HENDERSON - And the time within which it may be eaten?

Senator Millen - No; we have not gone quite so far as that.

Senator Trenwith - In Victoria we have a regulation as to the paper in which bread may be wrapped.

Senator HENDERSON - In New South Wales do they allow a man the opportunity of stating .ali what (particular period he shall eat his bread ?

Senator Millen - Should the Labour Party get into power I believe that there us a probability that they will abolish even that amount of' liberty.

Senator HENDERSON - I do not (know that my party has ever had such an intention. I have always understood that it desired to get bread for men, whilst the party to which the honorable senator ^belongs does not care very much whether *nen get bread or not. According to the remark of the Minister of Defence, the regulation of the sale of liquor is illogical. If that it is a good thing for a man to have his beer or his whisky be logical, then let him have it when and in what, quantity he chooses. I regard a soldier as a man, too. He is, perhaps, under greater self-control than are many of us. His very training and environment teaches him self-control, and to conduct himself as a man should. A military member of the Senate gave, as an illustration, the conduct of the militia forces in the old country.Any man who is well posted must know that there a militia man has simply two; callings in life. One is to go to camp for twenty-one days in the year in order that he may drink the whole of that time, and the other is to rest entirely until the next? camp is held.

Senator Millen - Is that the honorable senator's definition of a militia man ?

Senator HENDERSON - In my time in the old country that was the type of man we had in our militia.

Senator Macfarlane - They are better now.

Senator HENDERSON - I do not know whether they are or not. I am simply stating the facts as they are known to me. In my time, there was not a scallawag who was not a member of the militia forces. Surely, we are not going to reduce the defenders of Australia to the standard of that militia ! On the contrary, are we not inclined to look upon our soldiers as reputable and respectable citizens who would be able, if called upon, to defend the country? The more opportunities we give to men to drink, and the more encouragement we give to debauchery, the less will be the possibility of getting that soldierly efficiency which is so essential to the defence of the country. I do not see any necessity for keeping liquor in the canteen. I do not suggest the withdrawal of any opportunities of recreation from the soldier. On the contrary, the canteens ought to be made attractive, and to provide for the edification and betterment of the men. I cannot believe, however, that the sale of whisky and other strong drinks is an essential to recreation or good behaviour. On the contrary, it degrades. It not only lessens the physical force of a man, but deadens his mental faculties. Its use has exactly the same effect upon a soldier as it has upon a civilian. We ought to do all in our power to prevent either soldier or civilian from becoming degenerate owing to the use of strong drink. Believing that the Bill would operate in the interests of the soldiers, especially of young men who are generally susceptible to evil influences, I shall support its second reading. I shall always be found voting on the side which goes for the abolition of the drink traffic and the betterment of mankind generally.

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