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Thursday, 30 August 1906

Senator DE LARGIE (Western Australia) . - I think it will be generally admitted that the debate has been of an extremely one-sided character, because the so-called temperance advocates have misrepresented the evil, in order to put forward a case in support of the abolition of can teens. I believe that every argument which has been advanced in favour of the Bill has been met with half-a-dozen arguments on the other side. I do not remember a debate on a question of this kind, certainly not in the Senate, which has been so one-sided. I recognise that the side against the Bill have made out such a good case that it is not necessary to support it with very many words, and I do not think that I should have risen to speak had it not been for the remarks made by Senator Pearce. It has been remarked by many persons that as a rule a temperance advocate is very intemperate in his language, but I cannot say that that dictum applies to Senator Pearce, who is a strict total abstainer, and who, to my knowledge, in his speeches on the temperance question, has always been very temperate indeed inhis language. But when he says that the licensing laws of Western Australia have not been evaded or have not encouraged the establishment of the low-class public-houses of which we have heard so much in this debate. I am satisfied that he knows very little of the conditions which obtain in most parts of that State, more particularly on the gold-fields where, as is only natural, and as I suppose is common to all new goldfields, a state of lawlessness concerning the licensing laws is observable to a verv pronounced degree.

Senator Pearce - The barracks are not on the gold-fields, but on the coast.

Senator Givens - The military camps might be held on the gold-fields.

Senator Pearce - They are held on the coast.

Senator DE LARGIE - Senator Pearce complained about the effect of the licensing laws.

Senator Millen - Is not Senator de Largie showing the value of control ?

Senator Pearce - I know the district in which the barracks' are situated, and I know that there are no low grog shops there.

Senator DE LARGIE - There is no better illustration of the advantages of regulating the drink traffic than can be found in Western Australia. I speak with personal experience, because I was well acquainted with Gwalia on the eastern gold-fields, before the State hotel was erected, and I have lived at the State hotel. One has only to compare the previous conditions with the present conditions to be convinced at once that the regulation of the drink traffic, more particularly in the form of a State hotel, is the only cure for the drink evil. What is a canteen but a State hotel ? It exists under the auspices of the Government, and is regulated by Government officers ; and in supporting its abolition, Senator Pearce is, I hold, violating the principle of the State hotel which he has supported time and again. I had occasion to go to Gwalia before the State hotel was established there, and when it was a perfect Bedlam and hotbed of evil owing to the drinking and carrousing of every kind that went on there. Prostitutes, and men who lived on those unfortunate persons, made a good living in that part of the country, because there was no licensed public-house nearer than a few miles from the town of Leonora. Persons took advantage of the opportunity to establish sly-grog shops there, and the state of affairs to which this led was mainly the reason for the institution of the State hotel in Gwalia. The people of Leonora, believing that it would interfere with their interests, were opposed to the proclamation of a township at Gwalia, but the Government were faced with the necessity of doing something to put an end to the awful state of affairs existing at the place, and they came to the conclusion that the only way in which they could clear out all the bad characters who were living on the miners there was to establish a State hotel at the place. They did so, with the result that on my first visit to Gwalia after the establishment of the State hotel, I was more than surprised at the altered demeanour of the people and the improvement in every aspect of society in that locality. One could go into the State hotel with some assurance that he would not be insulted, or would not have a rough to deal with. It was possible there to get good liquor and to be treated as one had a right to be treated. "Under the old condition of affairs it was not possible for a man to go into any place in the township in which liquor was sold with any assurance that he would come out of it alive. This should be accepted as some proof that there is no better way in which the drink traffic can be regulated than by the agency of the Government. .

Senator Pearce - The honorable senator is aware that I do not need conversion on that point.

Senator DE LARGIE - By proposing to vote for the abolition of the canteen, and the abolition of Government agency in the control of the sale of liquor to a section of the community. I think the honorable senator is violating the principle to a certain extent. I had another experience in New South Wales. At the mining township of Kembla, when I was there, there were no hotels established, and, so far as I know, there are none there now. The nearest licensed house was at some considerable distance from the township. I have no doubt that the proprietor of the mine, the late Ebenezer Vickery, a man who took a very great interest in the temperance movement, thought that if he could prevent the issue of hotel licences for any property over which he had control he would be able to do something for the advance of the movement in which he was so much interested. But what was the result? I lived for some years at Kembla, and I can say, without fear of contradiction, that there was more drinking at that mining township than in any other township along the southern coast of New South Wales. Everyweek end drink was carted up to that place wholesale, and in greater quantity than would have been consumed if there had been a 'regular public-house established at the place.

Senator Walker - Where was that?

Senator DE LARGIE - I am referring to the township of Kembla, and if Senators Pulsford and Walker will make inquiries as to the condition of affairs at that township, they will be convinced of the force of my contention that the very worst thing that can be done in the interests of the temperance cause is to afford opportunities for the establishment of slygrog shops by preventing the sale of liquor under regulation and control.

Senator Walker - I quite agree with' the honorable senator. I am. on the same side with him in this matter.

Senator DE LARGIE - I am glad to hear that. For the reasons I have urged, and because I have heard no reason advanced by the other side in favour of the abolition of the canteen, I shall vote against the second reading of the Bill. The consumption of liquor will go on despite anything we can do, and in the light of such experiences as I have related I am unable to understand how any one can be found prepared to support a Bill designed to entirely prevent the sale of liquor in canteens. The sale of liquor is one of those things which we can regulate and control, but cannot entirely prevent, and I hope that the Bill will be thrown out.

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