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Thursday, 30 August 1906

Senator O'KEEFE (Tasmania) . - - I have listened with considerable interest to the debate which has taken place on the second reading of this Bill. To those who have spoken on the measure from either side I give credit for all sincerity, and T claim from them the same credit for sincerity in the expression of my conviction that in voting against this Bill, and in favour of the retention of the canteen, I am doing what I believe to be best in the interests of those concerned. I believe that there is more misery caused in the world through excessive drinking than through any other agency.

Senator Findley - Bacl economic conditions are the root cause that drives people to drink.

Senator O'KEEFE - Sen Senator Findleymay hold that view, but to any one who has knocked about the world it is patent that there is an enormous amount of misery caused by excessive drinking. What assurance have we that those who frequent canteens will be benefited by the passing of this Bill? How can honorable senators for a moment believe that by passing this Bill we shall reduce the amount of drinking by those who now drink at the canteens ? Senator de Largie has related from his own knowledge what has occurred in mining camps where no licensed houses for the sale of drink have been established. A similar state of affairs has come under my notice in mining camps some miles from centres of civilization, and in which houses have not been licensed for the sale of drink. I have in mind at the present time at least two places where the establishment of sly-grog shops was due entirely to the fact that the men in the locality would have strong drink, and there was no licensed public house within a distance of some miles. The result was that the parasites of society who seem to infest every place, established sly-grog shops in which they sold liquor of the worst quality, or of no quality at all, and thus did enormous injury to those who would drink, while they put illegal -profits into their own pockets. It has been urged during the debate that if we abolish the sale of liquor in canteens there will be some danger of sly-grog selling in them. In re Dip it is contended that as the canteens are under control that danger is not likely to be very serious. But it seems to me that where some hundreds of men are assembled if the canteen is established at some distance from the nearest licensed public house, those who will have a certain quantity of drink under any circumstances will find the means of getting it through some of their comrades, and that it will be surreptitiously introduced into the canteen by individuals who may desire to make a profit out of it. That may be a somewhat far-fetched idea, but I believe that 'there is such a danger. If I thought for a moment that we could do any service to those who, at present, are able to bil)' drink in military canteens, and would be acting in their interests by prohibiting the sale of strong drink in them, I should be prepared to vote for the Bill. But it has already been pointed out, and may well be repeated, that we have not the power to deal with the sale of drink except in canteens. As a Federal Far liament we have not the power to prevent the sale of drink within a few hundred yards of a canteen. The men who frequent canteens are kept in barracks as prisoners - they are allowed a certain time off, and those who are unable to exercise self-restraint, and who, at times, take more drink than mav be good for them, \vould get it outside if they could not get it in the canteens. If they are able to get the drink they require in the canteens, we are entitled to assume that they will be supplied only with the best quality of liquor, and that they will not be allowed to obtain sufficient to intoxicate them. If they have to go outside to get drink, they will be able to get it in unlimited quantity, and as much as they please to purchase. Seeing that we have not the power to prohibit or regulate the sale of strong drink outside Federal Territory, which includes all places over which the Federal authorities have control, military canteens amongst others, it seems to me that it would be absolutely useless for us to pass this Bill even from the point of view of those who conscientiously believe in temperance and in the restriction of the drink traffic. The instance of the State hotel at Gwalia, referred to by Senator de Largie, is deserving of consideration. In this morning's newspaper I read a statement made on the authority of a member of the Victorian Legislative Assembly, with respect to the history of the State hotel in Gwalia, and what has taken place there during the last twelve months.

Senator de Largie - Did he quote his authority ?

Senator Pearce - The statement was made on my authority. I supplied the figures, and I have always advocated State hotels.

Senator O'KEEFE - I - I was not aware that the member of another place obtained his facts from Senator Pearce.

Senator Pearce - The honorable member stated so.

Senator O'KEEFE - Tha That certainly escaped my observation; but the fact only insures that the statements are correct.

Senator Pearce - I should not have interposed if Senator de Largie had not seemed to think there was ai reason for keeping back the fact.

Senator O'KEEFE - T - There is no reason for S'enator Pearce to interject to the effect that he is in favour of State control of the liquor traffic. However, the contrast between the conduct of the Government hotel' at Gwalia and the conduct of privatelyowned hotels is very sharp. In the hotel at Gwalia. no man is served with more than a limited quantity of drink, and if he insists on calling for more, he is taken on one side and quietly informed by the man in charge that he cannot be supplied.

Senator de Largie - It a man nas the slightest sign of drink about him. he is not served at all.

Senator O'KEEFE - I - I quote these facts to show that the main object of the hotel at Gwalia is not the making of profits, and in this we have a concrete example of the State ownership and" control of the liquor traffic to a limited extent. T have never wavered in my belief that the collective control of this traffic would be the best possible policy in the interests of the temperance party ; and 'I regard the Commonwealth control of the traffic in canteens as a step, if only a small step, in that direction. We should be making a great mistake in the .interests of" temperance, and in the interests of the Forces, who would always be able to purchase liquor outside, if we were to carry this Bill. I am as earnest as any man could be in my desire to see the evils of the drink traffic swept away - I am a thoroughly sincere advocate of " temperance, though nol of absolute prohibition, and, therefore, I aim opposed to the measure. The Minister of Defence appears to me to be rather inconsistent in his attitude. In the course of the debate he said, " It is human nature; when you prohibit a thing which people desire, they will at once try to get it." The Minister has since told us that he intends to prohibit the sale of all liquors, except beer and wine, in the military canteens, but, in view pf his former declaration, such a step is inconsistent on his part. However that may be, the Minister proposes to follow a precedent which has worked very well ; and we are informed by medical and scientific authorities that the greatest evils arise from alcoholic drinks other than beer and wine. The Minister may be quite right in the step he proposes to ta/ke; and if, as probably will prove to be the case, men are satisfied with wine and beer in lieu of the stronger form of liquor, it will be a step in the right direction. On this point I am in accord with the Minister of Defence, and I shall vote against the second reading of the Bill.

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