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Thursday, 30 August 1906

Senator PULSFORD (New South Wales) . - I wish in the first place to refer to some remarks made as to the reason why this Bill has been introduced. It has been suggested by one or two honorable senators that the Bill has been brought forward as an electioneering dodge. There are two answers to that charge. In the first place, as to the House in which the measure originated, I have to state that it was placed on the business-paper of the House of Representatives last year - a year and a half before a general election was likely to occur; and it was only because the Bill was not reached that it was not dealt with last year. As far as the Senate is concerned, I point out that the Bill is in charge of a senator who has no occasion to face the electors this year. It is obvious, therefore, that the suggestion that there is an electioneering motive at the bottom of the proposal is entirely mistaken. It has been stated by one or two honorable senators that some supporters of the Bill have been very intemperate intheir remarks. I think I may reply that honours are fairly easy in that respect. I have heard opponents of the Bill charge supporters of it with being fanatics. I, who have been a temperance advocate all my life, and who have been always ready to do all I could to promote the cause of temperance, resent that imputation, because, while I am in favour of temperance, and wish to promote it in every way, I have never lost sight of the grave and overwhelming importance of personal liberty. I remember that when the Papua Act was under discussion, I quoted a remark made by an eminent English churchman, who said that he would rather see England free than sober. I quoted that remark as showing the ground on which I stood. When the Bill came into my hands, this was the ground upon which I put it before the Senate. I stated -

This Bill is intended to make our army as a fighting machine more efficient for the purposes for which it is established. It is on that ground that I especially ask the support of the Senate.

In this respect I find that a statement has been made by Major-General Miles, of the United States Army, who says -

In this most important hour of the nation's history, it is due to the Government from all those in its service that they should not only render their most earnest efforts for its honour and welfare, but that their full physical and intellectual force' should be given to their public duties, uncontaminated by any indulgence that shall dim, stultify, weaken, or impair their faculties and strength in any particular.

That is the ground, and the only ground, upon which I have taken charge of the Bill, and have asked for support for it. If it should be the opinion of the Senate that the army as a fighting force cannot be strengthened by the measure which I have brought forward, my arguments fall to the ground. Honorable senators should recognise the great -importance of the cause of temperance to Australia; and if any advocates of temperance, feeling to an overwhelming extent the evils that result from the consumption of intoxicants, should allow themselves occasionally to speak warmly, their efforts, I claim, should be regarded with esteem, and not with scorn. I find that there is considerable difficulty in getting at the truth as to the position of matters in America in respect of canteens. That largely arises from the method in which legislative affairs are conducted in the United States. Legislative proposals are first of all dealt with by Committees, reports of whose proceedings do not seem to be published. I have not been able, therefore, to obtain that full information which I should have liked to get. I must recognise that the speeches delivered in the Senate have been of a very high order. I do not suppose that any measure that has been before this Chamber has been more carefully debated. The address delivered by Senator Turley showed most laborious investigation, and was. well worthy of the subject, well worthy of the Senate, and well worthy of the speaker. But I have found that a good many of his statements, some made on the authority of army officers in the United States, are more or less untrustworthy. I will tell the Senate why. It seems that there has been a tendency to exaggerate, and within the last eighteen months the Secretary of the War Department in America has issued a minute calling upon officers in the army to be careful in the reports which they issue on this subject. I am very sorry that I am driven into a corner in the matter of time, but I think it advisable to read this statement -

The Secretary of War invites attention to the foregoing correspondence, and requests the officers of the army in charge of troops, who in their annual reports are called upon to speak of the operation of the anti-canteen amendment, to state the facts only, and not their opinions. The good faith of the army in making these reports, unlesson their face they are impartial statements of the facts which have come to the knowledge of the officers, will, in the heat of controversy, certainly be attacked if there is the slightest internal evidence of a bias on the part of witnesses.

It is quite evident, from the fact that the United States Secretary of State for War has issued such a memorandum, that statements were afloat to which at least the suspicion attached that they were not quite accurate. How far that inaccuracy attached to the reports which came under the cognizance of Senator Turley and Senator Findley I am not aware. But it does seem that there is some doubt as to their complete accuracy. It is impossible for me to deal as I should like to do with the remarks made by Senator Playford, owing to lack of time. But there is one point to which I must allude. Senator Playford is under the impression that the expenditure on drink in military canteens is of a very limited character, and that drinking on the Dart of soldiers is very moderate. I must differ from him.

Senator Playford - That was proved up to the hilt by Senator Millen.

Senator PULSFORD - I will refer to the remarks made on that topic. Senator Playford, in the figures which he quoted, showed that the expenditure on drink in the Sydney barracks was£479 in the year. But he added that the outside cost of the liquor consumed would have been£800. Senator Millen gave us the expenditure on drink in Australia generally, and went on to observe that the expenditure on drink in canteens was only odd per head. But that was the expenditure on cheap liquor. In order to compare it with what it would have cost to buy the same quantity of liquor outside, we must take the £5 odd as representing an expenditure of between and £9per head, which would have been the cost if the men had consumed the liquor outside barracks. In addition to the fact that in the canteens the soldiers consume drink to the value of between £8 and £9, it has to be remembered that a certain number of them consume drink outside. That has to be added to the amount consumed in the canteens. We have not the figures for outside consumption, and do not know the amount of money the men spent in that way. Therefore it is impossible to make a fair comparison between the expenditure by soldiers who live in barracks and by the public generally. That is quite clear. I have received a private letter on this subject from a gentleman, in which he says that there is a large amountof evil connected with some of the small canteens, and that if canteens are to be allowed at all they should be confined to head-quarters. I ask honorable 'senators to let this Bill go to a division. I hope that it will get into Committee. If then honorable senators do not care to pass it as it is, they can make it apply only to ardent spirits. If they do not like to adopt that course they can easily refer it to a Select Committee.

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