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Thursday, 14 September 1911

Senator RAE (New South Wales) . - I move -

That, in the opinion of this House, the sale of intoxicating liquors should be discontinued within the precincts of the Houses of the Commonwealth Parliament.

Since I gave notice of this motion I have been subjected to some amount of goodnatured "chaff," and several more serious objections have been made to my action. I may even say that one or two mild threats have been uttered. One was to the effect that an amendment would be moved for the abolition of the refreshment-rooms altogether. No one can accuse me of popularity hunting in submitting this proposal, because all those members of Parliament who have spoken to me on the subject have candidly informed me that they intend to vote against the motion. I have no ulterior ends to serve, nor do I intend to express any extreme temperance sentiments, such as have already earned me the name of " wowser " from some of my Socialist friends. 1 may say, with all due respect to my fellow-members, that, having been a member of the Parliament of New South Wales, and having visited other Parliament Houses in the Commonwealth, no one could but wish to be associated with a body of men who are generally so sober and abstemious in their habits as are the members of the Commonwealth Parliament. Therefore, my motion is not intended in any way as a reflection upon them. Nor is it submitted in any spirit of self-righteousness. Three motives have induced me to bring forward the subject. Having been a working man all my life, and having had some experience of the conditions under which men have to work, I am aware that it is a very general practice, where written agreements are in force between employers and workmen, to have a clause forbidding the introduction of intoxicating liquors to workrooms and factories. Speaking of the occupation that I followed at one time - shearing - 1 can say that during the last quarter of a century, since the Australian Workers' Union has been in existence, all agreements, whether drawn up by the union or by employers, or jointly, or under an award of the Court, have contained a clause to the effect that no intoxicating liquor shall be brought on to a station by any of the employes of the pastoralists. I consider that we are here in our work-shop, the work-shop of the nation, where we turn out legislation.

Senator McGregor - There is no drink but water here.

Senator RAE - There is no drink but water within the Senate chamber, but to make the analogy complete, it should be understood that it is not enough to say that " grog " shall not 06 taken into the shearingshed ; it must not be taken on to a station at all. Similarly, I believe that similar provisions exist in regard to most factories, though I have no personal knowledge of work in city establishments. I contend, therefore, that it would be a very commendable act on our part if we also pro nounced our ability to proceed with our labours - which, after all, are not so onerous as those pursued by people in some other walks of life - without intoxicating liquors being ready to hand. A second consideration which weighs with me is this : There are many licensed houses adjacent to Parliament House. They may easily be visited, and are sufficient to satisfy the requirements of any ordinary individual.

Senator McGregor - Is the honorable senator in league with them?-

Senator RAE - I am not; but I do not see that we ought to enter into competition with the keepers of those houses in the unnecessary provision of intoxicating liquors at the place where we do our work. An honorable member of another place moved a similar motion last year, but I do not think that the debate reached a conclusion ; the question was shelved in some way. Speaking quite sincerely and honestly, I say that, while this may be as sober a Parliament as exists on earth, there is no guarantee that all future Parliaments will be the same. I am not prepared to say whether past Parliaments have been the same.

Senator O'Keefe - If future Parliaments are not so abstemious, they will reinstate the bar, even if the honorable senator succeeds in closing it.

Senator RAE - That may be so, but I think it would be difficult to reopen the bar if it were once closed. We are all more or less conservative, and most men are inclined to leave things as they are unless evils can be shown to exist. I was a member of the New South Wales Parliament for about twenty years, and know that there were quite a number of men - of course, I shall not attempt to introduce names into the discussion - who were led, by their good-nature and their social disposition, through the very existence of the refreshment-room there, to acquire fixed habits of drinking to such an extent, in some instances, as ultimately led to their downfall. I know, also, that such has been the case in other Parliaments than that of the mother State. It would be hard to say that in nearly every Parliament where facilities for obtaining intoxicating liquors exist they have not occasionally led to men acquiring the drinking habit, which has fixed itself sp firmly upon them that it has afterwards caused their degradation and undoing. That being so, it seems to me that we should be setting an especially good example, as the National Parliament of the

Commonwealth, if we assumed a perfectly impartial attitude in this matter, not by pledging ourselves collectively or individaally to temperance principles, but by forbidding the sale of intoxicants in our own midst. Whilst a great deal of cheap talk may be indulged in to the effect that great injury may be done to the human . frame by over-eating, and that gluttony is more disgusting . in its nature than drinking habits are, nevertheless, arguments of that kind are beside the question, because, however detrimental and offensive gluttonous habits may be, they do not affect the com:munity sp greatly as. dp drinking habits. They ;are in their results' more restricted to . the .individual's own health and condition. Therefore they are on an entirely . different plane. . I have been told, with similar logic, that just as a man mav drink immoderately, so he may eat immoderately, and that it would be as reasonable to ask a person to stop eating because some ovet eat, as to ask others to stop drinking because some abuse drink. But whatever may be the value of such arguments,, they do not touch my motion. It is not a question of whether men should drink or not. I am not attempting to dictate to anybody as to whether he should be a teetotaller. I am simply expressing the opinion that we, at any rate, as the Parliament of Australia, should not be mixed up with the sale of liquor, or countenance its sale in our midst. Any honorable senator who might desire to obtain alcoholic refreshments would still be able to get them with the utmost facility. Certainly he would be subjected to no inconvenience if the practice of selling them within the precincts of Parliament were discontinued. The abolition of our refreshment bar would free us from reproach, and, consequently, would be a most commendable step for us to take. At the same time, our action would not commit us to any particular set of views in regard to the question of temperance generally. It would simply be an intimation to the public that we wish to occupy an impartial position in regard to the liquor traffic. Without further elaboration of the subject, I have pleasure in submitting -the motion.

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