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Thursday, 14 September 1911

Senator NEEDHAM (Western Australia) . - I am somewhat surprised at Senator Rae bringing forward such a motion. Disguise the motion as he likes - and he used phraseology in trying to disguise its purport - it certainly would be a reflection on the Australian Parliament if we agreed to abolish the refreshment bar. The question arises : Why should that bar be abolished? What has transpired in the history of this Parliament to necessitate the abolition of the bar ? The honorable senator failed entirely to put before the Senate one reason in favour of that course. He did say that, in his experience, the presence of a bar within the precincts of a Parliament House had led to the undoing of certain of its members.

Senator O'Keefe - It ought to be made explicit whether he referred to this Parliament or not.

Senator Rae - I referred to the Parliament of New South Wales.

Senator NEEDHAM - The honorablesenator desires to imply that because a member of some Parliament in Australia was weak enough to allow himself to be undone by the use of intoxicating refreshments because they were within his reach, we also may be undone or may undo ourselves. He spoke as a member of the party to which I belong, and he mentioned that, in connexion with shearing and other agreements, there is a condition that no' intoxicants shall be available. The very men who helped to return the honorable senator to the Senate put me here. They trusted us. Surely we can trust ourselves. Because we can go upstairs and have a drink of intoxicating liquor at any time we choose, is it to be inferred that we shall debase ourselves and betray the confidence which has been reposed in us? I should think not. The very submission of this motion is, I submit, a reflection on the sobriety of the in men who compose the National Parliament.

Senator O'Keefe - It will be held to be such.

Senator NEEDHAM - Yes. Take the Mother of Parliaments. I do not mean the Parliament of New South Wales, but the House of Commons. There has been no attempt made in that House to abolish the refreshment bar. nor has it been found necessary to do so. The very submission of this motion to the Senate, and its resubmission to another place by-and-by, will simply advertise to the world that the members of this Parliament cannot trust themselves. If we cannot trust ourselves, how can we ask the people of Australia to trust us? I am not a teetotaller, and I do not object to any man being a teetotaller. But I do object to any one telling me that, if I have access to a certain place and go there, I shall demean and debase myself. Analyze the motion as you may, it will give a handle to those who are ever eager to calumniate, not only the members of the Labour party, but the members of this Parliament. I am somewhat surprised that Senator Rae should follow the very bad example set by a colleague in another place. If we look, at this matter from a commercial aspect, we find that the refreshment bar is a very losing proposition. If Senator Rae had introduced the question from that standpoint, I should certainly have supported him, but the inference to be drawn from his motion is that, because there is a place where the members of this Parliament, if they choose to pay for them, as they all do, can obtain intoxicating liquors, a member is going to debase his manhood and betray his trust. It is regrettable, I think, that any member of the Senate should have found it necessary to trot forward such aproposal. If a man wants to have a drink and a place where it can be procured is available, he will have it. But surely he is gifted with sufficient common sense to know what he is doing. If the use of intoxicating liquor leads to his undoing, that is his affair only. For these reasons, I suggest to my honorable colleague that it might be wise for him to ask leave to withdraw the motion, and not to press it to a division. I care not whether the refreshment bar is abolished or retained. What concerns me is the fact that because we have been called upon to discuss this question it is advertising to the world that we cannot be trusted.

Senator Rae - I am sorry that you feel so bad over it.

Senator NEEDHAM - I am not feeling bad over it, and I remind Senator Rae that he was permitted to speak without interruption. If we cannot trust ourselves., those who sent us here ought not to trust us. Whatever occupations we follow I hope we can rely upon our own manhood to restrain us, and, above all, the fact that a serious responsibility is cast upon us as representatives of the people in the people's Parliament. I shall vote against the motion.

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