Select Committees on Old-age Pensions and Tobacco Monopoly
Sending Messages from Australia to England at a Penny a Word
After the Liverpool riot of 1916, a mutiny over camp conditions in which thousands of drunken soldiers rampaged through Sydney, most states adopted mandatory liquor establishment early closure measures—unintentionally giving rise to the ‘six o’clock swill’, an after-work binge-drinking epidemic.
Responding to this and other incidents, the Senate established a select committee in January 1918 on dealing with the effects of alcohol on outgoing and returned soldiers and its sale during wartime and the subsequent demobilisation. Several committee members had served as soldiers; all were described as ‘water-drinkers’.
Its May progress report’s recommendations for reducing excessive alcohol consumption—including anti-‘shouting’ regulations and a requirement that invalid soldiers receiving hospital treatment wear blue armbands and that publicans be prohibited from selling alcohol to them—were introduced by the government in June.
The committee’s final report, tabled ten days after the war had ended, reiterated its previous recommendations but came out against a total prohibition of liquor across Australia—possibly its most significant outcome.
Hammer & Co, Portrait of Senator Rowell elected 1917, National Library of Australia, nla.obj-136723721
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National Library of Australia, nla.obj-35447587