Select Committee on Intoxicating Liquor—Effect on Australian Soldiers and Best Method of Dealing with Sale
In May 1904 the Senate led planning for a Commonwealth old-age pensions scheme, establishing a select committee to consider a popular funding option: nationalising the manufacture and sale of tobacco, cigars and cigarettes. The House of Representatives established a complementary inquiry on the scheme’s logistics. During hearings, the Senate committee’s focus shifted to allegations of widespread collusion in the tobacco industry.
After both committees ended in December 1904, the House committee was replaced by the Royal Commission on Old-age Pensions. Three Senate committee members served as Commissioners, contributing to the development of a working scheme. Its report recommended the scheme be non-contributory, non-discretionary and means tested—elements which remain today.
Meanwhile, the Senate committee members were appointed to a second select committee in August 1905, continuing their inquiry into the alleged tobacco monopoly. This was followed by the Royal Commission on Tobacco Monopoly, whose report found there was a syndicate with a partial monopoly over the tobacco industry. However, its recommendation to nationalise the industry was not followed.
These two divergent Royal Commissions resulted from the work of one Senate select committee. Even in 1904, collaborative opportunities and public hearings allowed senators to consider and discover important issues and take steps to ensure they were addressed.
T. Humphrey & Co, Portrait of George Pearce, 1908, National Library of Australia, nla.obj-146269655
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Defining Moments in Australian History, National Museum of Australia