Dad in Politics and Other Stories

Chapter VIII.

Under the Influence

Steele Rudd

(A. H. Davis)

THE MEMBER for Quondong—a tall, thin, pale, stately, old man, flying a piece of blue ribbon in his coat, rose and moved:

“That owing to the spread of drunkenness and debauchery throughout the country, it is the opinion of this House that it is desirable that no spirituous liquors be sold at the refreshment-room bar or in any part of this House.”

“My object in moving this resolution,” he said, “is that this country may lead Australia—may lead England—may lead the world, in fact—in virtue and sobriety.”

“Leadsh y’ gransh (hic) musher!” hiccoughed the member for Fillemupagen. (Laughter.)

“Order!” the Speaker said.

“That the cause of Temperance, Sir, should advance and triumph in this country is the one great wish—er—er—the one great wish that’s nearest and dearest to my heart.” (“Hear, hear.”) “With this end in view I have fought the Demon Drink both on the platform and in the Press, Sir, for the——”

“Dish ye ever fi’ him insh cellarsh?” asked the member for Fillemupagen.

Loud laughter, in which “Fillemupagen” himself joined heartily.

“Order!” roared the Speaker. “Order, gentlemen, order!”

“——for the greatest part of my life. I hold in my hand here,” the temperance one went on, “statistics which show that the consumption of intoxicating liquors per head of population, men, women, and children, for last year amounted to the dreadful sum of £8 per head——”

“Thash includsh grog drunksh ash merishun,” interrupted the member for Fillemupagen. (More loud laughter, and “Order, order!” from the Speaker. )

“What I desire this House to do in regard to this bar, Mr, Speaker, is to wipe it out—to wipe it out in the interests of sobriety, in the interests of morality, in the interests of wise and sensible legislation——”

“What do you mean?” angrily from the Premier.

“I will tell the honourable gentleman what I mean. I mean that while a refreshment bar is attached to this House it will stand as a bad example to the rest of the country; it will stand for evil; it will stand as a temptation to members to frequent it and waste time that should be spent in considering and studying measures that are brought in by the Government for the benefit of the country.”

“You are talking nonsense!” from the Premier.

“Hear, hear!” from Government supporters.

“He is most insulting!” the Chesterfield of the Assembly called out “Devilish unfaiah!”

“Mr. Speaker,” the man of temperance hammered on, “I venture to say there is a great deal more of this country’s business transacted in that bar” (pointing his finger dramatically at the bar door) “than there is in this Chamber!”

Loud cries of “No, no!” and “Shame!”

“I say ‘Yes,’ Mr. Speaker!”

“That is a direct insult to honourable members,” the Premier shouted.

“I have no desire to insult honourable members, but I make bold to say that when members—I do not say every member of this House—far from it—but a good percentage of them—indulge in spirituous liquors during the sitting hours of this House—their intellects must, to a very great extent, be blunted and clouded.” (Indignant shouts of “Rubbish!” and “Brightened, you mean!”)

“And foolish and ridiculous legislation must be the result.” (“Bah!” from a member of the Ministry.) “I earnestly hope on behalf of the great body of temperance people of this colony that the House will aid me all it can in this matter; and should this motion be carried without going to a division, it will be one of the proudest moments of my life.” (“Pshaw!” from the Premier, and laughter.) “One of the principal planks, Mr. Speaker, in the platform of the Labour party, of which they boast so much, is reform, and we hear it said every day that the members of that party are also pledged to temperance. That being so, I trust, then, that those gentlemen will show their sincerity in the principles they advocate by supporting this motion, and assisting to abolish strong drink from the precincts of this House.”

There was a heavy silence.

Then the Premier rose.

“Mr. Speaker,” he commenced, “this motion is a farce—a stupid shriek” (great cheering), “and the honourable member in moving it went out of his way to insult this House.” (More cheers.) “I have been a member of this House, Sir, much longer than the honourable gentleman, and I say emphatically that never yet have I seen a member under the influence of liquor.” (Cries of “Hear, hear!” from the Government, mingled with smothered laughter from the galleries.) “I do not say that some members of this House do not take a glass of whisky when they require it—I take one myself sometimes” (“Qui’ rish!” from the member for Fillemupagen, and laughter from the Labour benches), “but to say they could not take an intelligent part in the work of this House is nothing but a base slander and a deliberate insult.” (Wild shouts of approval.) “This is not the first nor the fifth occasion that we have heard this cold-water speech of the honourable gentleman’s” (“Hear, hear”) “and it seems to me, Mr. Speaker, that he would have served a more laudable object had he remained in his electorate, and lectured teetotalism in the highways and byways and back yards of that locality.” (Vociferous applause from Ministerialists.) “I know of no other part of the colony—and I’m familiar with the whole of it, Mr. Speaker—where his dreary, cold-tea dissertation would be appreciated.” (Laughter.) “It is certainly not relished by sober, sensible men, and is, therefore, resented in this Chamber.” (More cheers from Ministerialists, and “Mosh ’suredly!” from the member for Fillemupagen.) “I think it a piece of gross impertinence on the honourable gentleman’s part to preach temperance to this House.” (“Hear, hearsh!” from the member for Fillemupagen.) “If I want a glass of grog, Mr. Speaker, I will always have it.” (Cheers.) “And I will not consult the honourable member’s feelings on the matter, either.” (Great cheers.) “Neither will I, when he requires his cup of cold tea, expect him to consult mine.” (Loud laughter.) “I regard this motion as a miserable and contemptible slur upon this House” (Yells of applause), “and I feel sure it will meet with the fate it so well deserves.”

Amidst more cheers the Premier sat down, puffing hard and mopping his flushed face with a handkerchief.

Others rose in quick succession, and condemned the motion. The mover replied; then the member for Fillemupagen pulled himself together and faced the chair.

“Mish’ Spikker” (laughter), “on thish bill” (cries of “No, motion!”), “I’m mush ’blished—on thish motion I’m wish Premier——”

“I would be sorry to have you with me unless as a convert,” interjected the temperance member.

“Jusho—ash convert—ash blue (hic) ribbonsher” (loud laughter). “There’s no harmsh at allsh, Mish’ Spikker, in blue (hic) ribbonsh—no harmsh at all” (laughter). “Ansh if a mansh likesh wearsh it—wellsh I shay, leshim.” (Great hilarity.) “Bush, I alsho zhay—I alsho zhay—i’ll be sorish daysh forsh country, Miss’ Spikker, whensh bar thish ’Oush closhed up, ansh blue (hic) ribbonsh mee’ings held in thish Cham-’er.” (Loud Labour laughter, and “Order, order,” from the Speaker.) “Ash mem’er this ’Oush for fifeensh year I deniesh shta’ment thash mem’ers eversh inca’blesh.” (Loud laughter.) “I’sh never sheen shingle (hic) onesh s-s-s-shim’lated.” (Screams of hilarity.) “Mosh shober lot mem’ers—mosh shober ’Shembly insh worlsh.” (Roars of merriment.) “Doesh hon’ble mem’er wish thish ’Oush join temransh league?” (Prolonged merriment.) “Shupposh did? Woush it makesh a’ differensh? I shay mosh ’suredly nosh.” (Yells of Labour laughter, and cries of “Order, gentlemen, order!” from the Speaker.) “Doesh-in’ temransh people drinksh?” (“Shame!” from the mover of the motion, and laughter from the Opposition.) “Coursh you shay shamesh, bush ’ey do. I knowsh!

“That is false!” from the man of temperance.

“Ish truesh—Bible truesh!”

“A wicked slander!”

“Order!” the Speaker said. “The honourable mem——”

“Yoursh shlanered this ’Oush, y’selfsh!”

“Order, order!”

“Thish motion. Mis’ Spikker, ish sim’ly col’ warrer cry, an’ mush be ’poshed.” (Loud laughter.)

Then the House divided, and amidst merriment the motion was lost by 41 to 2, the member for Fillemupagen voting for the motion, in error, along with the blue ribboner.

Dad in Politics - Contents    |     Chapter IX. - The Rabbit Inspector

Back    |    Words Home    |    Steele Rudd Home    |    Site Info.    |    Feedback