Last drinks for the Canberra bubble


It’s ironic that a Federal Minister must once again promote alcohol abstinence as a cure for anything sick (or should it be beers?) Australia’s parliament.

Liberal MP Karen Andrews of Queensland’s Gold Coast – the homeland of Australian hedonism – seems determined to reinvent the Canberra Wheel, banning alcohol consumption in the “big house.”

This has already been tried.

Canberra’s first marvel was Section 44 serial offender King O’Malley, a possibly bankrupt American who, as Home Secretary, oversaw the initial development of Australia’s national capital at a site that ‘he didn’t approve.

A strong advocate of temperance against the evils of ‘offbeat juice’, O’Malley’s ban on the possession, sale and consumption of alcohol in ACT lasted until 1928, creating vast fortunes for the publicans of the nearby, less normative town of Queanbeyan.

O’Malley was by this time out of parliament, with no new parties to form and no political relevance – though his legacy of government-run dry inns only ended with their redevelopment into boutique hotels in the late 1970s.

Fortunately, he has been silent about the antiliation and his only heirlooms are an Irish pub and a suburb named after him.

History shows that Prohibition was a “roaring social success” wherever it was imposed, but not without reward, as the fortune of the American Kennedy dynasty attests …

Even milder forms like restricted trading hours, an early closing and a takeout ban have created opportunities for Sydney’s criminal queens Tilly Devine and Kate Leigh. This was not without risk for the seller and his consumers.

Adelaide’s historic streetcars have a notice reminding passengers that women are prohibited from traveling after 7 p.m., presumably for fear they might be assaulted by aromatic narcotic males, or simply because they have not. not prepared their husbands’ dinners on time.

Canberra, however, has always been a bit more prohibitive.

The Kurrajong Hostel, which is a short walk from the Old Parliament, was once favored by opposition Labor politicians. It was a sober existence – but not necessarily celibate – for men like John Curtin, a former journalist once addicted to strong drinks.

His successor, Ben Chifley – who managed to have three companions simultaneously at the trot – died there along with his secretary and “confidante” Phyllis Donnelly, whom he dissuaded from calling a doctor.

Maybe he didn’t want anyone to find out he had been drinking in his room?

Consumption was definitely permitted at Government House, Yarralumla, the Officers’ Mess at Royal Military College Duntroon, and Members’ and Foreigners’ bars in Parliament.

There was one notable exception in the Duntroon Cadet Regulations which stated, a the cadet must not consume alcohol ‘. It was simply interpreted as a the cadet should not be caught drinking alcohol. In response, enterprising cadets redefined the term “cupboard alcohol consumption” for establishments that turned a blind eye to cadets stuck in a convenient room in which regular libations were delivered.

Nonetheless, alcohol consumption remained a career-ending offense long after ordinary Canberrans were allowed to share the privilege offered to all other Australians. A group of cadets discovered it the hard way. Having been observed by a senior officer consuming alcohol while playing pool in a private home, they were reported and treated for discharge from the military.

Their notices of dismissal were forwarded to Governor General Sir William McKell for his formal approval.

McKell called the college commanding officer.

I’ll be annoyed if I approve of this! ‘ thundered an enraged Governor General. “They were in Yarralumla at the invitation of my daughter and her friends, and I bought them a drink!” If I want to buy someone a drink in my own house, then they might as well have a drink! ‘

The College’s regulations were again amended, this time to read, a the cadet should not consume alcohol unless he has been invited to a private residence and offered a drink, it would be embarrassing to refuse. ‘

This loophole was conveniently exploited by the corporate father of a cadet who bought the Ainslie Hotel (now Olims), where he greeted visiting cadets by saying, “Welcome home, may I buy you a drink? ? “

The poor cadets realized that an invitation from their local member to visit the Foreigners’ Bar in Parliament also provided them with refuge, as did a visit to the old Back Bench Bar at Canberra Airport on a Friday after the lifting of the Parliament.

These pre-flight occasions redefined robust socialization and political discourse.

In 1970, the Duntroon hierarchy raised a white flag and the college’s regulations were amended accordingly.

Canberra had finally come of age.

The new Parliament is a sterile and sober environment – except within the confines of the offices of Members of Parliament and Senators, where what happens within its walls does not always happen. to stay inside.

Alcohol is certainly served on appropriate occasions in the Great Hall, although the opportunity to walk hand in hand in the moonlight in the rose garden of the Old Parliament is only a distant memory.

Now Mrs Andrews wants to go back to the time when abstinence made the heart wander, but not in search of calm waters.

In Canberra in particular, what happens comes back.

As the world turns, they experience the gloom of winter, the promise of spring, the fullness of summer, and the harvest of fall – the cycle of life is over.

Like sand through the hourglass and wine from a bottle, so too are the days of their dark and temperate life in Canberra.

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