How Northern Rivers voters crushed bid for booze ban

THERE was a time when drinking alcohol was almost made illegal.

Prohibition was hotly debated topic across the Northern Rivers and the outcome was tied to a state-wide referendum.

One week before the contentious issue went to vote, the townsfolk of Lismore held a public meeting outside the post office to air the pros and cons.

Paster Tomkins spoke in favour of prohibition, claiming it would wipe out an evil and bring about better conditions.

"No man could say that a traffic which filled the gaols, asylums, hospitals, wrecked homes, and debased humanity, was a good traffic," he said.

"All the money that is now wasted in alcoholic liquor will be diverted to more profitable avenues, the business of the State, and the manhood and womanhood of the State will be better if citizens put their crosses in the top squares on Saturday next."

Mr R. R. Thorne spoke next on behalf of the Liquor Defence League.

In his opening address, he said that unless people were careful next Saturday they would bring upon themselves a burden which they would always regret.

Mr Thorne said he had spoken to a great many people who were at a loss to know why this referendum was taking place.

He said prohibition had been tried in various parts of the world and had been turned down in a majority of cases, "quite rightly too".

The following Saturday, the referendum was overwhelmingly defeated.

Across the state 820,752 people voted against prohibition, while less than half, 331,085, voted for.

Prohibition lost the 1928 referendum by a whopping 489,667 votes.

In an official statement, the executive of the Liquor Trades Defence Union thanked the voters.

"The figures show that the women must have largely contributed to the result," he said.

"It is clear that they realised that their men folk are safer under a controlled open system of trading in pure liquors than under a back lane underground system of the illicit drinking of bootleg poisonous liquor in a morally impure environment.

"This emphatic answer should settle for all time the question of prohibition in Australia."

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