1st Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
Mr. BARTON laid upon the tableMinute by the General officer commanding the military forces of the Commonwealth for the consideration of the Right Honorable the Minister for Defence.
Ordered to be printed.
LOWER HAWTHORN POSTOFFICE.
Mr. KNOX. - On the 13th inst. the post-office at West Hawthorn was summarily closed ; but the promise was made that the great inconvenience which was created by its closing would be removed. I am desired by a large number pf the electors residing in the district to draw attention to the fact that it has not been removed, and to ask when the post-office will be re-opened ?
Mr. BARTON. - Is the West Hawthorn Post-office the Lower Hawthorn Postoffice?
Mr. Knox. - Yes.
Mr. BARTON.- The information supplied to me in regard to this matter is as follows : -
On the 15th April, Mr. Prendergast, M.P., brought the matter under the notice of the PostmasterGeneral. Information was at once sought from the Melbourne office, no intimation of any change at Lower Hawthorn having been received. The papers which were sent to tine Postmaster- General’s Office for the first time on Saturday, the 19th inst., show that, inconsequence of the former postmaster leaving the district and giving short notice, the post-office was temporarily closed pending the appointment of a successor, and it was recommended that Mr. W.B. P. Croft should be appointed ; this recommendation has been approved, and the Deputy Postmaster-General advised by telephone. In the ordinary course the matter was one with which the Deputy PostmasterGeneral, Melbourne, hod ample power to deal without reference to the Postmaster-General’s department-.
DUTY UPON FODDER.
Mr. BROWN. - Has the attention of the Minister for Trade and Customs been directed to the prevalence of a serious drought throughout a large part of New South Wales, so that many stock-owners are being compelled to import fodder to keep their stock alive t Can he, in view of this fact, and as the available supplies of fodder in the Commonwealth have become seriously diminished, see his way to allow fodder to be imported free of duty, or under proper regulations for rebate, for the purpose of saving stock 1
Mr. KINGSTON. - I do not know that I possess the power to relax the provisions of the Tariff Bill; but of course all Australiangrown produce can be sent into New South Wales duty free. I shall look into the matter, and give the honorable member a reply to-morrow.
Mr. MCDONALD.- Has the Commonwealth Government yet taken over the full and complete control of New Guinea 1 Is it -within the power’ of the Commonwealth Parliament to legislate on behalf of NewGuinea ?
Mr. BARTON. - As I announced to the House a little while ago, the office of the Governor-General of the Commonwealth has, in the letters patent and other documents relating to New Guinea, been substituted for that of the Governor of Queensland. The administration must be carried on in the same way as it has been up to the present time, except that the ultimate authority is reposed in the Governor-General, with the usual advice ; but the Government of the Commonwealth has provided the Colonial-office, at its own request, with its view of the steps which should be taken, and arrangements are being made for the transfer of New Guinea to the Commonwealth as a territory of the Commonwealth. When that is done the Commonwealth Government will introduce a Bill to provide for the administration of New Guinea, and the passing of that Bill will indicate the acceptance of New Guinea as a territory by the Commonwealth. Under the Constitution, as soon as New Guinea becomes a territory of the Commonwealth, this Parliament will have the exclusive power to legislate in regard to it; but until the Imperial Government takes such steps by way of transfer and offer as will enable this Parliament to accept the control of New Guinea, it will not be feasible to make any radical or drastic alterations in the administration of that possession. In the meantime, the government of New Guinea is, in a large measure, tentative and temporary, but it is no less important and complete than when it was under the control of the State of Queensland.
Mr. McDonald. - The Commonwealth Government, instead of the Queensland Government, is administering New Guinea.
Mr. BARTON. - As the Imperial Government has completely defined by cablegrams what it is doing, we are administering New Guinea, so far as we can, without waiting for the receipt of the letters patent. The question of administration has, with the authority of the Governor-General, been the subject of consultations between the Lieutenant-Governor of New Guinea and myself. The powers of the Commonwealth in relation to the government of New Guinea, being yetonly such as were in the possession of Queensland, are somewhat limited ; but in the Bill which this Government will introduce they will be made far more extensive.
Mr. O’Malley. - When New Guinea becomes a territory of the Commonwealth, will syndicates be able to import labour from there into the Commonwealth under contract ?
Mr. BARTON. - That will entirely depend upon the legislation passed by the Commonwealth. I do not anticipate that the Government will ask for any such sanction.
– Has any decision yet, been arrived at with regard to the proposed adjournment of the House to enable honorable members to inspect the proposed sites for the federal capital?
– The matter was considered to-day, and the 6th May has been fixed as the date for leaving Melbourne.
– I had it in contemplation to-day, in pursuance of a promise I gave yesterday, to make a statement about the order of public business, but honorable members can understand how matters heap themselves up when the head of the Government is about to absent himself for some months, and the conduct of business in this Chamber has only been partly considered to-day. I think it will meet the convenienceof honorable members more if I make a complete statement to-morrow than if I make an incomplete statement to-day. The date for the proposed visit of inspection to the federal sites has been fixed largely in consideration of the dates of the general election in South Australia.
– I desire to move the adjournment of the House to discuss a definite matter of urgent public importance, namely : The administration of the Immigration Restriction Act in connexion with the pearl-shelling industry.
Five honorable members having risen in theirplaces.
– Iwassomewhat reluctant to take this action, because the session has been protracted beyond a fair length, and honorable members are desirous of finishing it as soon as possible. If it were otherwise I should make no apology, because the subject to whichI wish to direct attention is a most important one. When the Immigration Restriction Act was passed, we were told that it was the best that could be got under the circumstances, and that it would be administered honestly and faithfully in the endeavour to secure a white Australia. We accepted that, and the country was perfectly satisfied, with the exception that the provisions of the Bill were not quite drastic enough. That was the only cause of complaint on the part of members of this House and of the country generally. We find now, from the utterances of the Prime Minister in this Chamber and elsewhere, that there is a leakage somewhere j that there is a small rivulet of undesirable aliens coming here, and that behind that rivulet there is dammed up by the legislation passed by this Parliament, and by the State Parliaments, an overwhelming flood, which, if it . is allowed to burst on this continent, will destroy our national prosperity, and will, in fact, endanger our very national existence. That is the reason why I am to-day speaking upon this question. The Prime Minister, in answer to a deputation a few days ago, and subsequently in answer to a question asked in this Chamber, stated that certain exemptions were to be made in favour of the pearl-shelling industry. Two constructions have been placed upon the intentions of the Government, one by the Attorney-General, and one by the Prime Minister. These do not harmonize, and neither is satisfactory. We hold that there is no necessity for any exemption from the provisions of the Immigration Restriction Act in favour of the pearl-shelling industry. There is plenty of labour available at Thursday Island and adjacent thereto. Furthermore, there never was any necessity for the introduction of alien labour into the pearl-shelling industry. We know from the reports of several of the officials of the Queensland Government that at one time pearl-shelling was carried on almost solely by white men. At the time it was in -a most nourishing condition, and it was not found necessary to employ aliens-. Mr. Saville Kent, formerly inspector of fisheries to the Queensland Government, declared that at- the time to which I am referring the boats were owned generally by Europeans - most of them Britishers - who did their own diving, and the industry was in a very thriving state. Those who were engaged in it had only one complaint, namely, that they had to work in .an isolated position, and there was never any suggestion of the necessity for employing alien labourers, such as have been and are still being introduced. Every effort is being made by people, who, to their shame be it said, have their horizon bounded by their own breeches pocket, to increase the employment of this labour.
– On what grounds are the exemptions to be allowed ?
– That is what we wish to know. .1 have some statistics here which prove conclusively that eleven years ago the pearl-shelling industry was in a much more nourishing condition than it is to-day. At Kennedy Harbor, on Thursday Island, the population then numbered something under 600 persons, and the Customs revenue amounted to £12,000 per annum. At present the population engaged in the pearlshelling industry alone represents an increase of 400 per cent, upon the actual population of eleven years ago, whereas the increase in the Customs revenue has been only something like SO per cent. This will show that the advent of the aliens has not in any way benefited either the State of Queensland or the industry. Pearl-shelling is a most profitable occupation. Mr. Saville Kent shows that the cost of working a pearlshelling boat is about £22 per month, exclusive of the payment to the diver, who is compensated according to results. The diver’s wages amounted to from £18 to £24 per month, according to the take of shell ; but the average would be about £20 per month. This would make the total working expenses per boat £42 per month. Of course if there were no take there would be no wage for the diver. One ton of pearl shell would represent the average take for a month’s work with one boat, and this would comprise from 600 to 800 pairs of shells, for which the diver would get £3 per 100 pairs. The average value of one ton of shell is about £90, the price varying from £60 to £120 or £130. Quotations have ranged as high as £300 per ton, but the average price is, as I say, about £90 pelton. Therefore a very handsome profit is derived from carrying on pearl-shelling operations, even after allowing very good wages for the divers, and there can be no claim on the part of those who conduct the operations that they must have cheap labour. One of the principal persons engaged in this industry, the senior partner of the firm of Clarke and Co., said recently at a banquet, or some similar function on board a Dutch man-of-war in New Guinea, that he would rather be a rich Dutchman than a poor Englishman.
But in spite of all temptations
To belong to other nations
He remains an Englishman.
– But he would not remain an Englishman if the temptation from the Dutch Government were a little stronger. Mr. Clarke said further that he intended to take his £60,000 worth of plant from Thursday Island to Dutch New Guinea, to become a Dutch subject, and to fly the Dutchflag. This gentleman was gathering oysters in Moreton Bay a short time ago, and it is solely owing to his successful operations in pearl-shelling in Torres Straits that he is able to talk in this way.
– He is a lovely pearl.
– He may perhaps be described as a black-lipped pearl. During the year ended 31st December, 1900, 1984 persons were engaged in the pearl-shelling industry in Torres Straits, of whom only 65 wereEuropeans. Thisshowsthat theindustry is almost entirely in the hands of aliens. The list of the nationalities of the persons engaged in the industry shows that they hail from all the corners of the earth, and comprise all peoples but those who really ought to be engaged in the business. They come from the Malay Archipelago, from Java, Ceylon, the Philippine Islands, Japan, and in fact from all over the East. They also comprise a few negroes from America, and some South American natives.
-Why is it that these people are displacing the white people?
– Because they are cheaper. It is simply a matter of greed on the part of those who are carrying on the industry, and there is no necessity for employing this low-class labour, because the operations are, as I have shown, most profitable, and have been ever since they were started. The fact of Mr. Clarke having cleared£60,000in a comparatively short period shows that his operations have been very profitable, notwithstanding that in March, 1899, a very severe cyclone destroyed a very great part of the pearling fleet. On that occasion 300 lives were lost, of whichonly nine were those of Europeans, and this shows that the European element is a very small one. The industry is of very little value to the Commonwealth, and I have shown that the Customs receipts are not what they ought to be. It is said that a great part of the food which comes to Thursday Island for consumption by these aliens is being smuggled in from the East. In yesterday’s Argus appears an item of news regarding this question. It purports to be a communication from Thursday Island, and reads as follows : -
The steamer Moresby returned from Merouke this morning after a good trip. One of her passengers describes the place as having a good harbor, with rich soil all round. Though the country is flat, the river is deep. There are five fathoms at the wharf, with a good entrance, which is already buoyed. The Dutch authorities ore willing to give every facility and protection to residents, foreigners or not ; also to afford pearl-shellers the easiest means of working in their waters without becoming naturalized Dutchmen. Arrangements have been made, besides the new store which is being erected by MessrsBurns, Philp, and Co., for bakery, butchering, and hotel businesses, which will be taken up by Thursday Island people.
It is stated that these businesses “ will be taken up “ ; therefore, nothing has been done so far, notwithstanding the urgency of the case from the Prime Minister’s point of view. The paragraph continues -
The journey over took 22 hours, and the return 23. This could be shortened to eighteen hours. All who returned expressed satisfaction at the results of their investigations, which show a practical means of alleviating the present serious position arising out of the Commonwealth restrictions.
This is one of those pieces of bluff which have been too prevalent of late, and which I am afraid Ministers are only too prone to pay attention to.
– What makes the honorable member think that ?
– What the Prime Minister has himself said. A telegram came to me from Thursday Island yesterday very opportunely, in connexion with this matter. The paragraph in the Argus is not dated from Thursday Island, so that possibly the news may be a few days or a week old ; but the telegram I have received is dated yesterday, and puts another complexion upon the matter. It says -
Meronke babble burst. Steamer Moresby returning without landing her cargo. Understood authorities here instructed not enforce Alien Restriction Bill ; please inquire.
This is signed by two well-known and respected residents of Thursday Island, Messrs. George Gummow and Fred. C. Hodel.
– It is a pity that those well-known and respected persons did not take the trouble to ascertain the facts.
– They say that it is “ understood “ that the authorities have been instructed not to enforce the Act. They do not allege that it is so, but that it is so rumoured there. I wish to know where we are. Is the Immigration Restriction Act to become a mere abortive attempt to keep undesirable people out, or is it to be enforced in the way this Parliament intended, with a view to preserve a white Australia? Are we to have a weak-kneed Ministry bowing to the dictates of such firms, as Messrs. Burns, Philp, and Co., and Clarke and Co. ? What we wish to know is whether thu Act is to be administered as intended by this Parliament, or whether the Government are going to defer to the opinions of people who are directly interested in the industry ? The Prime Minister will have an opportunity of telling us the facts, and I hope that for his sake, and for the credit of the Government of which I am a supporter, he and his colleagues will emerge with absolutely clean hands.
– In view of the attitude of the Government, as publicly expressed by the Prime Minister, it is necessary, I think, that some sort of an understanding should be arrived at in respect of this question. Only the other day the Prime Minister stated in reply to a deputation - and I think that a similar statement has since been made by another member of the Cabinet - that the provisions of the Immigration Restriction Act would not be applied to the extent that for three months exemptions would be granted to the individuals whom certain firms wish to employ.
– Nobody is to have an ex emption for three months. That is not contemplated. For three months, however, the issue of temporary exemptions for very short periods, coincident with the stay of the vessels, is contemplated.
– The question of whether any exemption tickets should be issued is a matter with which this House has to deal. The point is whether the Act is to be made effective, or whether, at the behest of a few syndicates located at Thursday Island, the whole of its provisions are to be abrogated, with the result that undesirable immigrants may come in at that port, and filter through to other parts of the Commonwealth. What has been the history of this industry so far as we southerners have been able to learn ? It I constitutes one of the blackest in the many dark pages of Queensland history. The pearl-shelling business has become the monopoly of a few firms, in which Mr. Philp is a principal, and in which his relatives also are engaged.
– Mr Philp has been out of the industry for years.’
– I understand that Mr. Philp is not out of it. Messrs. Burns, Philp, and Co. own quite 80 boats which are engaged in the trade, and Mr. Philp’s brother-in-law owns more. At any rate, I know that till very recently Mr. Philp was interested in the industry, and I believe that he is so still. While these people were prepared to allow white divers to be ousted from the work in which they had been engaged for years, they took all sorts of care to protect themselves from the competition of the coloured capitalist by enacting legislation providing that only white men should be permitted to obtain licences for boats engaged in the pearling industry. Not satisfied with that, they have further enacted that no more licences shall be granted to anybody, thus insuring to themselves an absolute monopoly of the whole of the pearl fisheries in those waters. We ought to be fully convinced of the necessity for taking action before any attempt is made to abrogate in the slightest degree the provisions of the Immigration Restriction Act. What were we told by the Prime Minister when that measure passed through this Chamber ? We were informed that the Government had considered all phases of this . question, including the position of the pearling industry at Thursday Island, and that having in view all possible sacrifices they had decided in favour of a white Australia. We were promised that if the House would carry the Bill in the form in which it was introduced by the Government, it would be made effective by reason of administration. I say that if to-day or to-morrow or a year hence there is any intention to abrogate the provisions of that Act with a view to serving the purposes of the few monopolists who happen to control the pearl fishing industry at Thursday Island, such intention constitutes a direct denial of the whole position assumed by the Government and Parliament only a short time ago. I refuse to believe that there is any danger that we shall lose the industry if the provisions of the Immigration Restriction Act are rigidly enforced. It is well known, that only a few years ago white divers were employed almost exclusively in this trade. Since then the shallow waters have been exhausted of their shell, and as white divers, by reason of their superior physical endurance, are more fitted than coloured men to go into the deeper waters, they are better able to compete today than they were formerly. One can quite understand the anxiety of those who have now an opportunity of making immense profits out of the cheap labour which they employ, to perpetuate and increase the facilities which they at present enjoy. I am convinced, however, that a sufficient margin of profit is derived from the prosecution of this industry to allow of the employment in it of white labour. I might further remind honorable members that only a few days ago Mr. Philp was reported to have said -
There will be plenty of coloured labour available for the -next two or three years, and moreover the pearl-shellers will suffer a great deal before they go to Dutch New Guinea.
If the Government declared that no new coloured divers should be imported into the Commonwealth there could be no complaint, because the transition would be a gradual one, and would impose no hardship, even upon those who have enjoyed a monopoly of this business for a considerable time. There are a number of other authorities whom I could quote to show that the pearl-shelling iudustry at Thursday Island is of little or no value either to Queensland as a community or to the Commonwealth as a whole. Certainly it is of value to the few individuals concerned in the syndicates which work the luggers, but the actual consumption of Australian products is almost infinitesimal. There is practically nothing consumed at Thursday Island which is not a product of the east. The only advantage which Qeeensland derives from the industry is represented by the small amount of Customs revenue which she collects ; and even that, as has been mentioned by the honorable member for Herbert, has been a decreasing quantity. Why ? Because latterly the lugger owners or syndicates, dissatisfied with the ordinary profits, have established what are known as “floating stations,” with the result that a great portion of the trade which was formerly done at Thursday Island in supplying’ the wants of the men afloat does not come within the purview of the Customs authorities. It is done at sea, so that the small amount of revenue thus represented is being lost to Queensland. But even if those engaged in this industry remove their head-quarters to Merouke, the pearl beds of Thursday Island will remain, and the opinion of experts is that those beds will benefit by being “tested” From the past history of the industry it is almost certain that those beds will be worked by white labour as soon as a favorable opportunity for so doing occurs. If the syndicates take their luggers and their coloured slaves to the Dutch settlement, I say that we are well rid of them, and we should insist that they do not encroach upon Australian waters in search of pearl shell. There are a number of other points to which 1 should like to refer, but under cover of a motion for adjournment it is difficult for me to do so. I wish, however, to point out that it is not only Thursday Island which is concerned in this matter. It will be remembered that when the Immigration Restriction Bill was under discussion a point was raised by the honorable member ibr South Australia, Mr. V. L. Solomon, as to what action should be taken in regard to the crews of vessels coming into the Northern Territory at Port Darwin, and also at Broome, on the Western Australian coast. All around the northern coast of Australia this question of the conditions attaching to the pearl-fishing industry is likely to arise. I submit, however, that the whole matter was threshed out on the occasion referred to, and that there is no justification for the Government limiting in any way the application of the Immigration Restriction Act upon the plea that ignorance was manifested by Parliament when the matter was under discussion. I protest against any abrogation of the conditions of that Act, and trust that the Government will administer it in the way in which they promised it would be administered.
– In discussing this matter I shall endeavour to confine myself as far as possible to actual fact, and avoid trespassing too far upon the field of argument. This motion for adjournment arises under the following circumstances : - Last week fi deputation of gentlemen, comprising Members of Parliament, waited upon me, and asked what was about to be done in reference to the pearl-shelling industry. I informed them that I had received various representations upon the subject - representations which were in conflict.- It is obvious that the facts are in dispute as to what would be the effect of any endeavour by the Dutch to establish a pearlfishing industry at a port of their own in New Guinea, called Merouke. On the one hand it was asserted that the south-east monsoons, which place this port on a lee shore, make it most difficult for vessels to reach the trading ground. On the other hand it was said - though I do not as yet know how much truth to attach to either side - that the statement as to the monsoons was all moonshine, and that, under any circumstances, vessels would still have to come to Thursday Island and Port Darwin. In view of these conflicting representations I told the deputation that the duty of the Government, in view of the possible loss of the industry - a loss which might be avoidable under circumstances quite consistent with the legislation we have passed - was to have further inquiry made by some impartial person. Arrangements are being made for such an inquiry with respect to the Port Darwin and Thursday Island fisheries, and also with respect to the Western Australian fisheries. When these arrangements are completed, I shall be ready to announce them to the House. The object- is to ascertain the true facts underlying the conflicting representations, with the object pf seeing to what extent che statements as to the possible loss - or almost certain loss, as some people allege - of these fisheries are justified by fact. I admit at once that it would not be in accordance with what the Government has stated to this House to abrogate, or assist in abrogating, any of the provisions of the Immigration Restriction Act. But it is not proposed to abrogate any of those provisions. What is proposed is to hold this inquiry, with instructions to those conducting it to hear, absolutely impartially, everything that is to be alleged on either side. In the meantime, lest any foreign power should obtain virtual possession of these fisheries in a manner which would not assist our immigration restriction policy, but which would assist such a power to amass wealth at our expense, it is proposed for a period of three months, not to give three months’ exemption, but to give short exemptions to divers who may accompany the crews of pearling ships during the stay of those ships in port, masters and crews being entitled under the Act to stay in port, absolutely without hindrance. If I may be permitted to trespass a little on the rules of the House, I should like to say that the Attorney-General put this matter very clearly when he said -
The temporary exemption proposed is intended simply to allow these men to land.for the purpose of disembarking their shell and obtaining their stores. Having done that, they ore to be mustered on their ships, and take their departure.
That is to say, they are to have no privilege other than that which appertains to the master and crew. The Attorney-General ‘ proceeded -
If the House understands that this proposal is only to preserve the status quo whilst inquiry is being made, and that it is not to leave uri open door for three months, a great deal of the honorable member’s apprehension will be removed.
That is precisely the purpose, and it could not have been better stated. We do not intend - and I think we shall have the support of the House - to take any such action during the period of this inquiry as might tend to the absolute loss of these fisheries. That appears to me to be the duty of the Government.
– The Government will have to issue a few more licences.
– That is not so. We cannot issue any licences ; let that be clearly understood. There have been proposals made to me from various quarters that the Commonwealth Government should pass an Act refusing to issue any more licences. These licences, so far as they are mere State matters, are issued under the Federal Council Act, the assent to which after having been reserved, was proclaimed on the 19th July, 1888. That Act relates only ‘to British ships and boats attached to British ships. It has a restricted application. The Commonwealth Constitution, in the 7th covering section, provides -
The Federal Council of Australasia, Act JS95 is hereby repealed, but so as not to affect any laws passed by the Federal Council of Australasia and. in force at the establishment of the Commonwealth. Any such law may be repealed us to any State by the Parliament of the Commonwealth, or as to any colony not being a State by the Parliament thereof.
No such action having been taken, the con trol of licences up to the present moment is in the hands of the authorities mentioned in the Federal Council Act, and not in the hands of the Federal Government. It will be understood, therefore, that in the matter of licences the Federal Government cannot, up to the present moment, intervene to limit or prohibit. What the Federal Government can do is to limit the period during which exemptions may be granted to those engaged in the pearl fisheries. It must be understood that masters and crews require no exemption, but may enter the Commonwealth in spite of us, being specially excepted by the Immigration Restriction Act. That; provision was agreed to by the House without any difference of opinion on either side. But in addition to masters and crews there are pearl divers, whose case was brought before me. On the 11th of January I wrote the following minute : -
If persons visiting Australia intend to become bona fide members of the crew of a pearling vessel for the purpose of working the ship, by way of navigation or theordinary well-known employment of a ship’screw, they may be allowed to land for the purpose of signing articles, and to remain on shore until the ship is ready for sea.
That is clearly a mere repetition of the Act.
For this purpose they may be exempted, under section 3, paragraph(h) of the Immigration Restriction Act-
That is to say, until they join the crew. If there is a vacancy in the crew any person wishing to join may land for the purpose of signing on.
– And how long may he remain - twelve months ?
– He can be exempted for a time for that purpose ; the landing is limited to a particular purpose.
– How long can such a person remain ashore?
– For no period longer than that mentioned in the exemption certificate. When my minute says that such men may be exempted under paragraph (h) it means that they can be exempted only for the time necessary for the purpose mentioned. In the minute I went on to say -
The fact that they are able to take part in the pearling operations when the ship is on a pearling ground, will not disqualify them of itself if they arebonafide part of a crew, and not merely pearlers alone.
If they are pearlers,and not members of the crew in any other sense, my decision was that they could not be permitted to land, but if they are members of the crew within the meaning of the Act, I am powerless to prohibit them from landing. I proceeded -
But officers must take the greatest care to see that the Act is not evaded, and that the applicants are to be really and truly part of the crew in the honest meaning of the word-
– What is the interpretation of “ part of the crew’”?
– I have Said that a member of the crew is a person engaged in the honest navigation and working of the ship.
– The Prime Minister knows what that means.
– Perhaps the honorablemember for West Sydney did not hear all I said. I pointed out that if these men were members of the crew actually engaged in navigation, the fact that they were able to act as divers would not prevent their landing, seeing that the Act exempts them as members of the crew. I went on to say- - and officers must therefore take all reasonable means to ascertain the truth, and demand that all reasonable means be taken on the part of the applicant to satisfy them. I do not think pearling vessels are engaged in the coasting trade within section 3, paragraph (g). The crew come, however, under paragraph (k) of the same section after they have once shipped.
Paragraph (k) requires that they come withinthe meaning of master and crew.
Before shipping on their vessel the men cannot land unless they show that they ought to be temporarily exempted for thepurpose under paragraph (h) -
That is, granted certificates of exemption - - and they ought not to be so exempted, unless they show what I have above pointed out, as otherwise they will have wrongly gained the benefit of paragraph (k).
That mere minute will satisfy the House that I have endeavoured to keep strictly within the meaning of the Act. But after the minute had been written, representations were made as to the possible loss of trade. The extra step I have taken simply amounts to this : While this inquiry is going on I do not intend to take any such action as will enable the Dutch to grab the trade.
– Would the Prime Minister mind telling us what it is proposed to inquire into ?
– It is proposed to inquire into the whole oftheallegations made on both sides as to the probable loss of trade, and the easiness with which the trade can be carried on without any black labour. I am not going to express any opinion on that subject, because this matter having once been committed to an impartial inquiry, it is the duty of the Government not to prejudge that inquiry.
– There is only one side up there now.
– I think the honorable member will find that the inquiry will be conducted without fear, favour, or affection. I have little more to say on the subject. The honorable member for Bland was, I think, a little unnecessarily warm with reference to the conduct of the Government, and, in some degree, attempted to prejudge us. We do not intend to abrogate any section of the Act. We do not intend to relax that vigilance without which the best of Acts is nugatory. In testimony of that, I have already pointed out that the first two months’ operation of the Act resulted in a decrease of alien immigration to the extent of 50 per cent, on the immigration .of the corresponding period of the previous year.
– The immigration would have decreased 100 per cent, under my clause.
– I do not think so. The result would have been that we would have had jio Act whatever. “I want to moke one point clear. There has been an impression gaining ground that, when I spoke of exemptions for three months, I intended to allow pearl divers to land and stay ashore for that period. That is a totally erroneous interpretation to put on the words I used. It may have been partly my fault, although I always endeavour to make myself clear. What I thought I said, and what I know I meant to say, was that during a period of three months, which is a fair limit to attach to this inquiry, exemptions would be allowed to those who were divers, and not merely members of the crew, during the vessel’s stay, which, in these waters, is only a few days at a time. I did not mean that these men were to have any greater privilege than masters and crews, but that they should not be hunted out of employment until we found what the result of the inquiry was. I propose to go no further than that. When I speak of an exemption for three months, I mean a series of exemptions to those who are engaged in the trade, and who are not expressly, excepted by the Act. I do not mean to give them three months ashore, but to specifically limit them to the expected stay of the vessel in port. I may add that I intend these exemptions to apply, not to vessels freshly brought into the trade, but only to vessels at present engaged in it, in order that where there are persons who have fallen out of the crew from one cause or another there may be an opportunity to fill their places during the period of the inquiry. If the result of the inquiry is one way, then all these people, outside masters and crews, will have to be refused admission to the Commonwealth, and I shall take care to do my duty in that particular. If the result of the inquiry is the other way, and it is shown that this trade cannot be carried on without its passing into the hands of a foreign power, then the House will have to consider - and I am not going behind the back of the House - whether it will suit the Commonwealth of Australia to lose entirely the benefits of the trade, or whether we cannot make some arrangement or other by which the trade can be maintained and, in my preference, conducted as far as possible by white men. I have only to say further that there is no arrangement to which I consent, or which I propose, which leaves to these persons any possibility of settlement in Australia. I. have not hesitated to say before that the Immigration Restriction Act is not an industrial Act. It relates to immigration alone. The passage of industrial legislation is in the hands of the States. We have only one power with reference to the regulation of industry, and that is, to pass Conciliation and Arbitration Acts for the prevention and settlement of industrial disputes extending beyond the limits of any one State. I believe those are the words of the Constitution.
– The exclusion of aliens may be necessary in order to, avoid those disputes.
– We have no power to regulate industrial disputes under any other section of the Constitution than that to which I have referred. We cannot pass labour laws, but we can apply our Commonwealth legislation in the direction which the majority of us believed and hoped that it would go, but not so as to trespass beyond our constitutional powers and usurp any function of any one of the States. I think that is a correct statement of our powers under the Constitution. Therefore the only portion of this Immigration Restriction Act which can for a moment relate to industrial matters is paragraph (g) of section 3, which relates to persons under contract or agreement to perform manual labour within the Commonwealth. It is obvious that those about to perform the labour of diving for pearls at sea are not under contract to perform manual labour within the Commonwealth. They do not come under that section, nor do they come under the provision of the Constitution with respect to conciliation and arbitration.
– They are within the territorial limits, though.
– They may be within the three miles limit, but some complicated questions may arise in dealing with that aspect of the subject, and we had better reserve our decision until we know, as the result of the inquiry proposed, what we can do under those circumstances. And if the result is that we have to prohibit these divers from entering the Commonwealth, honorable members must always recollect that if a diver is a bona fide member of the crew as well, and is engaged in the working of the ship, this Act exempts him, because we cannot make a general provision for the exemption of masters and crews of vessels without permitting that. I should like to say further that there is no intention and no desire on the part of this Government to take any step which will lead to any permanent settlement of coloured persons in Australia. The prevention of that is the object of the Immigration Restriction Act, and I am somewhat surprised that any body should hint that I am unfaithful to that object. I have sedulously administered the Act with a view to maintaining its, true principles, and honorable members would see that better if they knew how I have dealt with the cases which have daily come before me. There will be a record kept of my decisions in those cases, and I have not the slightest doubt that the gentleman who will administer my department in my absence will administer it in the same spirit. Speaking of the general application of the Act, we have had perforce to maintain certain honorable obligations of the Governments of the States. We have had to keep their promises. If honorable members will hf.ve the patience to wait until they see what the operation of this Act will be after the State obligations have been honorably performed, the)7 will come to the conclusion that we have an Act conceived in a more cautious spirit than any of the previous Acts of the
States, and administered with greater vigilance.
Mr. JOSEPH COOK (Parramatta).No one questions the integrity of the right honorable gentleman in his administration of this Act. I certainly do not pretend to accuse him of faithlessness in regard to it. It “ is merely suggested that in his administration of the Act, he may, like other people, sometimes make a mistake. The opinion is being expressed to day that the Prime Minister has made a mistake in the course he has taken with regard to the pearling industry. I think he makes a mistake in instituting this inquiry at all. As I sat listening to the right honorable gentleman, I have been wondering what the distinction was between the refusal to grant an inquiry into the growing of sugar by black labour, and the diving for pearls by black labour. If the right honorable gentleman thinks it is a wise thing to inquire into the question of black labour as applicable to the pearling industry, why not also inquire into it as applicable to the sugar industry ?
– My honorable friend forgets that we had the results of inquiries and legislation extending over a number of years before us in regard to the sugar industry.
– So we had with regard to this industry.
– I have no doubt that the right honorable gentleman is aware that inquiries have been made into the conduct of the pearling industry. If he is not aware of it, he ought to be.
– We had not half so much information with respect to it.
– The reports are all available. I understand there have been exhaustive inquiries into the conduct of the industry made by the Queensland Parliament. I was speaking to-day to a member of the Queensland Parliament who had himself assisted in one of these inquiries. In the library here we have elaborate reports setting forth the exact condition of the industry, and all the minutia connected with it.
– There was an inquiry bv experts as well. “Mr JOSEPH COOK. - Really all that has been done in this respect in connexion with the sugar industry in Queensland has also been done in connexion with the pearling industry on the coast. Clearly then, so far as the right honorable gentleman’s administration of thisAct is concerned, there is no distinction to be made between sugar-growing in Queensland, and the pearling industry on the coast. I am afraid the right honorable gentleman will find out that his safest course would have been to have treated the pearling industry precisely as he has treated the sugarindustry. He should have made no distinction between them in the administration of this Act. What is it that the right honorable gentleman proposes to inquire into ? In the first place he proposes to have an inquiry made as to the probabilities of loss in this industry if the Act is to be enforced rigidly.
– No, the probabilities of the loss of the whole trade.
– Yes; butwill that alter the right honorable gentleman’s decision as to the administration of the Act? Supposing it be reported that the industry must go altogether as a consequence of the most rigid application of the Act, will the right honorable gentleman relax its administration in that case? I apprehend not. I do not think that the House would permit any relaxation in the administration of this Act, even if the whole existence of the pearling industry were at stake. Then the other purpose of the inquiry is to find out whether the industry can be worked with comparative ease by white labour. Again, I say, supposing the answer on that point be in the negative, I donot think it will alter or interfere with the administration of the Act in the slightest degree. If I know anything of the mind of this Parliament, it is determined that this Act shall be administered in its integrity, no matter what the consequences may be to the pearling industry. I should like to say that, from all the information I have been able to gather, I think this is one of the many bogies that are being conjured up in the endeavour to get some relaxation of the administration of the Act such as we have seen only too often in connexion with the sugar industry in Queensland. The question is whether we are to permit a syndicate or two on the coast to have exemption from the Act. Supposing the whole industry has to go, what is it worth to Australia? The honorable member for Bland tells us to-day that the “ truck “ system in its worst form is being rigidly enforced there. If this industry cannot be carried on under comparatively reasonable conditions, and without the application of that infernal system of “ truck “ to it, we need not be very much concerned about it. If, on the other hand, there are only a few white men engaged in the industry, and I believe that to be the case, for I am told that there are only two white divers amongst the whole of the divers employed, it is a reason why we should notbe so mealymouthed about this industry. The fact is, it is purely a black man’s industry, and I do think there is no consistency on our part in lending too willing an ear to the conditions of labour under which these coloured people are employed, when we have already turned an absolutely deaf ear to all representations made to us in connexion with the Queensland sugarindustry. Approving, as I do, of the firmness of the Government in connexion with the sugar industry in Queensland, I must confess my disappointment at the alteration in the attitude of the Prime Minister concerning this pearling industry. I am told that the reason why white divers are more and more going out of employment up there is not merely one of pay. I have no doubt that is one of the reasons.
– The divers are paid by results.
– Yes ; but I am also informed that it is a fact that pearling is now carried on very largely in the deeper waters. The honorable member for Bland told us this afternoon that in the deeper waters white labour is most effective, as it is able to stand a greater strain. I have been told by a man who has made inquiries into the subject that the white men will not go into the greater depths, for the simple reason that he risks his life in doing so, and that black labourers are employed because, being fatalists, their lives are held cheaper by themselves, and they take these risks, often-times with fatal results.
– The greatest profitable depth is 20 fathoms, and white men can easily work at that depth.
– I am told that they are working fields now as deep as 60 fathoms. The white divers agreed to go down to 40 fathoms, but, when it came to 60 fathoms, at which depth some of the best pearl shelling fields are now being exploited, they refused to incur the risk to their lives owing to the extreme pressure of the water so far beneath the surface.
– They are killing the divers every week up there.
– I do not know whether the position is quite as bad as that; but, if so, then the pearl-shelling industry is little less, than a holocaust, and the people engaged in it are dying off at a very rapid rate owing to accidents from time to time. This affords another reason why we should not be especially tender in our treatment of this industry. It does not bring any credit to Australia, and we are told yields uo profit to us, and there appeal’s to be no reason for inquiry and no reason for relaxing the application of the Act.
– I have listened very carefully to the Prime Minister, who appears to have taken too much to heart the protestations and representations of interested parties. His own minute gives permission for the crews of the pearling vessels to land.
Mi’. Barton. - They are legally entitled to land.
– Yes ; during the time the vessel is in port. I question very much whether this Act really applies to these men under such circumstances. It provides that the master and crew of any vessel may land during her stay in any port of the Commonwealth. That obviously applies to any vessels that come from outside of the Commonwealth. Certainly, if by any chance the pearling vessels go outside the three-mile limit it is never by deliberate intention, but only by accident that they do so. I maintain that the crews of these vessels are to all intents and purposes people engaged in industrial enterprises within the territory of the Commonwealth, although they may occasionally go outside the threemile limit. It is clear that under paragraph (A) of the interpretation section, it is only intended that any -vessel trading to any part of Australia shall be permitted to land her alien crew when in port. But when the Prime Minister went out of his way to bring the crew of a pearling vessel under this exemption, he did something that is, at any rate, open to question. That is my opinion, and I think it will be supported by any one who wishes to administer this Act in the spirit intended by those who passed it. When the Bill was before the House the honorable member for Bland moved an amendment to exclude all aliens, without respect to the education test, and the Prime Minister argued that the provision he proposed would serve exactly the same purpose. On the face of it it is true that this Act is not a piece of industrial legislation, but in its spirit it is that and nothing else. It is on industrial grounds that we desire to exclude these aliens, and not on account of their colour and religion, because that would be absurd. The very people who are ready to speak about the’ universal brotherhood of man are most enthusiastic about keeping out these aliens, because they are our industrial competitors. The Immigration Restriction Act is in spirit an industrial Act, because it is recognised that the competition of these aliens is fraught with danger, and that the compensation we receive in profit through their employment is quite inadequate to balance the graver and more certain risks of their presence. Therefore, there is no real reason why any exception should be made in their favour. It is idle for the Prime Minister to say that there are some circumstances in connexion with the pearling trade which require investigation before the Act is enforced, since these circumstances ought to have been inquired into by the Prime Minister before the Bill was brought in. Are we to assume that the right honorable gentleman investigated the whole of the conditions of the sugar industry, and that he did not investigate the circumstances surrounding the pearlshelling business? If not he should have done. His measure was presumed to be wise and well-ordered, capable of grappling with every difficulty, and it surely ought to have provided against such a difficulty as this. Now the Prime Minister, at the suggestion and on the representation of men who are either directly or indirectly interested financially in the industry, suspends the operation of the Act pending an inquiry. He allows the crews of the pearling vessels to come in on the footing of crews of ordinary traders. The Act was never intended to cover any such case. The right honorable gentleman h&s gone further, and has allowed pearlers to be treated as members of the crews of these boats for the next three months, and if the Act has not been strained in regard to the crews, it has certainly been broken with regard to the pearlers, who are given all the privileges attaching to members of the crews pending an inquiry. I certainly do not think that that was intended by the Act, or that the circumstances warrant it, and whilst there is not the slightest necessity for carrying on any heated controversy about the matter, I think that the right honorable gentleman has committed an error of judgment. The Prime Minister has pointed to isolated acts of administration with a certain amount of justifiable pride ; but if he is going to administer the Act well in regard to ‘A, B, and C, and to break through it in regard to whole classes, his isolated acts of administration will be little better than mere words. Section 1 1 of the Act provides that no person shall be introduced under a contract or agreement made without the Commonwealth to perform manual labour within the Commonwealth, and I contend that this applies to the crews and pearlers employed on pearling vessels. Undoubtedly they are engaged for the specific purpose of performing manual labour within the Commonwealth. When it was suggested to my right honorable friend that these men were engaged to perforin work within the three-mile limit, he said that that was a matter of opinion, and that action should be suspended pending an inquiry. It appears, however, that it cannot be any matter of opinion. What are the provisions of the licences which ore issued to those who are engaged in pearl-shell fishing 1 Perhaps some honorable member would supply the House with a copy. It is perfectly clear that the Commonwealth cannot license persons to fish for pearls outside the three-mile limit, and the issue of licences presupposes that it is intended to confer the power to do some otherwise prohibited act within the bounds of the Commonwealth. Any person who exercises the powers given under these licences comes under the operation of section 11, and therefore the Prime Minister’s explanation falls short of what we could wish, and his action with regard to this exemption leaves very much to be desired. Nor is there any justification for endeavouring to arouse jealousy, which undoubtedly exists in the community, of the Dutch people through the fear that this industry might be transferred to them. We may lose the men and capital now engaged in the industry, but we cannot lose the deposits of beche-de-men and pearl-shell. The Act should be administered without any reference to the Boer war, or to any little feeling we may have towards the Dutch nation, and if it be right to bring the pearl-shelling crews under the operation of the Immigration
Restriction Act, let them be brought under it. M’y contention is that the crew of a vessel ought not to be exempt under paragraph (k) of the interpretation section, that they are not a crew to be exempted under that section, that they do not come into the Commonwealth within the meaning of paragraph (/c), that they never leave the territory of the Commonwealth except casually, and that, in any case, the employers of the pearlers are persons licensed to perform certain work within the territory of the Commonwealth, and that, therefore, the pearlers perform certain manual labour within the Commonwealth, and must come within the operation of the Act.
Mr. MAUGER (Melbourne Ports).When the Immigration Restriction Bill was under consideration by this House, I was waited upon by several persons interested in the pearl-shelling industry, who pointed out that the proposed legislation was likely to jeopardize the industry. Prom information which I have gained during my visit to Queensland, and subsequently, however, I have come to the conclusion that we should suffer no economic loss, but should derive great moral gain, from the removal of the industry as at present carried on. I have received a letter signed bytwo magistrates of long standing in North Queensland, who say that coloured labour is eating into the very vitals of the north, and that it would be rather an advantage than otherwise if the pearling industry were to go. It is pointed out that it would be better if the pearl-shell beds were rested for a little while and the industry were resumed at some later period by means of white labour employed under proper conditions.
– How would the honorable member prevent the Dutch from exploiting these beds beyond the three-mile limit 1
– If the Prime Minister takes my advice he will not parley with those who desire to retain the black labour.
– It is absurd to say that I am parleying on the black labour question when the present arrangement will only extend over three months.
– I am sure that Ministers will see that the wish of this House is carried out, but it is the duty of those who feel strongly upon this question to speak strongly so that there may be no misunderstandingas to their views. Those who are most intimately acquainted with the pearl-shelling industry, and with its economic value and its moral disadvantages, .- will join with me heartily in saying that it is the duty of the Government to set its face against any further encouragement of the employment of black labour. The letter to which I have already referred is deeply interesting. It shows that white labour is gradually but surely being displaced in almost every form of industry in North Queensland, and that the pearl-shelling industry is responsible for the leakage that it is the duty of the Commonwealth Parliament to stop. Of course, nobody objects to an inquiry being made, provided that harm is not being done in the meantime.
– Will an inquiry do any good ?
– I am afraid it will not. The result of any inquiry will depend largely upon those who are appointed to conduct it. But whatever may be its outcome, I hold that if the industry cannot be retained without the employment of black labour, we should be content to lose it. In this connexion, I hope that the Prime Minister will not grant any relaxation of the provisions of the Immigration Restriction Act.
– I am glad that the honorable member for Herbert has introduced this question to the notice of the House. I know that in America they have government by injunction. Here, apparently, we are to have government by suspension ; and I cannot see any distinction between the two things. Has the Ministry power to suspend an Act of Parliament ? This Parliament has enacted legislation excluding undesirable immigrants from the limits of the Commonwealth, and, in my judgment, the action of the Government’ constitutes a distinct violation of the very spirit of such legislation.
– That statement satisfies me that the honorable member has never read the Act.
– I have read it very carefully, but I fear that the Prime Minister has not done so. The great trouble in this country, is that the lawyers who deliver the biggest speeches do not make the briefs. The men who make the briefs have very little to do with the carrying out of them. I hold that the pearlshelling industry, as it is at present conducted in Queensland, is nothing more nor less than black slavery. It seems from the despatches which have been read to-day that it is controlled by a sort of bedchamber syndicate. It is a family affair, and the whole battle in this House seems to have been to prevent a few families from running the whole Commonwealth. I come now to discuss another point. Even if we send an agent to Queensland to conduct an inquiry into this matter, his report will not change the minds of the Australian people. If he reported in favour of the employment of black labour, would this House acquiesce in his recommendation? It seems to me that in this country we are fast drifting to the recognition of two classes, comprising in the first, the very wealthy and the moderately poor, and in the second the masters and slaves. While the members of syndicates and the monopolists prosper and grow fat, the people wither. I hold that no Government has the constitutional power to suspend an Act of Parliament.
– This is not a suspension.
– In a sense the Act is suspended, because the spirit of its provisions has been violated. We must be very careful not to surrender one iota’ of the liberties of the people. If the Prime Minister wished to grant exemptions for a certain period, he should have consulted this House. He should have asked my opinion and the opinion of every honorable member, because the Government must recognise that they are the servants of Parliament, and that Parliament is the servant of the people. I do not desire to occupy time in further discussing this matter, but I wish to warn my friends that the Government are adopting a wrong principle. If any special interest is touched in order that the welfare of the people generally may be promoted, we are told it is an encroachment upon privilege, and every time privilege is touched, a syndicate or deputation waits upon Ministers. In other words, they appeal from the people to the Ministry, asking the latter to suspend some Act of Parliament. If we are not very careful the time will come when a few monopolies, such as I am sorry to say exist in America, will flee to the Ministry - as the highwaymen and pirates of old used to fly to their forts in the wilderness - from the wrath of the people. The period is fast approaching in this country when wobbling politicians of every kind, whether private members or Ministers, will find themselves looking through the gates of graveyards for hiding places and burial places from the wrath of the people. I warn the Prime Minister to take advice. Our parliamentary statutes must be carried into effect.
– When the Immigration Restriction Bill was before this House I was one of those who voiced the opinion that the treatment of undesirable aliens other than kanakas presented the most serious aspect of the coloured labour question in Australia. While we desired that the kanaka should be deported as soon as possible, it was recognised that he constituted the lesser evil of the two. When that Bill was passed the general opinion was that the great danger which we had to fear was the encroachment upon our shores of Asiatics. Yet now that an opportunity occurs for ridding ourselves of 2,000 of these undesirables the Government are prepared to strain the Act to such an extent as to allow them to continue in our midst. The Prime Minister has told us that the action of the Ministry does not constitute a violation of the statute. I believe that it does. I am firmly of opinion that the Prime Minister has strained the Act to the extent almost of committing an illegality by permitting these people to land without having first passed the educational test imposed. He has declared that he was quite justified in allowing captains and crews to land, and I do not doubt that statement. But I doubt the legality of his action in permitting coloured pearl-shellers to land. I do not pose as a constitutional authority, but I have been assured by a number of such authorities in this Chamber that a grave breach of the functions of the Executive has been committed by allowing exemptions to apply even for three months. The Prime Minister states that this question constitutes a fair one for inquiry. There are only some £60,000 or £70,000 invested in the trade, and yet, when £6,000,000 to £8,000,000 were involved in the Queensland sugar industry, the Prime Minister did not think any inquiry necessary. When I remember that some 700 or 800 Japanese, are employed in the pearl fisheries, I am led to wonder whether pressure has been brought to bear upon the Government by Mr. Chamberlain, or any one else. There has been something behind the scenes of which honorable members know nothing. When I asked the “Prime Minister who were the people who had asked him to haye the provisions of the Immigration Restriction Act suspended, he evaded the question.
– No representations have been made upon this subject except those which have been read to the House. They had relation to the Immigration Restriction Act, and were dealt with when the second reading of that measure was under discussion.
– The right honorable gentleman admits that no representations in favour of the suspension of the Act have been made to him. Why then was the statute suspended ? I might further point out that during the last Queensland elections one of the candidates who was strongly in favour of the employment of white labour in the pearl-shelling industry defeated a gentleman who advocated the retention of coloured labour even upon Thursday Island itself. I have in my possession a number of letters from different persons who have been engaged in this industry, and who have been resident upon the island for ten or twelve years. They go so far as to say that it would be a God-send if the Dutch controlled the entire trade. They point out that since the establishment of what are known as “ floating stations,” the industry has been of no value to Queensland, whilst these “ floating stations” have become perfect floating hells. It is simply a disgrace to the Commonwealth to allow of the perpetration of such iniquities as are committed upon these boats. Yet the Government urge that an inquiry should be instituted. Any man who remains upon Thursday Island for five or ten minutes can ascertain the state of affairs there. Only a few years ago the trade of that place was practically conducted by white labour. Since then a monopoly has been secured by certain people, who have gradually “ squeezed “ out the white labour and introduced coloured labour to such an extent that to-day only some 60 Europeans are engaged in the industry. In this connexion Mr. Douglas, the Government Resident upon Thursday Island, in his report for 1901, makes the following observations -
The conditions under which the industry is carried on involves harder work and closer competition than in former years. The concentration of effort on the method now almost invariably adopted- and which is known as the “ floating station “ system - has rendered it improbable that there will be any expansion of the trade of Thursday Island. The profits arising from the industry will be permanently beneficial only to the locality where the industry is prosecuted. There is little or no settlement either on the mainland of Australia or on the neighbouring islands. The industry, indeed, is dependent upon capital owned by foreign residents, who employ alien labour. It cannot be said therefore to have any firm hold upon the country or to be as securely established as it might be.
He goes on to say in another paragraph -
Yet a young generation is growing up who ought to regard the pearl-shelling industry as the foundation of their future fortunes.
Here we have the Government resident of Thursday Island stating distinctly that since the employment of black labour the industry has lost its hold on the community. It has been turned into an industry to be exploited in order that a few capitalists may amass wealth in this portion of the Commonwealth, and spend their lives in foreign parts. As to the proposed inquiry, Mr. Philp has distinctly stated in a Queensland press interview that there is enough labour to carry on the pearl-shelling industry for the next three years. That ought to have been sufficient to show the Prime Minister that there is no special or urgent need for the suspension of the Immigration Restriction Act at the present time. An old hand who has been living on the Island for twelve or thirteen years writes to me in this strain : -
The Dutch are trying to induce the shellers to go to New Guinea, close to this port, and this is being used by Clarke and the Courier as a lever to get special concessions from the Queensland Government. Personally, I should be glad to see all the schooners go over there. Our beds would have a rest, by which time legislation could be adopted to check aliens getting hold of the diving again. The shellers never, however, work on the lee shore presented by the Dutch, nor is the quality so good. They would have to come back, unfortunately, and work close to our island, to which they must fly in rough weather, and for food and water, and thus bring themselves under federal jurisdiction. No ; it is all “gas” the shellers leaving here; I only wish to God they would.
I have a number of other extracts showing that, in the opinion of people who have worked in the trade for many years, it would be a very good thing if these aliens would go to Dutch New Guinea. When I first heard of this matter I thought it a splendid chance to secure the departure of 2,000 coloured aliens from our shores ; and it might be supposed that the Prime Minister and the Government would embrace such an opportunity.
– There should not have been any Dutch New Guinea to go to.
– If the advice of Queensland many years ago had been taken, a much larger proportion of New Guinea would have come under the control of the Commonwealth. I understand that the present agitation is not so much in the interests of the industry as for the express purpose of discrediting the Immigration Restriction Act. Yet we find the Prime Minister, in what I may term a weak moment, helping the agitation, and, iri granting an inquiry, practically admitting that he had not obtained sufficient information when the Bill was passed through the House. Under the circumstances we have a right to complain. We were told when the Bill was before us that it would prove even better than the proposal of the honorable member for Bland. If we only passed the Bill in the way the Government desired, so as not to bring about complications with the Imperial Government, we were assured that the Government would see that its provisions were enforced with sufficient strictness to prevent the ingress of coloured aliens. What is there to prevent a number of aliens finding their way on to these floating stations and eventually being landed at our ports ? Even in the southern portions of the Commonwealth, where there are facilities for preventing desertion by ships’ crews, scarcely a day passes in which we do not hear of alien deserters finding their way amongst our coloured population.
– And ship - masters are fined nominal sums.
– That is so. How are such deserters to be traced 1 We tell a master of a ship that he must collect his crew ; but pearl-divers do not in the ordinary sense belong to the crew, and I doubt whether a captain has any power over’ coloured people once they are landed. There is only such power in the case of an agreement, and we do not know in ever)’ case that an agreement exists.
Mr. HIGGINS (Northern Melbourne).Some honorable members have been rather hard on the Prime Minister ; but I do not think there is anything to show that the right honorable gentleman has in the least attempted to evade the provisions of the Immigration Restriction Act. So far as I can learn there has been a tendency always in the direction of giving faithful and full effect to the wish of Parliament in this connexion. I have no personal knowledge of the conditions of this- industry, but I have been trying to learn from reading and from hearing others. Speaking for my constituents, however, I can say that there is no subject which takes up so much of their interest as that of alien labour, as a matter, not only of national character, but of the industrial character of the workers of the Commonwealth. I venture to dissent from the Prime Minister when he says we must not have in contemplation the industrial effects of this legislation. With regard to aliens, one of the principal motives of our legislation was the industrial effect which it would have. I accept the position frankly that we are anxious to avoid the introduction into Australia of a number of people who will lower wages, and, with wages, lower the standard of life. During the course of the debate, I have been shown that the question is much more complex than it appears to be at first sight. I understand that the Prime Minister is anxious to not in any way allow these islands to have any such claim on the part of foreign powers affixed to them as has been affixed to the coast of Newfoundland during the last two centuries. It will require the utmost pains on our part to prevent Australia drifting into international complications of that sort. I cannot see, however, that there is any danger of these islands or fisheries getting into the hands of any foreign power. I have been shown by the honorable member for Darling Downs an Imperial Act, which enables the Government of Queensland to seize, proclaim, and annex those islands. It is quite true that the islands are outside of what is known as Queensland ; still they were annexed by the British Crown, and, by virtue of the Imperial Act, they have been proclaimed and are under the control of Queensland. I do not think that the naval power of England is so weak as not to be able to assert the claim of Queensland and of Australia to every inch of this territory.
– Does the Imperial Act extend British jurisdiction to the waters between the islands and the mainland %
– I understand that these fisheries are all in the parts proclaimed, and if that be so, the fisheries are British territory. The honorable member for West Sydney referred to the difficulty that, under a section of the Immigration Restriction Act, a master and crew are allowed to land during the stay of a vessel in any port of the Commonwealth. The Prime Minister has felt constrained to treat the crews of pearling vessels as coming under that section ; but I think there is great force in the contention of the honorable member for West Sydney, that the provision is meant only for men who come as crews to Australia merely as the port of destination. When we speak of a master and crew landing, I take it that what is meant is that Australia is the port of destination and clearance, and that the crew have not come to work within the bounds of Australia, but simply for the purpose of landing and departing. The Prime Minister need, not, I think, be embarrassed by that section of the Immigration Restriction Act. I understand that there is a difficulty in regard to the licences, which, we have been told, were issued under the Federal Council Act passed some years ago. ThePrime Minister has referred! to these licences as binding on the Government.
– No ; I said that we have, so far, no power to issue licences, and I doubt whether we can take that power by legislation. It may be that we can take the power, but I am not sure.
– I understood the Prime Minister to say that he considered the licences issued by the Queensland Government, or any other power, before federation, as binding on him
– Until there is legislation, we cannot regulate those licences. By legislation we might possibly do so, but the extent of our legislative power is subject to doubt. Any possible’ power is under subsection 10 of section 51 of the Constitution.
– I understand that licences issued under the Federal Council Act, before federation, gave certain privileges ; but I take it that the Immigration Restriction Act impliedly repeals all those licences.
– That is not so.
– The Act says that all aliensare prohibited, with certain exceptions. And if a language test were put to any of these pearlers, and he failed to pass it, he would be a prohibited alien. Then there are certain exceptions which do not cover these cases, and I think, therefore, that all these aliens can be prohibited under the Immigration Restriction Act. That Act says that all are prohibited if they do not pass the language test when applied to them, and if that language test is to be applied, how on earth can a licence given beforehand be held to override the effect of this later Act ? I submit this to the Prime Minister, that he may look further into the matter. I feel sure that he has given a great deal of thought to it, and far more than I have; but he may consider whether in the face of the provisions of the Immigration Restriction Act there is any implied exception in favour of those who come in underlicence. I hope thatas the right honorable gentleman is going home he will take an opportunity of ascertaining whether it is the intention of His Majesty’s Government to insist upon these islands being controlled by, and absolutely remaining under the control of Australia, and whether there will be any compromising of the rights acquired by Australia in these islands. I am certain that there is nothing upon which the people of Australia are so unanimous as that we must secure the whole continent and its outlying parts for the white races.
– If there was one matter more than another upon which the people of Australia were unanimous it was the policy of a white Australia. When the Immigration Restriction Bill was before the House we were also unanimous, and the principal objection to the measure as’ introduced by the Government, and which has since become law, was due to a fear that there would be weak or ineffective administration of it. I venture to say that the people of the Commonwealth are very closely watching its administration, and they will not read with satisfaction the explanation given by the Prime Minister of its administration on the coast of Queensland. There is one point to which I desire to call special attention. It appears that the Government, for some reason, desire further information. The Prime Minister has said that they wish to know the facts, and he admits that he has had to issue permits to divers to allow them to come into the Commonwealth whilst this information is being obtained. He has placed that limit upon the permits. I would like to have some explanation as to what the right honorable gentleman proposes to do afterwards. Does it follow that he is going to ask this House to legislate in sucha way as to secure an alteration in the law? He has told us that he has been obliged to issue permits to these people to allow them to remain in the Commonwealth until he finds out - what ? He has said that there is a fear that the industry may be taken from Australia, but that would only mean that these undesirable people would go away, because every one knows that they cannot take the pearl-shelling grounds with them. The objection to this class of people is not an industrial objection only, but as the honorable member for Northern Melbourne has said it is a question of the effect upon the national character. The Immigration Restriction Bill was passed more upon moral grounds to prevent the contamination of the white races of Australia, than upon industrial grounds, and it was to be expected that the Government would administer the law in such a way as to get rid of objectionable persons within the borders of the Commonwealth, as well as to prevent others coming in. I think the intention of the House in passing the Act was to get rid of undesirable persons within our borders, of whatever class they might be, and whether they were white or coloured, who would tend to degrade the national character. Any one who has read anything upon the subject, or who has heard the statements of those who are acquainted with the way in which the pearling industry in the North is carried on, must know the terms which are applied to the ships engaged in it. We know also that as carried on at present, it is a most undesirable industry, and if the people engaged in it were to go away to any other part of the world it would be a good thing for us. I am sure the Prime Minister does not expect that this House will alter the legislation it has passed to permit that industry to be maintained. If, as I infer from his statement, the object of the inquiry suggested is to find out whether, under certain circumstances, we will lose the industry or aot we shall be getting back to the argument used by the employers of cheap labour who say that without it the industry cannot pay. We do not care whether the industry is carried on or not. I venture to say that the feeling of the Australian people is that unless it can be carried on in a proper manner by labour paid a decent wage, there is no desire to see it maintained, for the employment of an undesirable class of people. It has seldom been denied that it can be carried on by white labour, and this proposal to wait for some report after an inquiry seems to me to require more explanation than the Prime Minister has given. We ought to know what the right honorable gentleman proposes to do, assuming that it is reported that the industry will, unless certain permits are granted, be removed to Dutch New Guinea. We are informed that the permits are to be continued for three months while we are getting a report upon the industry, but we do not know if they are to be continued afterwards. This is a phase of the question which I think has not been presented by previous speakers. We ought to know what is going to take place and we ought to know what the Government mean. If these undesirable people think they can do very well, somewhere else we should be very glad to let them go. That will do them no injury, and will do us a great deal of good. If we are to encourage those people to continue in the industry within the Commonwealth by breaking or suspending the law, by issuing permits to them, we shall be acting against the spirit of the Immigration Restriction Act and against the intention of the people of Australia. I hope that some more definite statement will be made as to what will take place after the result of this inquiry is made known. I have spoken to assure the Prime Minister of my strong opposition as one member of this House to any weak or ineffective administration of this law. I do not think it has been shown that there is any need to obtain further information than we have already about this industry. People who have been on the pearling grounds have said that the ships engaged in this industry are “ floating hells.” That is how they are described from the moral stand-point, and we shall not be carrying out the spirit of the Act if we do not give consideration to the question of the national character which to my mind rises superior to the industrial question. The effect of the Immigration Restriction Act entirely depends upon its administration. I have always given credit to the Prime Minister and the Government for their earnestness and sincerity in support of the policy of a white Australia. I give them credit still, but they must remember that the public are suspicious upon this subject. They have always felt that there is some danger in connexion with the administration of the Act - that it may not be effectively administered by the officers of the department - and when even the head of the Government himself is not only cognisant of, but has consented to the issue of permits to these undesirable people, the public will be still more alarmed and will have less faith in the administration of the Act by the Government than they had before this question cropped up.
– I am sure that honorable members who have drawn .attention to this matter have not done so with any intention to injure any leading industry of the Commonwealth. The idea in passing the Immigration Restriction Act was distinctly to preserve Australian citizenship for the white races of the world. This pearling industry is a large and important industry, and one which I am sure every citizen of the Commonwealth desires to preserve for Australia ; but the question now is whether that industry is to be carried on by permitting people of coloured races to come into the Commonwealth contrary to the provisions of the statute, or whether it shall be preserved for the white citizens of Australia. I believe it was the intention of this House, in passing the Act, that all the industries of the Commonwealth should be preserved for the white people of Australia. So far as Queensland is concerned, it was said that the sugar industry required kanaka labour for a certain time, but it was unanimously held by the leading papers throughout the Commonwealth, including the leading papers of Brisbane, that upon this one question of a white Australia we were firm. Some of them wanted the kanaka for a time, but they did not desire the other coloured races to enter Australia. With respect to the action of the Government in the matter, the impression left in. my mind, from the perusal of paragraphs which have appeared in the press, is that the Minister charged with the administration of this Act is going to appoint a commissioner to investigate certain facts in order that he may be able to administer it strictly in accordance with the spirit in which it was passed. It is too ridiculous to assume that the Prime Minister is going to arrogate to himself the power which kings of old used to claim of dispensing with statutes. At the same time, I admit that honorable members are quite right in keeping a jealous eye upon the administration of this Act. I took up the same position on the public platform as the Prime Minister did in this House when he stated that if the measure in the form in which he submitted it was proved to work unsatisfactorily he would bring in other measures which would prove to be satisfactory. Now that attention has been drawn to the matter, I believe that the result will be that the people of Australia will be assured, as honorable members of this House have been assured, that the Government intend to administer the statute strictly in accordance with the spirit in which it was passed. I am glad that this question has been raised, but I should like to have had some notice of it. I believe the statement was made in one of the Queensland papers that the reason why the agitation there was raised was because those engaged in the trade had stated they could go over to Merouke, and there assume Dutch nationality, and by the assumption of Dutch nationality claim to be entitled to come back to Queensland waters, and carry on their pearl-fishing operations in a way in which we in Australia would not allow our own people to carry them on.
– I say that is the statement which was made. What was said was that they would have the right to invade all our coast fisheries, and work the banks with coloured labour, whereas our own people would not have that power. A question to be considered is - What right we have as Australians to the fisheries in these particular waters? I know that a difficult question of interpretation arises, which I should personally have liked more time to look into. To what extent have we control over these Australian waters? So far as Queensland is concerned, her territory is not limited to the mainland and the three miles limit from the coast. She has more extended limits. On the official map honorable members will see a large line which goes very much beyond the 3-mile limit. I have not been able to ascertain if that line represents its legal boundaries. There was an Imperial Act passed which authorized the Government of Queensland to annex a large number of islands, and I believethat was done to settle some question which had been raised as to the power of the Queensland courts to try men for the committal of murders in those islands. These islands were annexed by proclamation. So far as we can see from the wording of the Constitution Act, Queensland has the right to regulate the fisheries within her territorial limits, and the question arises as to the nature of these limits. The point to be defined is whether the 3-mile limit extends round Queensland or round each island, or whether it extends over a large part of the high seas. The right of controlling the high seas involves an important point of international law. The extent to which our State is entitled to assume jurisdiction over a large portion of the high seas will have to be solved sooner or later. The Constitution Act authorizes the Commonwealth Parliament to deal with fisheries beyond the territorial limits. What is the meaning of the term “territorial limits” there ? Does it mean the three-mile limit to which we are accustomed, or does it mean the boundaries of the State of Queensland ? I sincerely hope that the Prime Minister will consult the Home authorities and try to see if he cannot put on a satisfactory footing our claim to exercise jurisdiction over as much of the seas as we can possibly get. If the Dutch people say - “ We are going to set up adepot outside your territory, and carry it on in a way which suits ourselves, and to invade this territory over which you have been assuming jurisdiction, and take the wealth it contains,” we, as Australians, should resist that position. Our decision has been to try and preserve Australian interests in the whole of the Pacific as much as possible - of course, without unduly interfering with other nations. I am glad that the question has been brought up at this stage, before the Prime Minister goes Home. I hope that the inquiry will not be confined to eliciting mere facts, but will embrace the whole of these important questions, so that the House may have some definite authoritative decision on which to act.
– I agree with those honorable members who have said that the utmost vigilance should be shown with regard to the administration of the Immigration Restriction Act and the Pacific Island Labourers Act, because, after all, everything depends on the Government loyally carrying out the ideas of Parliament. At the same time this debate has shown many of the difficulties concerning the whole case. We must recollect that these Acts, on account of some well-grounded feelings of alarm, no doubt, on the part of many honorable members, were passed in this first session of Parliament, largely on the faith of certain representations made by the members for Queensland. It was not to be expected that any Act like the
Immigration Restriction Act, which really affects such a large area, not merely in our own territory, but in adjacent territories, could be carried out without certain “difficulties arising. Under ordinary circumstances these measures might have been relegated to the second session of Parliament, after the most exhaustive inquiry had been held. The representatives of Queensland must consider that many things which come under their cognizance are not equally known to honorable members generally, and that it is’ the duty of the Government not to act entirely on the testimony of witnesses, although members of the House, from one particular State. but to act impartially when the whole case is before them. This legislation is very wide and drastic in its effects. It brings us prominently before the civilized world, and while I am as strong as any member of any party here in my desire to keep Australia from the alien taint, still we ought not to show any hysterical heat. We ought to show that we are anxious to deal fairly with all people who are affected by our legislation. While not budging one inch in our determination we ought not to show any precipitancy. We ought to be willing to get every possible information which may, in certain details, affect our legislation in the future. Nobody will say that this legislation is perfect. Nobody will say that the Government or honorable members knew all its possible consequences. Besides that we have a great national policy, and I think every honorable member will agree with, me that if all the islands of the Pacific, which are within our sphere of influence, could have been appropriated by the British Crown, so as to keep from our shores any unpleasant foreign element, it would have been better for Australia. This policy must now be carried out more or less in the territories which we have got, and the territories which are immediately within our sphere of influence. We must be careful that in dealing with some particular question of which we can see the -bearings to a certain extent, we do not lose sight of the larger view of our national existence, and our future national policy.
– We have passed the Act, and it is only a question of . carrying it out. sir william Mcmillan. - That may be so. I do not for one moment advocate that it should not be carried out j but the honorable and learned member is not, any more than any other honorable member, an archangel, and not even an archangel could tell when a piece of legislation is framed here what may be its ramifications and its effects. The position of any enlightened Government is that after passing legislation, especially legislation of a drastic character affecting the industries of the people, they ought not to do any arbitrary act, but to be ready always to receive any information which would throw light upon it, and to place before Parliament facts which they think, whether it approves of their policy or not, it ought to know. I think we were al] in favour of the Act. There was no measure that was passed with’ such unanimity in this House. It has not been made a party question here. What we wish to do now, even if there is a little delay, is to show to everybody - not only those connected with our own territory, but the outside world - that we are working in a judicial frame of mind in all the legislation that we undertake. While I think that the utmost vigilance should be shown by honorable members, especially by those from the State which may be peculiarly interested in seeing that the Government carry out thi3 legislation to the letter, still wo ought to be careful, when representations are made as to a certain course which it may be right to take to get information, not to act in any hysterical way, as if any enormous amount of injury could be done by delay. It was possible, having regard to the amount of business which it was necessary to consider in this session of Parliament now so prolonged, that this very Bill might not have been reached until next session. In the Pacific Island Labourers Act, we allowed five years for the carrying out of its provisions in their entirety. “In the Immigration Restriction Act we allowed no time at all. The pearl-seekers come under that Act, which is different from the other, and its principle is that we shall not allow coloured aliens to land and settle and be domiciled on our shores under any consideration. But here is a trade which is done by men on the high seas, who do not become domiciled on our shores. It is a very profitable business, which I should like to see ultimately done by white men if it is possible ; but I do not think that we ought to allow any feelings we may have in regard to individuals or capitalists, or even as to the practices which may have been carried on, to interfere with our own national policy. This is an industry connected with these islands, and as I asked Ministers the other day when they were imposing duties on the products of the islands, how can they expect to cement the islands to Australia in some kind of Commonwealth bond if they do everything they can to irritate and injure the trade 1 The question is a big one, and under all the circumstances, in view of the great international questions which will arise, we ought to court every inquiry on the part of the Government, if anything should arise which in their opinion may even remotely lead the House to reconsider any decision it has made.
– While I am willing to allow every consideration for the official position of the Prime Minister, and also for the judicial method of inquiry into matters of this kind, still his statement is not altogether satisfactory. With regard to the speech of the acting leader of the Opposition, it is a matter of difficulty to hazard any particular opinion. It was so very indefinite, indeed, that I should be very sorry to think that it reflected the mental attitude of a gentleman who has been so long and so honorably connected with political life in Australia. Evidently there is a desire on the part of some honorable members to support the Prime Minister in the attitude he takes up with regard to the necessity for an inquiry being made. I have not yet heard any definite reason given why it should be made at all. What is the nature of the evidence which may be expected to be given 1 Any one whom the Government may choose to send to Thursday Island, or to any of those localities where the pearl-shelling industry is carried on will get only one kind of evidence - the evidence of those interested in the existing condition of things. We have sufficient evidence already to enable the House to determine what ought to be done in circumstances such as we are discussing. It has been said that we have a somewhat parallel case with regard to the kanakas. To my mind the case of the exclusion of the alien from the pearling industry is much stronger than that of the exclusion of the kanaka from the sugar industry. The latter industry has grown up very largely by means of the employment of alien labour ; but the pearling industry has grown up entirely by means of white labour, and that white labour has been displaced, as is admitted even by those to whom that displacement is due, simply because they found the accommodating alien so much cheaper and more amenable to the conditions under which they exploited him. One argument has been used against the employment of the white diver, namely, that he cannot go to the depths at which the black diver now risks his life. Yet all over “the world, wherever reasonable risks are required to be taken by divers, the white diver is available. If the risk is an unreasonable one - if it means, as I am given to understand, that a man who goes down takes his life in his hands with the odds against his ever coming up again - that is a state of affairs which it is the duty of this Parliament to abolish at the earliest possible moment. I was exceedingly glad to hear the honorable and learned member for Northern Melbourne support the view taken by the honorable member for West Sydney in respect of the power of the Commonwealth to deal not only with the divers but with the whole of the alien labour which infests the shores of Australia generally, I say “infests “advisedly. These people are undoubtedly the scum of Southern Asia. In the Parliament of the State from which I come I find references, continually made to the pearling industry, indicating that’ the trade of supplying these people is almost entirely in the hands of aliens. Complaints are made in the Western Australian Parliament that, for instance, traders come from Singapore and purchase pearls from those employed in diving - pearls that are presumed, frequently at least, to be stolen. We have at another time complaints made that traders come from the southern parts of Asia with dutiable merchandise which they transfer to the luggers on the high seas, and thus defraud the Western Australian Government of a large amount of revenue. In these respects I fail to see how anything would be lost if we swept the traffic entirely out of existence. But I am one of those who believe that if we can restore something like the old condition of things which prevailed in this industry it will be a benefit, not only to thewhite men engaged in pearling, but to the commercial interests of Australia generally. If it is the case, as is argued by honorable and learned members, that the Government have the power to deal with the whole of this alien traffic on our shores, I, for one, hope that the Government will at the earliest possible moment go into the matter thoroughly, and if they can see their way clear - -if they conceive themselves to be justified - in taking the most stringent measures to exclude the traffic to which I have referred, I feel certain that they will have the support of the whole Commonwealth. I have not the least fear that if we send the alien about his business we shall lose the industry. In Western Australia large areas of what was once excellent pearling ground have been devastated by aliens whose object is simply, to get as much as they can without any consideration of the permanence of the industry. Frequent complaints are made with regard to the operations of those people, not only at sea in connexion with the getting of pearl shell, but all along the coasts of northwestern Australia during the pearling season,- The various ports visited by them are simply pandemoniums. They are also undoubtedly the means of allowing a large influx of aliens who cannot be traced in their peregrinations from the north-west of Australia down to the southern parts. There is a tremendous extent of coast line accessible to those people, and, of course, it is out of the question to think that the)’ can be looked after carefully wherever they happen to land. As I have already said, if the Government can exclude the whole of them from infesting our coasts, they will confer an advantage upon the industry and the people of Australia, and at the same time be carrying out, not only the letter, but also the spirit of the Immigration Restriction Act.
– I am quite sure, sir, that this House is fully convinced that the Government are earnest and sincere in their desire to carry out the Immigration Restriction Act in its true spirit. I am quite convinced for my own part that no doubt exists in the minds of the people of Australia that the Government are fully seized of the importance of faithfully administering the Act which this Parliament passed with absolute unanimity. Therefore anything I say cannot be construed into a suggestion that the Government are forgetful of their duty in this regard. But I do say this, sir, that the exemptions that have been granted involve a very wide exercise of power under that Act. Speaking for myself, knowing that this question of the pearl fisheries was well debated in this Chamber before the measure was passed, and knowing that the subject received the close and. earnest attention of honorable members, I did not think that power would have been assumed to grant licences to large numbers of people, as has been done in this case. The exemption section did not contemplate such large exemptions. But at the same time I feel convinced that the Government have acted with the intention to do what is best for Australia as a whole. I cannot, under such circumstances as those in which we find ourselves at present, agree with the observations made by the honorable member for Wentworth. Many of his arguments were very good indeed from his stand-point if we were now discussing the question of passing the Immigration Restriction Act. But that Act has been placed upon the statute-book, after having been agreed to by both Houses of Parliament, backed by the universal opinion of Australia ; and we must not treat the matter as if we were discussing the advisability of enacting a measure which we have placed upon the statute-book, and which must be carried out. It is of no use going back. I believe that the Government were acting wisely, well, and honestly in the interests of Australia in doing what they have done, but I certainly hope that no further -exemptions will be granted. At all events, if they ever are granted in this way - I am speaking of these wholesale exemptions - they should not be granted until this House is placed in possession and is fully seized of the results of an inquiry, and has an opportunity of deciding whether the exemptions should be repeated or not. We were fully .aware of the possibilities attendant upon this trade and the effect upon it of the Act which we passed. We took the risk : and I do say that, unless this matter is jealously guarded, it may prove a point of weakness which will frustrate the intentions of the Act. Because once we allow these aliens to come in on that point, the Constitution presents no - or almost no - means of stopping them from spreading over Australia. Therefore we must guard this, the weakest point in the whole Act. As I said before, I did not anticipate that such a weak point would be found in it. I presume that it is paragraph (A) of section 3 under which these exemptions have been granted. Under that provision, “any person possessed of a certificate of exemption in force for the time being in the form of the schedule, signed by the Minister or by any other person appointed under this Act,” is exempt from the operation of the Act. It seems to me that that provision was never intended to extend to large masses of people. It was intended, I believe, to refer to exceptional individual cases. At the same time, I can well believe that a larger interpretation may be placed upon it j. and I would only say once more that I hope that the spirit of the Act will be observed in the future, to this extent, at all events: that no further temporary repeal of the Act - because that is what it amounts to - will be exercised without giving this Chamber at any rate, and possibly the two Houses of Parliament, a full opportunity of determining whether that should be done or not.
– I was rather amazed and amused at the Prime Minister saying in reply to an interjection this afternoon that he “ did not know the gun was loaded “ with regard to this pearl-shelling industry. If any honorable member chooses to turn up the debates which took place on the Immigration .Restriction Bill he will see that the matter was discussed by many honorable members representing every State in the Commonwealth. As far as the inquiry is concerned, there is one way out of the difficulty which will not cost the Commonwealth more than the time of the clerk who is set to collect the evidence. The Government have all the necessary evidence at their command in the library. They can trace the history “ of the industry from the very inception up till to-day. They can obtain there the evidence of Mr. Saville Kent, the expert on Thursday Island, and the evidence of the R esident Magistrate of Thursday Island, Mr. Douglas. We find from the last report issued that there were 247 boats equipped for diving purposes carrying on pearl-fishing on a large scale around Thursday Island, and of these 90 belong to the firm of Burns, Philp, and Co., and SO to another firm, of which Mr. Forsyth, a near relative by marriage of Mr. Philp, is a member. The evidence shows that only a few years ago there were many thousands of white men employed in the industry, whereas today there are only between 60 and 70 white men employed. What better evidence csm the Government want than that 1 If white men were able to do the work twelve years ago, are they not able to do it to-day? Another point that the honorable member for Parramatta has dwelt very strongly upon - and I am at one with him in regard to it - is the existence of the “truck” system in connexion with the industry. I have seen the evils of the “truck” system in the old country, and God forbid that we should ever see it introduced into this fair land of Australia ! The “ truck “ . system in its entirety is carried on, and every man engaged in the industry has to get his food and clothes from these people. They are practically slaves to Burns, Philp, and Company, and to the firm of which Mr. Forsyth is manager. As the honorable and learned member for Indi so wisely put it when the Bill was before the House, we did not expect that the Prime Minister would use the power of exemption which we gave him in this way. I thought the provision was intended only to apply to individual cases, and that it was not designed to allow the wholesale admission of aliens into the Commonwealth in the way that we have seen. Some honorable members may not agree with me, but I feel that this is one blot, and a very large blot, on all the good work which the Prime Minister has done in administering the Immigration Restriction A.ct. I fail to see why any particular industry should be picked out for these exemptions. If we allow the pearl fishers to employ alien divers, we might as well give the planters kanaka labour. The one course would be equally as just as the other. We have the testimony of various honorable members that white men can work as divers. They do it, and have done it. Would any honorable member say that a blackfellow could do what the two divers did who raised the gold from the’ sunken steamer Catterthun How many men are there who would tackle that work ? I was at Thursday Island some sixteen years ago, when there were very few aliens there, but on the occasion of a second visit which I paid two years ago, I found nothing but aliens on the island. There were Japanese servants, Japanese maids, Japanese nurses, and in fact Japanese everything. During my last visit to the island an election took place for the return of members to the hospital committee, and Japanese defeated white candidates. That is what’ is transpiring on Thursday Island. Instead of being a white man’s paradise, it is a black man’s hell. It is idle to beat about the bush in this matter.
In regard to the question of whether white men are able to do this work, I should like to make a quotation from a petition on the- subject -
The white men of great wealth who employ coloured aliens for pearl shelling, found that the coloured men saved their earnings, and bought boats of their own. The moneyed man found the coloured mcn under those conditions too strong a competitor for him, and had a law made, so far as Queensland shelling grounds go, that no coloured man was to work on his own account, or own a boat. This law was made in December of 1 898, and assented to by the Queen in 1890. Surely, if this was just and right, the white divers may claim the same right ? If the moneyed man is to be protected, justice demands the working man to be protected. I pray that 3’ou will take np these pearl-shell fisheries, for unless we working men combine we may be quite trodden under foot. The white pearl-sheller capitalist, in Queensland, at all events, wants to employ coloured men, but be protected against them working for themselves. It is time we had a share of this protection. Coloured labour should be abolished altogether from these fisheries after, say, seven years from now. The white sailors, sailmakers, and shipwrights have all been kept out of pearling industries.
Mr..L. E. Groom. - Where did the honorable member obtain that petition ?
– It is to be found in the Commonwealth Ilansard, page 369. Is it that the white man cannot do the work of a diver, or is it that the employers will not pay him a fair wage to do the work 1
– They will not pay for white labour.
– That is the position. I fail to see what there is that the Prime Minister wishes to inquire about. Let the Prime Minister ask himself how it is that white people cannot engage in the industry to-day when twelve years ago it could support 3,000 or 4,000 white men. It is not only from the pearl - diving branch of the industry that white men ave being ousted. Japanese, Malays, and other aliens are carrying on the work of boat-builders and sail-makers ; and in fact everything connected with the trade is done by niggers, solely for considerations of cheapness. If the Prime Minister will turn up the pages of Hansard he will find plenty of data to go upon in dealing with this matter. The honorable member for Coolgardie made a great speech on the pearl-shelling industry, and a perusal of it will convince the Prime Minister that he is altogether wrong in allowing exemptions. If it be true, as an honorable member has said, that the Customs revenue derived from this source has gone back, instead of increasing as the volume of trade has extended, the only inference is that the Customs is being defrauded, and on that ground alone it would be a God-send to the Commonwealth if the two or three thousand aliens who are engaged by Burns, Philp and Company and the company of which Mr. Forsyth is manager, went to Dutch New Guinea. Then instead of an alien population which constitutes a menace to the whole Commonwealth, we should see on Thursday Island a thriving community of white people, and that I believe was the desire of every honorable member who voted for the Immigration Restriction Bill. I am sorry that the Prime Minister is not present, but I tender him my advice for what it is worth. He has told us that he is not vacillating in his policy so far as the Immigration Restriction Act is concerned. I should not like to say that he is, but his actions, so far as the pearl shellers are concerned, bear a colourable appearance of vacillation. If he would only present a bold front he would find that the pearling shellers would not desert Thursday Island. The island is a haven for their fleets, and a place at which they can have their boats refitted, while the mail steamers also call there and carry away their produce. The loyalty of these men who talk so much about it, extends only as far as their breeches pocket. They certainly do not possess the loyalty which I feel when they say that they will become Dutch citizens unless these exemptions are allowed. Nothing would make me renounce or denounce my country. I am proud to think that I am an Englishman. I would not renounce my birthright for all the pearlshelling industries in the world, and sufficient money has never been coined to make me do so. The statements made by some of those interested in the pearl fishing industry show how far their sympathies are with the Empire. They say that they will become Dutchmen because their industry is going down. The sooner they become Dutchmen the better. I trust that the Prime Minister will not have any inquiry. Let him go into the parliamentary library, and there he will find all the material that he wants, and sufficient to satisfy the whole of the people of the Commonwealth.
Mr. TUDOR (Yarra).- When the Immigration Restriction Bill was before the House, there were several honorable members who . were led to give up their demand for a complete prohibition of aliens from Australia by the promise of the Prime Minister that the measure would be administered in a way that would carry out the desire of the House. We were told by the Attorney-General that if the Bill proved to be insufficient to carry out our intention, it would be only the forerunner of other measures that would be more drastic in their operation. If the Act is not going to be administered in conformity with what was desired by the House in passing it, it will be necessary to introduce some more drastic measure, which will leave nothing to administration in the future. Before I was returned to this House, a petition from the white divers of Australia praying for legislation similar to the measure which we have passed was presented to the Melbourne Trades Hall Council, of which I was president at the time. The petition pointed out that, in former days, the industry had been carried on by white men, but that, from motives of avarice, the employers had been led to engage alien coloured labour. They did so because in that way they could make more out of the industry. The Immigration Restriction Bill has become law, and as the honorable member for Kennedy has pointed out, we have now an opportunity of ridding ourselves at one swoop of a considerable number of these coloured aliens. I trust that the Government will not issue any exemptions. If these people are anxious to leave our shores, we should welcome the opportunity of getting rid of what, in the opinion of many honorable members, constitutes a menace to the community. With one or two exceptions the whole of the candidates at the last federal elections were unanimous in their desire for a white Australia. I do not see that there is any occasion for an inquiry. No question as to the desirability of an investigation was raised when the Immigration Restriction Bill was before the House, and I do not think that there is any need for it now. Honorable members who are well up in this matter have stated that the Prime Minister can find in the library abundance of evidence relating to it, and I trust that this is the last occasion on which it will be necessary to move the adjournment of the House in order to discuss a matter of this kind. I hope that the Act will be administered as it was intended that it should be administered when it left this Chamber
– I think that the Ministry have made a mistake in exercising the power to grant exemptions in a way which was really never intended by honorable members when the provision in question was before the House. It was considered that the power would be exercised, only in exceptional cases, when it was felt that it would be advisable to allow aliens to land under certain conditions. The pearl shelling industry is one of the greatest importance so far as Western Australia is concerned. It extends all round the coast of that State. In former years the trade was carried on by the young fellows of the State who obtained their boats and anything else which they required from Fremantle. Nowadays we seldom hear of a lugger being built there for the trade.
– They employed aboriginal divers in those da)’s.
– I do not know about that. Perhaps the Minister will give us his experiences. I am speaking only from personal knowledge. In the early days I did a large business with pearlers ; but business with the pearl fishers is a dead letter at the present time so far as Western Australia is concerned. The consequence is that the Government lose revenue and that the people of Western Australia lose the benefits of a trade which rightly belongs to them in view of the fact that it is carried on along their coast. A large number of murders have been committed by the black labourers engaged in pearl shelling. It was only a few years ago that the captain of one of these vessels and his son were most brutally murdered, and, after some considerable time had elapsed, the murderers were brought back to Western Australia and tried and convicted at very heavy expense to the Government. More recently many other crimes have been committed, and the pearl-shelling operations have been carried on under conditions which would disgrace any English community. I am sorry that any exemptions have been made, and I hope that the Ministry will reconsider the matter and carry out the spirit of the Act.
Question resolved in the negative.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Islands, the New Hebrides, and Gilbert Islands ?
– The answer to the honorable member’s questions is as follows: - 1 and 2. The articles of agreement between the Government of the Commonwealth and Messrs. Burns, Philp and Co., Limited, were laid on the table of this House on the 9th inst. From these it will be seen that 6,000 a year is paid by the Government to the company for services, which include a monthly service from Sydney, vi& Lord Howe and Norfolk Islands, to and throughout the New Hebrides and Banks Groups ; a two-monthly service to and throughout the Solomon and Santa Cruz Groups ; and a four-monthly service to aud throughout the Gilbert and Ellice Groups.
It should be explained that the subsidy for the original contract with the Government of New South Wales which passed to the Commonwealth under the 85th section of the Constitution was £3,600 for a service between Australia and the Now Hebrides and Solomon Islands, running monthly to a point in the New Hebrides, but distributed into bi-monthly services for the two groups named.
The effect of the added agreement is : -
asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
Whether he has granted permits for the loading or unloading of cargo or coal on Sundays.
– I have granted no such permits. I may say further that a memorandum furnished to me shows that no permits of the kind have been granted for many years past.
Mr. Speaker reported the receipt of messages from His Excellency the GovernorGeneral, transmitting estimates of expenditure for additions, new works and buildings, in lieu of similar estimates transmitted on 8th October, 1901, for the year ending 30th June, 1902 ; also estimates of expenditure for the year ending 30th June, 1903, and estimates of expenditure for arrears for the period ended 30th June, 1901, in lieu of estimates transmitted on 8th October, 1901, and recommending appropriations of the consolidated revenue fund accordingly.
In Committee :
Consideration of Senate’s message (vide page 11503).
Clause 5. - (Appointment of Public Service Commissioner and Inspectors).
Motion proposed -
That the committee agree to amendment of the Senate omitting the word “eight,” line 33, page 3, and inserting in lieu thereof the word “ seven ‘” ; and do not insist upon their consequential amendment, disagreed to by the Senate, omitting the word “ of” before “ eight,” and inserting the words “ not exceeding eight.”
– In this case the Senate insist upon their amendment reducing the salary provided for the inspectors from £800 to £700, and they disagree with the consequential amendment made by this committee providing that the salary of the inspectors shall not exceed £800 per annum. It was provided that the salary of the inspectors should not exceed £S00 per annum, because it appeared desirable to have various grades of salaries on account of there being less work in some States than in others. That is why the words “not exceeding” were inserted. It has been pointed out, however, that if these words are retained, it may become necessary to vote the salaries of the inspectors year by year upon the Estimates, as they will not be fixed by statute. This would be objectionable, because the inspectors should occupy an independent position. With regard to the salary attached to the position of Commissioner, it will be within the recollection of honorable members that when the Bill was first sent from this Chamber to the Senate the salary was fixed at £1,500 per annum. The Senate reduced that amount to £1,200, but the committee disagreed with the Senate’s amendment, and reinstated the original amount, which has been again reduced by the Senate to £1,200. I am strongly of opinion that it would have been better to fix the salary as originally proposed, as the position is a very important one, and should be filled by the best man obtainable, but in view of the apparent’ determination of the Senate, I think it will be better to accept their amendment.
– I think we ought to pause before accepting this amendment. It seems paltry on the part of the Senate to reduce by £100 the remuneration which this committee fixed as reasonable for the inspectors. The Senate first of all reduced the salary of the Commissioner from £1,500 to £1,200, and they have made what no doubt is intended to be “ proportionate reduction in the salary attached to the position of inspector. I have two strong reasons for dissenting from the view taken by the Senate with regard to the Commissioner. In the first place we are to have one instead of three commissioners. The Commissioner will have full initiative power in nearly all measures connected with the public service, and will control a large number of highly-paid public servants. If we place an officer over all civil servants, some of whose salaries will- not be less than £1,200 per annum, we ought to give him an enhanced remuneration, such as will command superior ability. Probably I am disposed to go further than most honorable members in recognising the practically co-ordinate powers of the other Chamber ; but I think it is rather a stretch of the Senate’s prerogatives to reduce the salary which this House had deliberately fixed after most careful investigation. I am as anxious as anybody for economy in the public service, but why do we appoint a commissioner 1 Is it not to effect economy? If we do not select a man of high standing and good calibre, the whole scheme will fall to the ground. For the two reasons which I have mentioned, I think that the Government should dissent from the proposals of the Senate. I take it that one hangs upon the other. On the same principle, therefore, that I object to the reduction of the commissioner’s salary, I object also to the reduction proposed in the remuneration of the inspectors.
– In this matter I think that the Senate is showing that it represents the States with a vengeance, and it is doing so in a way which appears to me to be very improper and foolish. I refer more particularly to its action in levelling the salaries of the inspectors. The Senate proposes to give each inspector the same salary. Now, I take it that these officers will have control over their respective States. In other words, an inspector will be allotted to Tasmania, another to Western Australia, a third to New South Wales, and so on. The anomaly of the whole proposal is that whereas in Tasmania the salary of an UnderSecretary is about £500 annually, in New South Wales it is £1,000; yet it is proposed to give the inspector in Tasmania the same remuneration as the inspector in New South Wales.
– It does not follow that there will be an inspector in Tasmania solely.
– But I take it there will be. The proposal of the Senate creates an anomaly in the larger States, which I venture to say will not add either to the status or the ultimate efficiency of the inspectorial control. In New South Wales an inspector will be placed over men in the capacity of Under-Secretaries, who are receiving £1,000 a year ; whereas in Tasmania he will occupy a position superior to that of the highest State official. We did not expect this kind of levelling up and down in connexion with the Commonwealth public service. To pretend that the inspectors of Tasmania and Western Australia should receive the same salary as a similar official in New South Wales is absolutely absurd. In Tasmania and Western Australia the inspector will not control one-fourth the number of officers that will come under the control of the inspector in New South Wales. The Senate’s proposal cannot lend itself to any effective control by the inspectors, and will ultimately undermine their real status. I hold that a proper thing would be to pay each inspector the same salary as is received by the Under-Secretary in the particular State, whose public servants he controls, and his designation should be that of deputy commissioner and not inspector. I think that the salary of £1,200, which it is proposed to give the commissioner, is good enough at the beginning. It is always easy to increase salaries as responsibilities grow, and the service of the Commonwealth will grow in importance very speedily. A salary of £1,200 will be sufficient to attract the best man in the services of the States, and that, I presume, is what is contemplated by the Government. I cannot conceive of them going outside the State services to select a man for this important position.
– I am very sorry that the Minister for
Home Affairs has suggested that the committee should accept the Senate’s amendment, because I think it is entirely in the wrong direction. In the commissioner we shall have an officer of the highest standing, who is possessed of peculiar qualifications, and whose honour and judgment are above question.
– Is a high salary the only guarantee of that?
– Surely the honorable member must realize that, in a bad world like this, men are very often measured by their salaries rather than by their qualifications. Here is an officer who will be at the head of a large civil service - a service which will grow, and eventually become an immense institution, and yet it is proposed to pay him a salary substantially less than that received by officers who will be subordinate to him, and who will be charged with responsibilities of a very much lower character. I ask the committee to bear in mind the unique position which this officer will occupy, and having in mind the large salaries which it is proposed to pay to the Judges of the High Court, I hope we shall, treat with liberality the position of the man who is to be at the head of the Commonwealth public service.
– My experience induces the conclusion that if we wish to secure proper supervision, economy, and effective service, we must pay for it liberally. In this connexion, I do not think that a salary of £1,500 for the Commissioner is too much. We shall only obtain adequate service by offering a proper reward for it. Although my inclination is not to place the Government in a false position with regard to the other Chamber, I certainly think that this committee should insist upon its amendment.
– I think that the Government would be acting wisely if they adhered to the Bill in the form in which it left this Chamber. Although there is no greater advocate of economy in this Chamber than I am, I know that we cannot secure it without paying liberally for efficient supervision and inspection. If we are to have a civil service efficiently managed and controlled we must have a first-class man at the head, with good inspectors under him. When the measure was previously before the committee, I was an advocate for greater economy, but the measure having passed this House, it may be taken that we have arrived at the proper rate of salary. Without going into the question of the co-ordinate powers of the two Houses, I think that as the Bill originated in this Chamber, which has the initiation and control of finances, we may be taken as proper judges of what remuneration is necessary for these officers. At some early stage of the Bill, one member of the Government - though I forget which member - in answer to a question by me, said that it was not necessary that six inspectors should be appointed. This evening the honorable member for Parramatta seemed to be under the impression that the clause had been amended by the Senate by the omission of the words “ not exceeding,” but, according to my copy of the Bill, these words are retained. I should say that, in the first instance, at any rate, only three inspectors might be appointed, say, one for Victoria and Tasmania, another for New South Wales and Queensland, and a third for South Australia and Western Australia ; and the smaller number provides a reason why the full salaries proposed should be paid. Salaries of £S00 a year would not be too much for the right men, and similarly we cannot expect to get a really good man as commissioner for less than £1.500 per year. Compared with the salaries given by private corporations and firms, £1,500 a year for a commissioner is not extravagant, if we are to get the good results we expect.
Amendment agreed to. .
Clause 52a -
Subject to the provisions of the Act every officer on the confirmation of his appointment shall effect an assurance of his life with some life assurance company or society approved by the GovernorGeneral, registered and carrying on business in the Commonwealth, or as may be prescribed, providing for such benefits as may be prescribed and for increasing from time to time the amount assured. Provided that this section shall not apply to any officer who at the time oE his appointment is already assured in such company or society for benefits equivalent to those prescribed. “
Motion proposed -
That the committee disagree to the amendments of the Senate, omitting the words ‘ ‘ approved by the Governor-General” and “or as may be prescribed.”
– When the Bill was introduced, we had a debate lasting over several days on the question of the insurance of civil servants, and we came to a certain decision, which was embodied in the clause originally sent to the Senate. That clause was struck out, and clause 52a ultimately inserted. The effect of the Senate’s amendments is to strike out the power of the Government to approve or disapprove of the insurance offices which shall be included in the list, and also to strike out the provision that the office approved must be conducted on the mutual principle. I propose on this occasion that we disagree with the amendments made by the Senate, as we did previously. It may be necessary ultimately to have a conference between the two Chambers, but we have not yet arrived at that stage. It seems to me that we should adopt the mutual system, or, if that be not done, the Government should have power to say what offices shall be included in the list, because we are aware that there are a few offices to which exception might be taken. It has been stated by myself, if not by other Ministers, that in any case it is the intention to ask the Cabinet at the earliest possible date to establish a system of insurance in a Government assurance office, instead of in outside offices. At present I propose that we shall disagree with the amendments of the Senate, and adhere to the clause as originally sent to the Senate.
– In the clause which we first sent to the Senate, it was provided that the insurance must be effected with some approved mutual life assurance company or society having its head office in Australia. When the Senate’s amendments came down we altered that, and provided for any office approved by the Governor-General. If I understand the Minister for Home Affairs, it is the latter compromise on which we now propose to insist. It was a fair compromise, and I cannot see why the Senate should object. This is understood to be a purely interim arrangement in order that the Government may have time to submit a more complete proposal, and it is safeguarded by the condition of the approval of the Governor-General in Council. In my opinion the compromise answers all purposes in the meantime.
– If we disagree with the Senate’s amendments I should like to know on which clause wo insist. I am sorry to say that the manner in which these amendments are submitted to us is such that it would take the proverbial “ Philadelphia lawyer “ to make anything of them. m3’ personal desire is to see the clause made definite in the manner originally provided by this committee, namely, that the office shall be a mutual office having its headquarters in Australia. We are giving way to the other Chamber in matters not very important. A few moments ago I voted against a provision in which I believed, and in regard to which I think the Senate was mistaken. I do not want to fight on comparatively unimportant points, though large and important questions ought to be pushed to the extreme conclusion. With regard to the question before us I feel that pending .the time when the Commonwealth establishes a department of its own in which to insure its servants, we ought to insist that our public servants shall be insured in offices of which we approve, and over which, so far as their conduct and the investment of their funds are concerned, we shall have absolute control under our own laws. We have not such control over foreign offices.
– Will the honorable member raise the point of order whether we can go back in the way suggested ? I do not think we can.
– I am willing to raise a point of order on that question. My contention is that we have power to substitute anything we desire for our original proposal so long as it is relevant to the matter at issue between the two Houses.
– On the point of order, I take it, the position is this : We sent up a clause in a certain form to the Senate ; the Senate made amendments, and when we rejected the Senate’s amendments, we sent up a new proposal, which, from our point of view, was a substitute for our original clause and for the proposals of the Senate. I take it that when the Senate now sends down amendments,’ they have only to do with the last proposal we sent up. I do not know that the committee has the power now to propose an amendment, the effect of which would be to re-instate our original proposal. It seems to me that all we can discuss now is the question of whether we shall accept the amendment of the Senate upon our last proposal.
– It seems to me, that on the bare facts of the case, the committee was in favour of our original proposal. The amendment subsequently submitted by the
Senate was accepted purely with a view to arriving at a compromise. As the Senate did not see its way to accept the compromise we should insist upon the first proposal remaining.
– The honorable member will see that the Senate has agreed to clause 52a, passed by this committee subject to certain amendments which they indicate. The matter now before the committee is really a proposal to accept that amendment.
– I ask whether it is competent for the committee to disagree with the Senate’s amendment, and then to put forward as an amendment the original proposal submitted from this House?
– I submit that this committee having on the last occasion when this Bill was discussed adopted a definite course as a compromise with the Senate, and the Senate having now returned the Bill to this House with certain amendments upon our proposal, we have only to deal with what is involved in those amendments. We cannot go back upon the previous legislation of this House. If we were to do that, there would be no finality upon any question which might be raised.
– I think our power, if we choose to exercise it, is very much wider than is supposed by the honorable member for South Australia, Mr. Poynton. I think it rests entirely in the discretion of this committee whether they will adhere to the last amendment, or go back upon the first amendment, or make new amendments. In Standing Order 196 it is provided that -
If the Senate return the Bill with a message informing the House that it . . . disagrees with amendments made by the House on the original amendments ‘of the Senate . . . the House may . . . withdraw its amendments and agree to the original amendments .of the Senate, or make further amendments to the Bill consequent upon the rejection of its amendment, or propose new amendments, as alternative to the amendments to which the Senate has disagreed, or may insist upon its amendments to which the Senate has disagreed.
It seems to me that this standing order gives the committee almost unlimited power to act as it pleases with regard to these amendments.
– Dealing with the point of order raised by the honorable member for Bland, I find on reference to the records that on the 19th March the committee agreed to the Senate’s request to omit the original clause, and agreed to substitute a clause by way of amendment. The Senate now desire to amend the amendment upon that clause made by this committee, and it will not be competent, in my opinion, for this committee to revert to the original clause. That clause was before the committee, and a decision was come to upon it. It is only competent for the committee now to amend by any relevant amendment the amendment now submitted by the Senate.
– Do you rule, sir, that it is only possible for us to amend the suggestion of the Senate, and not to amend our own suggested clause ? That is against the Constitution. Surely you do not mean to rule that we cannot amend our own previous resolution with a view to meeting their objection ?
– It is not proposed to amend it for that purpose.
– Apart from what I propose to do, I desire to know whether as a matter of procedure the Chairman rules that we cannot amend the clause we sent to the Senate. Does he rule that we are really confined to the actual amendment last made by the Senate?
– I rule that it is not competent for this committee to deal with any proposal already agreed to by both Houses.
– Quite so ; but this has not been agreed to by both Houses. Nothing in relation to clause 52 has been agreed to by both Houses, and with respect to it there is only a tentative proposition before us pending final agreement. Each House has agreed -to something in connexion with it. We agreed to the original clause 52, and then we agreed to a new clause in lieu of it.
– The only thing we have both agreed to is to strike out the first clause we sent to the Senate.
– That does not preclude our amending our second proposal.
– So as to bring it back to the original clause ?
– I am not saying whether we shall amend it in that way. I desire to know from the Chairman whether we can amend our second proposal with a view of meeting the objection of the Senate, or whether we are confined to the last amende ment submitted by the Senate.
– The honorable member has misunderstood me. My ruling was that it would be competent for the committee to amend the second proposal, but not to deal with the original proposal, which lias been decided.
– I submit that the position is this : The original clause was rejected by this committee and a new one adopted. That clause was sent on to the Senate. They have amended certain words in that clause, and we cannot now go back and amend any preceding portion of that particular clause. The only amendment which can now be made must be relevant to the amendment by the Senate. To adopt any other course would be to stultify our past action in connexion with the clause.
– I do not think there is anything to prevent our amending the last amendment made by the Senate, provided our amendment is relevant. But I do think that to carry an amendment upon the Senate’s amendment which would reinstate the original clause, which this Chamber agreed not to adhere to, would not be in order.
Amendment disagreed to.
Mr. WATSON (Bland).- I move-
That the clause be amended by the insertion of the word “mutual” after the word “some.”
Supposing that this amendment were made, there would still be a considerable difference between our present proposal and our original one. The last proviso dr anything like it was not in the original clause. While the Senate may not be prepared to accept our original clause, it may be prepared to accept something like that clause with the proviso that is contained in the second proposal we sent up. The object of my amendment is to insure that until the Commonwealth establishes an assurance department for the use of its officers we shall only ask them to assure their lives in mutual offices.
Sir WILLIAM MCMILLAN (Wentworth). - -If I understand rightly, instead of insisting upon our own amendment as it went to the Senate, the honorable member for Bland desires to go back in principle to our original clause. And he argues to some extent, I think, that by doing so and sending back the last proposal we made in this amended shape, we shall get more into accord with the Senate’s own proposal.
– I did not say that.
– If that is not the case I see no ground for the alteration. If it would get us more into line with the Senate’s last proposal, then there would be some reason for his proposal, but seeing that it does not, the logical and commonsense course is to abide by our latest proposal. The whole crux of the thing is contained in the few words that we interpolated - “ approved by the GovernorGeneral.” That provision seems to safeguard everything. When we agree that it is an interim arrangement subject to a complete revision by the Government, and subject to a more elaborate proposal being placed before the House, it seems to me that we can reasonably trust the Executive to protect the rights of the people. It will be better for the honorable member not to press his amendment, because he is trying by a sort of side wind to reverse the deliberate decision that was last come to by the committee. That is not a fair way of dealing with the question, and it does not show much strength on our part. It will be better for our prestige and for our logical acumen if we stick to what we did in the last stage of our proposed compromise, instead of harking back in a weak way to that which we had under consideration, and set aside. On the whole the simplest way is to disagree with the Senate’s proposal, and to insist on our latest proposal, which safeguards everybody, and at the same time does no injustice.
– I am afraid that the honorable member for Bland must have run up against a foreign assurance agent who paralyzed him. He is afraid that the Governor-General and his Ministers will not have the proper amount of ability to select the offices, and he seems to desire an absolute enactment to be made. He does not propose to say that the companies shall be approved of, and shall be absolutely sound. The first thing which ought to be insisted upon is the soundness of the institutions. Surely the honorable member must know that if the Government select the societies, and approve of them, the Government are impliedly responsible if the societies do not turn out to be absolutely sound and above board. The fair thing is that which the committee agreed to last time, to disagree with the Senate’s amendment and send the Bill back as we did last time. That would be satisfactory all round.
– I hope that the honorable member for Bland will not press his amendment. We are in a far stronger position if we adhere to the amendment which we sent to the Senate. The provision that no company shall be accepted except with the approval of the Governor-General in Council will protect the assured and the Government too, because if a civil servant were assured in a company which was of very little stability, and if, through an accident happening, he were to lose all that he expected to get in his declining years, there would be an obligation on the part of the Government to give him a gratuity or to deal with him in some other way. The Government will be very careful that they do not approve of any assurance offices which are not absolutely stable. I have had a consultation with the Prime Minister and my colleagues in reference to instituting State assurance. Before any legislation takes place I intend, under the words “as may be prescribed” in this clause, to provide for what the honorable member requires. It will only be commenced in a small way under the regulations, but it will be conducted in a much larger way when legislation is passed. The Government are in earnest in commencing this business of State life assurance as soon as possible, even if it is done in a small way, and with that promise I hope the honorable member will withdraw his amendment.
Mr. WATSON (Bland).- In view of the statement of the Minister I am quite willing not to urge my amendment. I feel very strongly about this matter, but in view of that statement I do not think it would be wise to press my amendment. _
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Clause 5 - . (6) Out o£ the Consolidated Revenue Fund of the Commonwealth, there shall be payable to the commissioner a salary at the rate of fifteen hundred pounds per annum . . .
Motion proposed -
That the committee agree to the amendment insisted upon by the Senate, omitting the word “fifteen” and inserting the word “twelve.”
– I regret that I feel called upon at the present time to ask the committee to agree with the Senate’s amendment, but I do not wish any delay to occur. The House provided for the commissioner a salary which I at the time thought was too low, and the Senate refuses to agree to that salary. I think it better that this matter should be practically in the hands of the House of Representatives ; but under the circumstances, and as an agreement has been made to provide a salary of £700 for the inspectors, I do not feel disposed to waste any time over it. I may say that almost to my surprise, since this alteration has been made by the Senate, applications for the position of commissioner have come in from some very very able men. They are prepared to take a salary of £1,200, and I do not know that we could find abler men than have already applied, even if the salary of £1,500 were offered. I find that the reason why the applications have been sent in is that these gentlemen recognise that in future the federal service will be the most important service in the Commonwealth. The applicants are already members of State services, and are the most eligible men we could obtain. Under these circumstances I do not feel disposed to disagree with the amendment made and insisted upon by the Senate.
Sir WILLIAM MCMILLAN (Wentworth). - While I quite recognise the right of the Senate in this instance, I think they have made a mistake. They have a perfect right on questions of taxation, and on the larger questions of finance, to express their opinion. But I look upon this matter in the same light as a salary that may be fixed in the annual Appropriation Bill ; and no one can imagine that the Senate would attempt to interfere with salaries fixed by this House in the Appropriation Bill. The salary of the commissioner is embodied in this Bill for the purpose of giving the commissioner the same separate authority and position as a Judge of the High Court would have. Under the Bill he will be removable only by a vote of both Houses of the Parliament. That is the reason why the salary is fixed by the Bill ; but it is on all fours with the salary of any officer in the public service that may be included in the Appropriation Bill. I venture to say that such a thing as an alteration by the Senate of the salary of an officer we shall never hear of. I therefore strongly protest against the action that has been taken, but as the previous vote has been carried, I shall make no further opposition than by this protest.
Amendment agreed to.
Clause 9 -
Motion proposed -
That the committee disagree to the amendment insisted upon by the Senate, omitting the words “ shall determine the division of class or grade of every officer, and.”
– The next amendment made by the Senate is in clause 9. It will be remembered that the Senate, in the first place, struck out certain words. The amendment, to my mind, took away from the position, status, and power of the commissioner. The words struck out were “shall determine the division class subdivision of class or grade of every officer, and,” making the clause read -
The commissioner shall keep a record of all officers, showing with regard to each officer his age and length of service, and so on. I find, on reference to the debates in the Senate, that the amendment was made in consequence of the wording of clause 8. On reference to that clause, honorable members will find that the duties of the inspectors are defined ; and in subclause.^) there is this provision -
After considering any such report, the commissioner may propose to the Governor-General any particular disposition of officers and offices, and the division of class subdivision of class or grade of every officer and re-arrangement or improved method of carrying out any work which appears to the commissioner necessary or expedient.
It therefore appears -that on the report of the inspectors, the commissioner may .make - it does not say that he shall make - a report to the Governor-General. The principal reason why the provision in clause 9 is differently worded from the provision in clause 8 is that immediately we take over the service some fairly definite action will have to be taken within a very short period, because we want some starting point from which to deal with the various departments. Under clause 9 the commissioner could deal with this matter almost immediately. But as far as I can judge he has no power to deal with the officers, if clause 9 is altered as intended by the Senate, until he gets a report from his inspectors. The Senate believes that clauses 8 and 9 clash. I do not think they clash, but the difficulty may 34 b be overcome by inserting all the words that were struck out by the Senate, with the exception of the word “ determine,” and the insertion in place of that word, of the words “ recommend to the Governor-General for determination.” The clause would then read -
The commissioner shall recommend to the Governor-General for determination the division class subdivision of class or grade of every officer, and shall keep a record.
If honorable members will agree to that amendment the difficulty may be overcome, and then the suspicion that there is a dashing between this clause and sub-clause (2) of clause 8 will be done away with. It will be made imperative that the commissioner shall report on the grade and subdivision of grade, and not leave it within his discretion, as does sub-clause (2) of clause 8, which says that he “may” do it. The clause, as I intend it to read, will mean, not that the commissioner will actually determine, but that he must recommend for the purpose of enabling the Governor-General in Council to determine the grade and sub-grade, and so on, of the officers.
– Can the Governor-General in Council upset the recommendation of the commissioner ?
– There is a provision in the Bill under which, under certain circumstances, that may be done. But the provision is very stringent, and requires that reasons for the action must be laid before Parliament. Under ordinary circumstances the Governor-General in Council will accept the recommendation of the commissioner, unless there is some good reason which the Government could defend to Parliament for taking other action. I move–
– The fog into which we got in the first place arose from the fact that clause 9 ought to have been inserted in the Bill before clause 8. The idea of clause 9 is evidently to provide for the setting in motion of the machinery of the Bill, and it was intended that the commissioner, when he came into his office, should settle the class and grade of every officer as preliminary to subsequent work. But the proposal made by the Minister is in keeping with the general tenor and principle of the Bill. What we objected to in some parts of the Bill previously was that the commissioner was practically set aside, or had to obey the behests of the permanent head of a department. But, running through the whole Bill, outside this provision, is the principle that the commissioner reports direct to the GovernorGeneral. Therefore, I see no great objection to what the Minister proposes. lt is rather a large power to give to any commissioner, or to anybody, to grade a service without any possible check, under any possible circumstances. Therefore, I am rather inclined to believe, carrying out the principle which runs through the Bill, that the Minister is right in his suggestion. I do not think that it in any way takes away from the authority of the commissioner, but it does give that safety valve which should exist in the case of every public officer.
– I am one of those who, in regard to this Bill, have taken the line all through that we should make the commissioner reasonably independent of Ministerial control. I am afraid that the amendment suggested by the Minister for Home Affairs, unless it is safeguarded in some way, will, to some extent, undermine the position of the commissioner. It will be noticed that under clause 8, if the commissioner makes a recommendation, and the Governor-General in Council does not accept it, the Government will have to give reasons for their action to Parliament. If the Government refuse to accept the proposal of the commissioner, they have to submit to Parliament within a certain period their reasons for dissenting from his proposal. That to some extent protects the commissioner from any improper act on the part of Ministers or a Minister. What I am afraid of is that in clause 9, if we only adopt the words suggested by the Minister for Home Affairs, the procedure laid down in clause S will not be followed, so far as concerns . matters under clause 9. Therefore I suggest that any. refusal on the part of the. Governor-General in Council to follow the recommendations of the commissioner in regard to matters touched upon in clause 9 should be followed by similar action to that laid down in clause 8, sub-clause (3), where it is- provided that if the GovernorGeneral does not approve of any proposal, it shall be the duty of the commissioner to reconsider such proposal, and to submit to the Governor-General a fresh proposal, which has to be considered.
– It does not destroy the. initiative of the commissioner, and does not give any initiative to the Governor-General.
– It does not destroy the initiative of the commissioner, but every practical man knows that if the Government can send back recommendations a sufficient number of times, they practically have the initiative themselves, because they will not accept anything that is not in accord with their own ideas. It is idle to say that the commissioner is the sole originator of a proposal if the unlimited and unrestricted power of refusal is given to Ministers.
– The honorable member would practically place the commissioner above all control.
– No. All I am asking now is that the procedure indicated in clause 8 shall be followed under clause 9. In sub-clause (3) of clause 8 it is laid down that the reasons for the refusal to follow a recommendation by the commissioner must be submitted to Parliament.
– I think that that could be done in this case.
– I do not think it would be done if only the words proposed by the Minister were inserted. I do not think the Senate would object to. the insertion of some such words as would practically follow “clause 8. The Senate wants to harmonize clause 8 with clause 9, and will not object to anything that will secure that end.
– That ought to have been done earlier in the Bill to prevent repetition.
– I quite agree that clauses 8 and 9 should have been transposed, and that, if that had been done, the Bill would have been more harmonious than it is ‘ now. We cannot do it at this stage, as clause 8 has been disposed of, but I think that in connexion with this clause we should re-enact in some shorter phraseology the provisions of clause 8.
– I am very much in agreement -with the honorable member for Bland. I object to cutting down the powers of the commissioner, and relegating practically to the Government of the day that power which the committee desired to confer upon him. Unless we make some such addition to the clause as that suggested by the honorable member for Bland, and make the Government responsible to Parliament for neglect to carry out the recommendations of the commissioner, we shall make a great mistake, and weaken to a considerable extent the scope of the Bill.
– We could add a proviso.
SirEDWARD BRADDON. - In that event the amendment of the Senate might be agreed to with a further amendment.
– When I hear the right honorable member for Tasmania, Sir Edward Braddon, approving of the course suggested by the honorable member for Bland, I. feel a little suspicious, in the sense that I am afraid it will be a great mistake to take the power out of the hands of the Government. How often are we to complain that the power of doing something that we desire is not in the hands of the Government ? Every time that Parliament relegates one of these powers to an outside authority it creates a power outside greater than that which created it. I am opposed to anything that would in any way lower the power of the House to rule the community. If they want these powers they must set their position before the people. Let the people test them in the fire of experience, and if they come through it unburnt they ought to be in this House to make the laws, and to see that they are carried out. If we create a commissioner with all these powers we shall have the same trouble that we have had in connexion with the railways. A man goes to the commissioner in regard to some business, and is told that he must coax the Minister ; when he goes to the Minister he is told that he must see the commissioner, and at last, in desperation, hefeels inclined to commit suicide. I hope that we shall not give the commissioner more power than the Government possess in these matters. It is to the Government we must look. If we are dissatisfied with the Government we simply say - “Brothers, change seats!” We cannot say that to the commissioner, and I intend to oppose the giving of this power to him.
Amendment disagreed to.
– I have no objection to inserting the words suggested by the honorable member for Bland, but my difficulty is to determine where they should be placed in order that the Senate will not be able to take exception to them as a matter of form.
– The Senate cannot take exception to a proviso if it is relevant to the clause.
– My fear is that if we insert the words as a proviso the Senate might take exception to them. However, I will agree to add the words as a proviso to the clause. I move -
That the word “determine” be omitted, with a view to insert in lieu thereof the words “ recommend to the Governor-General for determination.”
Amendment agreed to.
Amendment (by Sir William Lyne) agreed to -
That the following words be added to the subclause: - “Provided that where the GovernorGeneral does not approve of any such recommendation, a statement of the reasons for not approving and for requiring a fresh recommendation shall be laid before Parliament.”
Clause 21 -
Motion proposed -
That the committee agree to the amendment insisted upon by the Senate, omitting the words, “ and in the case of a female as being as capable of satisfactorily performing the work as a male.”
– I do not propose to object to this amendment ; in fact, when it was before us on a former occasion, my feeling was that we should agree to it.” There may be some objection to it in that I think it gives the commissioner power to deal with new provisions in relation to female employes, but, as I do not consider that the matter is very important, I ask the committee to agree to the amendment.
– I would ask the Minister whether the effect of this amendment will be to insure to every female throughout the service a salary similar to that received by any male who is doing the same class of work, without requiring any examination to be passed.
– I believe it has that effect. My only reason for saying that there maybe some objection to the amendment is that I believe that, without these words, there will be a disposition to dispense with the services of females in some cases, instead of employing them as they could be employed under certain conditions provided in the Bill. But, so far as I can judge, those females who are already in the service will have to be dealt with in the same way as are male employes.
Amendment agreed to.
Clause 50 -
Any officer feeling dissatisfied with any report ov recommendation made under this Act affecting such officer’s position in the service, or his PaY, or any promotion or transfer, may appeal to the commissioner in such manner and within such time as may be prescribed.
Motion proposed -
That the committee agree to the amendment insisted upon by the Senate, omitting all the words after “officer,” and inserting in lieu thereof the following words : - “ (except officers of the Parliament) affected by any report or recommendation made or action taken under this Act other than a report or recommendation made or action taken under sections 31, 4b” to 49 inclusive, 64, 65, and 72 thereof, may, in such manner, and within such time as may be prescribed, appeal to a board, consisting of an inspector, the chief officer of the department to which such officer belongs, or an officer nominated by such chief officer, and the representative of the division to which such officer belongs, elected under the regulations by the officers of the division to which such officer belongs in the State in which such officer performs his duties. The board shall hear such appeal, and transmit the evidence taken, together with a recommendation thereon’, to the commissioner, who shall thereupon determine such appeal. Provided that in the case of reports or recommendation made by the commissioner to the Governor-General, all such appeals must be taken before the reports and recommendation are dealt with by the Governor-General under the provisions of this Act.” . . .
– It is with very great reluctance that I ask the committee to agree to this amendment, because I think it might be put in fewer words with greater advantage. I am afraid that it will be a very cumbersome clause to administer. We have to remember, however, that if it is found to work inharmoniously with other parts of the measure, we shall be able to amend it. Perhaps there is a good deal to be said in favour of the principle of the boards proposed to be created, but I believe that they will be called upon to deal with claims which have been dealt with long since, as well as matters that were in dispute years ago.
– I think it is a very cumbersome way of doing business.
– If a public servant has a grievance he has a right to have it redressed.
– Public servants will be able to gain redress under this Bill. I claim that it is ohe of the best measures dealing with the public service that has ever been passed in Australia, and that many of the .anomalies which have occurred under the State Acts will be remedied by it. Nevertheless we do not desire to load the Bill to such an extent that any captious officer will be able to demand an inquiry when, in the opinion of any ordinary man, there can be no possibility of a decision being arrived at different from that appealed against. Still, even at the risk of its being found a cumbersome provision, I am prepared to agree to it.
– Why agree to it?
– We have already disagreed with it once, and the Senate has sent it back to us again. I do not desire to have this Bill discussed for the next six months. I want to see some termination to our consideration of it. Honorable members will notice that a number of clauses relating to offences and matters of that sort do not come within the scope of this provision. I have made this explanation so that if this provision should have the effect I fear, I may not be reproached with having allowed it to pass without objection.
– I quite fail to follow the Minister for Home Affairs when he says that we should accept this provision for the present.
– It can be amended.
– Yes, but it will remain the law until it is amended, and if the provision is a bad one, why should we accept it now ?
– It is a clumsy, but not a bad provision. The principle is right, but not the application of it.
– I think it is right, because it is proposed to give to the civil servants who feel that they are aggrieved, a Court of Appeal which may be appointed in such manner and within such time as may be prescribed. These safeguards limit the power, and will probably operate to prevent frivolous appeals. We shall not give unchecked liberty, but simply the opportunity to appeal under certain prescribed conditions; and after all the commissioner is to have the final determination of the recommendations of the court.
– Quite so. That is the redeeming feature.
– The provision seems -to be simple and good in principle, and I think we may very well agree to it.
– When this matter was before the committee previously I supported the disagreement with the Senate’s amendments, and I still entertain the objection I then expressed. So far as offences are concerned, I have always believed it to be our duty to insure that every person charged with an offence, which, if his guilt were proved, would lead to his being deprived of his position, should have the right of appeal. We have provided for that in another clause, creating a board of inquiry on which representatives of the employes are to sit, and at which the employe concerned may be represented by an agent or by counsel. This clause deals with an altogether different class of cases. It provides principally for the claims of officers who may be disappointed in their expectations of promotion, and I am afraid that it is quite possible that we shall create a feeling that the civil service is to be for all time a close corporation for those who join it in their youth, and who expect to fill every vacancy that occurs above them, no matter whether they are qualified for the position or not. In the interests of the general public it is frequently necessary to infuse new life into the service, and to put at the head of particular branches men who are free from the trammels of departmental tradition, and who are able to see that the old groove is not followed too closely. It is right that the claims of the various officers who may at the first blush be held eligible to fill certain vacancies should be properly inquired into ; but I am afraid that a court composed of officers who may themselves be claimants for promotion at some future time will be prejudiced in favour of one of themselves. I admit that the final determination lies with the commissioner, and that is the only saving feature of the provision as far as I can see. It is not the proper thing, unless there is an important matter at stake, to repeatedly disagree with the amendments of the other Chamber, and in view of the fact that we have already disagreed with the Senate on two rather important matters I am willing to give way on this point and see if the provision works out as its advocates hope. Personally, I am very doubtful about the result ; but sooner than risk the rejection of the Bill, which on the whole is a good one, I am prepared to agree to this amendment.
– My feeling is that the amalgamation of the departments in the various States, which have been worked hitherto under differing conditions and under separate administrations, must naturally bring about some apparent inequalities and lead to misapprehension as to the positions of some of the officers, and therefore. I think that a Court of Appeal such as that proposed will prove very serviceable. Although the provision has been described as cumbersome, I am rather more hopeful than the Minister that it will be productive of good, in serving to minimize discontent. I am, therefore, very glad that the committee are disposed to agree to it.
Amendment agreed to.
Reported - That the committee had agreed to some of the amendments, disagreed to one of them, and agreed to another with amendments.
– I move -
That this Bill be now read a second time. On previous occasions I have moved the second reading of State Bills corresponding in their provisions with the present measure, regarding which I have felt that I was leading an almost forlorn hope. I have, however, no fear of failure on the present occasion. The agitation for the reform contemplated by this Bill dates back very many centuries. We find on looking round us that the neighbouring colony of New Zealand, which was the first to adopt Woman’s Suffrage, has been followed by the States of South Australia and Western Australia in a course which I hope the Commonwealth will decide to pursue. lc was the intention of the Government in the first instance to introduce the Bill into this Chamber, but, as honorable members know, we have been so continuously occupied during the last twelve months that no opportunity has been afforded for discussing the measure here. We therefore arranged to have it first submitted to the Senate, and I was very glad indeed that the Vice-President of the Executive Council undertook to pilot it through that Chamber. It was very successful there, and passed its second reading without a division. I hope that it will be equally successful in this Chamber. I am satisfied that if a division be taken upon its second reading a majority will be found voting in favour of the proposed reform. At this stage I should like frankly to avow that I have not always favoured the extension of the franchise to women. Some years ago, when I was very young in politics and probably my thoughts were less matured, I was hostile to the proposal. Gradually, however, as the result of my reading, and in consequence of the advance of thought which has taken place upon this question, not only in Australia, but throughout the world, I was induced to bake an opposite view of the matter. Thus it came about that some ten or twelve years ago I formed the conclusion that not only was it just to accord women the vote, but that it was in the best interests of the entire community. The form of this Bill, as introduced into the Senate, has been somewhat altered. The principal amendment which was made there has reference to the aborigines. As originally drafted, the Bill provided that no aboriginal should be allowed to vote, notwithstanding that at the present time, in some of the States, aboriginals are endowed with the franchise. The measure also provided that the suffrage should not be extended to half-bloods. Personally, I think it would be a serious mistake to deny half-bloods the right to vote in their native country. A further provision has been added to endow the New Zealand Maoris, or their descendants, with the franchise if they became residents of the Commonwealth.
– An aboriginal is not as intelligent as a Maori. There is no scientific evidence that he- is a human being at all.
– In view of the fact that in some of the States aboriginals are allowed to vote at the present time, the Bill has been amended to provide that all aboriginal natives of Australia may exercise the suffrage.
– And their gins, too.
– The provisions of the Bill apply to both sexes. I wish briefly to outline to honorable members what has taken place in the Australian States in regard to the movement to enfranchise our women. It will be recollected that in New Zealand the first Act for the purpose of endowing women with the rights of citizenship was passed in 1893. At that time it was urged by opponents of the reform that the women of that colony did not desire to exercise the franchise. Indeed, the statement is still freely made that a referendum of the women of the Commonwealth would prove that they are opposed to (.he reform, but I very much question its accuracy. The passage of the Act in New Zealand has resulted in the women taking a greater interest in public questions of the day than do the men. I have many times regretted that we have not some law under which, if men do not exercise their rights of citizenship, they will be disfranchised. However, there is no law to that effect. In the election which took place in New Zealand immediately following the extension of the franchise to women, 88 per cent, of the females upon the rolls voted, as against 69-6 per1 cent, of the men.
– The novelty of the thing has worn off since.
– If anything could point to the interest which is taken in political questions by women, surely it is the fact that they attended and voted in such large numbers. If, as the honorable member for Maranoa suggests, it was the novelty of the proceeding which induced such a large percentage of female votes to be ‘ recorded upon the first occasion, how is it that at the next election, which occurred in 1896, a larger percentage of women voted than of men 1 Prom the returns I conclude that less interest was taken in that election, because the votes cast upon either side were not so numerous as the votes recorded in 1893. At the first election I believe that the question before the people was that of local’ option. That accounted ‘mainly for the large number of vote3 registered by both sexes. In the second election which took place under adult suffrage, 76-4 of the women of the colony voted as against 759 of the men. These figures -absolutely shatter the statement that the percentage of female votes cast at the election in 1893 is to be explained by the novelty of the reform. Moreover, I am firmly of opinion that the extension of the franchise to women will cause men to take more interest in political matters, and to vote in larger numbers than they have done heretofore. The fact that wives and daughters in the home will be able to discuss political subjects which affect everyday life, will bring to the mind of the male portion of the community the necessity for recording their votes at election time. I speak as one who has had a very long training in politics, and I know the difficulty which exists - when there is nothing to excite popular feeling - in inducing electors to exercise their franchise. That is not a healthy condition of affairs to obtain in a young community. I admit that in certain parts of the Commonwealth, where great distances have to be travelled, it is not so easy for electors to vote as it is for residents in the centres of population. To overcome that difficulty, however, provision is made in the Electoral Bill for voting by post. I am not prepared to say whether South Australia took her cue from New Zealand, but probably the fact of the reform having come about in the latter colony brought the position home more acutely to the people of South Australia, and caused the Government to pass a similar law there. In South Australia the first general election under adult suffrage took place in 1896. The percentage of female votes recorded on that occasion was high, closely approximating, but greater than that of the men. I am not in possession of the exact numbers. At the next election, in1899, there was a falling-off generally in the number of votes recorded by both sexes, but the female vote had not relatively decreased. Western Australia was the last State to adopt adult suffrage, and I am *not aware that since the reform was instituted there a general election has occurred.
– When the federal election took place a very small proportion of the women had been sufficiently long upon the rolls to qualify them to vote.
– I think that what I have quoted shows that as far as the Australian States are concerned there is a strong feeling in favour of extending the franchise to women. But that feeling is not confined to Australia; it obtains throughout the world. If honorable members will take the trouble to make themselves familiar with this subject, they will idealize what a rapid advance the movement has made both in England and in America.
– In America they are not yet sufficiently civilized to adopt the reform.
– Still the movement has advanced with remarkable strides.
In 1899, an American female author read a paper at the International Congress of Women, from which the following is an extract : -
Fifty years agowomenin the United States were without a recognised individuality in any department of life. No provision was made in public or private schools for her education in anything beyond the rudimentary branches. An educated woman was a rarity, and was gazed upon with something akin to awe.
In the United States, only 50 years ago, women were thought fit merely to look after their house-work and families for a miserable pittance. The account proceeds -
Very few women were sufficiently educated to teach, but those who could do so received from 4 dols. to 8 dols. a month and “ boarded round : “ while men, for exactly the same service, received 30 dols. a month and board.
At the present time women are educated to the highest degree, and there are large numbers - though I have not been able to obtain the exact figures in the time at my disposal - who possess educational honours of various kinds. Women have been given votes in municipal and other elections, but have up to the present been denied the parliamentary franchise. We are informed that -
In 25 States, women possess suffrage in school matters ; in four States they have a limited suffrage in local affairs ; in one State, they have municipal suffrage ; in four States, they have full suffrage - local, State, and national. Women are becoming more and more interested in political questions and public affairs. Every campaign sees greater numbers in attendance at the meetings, and able women speakers are now found upon the platforms of all parties. Some of the finest political writing in the great newspapers of the day is done by women, and the papers are extensively read by women of all classes.
In only a few of the American States women have the full franchise at the present time ; but I do not think it will be long before the privilege is there extended to all women.
– Recent history does not point in that direction.
– If the right honorable member were to read this work from which I am quoting, I think he would say thathistory does point in ‘that direction. The list of names of those who took part in the congress of women, which took place in June, 1899, in support of this reform, includes some of the first in the land, both in the United States and Great Britain, and the papers read are perhaps the ablest that have been written on this and kindred questions.
– Will the Minister refer to the papers which were read against women’s franchise on that occasion ?
– The conference to which I am referring is not the conference now mentioned by the honorable member for Kooyong. There was what was called the Women’s Anti-Franchise League, and an application was made by a lady ( belonging to that body for permission to read a paper in opposition to the granting of the franchise to women. It was only with difficulty that permission was obtained, and the paper did not get much, if any, support. The conference was absolutely in favour of extending the franchise for national elections to women ; and one lady, Miss Susan Anthony, said very truly -
We are asking for nothing nev.’, but simply for the practical application of the old doctrine that was declared by Hancock and Adams and all the old revolutionists.
If honorable members refer to history, they will see that Pitt strongly advocated the enfranchisement of women. On the 27th of April, 1S92, a Bill with this object was introduced into the British Legislature ; and Mr. Balfour and several others spoke warmly in favour of the reform. Mr. Balfour said -
I think those who wish to be enfranchised have used the only methods they could use in the matter - that is to say, they have expressed their desire to obtain the vote, on platforms and by public meetings, and by whatever other means were open to them.
He went still further, and, referring to the fact that exception had been taken for various reasons to women exercising a vote, said that if women could not be called upon to shoulder a rifle - though some women had done so - they were called upon to pay the bill, and. therefore ought to have some voice in electing representatives to deal with questions relating to war, and affecting the lives and properties of individuals. He went on to say that that objection to extending the franchise does not appear to be an adequate reason for refusing them some control over the policy by which the foreign relations of our country are conducted, and means of defence are to be secured. We have been told that to encourage women to take an active part in politics is degrading to the .sex. … I think I may take it that every section of this House is only too glad to use the services of women when they can profit by them, and it does not lie in the mouths of any of us to say that taking part in framing the policy of the empire is degrading to the sex. . . .
I understand one plank of the Newcastle platform was “One man, one vote.” When that is brought forward I believe we shall have all the old flesh and blood arguments urged again, all the old arguments for political liberty, and the whole train of commonplaces again thrust before us for our acceptance, b3’ which each successive change in the franchise has been accepted ; and yet the very gentlemen who say they are going to bring forward that programme, at this moment absolutely refuse to admit the validity of a single one of these arguments when they are directed’, towards enfranchising, not the least worthy class of the community, but what I believe to be one of the worthiest. You will give a vote to a man who contributes nothing to taxation but what he pays on his beer, while you refuse enfranchisement to woman because she is a woman, whatever her contribution to the State may be.
Can any one stand up in this Chamber and say that in his experience he has not known hundreds, nay, thousands, of cases in which families have been maintained by the mother 1 Are there not hundreds of cases in which the father is either a drunkard or unable to get work, and in which the mother, with a small pittance, has sup-, ported a large family in greater comfort, perhaps, than the supposed bread-winner could have done t Only last Sunday week I saw in one of the suburbs of Melbourne a lady whose husband, some three or four years ago, left her with a large family and no means. The eldest of the eight or nine children is fourteen or fifteen years of age, and during those years that lady, by means of her own labour, has maintained the family better than the husband did when he was at home. There are many other similar instances, one or two of which I shall quote. It seems a cruel thing that women of intelligence and courage should be deprived of the privilege which it is now proposed to give them. We know that in respect to her family a woman often displays greater courage in the face of poverty than does a man ; and in carrying out her mission she can often maintain the home on less means than would support the husband alone.
– Why does the Minister not appoint a woman his private secretary ?
– The honorable member had better ask why I have appointed several women as typewriters. I have no doubt that a woman if she had the opportunities for education would, under all the circumstances perform the duties of a private secretary, just as well as would any man; indeed similar duties have been discharged with ability by women in thousands of cases. It is pointed out in one or two of the extracts that I have by me, that in the United States, 5,000,000 women have clay by day to do ordinary work in the fields, mines, and factories.
– That is found in Belgium and Germany.
– I do not say that women do not do similar work in those countries. I have been unable to get the exact figures, but” so far as I can ascertain, there are at the present moment 30,000,000 or 40,000,000 white women - putting aside Asiatics, Hindoos, or Chinese - who to-day are earning their livelihood in the fields, and in mines and factories ; and. a large proportion of these women are in the British Isles.
– Is not the whole question practically concluded by section 41 of the Constitution which deals with the rights of electors of States ? In three of the States there is woman suffrage, which under the Constitution cannot be taken away.
– The honorable member must not be in such a hurry for me to conclude. Had I a feeling that this Bill would not be carried by a large majority I should speak at greater length, but I cannot sit down after moving the second reading of a measure so important without giving a few facts for future reference. I have heard of a case in which a candidate, who was altogether against women’s suffrage, canvassed a drunken man, whose wife indignantly pointed out that though she had kept the family for three or four years she was debarred from exercising a vote. That candidate afterwards became a strong advocate of women’s suffrage, and I think he was quite right. The progress of this movement has been so rapid that whereas 50 years ago women were not allowed to take degrees in medicine, law, or the other learned professions, they to-day present themselves in large numbers at every annual examination, and pass with perhaps greater credit than do the young men with whom they work side by side. Only last week in Sydney, for the first time in that State, a lady took her degree as a barrister. I do not know whether that is a profession which women will greatly care to practice, but I do think that, as members of the medical profession, they may do as good work, and perhaps better, in some .directions, than medical men. The growth of the feeling in favour of the extension of the franchise to women has, I say, been so rapid that the tide can no longer be stemmed. I feel that the moment has arrived when we must extend this privilege to the women of the Commonwealth. In the various States there has been some hesitation in adopting this proposal, and Bills to give effect to it have been defeated on many occasions. I think that in Victoria a measure to give effect to the proposal was passed through the Legislative Assembly on six different occasions, and rejected by the Legislative Council. A similar measure was passed twice by the Legislative Assembly of New South Wales, and rejected by the Legislative Council there. A similar measure was passed by the Legislative Assembly of Tasmania, and rejected by the Legislative Council of that State. When honorable members come to consider the number of women who will be affected by this proposal they must give some heed to it. In New South Wales> out of a population of 1,359,133, there are not less than 383,000 males and 320,000 females of 21 years of age and upwards. In Victoria, out of a population of 1,201,505, there are 335,215 males and 321,000 females of 21 years of age and upwards. In Queensland, out of a population of 503,256, there are 157,606 adult males, and 104.3S2 adult females.. In Tasmania, out of a population of 172,475, there are 45,961 adult males, and 40,435 adult females. It is estimated that the passing of this Bill will confer the franchise upon 760,000 women of Australia who do not at present possess the privilege. If uniformity is to be observed, and electoral equality is to be maintained throughout the Commonwealth, adult franchise in the whole of the six States is imperative. That is what this Bill will provide for, I hope, before the next by-election or general election for the Federal Parliament, if it be passed side by side with the Electoral Bill. Dealing with the rejection of measures to give the franchise to women by the State Legislative Councils, I am reminded that one of the writers of these papers says that the Lords in Great Britain have excelled in the gentle art of making enemies, and I venture to think that the “ Lords “ in Victoria, New South Wales, and some of the other States, have also excelled in the gentle art of making enemies in refusing to pass a Bill which the Senate of the first
Commonwealth Parliament has passed even before the House of Representatives. It speaks volumes to the credit of the Senate that they have passed this Bill on the first occasion upon which it was submitted to them, and even before it had the indorsement of the House of Representatives. How can we for a moment imagine that we shall not find the education, ability, and every quality necessary for the exercise of the franchise in women, when we know that many of them have proved themselves to be amongst the ablest writers in the past and at the present time. I do not intend to mention a long list of eminent and able women, but.,I may refer to the names of Elizabeth Fry, Lady Huntingdon, Mrs. Browning, Lady Somerset, Marie Correli, Edna Lyell, Harriet Beecher Stowe, Annie Swan, Mrs. Yonge, Beatrice Harridan, Florence Nightingale, the Countess of Aberdeen, Lady Francis Balfour, Mrs. Bernard Bosanquet, Rosa Bonheur.
– “What about Miss Braddon ?
– And Miss Braddon also. I am glad the honorable member has mentioned her name, because here we find Miss Braddon’s brother opposing the extension of the franchise to that highly educated lady.
– I could not give it to her if I would.
– I would add also the names of Miss Herschell, Mrs. Dr. Fawcett, Lady Knightly, Louisa Stevenson, Miss Isabella Ford, George Eliot, and the Honorable Mrs. Arthur Lyttleton. That list could be extensively added to ; and though we have not extended the franchise to women up to the present, we have been ruled, and Europe to a large extent has been ruled, by women, and by women of the highest class. We have been content to allow a woman to rule us, and whom could we put higher than our late beloved Queen, the mother of us all, who, after a very long reign, died more beloved than any other monarch in history. It is anomalous that we should hesitate to extend the franchise to the women of our community when in the past we have been content to sit under the domination of Queens who have ruled well and ably. I feel sure that this Bill will be carried, and the statements we have heard repeated that this proposal will destroy the cottar’s home, will take the mother away from her children and allow them to run wild, may be forgotten as though they had never been made. The effect of extending the franchise will be to elevate the women of the community, and to cause them to take a greater interest than they have ever taken before in questions of the day which affect not only their husbands and their children, but also most vitally affect themselves. We shall induce women to take a lively interest in all questions that are being publicly considered, with the result that their discussion at the hearth between husband and wife and brother and sister will enable husband and brother to know more than they have ever known before of questions in which they should take a great interest, and for the first time a lively interest will be taken by women in the consideration of questions upon which they will have to record their votes. I believe that instinctively a woman knows the character of a man better than a man does, and I believe women will be able to record a better vote in the selection of the best men to represent the community in the halls of the Commonwealth or in the halls of the States if they are endowed with the franchise. We know the number of those who in the past have refrained from exercising the franchise, and the large percentage of voters who have been unaccounted for at the ballot-box. . I believe that the effect of women taking an active interest in the, political life of the community will be to purify it and, in addition, to cause a greater interest to be taken by all in public questions which affect the well-being of the community. Not only shall we be helping ourselves hy adopting this proposal, but we shall be setting an example of advancement to other parts of the world. I have referred to the conferences which have been held in the Dominion of Canada and in many of the States of America, in which able men and women have taken part, and which have been presided over by able women, and sometimes by able men. In the conference to which I have just referred, the Agent-General of New Zealand, Mr. Reeves, took part, and he delivered a most eloquent and instructive speech, in which he described the benefit of ‘extending the franchise to the women of New Zealand. In concluding that speech he said that prophesies had been made as to the great injury that would be done by extending the privilege of the franchise to wemen, but that every step taken by the New Zealand Legislature since the adoption of adult suffrage had been an improvement upon the legislation which had gone before. It had been legislation in the interests of the masses of the community to a greater extent than, perhaps, had ever before been passed in any part of the King’s dominions. He said that the fears entertained as to the result of the operation of women’s suffrage had not been realized during the six or seven years it had been in force in New Zealand, and that the people there would not think of attempting to take away the franchise from the women of the community. All its effects have been for good and none for evil. I say that his words should find an echo from one end of Australia to the other. I believe that by the extension of the franchise to women, we shall get a better Parliament than we otherwise should have, and a greater interest will be taken in its work. I wish to, see this measure through as soon as possible, and that must be my excuse for putting on one side a great deal of the literature upon the subject that I have by me. I may say that I feel there is no occasion to use it, because I am firmly convinced that the second reading of this Bill will be carried, and, if it is, I hope that it will go through committee without unnecessary delay.
– I could wish that honorable members would agree to that. I am curtailing my speech upon the measure in the hope of getting it advanced ; and I feel that, by passing this Bill, the Commonwealth Parliament will have added another to the number of good Acts which it has passed during this long session, and one which will bring great good to the community in which we reside.
– Of all the political phenomena that arise from time to time to puzzle men, none is so bewildering, to me at any rate, as that which is presented by the craze - I can hardly call it anything else - for female suffrage which exhibits itself in these southern seas. In no other community which possesses constitutional government and lives free under the British flag, outside of the States of Australia, do we find female suffrage existing. In Natal, Cape Colony, Canada, Newfoundland, they know nothing of it, and have had nothing to do with it up to the present time. In
Australia, in spite of the glamour which has been thrown over it by its advocates, we find it enacted in only two States, and those two of the smaller ones ; and what I should like to think the higher wisdom of the larger States, Victoria and New South Wales, is against it.
– Victoria has been in favour of it for years.
– They have not got it.
– Because the Legislative Council has blocked it.
– But women have supported the Legislative Council in throwing it out.
– It has no existence in the two larger States, or in Queensland, or in Tasmania. Let us turu to a country in which women suffrage has existed longer than it has anywhere else - the United States of America. In Wyoming it was introduced 32 years ago, and what is the position now of this movement which the Minister says is going forward by leaps and bounds, and ^gaining ground 1 After 32 years female suffrage exists in four States and territories, with an aggregate population of a little over 1,000,000 souls out of a total population of 77,000,000 in the United States.
– Those are the most intelligent States of the Union.
– They may be the most intelligent, but they represent a very small body of intelligence; in the State in which it was first introduced, the population being 92,000 people. As to the tremendous increase being made by this great political principle in the United States, we find that, in 1899, Bills to give the franchise to women were introduced into eleven States and rejected, including many of the larger States. In 1S90, as the advocates of the movement were sickened of the failure which had attended such motions in the previous year, they were introduced into only two States and rejected.
– Has it ever been rejected where it has been conferred ?
– In Washington.
– My honorable friend points out where it has been returned unappreciated, and restored to those who gave the -fatal and empty gift.
Now, as to the movement in Congress. Writing in 1894, Bryce says -
In every Congress amendments to the Federal Constitution recognising women as voters are submitted. Neither House has so far accepted such an amendment, and the chance of its being passed by three-fourths of the States is at present very small. Once or twice women have been nominated as candidates for the Presidency, though none has ever put out a list of presidential electors pledged to support her nomination.
These efforts have borne no fruit. One of my great objections to women suffrage is an objection which has been corroborated to a great extent by what has fallen fi om the Minister for Home Affairs. I object to it as a tory vote, as a conservative vote.
– Why should the right honorable member object to any persons voting because of their views ?
– Because I object to conservatism and toryism, which retard progress, and prevent the world moving on. How do we find this particular principle taken up in the old country? The Minister has told us of what Pitt failed to do. He has told us how Mr. Balfour spoke and voted in favour of this principle. The one occasion on which it was passed by the British House of Commons was when it was moved and carried by conservatives.
– Was it the radicals in the Victorian Upper House who threw it out?
– Will the honorable member ask me to reply to questions as to which I am better informed than I am as to the Constitution of the Legislative Council of Victoria? Do we find the liberals supporting this vote in any portion of Europe ? They did at one time in Belgium, and how do they represent the vote now ? As a discredited dogma.
– They tried to get one for the men first.
– They have too many votes for the men.
– They have not universal suffrage.
– They have universal suffrage, but not pure and simple. They have a vote which accumulates up to three. One peculiar feature of the Belgian Constitution is that a bachelor possessing ample means has an additional vote, presumably because he is a bachelor. I have a strong objection to women’s franchise. I did not vote for it when it was proposed in the Tasmanian Assembly. I voted against it because I disbelieved in it, because I was sure from personal inquiry that the great majority of women did not want it. Because instead of its elevating woman as the Minister said, I looked upon it as being calculated to have the contrary effect.
– That is nonsense.
– That is not so in South Australia.
– Will the right honorable member refuse to take their votes ?
– Wait until they have the suffrage. I have no personal bias. I believe that after the women have the suffrage, if they are to get it, my election will be much safer than it is now.
– Are they conservatives ?
– Order. These constant interjections are disorderly, and reduce the proceedings very much below that standard which ought to be maintained. I ask honorable members to refrain from interrupting.
– Not even a Greek chorus is allowed. It is not because I think women inferior to men in any respect that I would deny them the franchise. I look upon them as elevated above us in nearly every thing that is most valuable and of the best in nature. I cannot but see that they have their special functions - the duties of the mother with the children at her knee, and all the many duties of a home - which men cannot by any possibility perform for them, and I would not have them coming down into the hurly-burly of the political contest to cast their votes, although they cast them for me. Why should we force upon them a responsibility which they do not ask for, which they do not want ?
– We are not forcing it upon them.
– If it is given to them and it is not exercised, then honorable members will find fault with them for not exercising it. ‘ Again, we recognise that in giving woman the vote we are applying to our political work a creature who is greatly above that which we put her to. One does not put a high-mettled racer into the plough to plough one’s fields, not because that racer is inferior ; for in power in many directions, and in value it is greatly above the plough-horse.
– The right honorable member refuses woman the vote and yet allows her to clean his boots as a slavey.
– I do not allow a woman to clean my boots. I kneel at her feet and metaphorically kiss them, boots and all. What surprises me is that so many honorable members here and elsewhere, who claim to be liberals of the very broadest type, favour this Bill. Men who claim to be radicals and liberals of the most advanced type astound me when they say that they want the suffrage given to women, although it is a conservative vote. Then there remain in this House unfortunately a number of protectionists who, if they give the suffrage to women, give it to the most advanced free-traders, because there are very few women who want to pay any customs duties whatever. I do not think there are any who want to pay duties at the rate of 30 or 45 per cent. There are liberals in this House - men who, like myself, believe in one man one vote - who fail to see how they are undermining their own principles in voting to give women the franchise. What is the position 1 In every State of the Commonwealth I believe the law now is, happily, one man one vote. A bachelor will have his one vote. The married man, happy in his family, whose wife’s vote is one which he can command - and” most men, I think, can command their wives’ votes - will have two votes ; whilst the man who is unhappily married, and whose wife, as a matter of certainty and principle and established policy will vote in the opposite way to that in which he does, will have no vote at all. There goes one man one vote ! Do honorable members like the picture ‘? Can it not be recognised that already woman exercises as large an influence, and as great a power in regard to our elections as she will do if we give her twenty votes ? Woman has the influence of the mother, the wife, and the sister ; and all these she brings to bear upon her relatives. In that way women help - happily help - to mould our Parliaments into the shape they take. The Minister for Home Affairs talks of elevating woman by giving her the suffrage. He talks about the way in which woman would be encouraged to go to the poll, and to take her husband, along with her. Does the honorable gentleman think of the case when the woman will not take her husband along with her, .but will go alone and leave him at home to look after the baby and cook the dinner 1 That is what the honorable gentleman has to think of as a possibility in many of the homesteads throughout the Commonwealth.
– And why should not the man look after the baby sometimes, as well as the woman ?
– For this reason, that if the wife came back home and found her baby killed, and the dinner spoiled, there would not be a moment’s peace in the family afterwards. Woman has her range of duties, and her special functions, as man has his; and I would like to see each find his own place in his own level. The Minister has unconsciously advanced another strong objection to giving women the vote. He says that women have an instinctive knowledge of things. Yes, and the objection is that women are apt to decide on instinct rather than on reason.
– A woman’s instinct is a great deal better than a man’s reason.
– The instinct of some dogs is better than some men’s reason ; but I would not generalize in that way, and say that every woman’s instinct is better than every man’s reason. For my own part I think that in the great problems that must be solved in every Parliament of the British Empire, it is desirable that reason should lead the way. The Minister really thinks that he has found some beautiful shibboleth in women’s suffrage that will carry his measure through in spite of everything. Women’s suffrage is to him as blessed as the word Mesopotamia. Oh, it Ls a grand thing ! I suppose that the honorable gentlemen has counted heads, and knows how the vote is likely to go ; but if it is to go as he reckons it will, I am very sorry for the feeling of compunction and remorse that will possibly - almost certainly - visit those who constitute the majority who carry this Bill.
– I regard it as useless and absolutely out of the question for any honorable member who is opposed to the Bill, so far as it concerns women’s suffrage, to advance reasons against it. The whole question has been thrashed out in the Parliaments of the various States during the past few years, and every argument that can be advanced for or against women’s suffrage is pretty well known. I may, however, congratulate my honorable friend, the Minister for Home Affairs, on ‘ his triumph in introducing the Bill with an assured victory before him. He has for years manfully fought for this principle in the New South Parliament against hostile majorities. Tonight he has his triumph, because he is able in the national Parliament of Australia to introduce the measure with the assurance of a victory. As far as I am concerned, I think it is right that I should manfully hold by the views I honestly entertain, and express my dissent from that part of the Bill that provides for the enfranchisement of women. It would be easy to maintain silence and allow the Bill to be passed by an overwhelming majority. It might be convenient in the future for any member of this House not to have it brought up against him that he had spoken or voted against the Bill. But I have long since made up my mind, on occasions of this sort, to vote as my conscience dictates, and let the consequences take care of themselves. I should not have risen to-night, except that I want to refer to one phase of the question which has been missed. What will be the effect of this Bill, when it becomes law, on the relative proportion of country and town representation? No Electoral Bill’ should be passed which does not contain the democratic provision of proportional representation. I take that to be the settled policy of the democracy of this country. Personally, I regard it as useless to argue against that principle also. I believe, for my own part, that interests and areas to some extent should be represented as well as actual people. I want to draw attention to a fact that has been in my mind for some time past, and which I notice an honorable member of the Senate referred to in the course of the debate which took place upon this BDI there. He put the case very clearly. I allude to Senator Pulsford, whom honorable members will recognise as a very careful man in working out figures. He drew attention to the effect of the Bill upon the representation of New South Wales in these terms : -
I have some figures and facts here with regard to New South Wales. For the State of New South Wales there are 26 members returned to the House of ^Representatives. Nine of these represent city electorates.
Then he proceeds to name those electorates, and adds -
There are therefore nine city representatives to seventeen country representatives. I
– T rise to order. Is the honorable member in order in quoting from the debates in another Chamber ?
– I did not notice that the honorable member for New England was doing so. Certainly he is not in order in quoting from the debates in another place.
– I bow to your ruling, sir, and will not read from the Hansard report ; but .1 will give the effect of Senator Pulsford’s argument. There are seventeen country representatives and nine town representatives returned to this House from New South Wales. But if adult suffragehad been the law in New South Wales at the last federal election, the result would have been that the cities would have returned twelve representatives and the country constituencies only fourteen. So that the cities would largely gain by a Bill of this kind, and instead of the country constituencies of New South Wales having a majority of nine, as under manhood suffrage, they would under adult suffrage have a majority of only two. The reason is very obvious. The tendency is for the large centres of population like Sydney and Melbourne to attract women from the country, so that the large producing and agricultural electorates do not contain women in anything like the same proportion. That seems to me to be such a serious feature of the Bill that I desire most earnestly to -call the attention of this Parliament to it. It is now a burning grievance with the country constituencies of the State which I come from that the city of Sydney is so largely represented in the State Parliament. One-third of the members of that Parliament represent constituencies within 1 7 miles of the city proper.
– Because one-third of the population resides there.
– Exactly. It is in accordance with the democratic principle of representation according to population. The tendency at the present time is for an undue political influence to be exercised by those who reside in large centres of population. Women are to be found in far larger proportion in the city electorates than in the country constituencies, and if the Bill is to be passed in its present form we might just as well hand over the Government of the Commonwealth to the large city electorates, because country electorates will have little influence.
– Pass the Government of the country over to the majority.
– That may be a sound principle, but I do not concur in it. For example, I would not give London more political power than is given to the whole of Scotland and Ireland.
– Nevertheless, London possesses it.
– It does not, because this principle does not apply there. I earnestly desire to call the attention of the House to these views of the question. As a member of the State Parliament of New South Wales, I have repeatedly denounced the dominant influence of the cities, because not only do they have representation according to population, but the representatives of many country electorates are men who live in the city. That is one of the reasons why I still oppose adult suffrage. I know that it is useless to oppose this Bill, and I am not inclined to call for a division on the second reading, as I know that the Minister for Home Affairs has a big battalion behind him ; but I will not be a party to the passing of a measure which will force additional political power upon the cities to the detriment of country electorates. That must inevitably be the result under proportional representation. As to the general question of womanhood suffrage, I think it is useless to debate it. I believe that this measure is being forced upon women against the desire of the great body of the women of Australia. I believe that it will be carried, and I can only hope that none of the evil effects which I dread from the granting of the franchise to women will ever occur. I dread the thought of dragging the women of this country into the turmoil and vulgarity of politics.
– There is no vulgarity about it.
– I withdraw that word, as the honorable member seems to misunderstand my application of it. I dread to drag the women of Australia into* the turmoil of politics, but I hope that the measure will secure the best interests of the people.
– Thanks to the builders of the Constitution, our task in dealing with this Bill is very plain, because if we are to have a uniform franchise for the Commonwealth, we must have adult suffrage. That is provided for in the Constitution. Unlike the right honorable member for Tasmania, and the honorable member for New England, I speak with some little practical experience of the old and the new order of things. When in 1896 the South Australian Legislature discussed the question of whether or not the franchise should be extended to women, we heard objections similar to those which are now being raised. We heard talk about the undesirability of bringing woman down from her pedestal to mix up hi the hurly-burly of politics. We were told that female suffrage would be demoralizing to women. But as you know, Mr. Speaker, we have had three elections in South Australia at which women have had the right to vote, and I desire to-night to testify briefly to the great improvement which has taken place in political matters generally, and especially in political meetings since the advent of woman into politics in South Australia. Political meetings there are conducted now far better than they were before womanhood suffrage was granted. We do not see any of that rowdy element which, acording to the newspapers, ‘ is often associated with political meetings in Victoria. I have no hesitation in saying that since the advent of womanhood suffrage in South Australia there have been mixed audiences at political meetings, similar to those which .assemble to hear lectures, and no man need be ashamed of his wife or child attending these meetings. On election day we see no rowdy element, and I hold that womanhood suffrage in South Australia has improved the whole tone of politics there. If one were to ask those who opposed it bitterly in that State - conscientiously believing that it was going to be a very bad thing- whether any of the baneful results which they anticipated had taken place, they would answer candidly, “ No.” They would say also that even if they had the power to take away the franchise from the women of South Australia they would not desire to do so. I have no fear as to the result of passing this measure. I am certain that after womanhood suffrage has been given a few years trial the two honorable members who have just spoken will be well satisfied “with it. I do not think it is necessary to speak at length upon this subject. It has ray hearty support, and in the words of the poet, I would say to the right honorable member for Tasmania, and the honorable member for New England -
Hail boastful man though worthy are
Thy deeds when thou art true, Things worthier still and holier far
Our sisters yet will do ; For this the worth of woman shows,
On every peopled shore - That still as man in wisdom grows,
He honours her the more. .
– Those who did me the honour of returning me to this House did so with the distinct knowledge that I thoroughly believed that it would not be in the interests of women to confer the franchise upon them. To-night I am fulfilling the undertaking that I made when before the electors, that I would enter my protest against any effort to carry into effect the promise made by the Prime Minister at Maitland, that a Bill would be introduced to confer the franchise upon the women of the Commonwealth.
– We sympathize with the honorable member.
– I am grateful to the honorable member, but possibly at some future time, if this Bill be carried, he may require all the sympathy that can be extended to him by honorable members or any of his personal friends. I have always viewed this step as one of the greatest importance. It is a step that once taken must be irrevocable. It is for that reason that I think the proposal ought to be carefully and thoughtfully discussed before it is carried into effect. Reference has been made to-night to the fact that in only two States, South Australia and Western Australia, do women exercise the franchise. It seems to me unreasonable that in order to secure uniformity in our electoral laws the other States should be levelled down to the condition of those two States.
– Levelled up.
– Levelled down to the condition of those States, against the parliamentary enactments of either of the other great States. It seems to me that it would have been much more reasonable to have allowed each of the States to work out its own electoral franchise in accordance with the wishes of its own electors.
– Womanhood suffrage was only killed in this and’ the mother State by the action of the Upper Houses. “ Mr. KNOX. - The honorable member informs me of what I am already aware. I know that a Bill designed to confer the franchise on the women of Victoria has been passed on two or three occasions by the Legislative Assembly of this State.
– On six occasions.
– On several occasions the Bills introduced to confer the franchise on women in Victoria did not deal directly with that question. As a member of the Legislative Council of Victoria, I felt that the proposal was so momentous and important, and if once carried out would be so irrevocable that it should be referred to the male voters of the Commonwealth.
– A referendum ?
– A referendum which, while having no legislative effect, would have secured for us information that it was impossible to gain in any other way.
– Did the honorable member favour a referendum to men only ?
– I did not care whether it was a referendum to the men or to the women. In any case the balance of opinion would have been against the proposal. If a referendum had been taken it would have shown the utter absurdity of the position taken up by those faddists who are advocating womanhood suffrage.
– How is it that more women than men take out electors’ rights in South Australia?
– The right has been given to woman there, and once she has had it, she is not likely to disclaim it. I agree that it may be reasonably said that without any specific reference of the question to the people of Victoria, there is sufficient justification for the belief that those who represent the people on other questions have been returned to the Legislative Assembly pledged probably to support the extension of the franchise to women. The Legislative Council were perfectly justified in the position they took up, and similarly the Legislative Council of New South Wales were right in acting as they did, for the reason that they had no specific indication of the wishes of the people, must admit that one of the strongest opponents of the women’s franchise movement in South Australia told me only last week that the extension of the voting power to women had resulted in the return of a better class of representatives to Parliament. I admit that so far the reform has been ‘ beneficial. My contention, however, is that the Federal Parliament would have been acting wisely in abstaining from interference with the franchise until such time as an opportunity had been given to the electors of each State to determine whether women should have the right to vote. We are proposing by this measure to add to the voting power of Victoria alone to the extent of 365,000 votes, and surely the step we are taking is one which should receive the most careful consideration at our hands. I do not attach any importance to the idea that the mere act of recording their votes at the polls will have the effect of in any way degrading women. Any such suggestion would be an insult to our common manhood. Furthermore I do not regard it as likely that any serious family disruptions will occur if the franchise is extended. My opinion is based on the fact that upon their acceptance of the franchise women will be required to surrender the most precious privileges they possess as dependents upon man for support and protection. Women will then have placed upon them the same yoke of responsibility as is now borne by man. They will enjoy the same rights as men, and they will have to take upon themselves the same obligations as to labour and legislation. They will be called upon to discharge the same responsibilities by sitting in this House, and in every other respect, as now fall to the lot of man. The question is whether women are physiologically capable of doing all that will be required of them. We are, in my opinion, running counter to the intentions and to the design of the Great Creator, and we are reversing those conditions of life to which woman was ordained. Woman will be giving away the special position which she now occupies in her relations to man. As her dependence upon man decreases, so she will have to assume the positions which men have hitherto occupied, and she will deprive men of those opportunities which have heretofore been presented to them of discharging their duties as the protectors and sustainers of the weaker sex. If women can perform equal work no doubt they are entitled to equal reward, but they must not forget that to the extent to which they take their places side by side with men in the work-a-day world, they are preventing men from acting towards their sex in the capacity of protectors.
– The honorable member says that they are not physiologically capable of doing it. 34 c
– By passing measures of this kind we shall be gradually training women to become masculine creatures, an entirely unfitting them to discharge the functions which properly belong to their sex. Women are already doing more than it was ever intended that they should, and are taking the bread out of men’s mouths.
– What would the honorable member do with the 120,000 women in Victoria who now earn their own livings ?
– I would have them married to honorable men, so that they might become the mothers of children, and thus increase our population. The main ambition of a woman’s life should be to become the wife of an honorable and honest man.
– There is nothing in this Bill to prevent that.
– No ; but women are being placed in such a position that a man when looking for a wife will study the political position of the woman, and will consider what her occupation is and how much she can earn.
– This is not a Bill to make women work.
– No ; but it will have a tendency to make her depend more and more upon herself, and to rob her of the position which she has hitherto occupied in regard to the sterner sex. By passing this measure we shall do women an irretrievable wrong, which it will be impossible for us to rectify. I desire to place on record my protest against such legislation. I do not expect to alter a single vote in this Chamber, but I am conscientiously discharging my duty to those who sent me here, and I am expressing my honest convictions. I have a mother, and I have a wife and a sister and daughters, and I wish to continue in the position of their supporter and their protector, and not to place them under the necessity of protecting their own political position. I do not wish them to have extended to them the right not only to vote, but to sit in this Chamber. It is man’s duty to be here, and it is woman’s duty to attend to the family. God knows that women can exercise more power by raising from the cradle men who will come here and make . good laws than they could hope to wield even if this Chamber were crowded with women legislators. I have not the slightest intention of suggesting that woman is the inferior of man in any respect, except that I believe that she is physiologically intended for other purposes than those contemplated by this Bill. Women are not inferior to men in mental capacity, in thought, in discernment, or in instinct, and it is because I respect their high qualities, and because I believe that these should be exercised within a different sphere - within woman’s God-given area of influence - that I am opposing this measure. In my belief we shall be doing her an injury if we pass it, and upon that ground alone I shall vote against the second reading of the Bill.
– I do not know that I should have spoken if honorable members from this side of the Chamber had supported the proposal of the Ministry. If we may judge by the approving chorus of cheers which greeted the utterances of the right honorable member for Tasmania and the honorable member for Kooyong, the preponderance of opinion from the Opposition side of the House is hostile to this measure. The last speaker informed honorable members that in his opinion a woman’s place, whether she be wife, daughter, mother, or sister, is her home. May I remind the honorable member - and I do it in all sincerity - that there are thousands of women who are not so fortunately circumstanced as those dependent upon him, and it is on their behalf that we plead for some greater measure of liberality in the laws of the country, so that they may be enabled to help themselves in a way they have not done before.
– Cannot we be trusted to help them 1
– I am sorry to say that I cannot trust the honorable member to help them, particularly after having heard his opinions upon the franchise question as a whole. I would not care to commit the economic and social condition of women to one who does not believe in the great principle of manhood suffrage, and who is opposed to proportional voting. The industrial future of woman would be left in very sorry hands if it were committed to those of the honorable member. He urges, as one reason why the franchise should not be conferred upon women, that such a reform will increase the voting power of the centres where population is densest. Because I believe that where population is, there the voting power should be, I have no scruple upon that score. Then the right honorable member for Tasmania declared that he would extend the suffrage to women, but that he fears they would exercise a tory vote. In this connexion I would ask - have we no men who exercise tory votes ? Is it not a fact that nearly all the voting power in the world has hitherto been concentrated in the hands of tories 1 Has not the chief struggle of the past 50 years resolved itself into an endeavour to wrest from the tories the plurality of voting power which they possessed 1 Yet, according to the doctrine of the right honorable member, no women should be given the franchise because, forsooth, they may be tories. I have yet to learn that, before we confer a vote upon any class, we have a right to inquire in what way they intend to exercise it. That is a matter entirely for themselves. If the women choose to cast a tory vote, they have just as much title to do so as have the men. Then, again, we have been told that the women do not desire the franchise. That statement arises from the fact that they are not organized as a body. I venture to say that there are practically as many women to-day asking for the vote as there were men asking for it before it was conferred upon them. There are thousands of men in every country who never troubled themselves to vote until they were given an opportunity for so doing.
– Hundreds of thousands
– But they exercised the franchise immediately it was bestowed upon them. Even if the women did not use the franchise, what harm would be done 1 They would only be like the man who told me the other day that he had an elector’s right, and had been upon the electoral roll nearly the whole of his life, since he came of age, but had never once exercised his vote, and would not do so as long as he lived. Surely the women cannot do worse than emulate his example. I hope they will not; but it would be within their province to do so. Not more than 50 or 60 per cent, of the electors upon the rolls exercise their votes at any election. Is that a reason why the franchise should be taken from them ? Yet according to the right honorable member for Tasmania, because the women do not want the suffrage it should not be conferred upon them. The answer to all that has been said this evening is that there are scores of thousands ofwomen throughout the States who would exercise the vote as intelligently as do men, without unsexing themselves in any way, and without making them masculine either in temperament or in nature. I have yet to learn that because we give them a vote we shall compel them to work in a way in which they have not worked hitherto. The honorable member for Kooyong claims that if we confer the vote upon women we shall force them into productive channels and compel them to compete with men. As a matter of fact, thousands of women are to-day compelled to earn their own livelihood under the industrial laws of the country, in the enactment of which they have no voice whatever. They have daily to obey the laws, and are therefore entitled equally with men to a voice in their making. Before to-day women, under the stress of the conditions which surrounded them, have betaken themselves with credit and honour to the tasks which men have left when they have gone forth to defend their country. We are often told that women do not fight as soldiers, but in the Boer war one of the most magnificent spectacles has been the way in which the women have grown the corn and done the work of their husbands who have been engaged in the campaign. Who that has read the stirring story of the revolution in America, when the women did the work of their husbands while the latter were fighting for their country, can but exclaim that those who submitted to such self-denying ordinances are deserving of a voice in the domestic concerns of their own country? All the reasons which the honorable member for Kooyong urged in opposition to this measure are reasons why the vote should be extended to the women. Upon this very question, however, we have happily had experience, and therefore we need not argue the matter further. The answer to all the objections which have been advanced tonight is that the granting of the suffrage to women has not unsexed them, so far as we know. It has not driven them into all those channels of production into which the honorable member for Kooyong stated they would be driven. Nothing of the kind has occurred. The fact is that women, by the pressure of existence, are being forced into channels of enterprise where men have hitherto held sway. We cannot get rid of this fact. It is part of the integral conditions of modern times. Throughout the world to-day there are 5,000,000 women earning their own livelihood. It is on behalf of the great army of women who obey the laws of our industrial conditions that I urge that they should be given a voice in the making of those laws.
– An hour and a half ago I did not think that this debate would have been aprotracted one. I believed that the question of adult suffrage had been practically settled in the different States, and that honorable members would be satisfied with indulging in a very modest amount of talk. But what do we find ? We find voices raised against the wholesome angelic justiceof extending to women a vote for the maintenance of their own homes and upon the question of taxation. Some years ago I was as blind as the bats who have spoken to-night upon this question. But when we come to examine it we find that when a man absents himself from home for business purposes he trusts his wife with his bank account, his home, and all his household responsibilities. Yet, although we have given her the right to vote in municipal matters, we deny her a similar right in connexion with the Parliament of the Commonwealth. It has been said that to grant the franchise to women will unsex her. The man who made that statement unsexed himself. The man who could make such an observation in this Parliament deserves the reprobation of every woman in Australia. Forsooth ! we are not to give women a vote. I would point out that they have much larger responsibilities to the State than have men. There is an old saying, begotten of the time when men had to find the food for themselves and their families in the forest -
Men live upon the Future, and women live upon the past.
In those days the women could not tell what would happen upon the morrow should the man fail to find the necessary animal flesh to provide the family with food. We have this little simple lesson taught by the old philosophers, even so far back as Suetonius, the historian of theCaesars. When the crisis comes, as it will come in this country, let women march in the light, and vote either through the post or at the poll, and let her be received there with all the respect, attention, and courtesy, which sound good-hearted men always give to women who are performing the highest duties. I am not a convert to women’s suffrage ; I am a disciple, having for years been in favour of the fair sex exercising a voice in the affairs of the country, though if it may be that I would rather revert to the old Roman majority of 2S years of age for both men and women, granting only the municipal vote to those over 21 years of age. There are those who view this question in its ludicrous aspect, but I regard it in the most serious light, as- affecting the present and immediate -future life of the Commonwealth. One of the reasons which induced me to enter this Parliament was that I might earnestly -(promote womanhood suffrage. Woman is the conserver of all that is best for man and his family ; she conserves the best and most beautiful in social, domestic, and State policy. Still, I find that some honorable members have the courage to rise in the Commonwealth Parliament and oppose this reform. “That courage is not built on knowledge of women. There is nothing more beautiful in the conception of the Commonwealth Parliament than that our first act should be to give the franchise and freedom to the women of the nation.
– I desire to occupy only five minutes in emphasizing the :fact that in the national Parliament of Australia women’s suffrage has practically been < accepted, and will become law in a very few days. This will be an encouragement to the larger States of the Union to follow our footsteps and give greater hope for the adoption of women’s suffrage in New South Wales and Victoria, in regard to -the matters of social reform remaining within the scope of the State Parliaments. I hope the action of the national Parliament will prove the incentive to liberal action on the part of the Legislative Councils which have so long blocked the movement in the States. You, Mr. Speaker, must have been rather interested in the speeches this evening. In your unique experience you, sir, have occupied the honoured position of Premier of a State where for a number of years women’s suffrage has been the law. You have seen the three stages of reform - the stage of indifference, the stage of ridicule, and the stage of acceptance. And now representatives of South Australia, particularly the honorable member,
Mr. Poynton, state openly that, after their experience, they are prepared to advocate women’s franchise for the national Parliament, as in the best interests of Australia. That disposes of the suggestion that women’s franchise is simply a craze. The principle has been accepted by two of the States, and in New South Wales and Victoria the movement has been blocked only by the Legislative Councils. That fact of itself shows there is little danger, if any, from the conservative power which might be created by granting the franchise to the women of Australia. The right honorable member for Tasmania, Sir Edward Braddon, objects to this extension of the franchise for the simple reason that in all the British Empire only two States of Australia have accepted the principle. But there is very little in that argument. Australia occupies the proud position of having been the first country to adopt the system of voting by ballot - a system which was copied by the United States and also by Great Britain. No man can argue to-day that the older countries should refuse to adopt a reform which has first been realized by smaller and less important parts of the world. Several honorable members have urged that the franchise, if not degrading to women, will, at least, not prove elevating. I venture to say that, when a candidate for this Parliament, each of the members who adopted that line of argument specially invited ladies to his meetings, knowing well that their presence always secures the decorum which should characterize political gatherings. People who engage in politics may be degraded, but they are not degraded bypolitics, which, I suppose, constitute the highest science, namely, that of selfgovernment for the betterment of the people.* Women are the complement of men so far as self-government and civilization are concerned. If women can enter into the complexities of the legal world and succeed there - if they can enter the world of investigation and science and succeed there - and if they are able to become honoured students at the highest seats of learning, neither physically nor physiologically are they unfit for the franchise, which only calls for the exercise of the higher qualities with which they have been endowed by the Creator. I compliment the Minister for Home Affairs on having this great opportunity. It may be that section 41 of the Constitution compels the national Parliament to adopt a measure of this kind, hut the fact that this legislation has been introduced will tend to destroy the inertia of the Legislative Councils of some of the States. Women can exercise great influence in social reform, as they have done in New Zealand, to the great benefit of the community, and I take this measure as one further step in the liberation of the people in political thought.
– With the numbers against us, I had almost given up the idea of saying a word, but seeing that, in the minds of a good many people who are opposed to us, we are likely to be branded as obstructionists or household tyrants, I must say a few words as to my attitude in this matter. I, among many others, oppose the movement on the ground that it is not a political, but a social problem ; it is not a matter of political economy, but a matter of domestic and social responsibility. I, and many others, believe that woman has higher and more sacred functions to fulfil than those presented in political life.
Mi-. Fowler. - Can the honorable member draw a distinction between political and social matters ?
– I think so, and if I am allowed to argue my case in my own way, I may be able to answer that question as I proceed. It has been pointed out by many eminent men that the relations of husband and wife are the relics of slavery. I think John Stuart Mill was one who brought forward that contention. Slavery can only be effected by physical force ; and though men are still physically stronger than women, no one will deny that the conditions of women have very much improved as the ages have passed. Physical force has been counteracted by some other force. That seems very evident, or women would not have taken the position they have attained to-day. What is that force? To my mind it is the evolution of the family and the influence of domesticity. Can any
One who has read that beautiful work, The Ascent of Man, doubt that the author, Professor Drummond, struck a fundamental fact when he traced the dawn of altruism to the mother’s influence in the family? The first mother who won the devotion of her male offspring secured for herself a lifelong lien on a physical force which she could never have attained in her own person. That is the real power of women. Never will they govern by their own physical force, but by the physical force which they inspire in men. Women may pass all sorts of legal enactments if they come into power; but who will act as police? Who will administer their laws ? It is now sought to supplement that natural force, which has been so beautifully described by Drummond, by another force. But I hold that when the natural powers of women fail, artificial aids will be of no avail. The man most amenable to the one influence will be found the very worst subject to exercise the other upon. The honorable gentleman who introduced the Bill spoke of mothers unhappily married supporting their families. That unfortunately, too often happens. I am not an apologist for the man. I know him, and I hope that at no very distant date sterner laws will be enforced against men who fail to fulfil obligations which they enter into with women ; but I feel that, to be effective, those laws must be made and administered by men. There has admittedly been a great improvement in the condition of women as the ages have passed, and that improvement, honorable members will agree, has been due to the influence of the domestic and family relations. The great question with me is whether this power which women exercise over men, and have exercised over men, is a growing or a waning quantity. Does the modern training of women make for domesticity ?’ The Minister for Home Affairs spoke of the highly-educated women of the United States. I recently saw some reference to a minority report of a committee of the Senate of the United States in 1889. The members of the minority were in favour of the extension of the franchise to women ; but they stated that the largest number of divorces were to be found in those communities in which the advocates of female suffrage were most numerous.
– Is that cause and effect ?
– The members of the minority of that committee thought it cause and effect. They went on to say that the effect of the tendency to increase the individuality of women, apart from their natural individuality, was to weaken the desire for domestic life. There are great men who at one time gave .their adhesion to this movement, such as John
Bright, Mr. Gladstone, and others, and who afterwards both wrote and spoke against it. I have quotations here which I will not weary the House by reading, because I am sure they are as familiar to honorable members as to myself. I think that Mill is largely responsible for this movement. Mill was one of those, as I said before, who spoke of the relations between husband and wife as being .amongst the remnants Of slavery. But, to meet the objection of the necessity of a head of a family, what did Mill propose ? He proposed that authority should be divided between the husband and wife, and that the subjects in which each should be supreme should be set forth in a -‘schedule to a marriage contract. Let us in]a gine an honorable member of this House about to enter the bonds of matrimony putting himself into the hands of some legal luminary to meet some one ^representing the other side, to decide what, after a certain date, he may or may Hot do without the consent in writing of his wife. ; Such a system would rather lower the temperature of courtship and matrimony. Mill, as we know, married a lady of a very philosophical turn of mind, and they had no family. People who have no families of their own have, as a rule, very strong notions as to how families should be managed, and upon the relations of domestic life. I recently heard a good example of this from a lady friend of mine who travelled from here to India. On either her outward or homeward voyage there were two old maids who occupied a cabin together. One day they complained to the captain that their rest had been very much disturbed the night before by the crying of a baby, and they suggested that the mother and baby might be changed to some other part of the ship. The captain told them that with a full ship it was impossible, and they must be next door to somebody. He said he would see the lady and find out whether anything could be done, and they said - “ Oh, well, just tell her to give the baby a teaspoonful of Mother Seigel’s soothing syrup, and the baby will sleep all night.” The captain saw the lady, who was very apologetic, and said she was extremely sorry that the baby should be an annoyance to anybody. It had not been very well the night before, and she would do her best to prevent it disturbing anybody in future. The captain then broached the suggestion about the teaspoonful of Mother Seigel’s soothing syrup, and the lady told him that she would see him or anybody else a long way f further before she . would give any thing of the kind. The captain returned to the complaining maids, who were very indignant at the contumacy of the woma*, and they asked what was to be done now. He asked them how much of this soothing stuff they proposed should be given to the baby. “ A teaspoonful,” they chorussed, and the captain replied - “ Well, each of you take a teaspoonful of this syrup to-night. If it is all you crack it up to be, it will do you no harm, and you will never hear the baby cry.” The moral I draw from that story is that the mother was fit to be intrusted with the care of her infant, and the captain to be intrusted with the care of his ship. I say that women have done much in the past, by the exercise of a power which we must all recognise, and which, if nurtured, would become greater than it is. The power which they wish for now seems to me to have no affinity with that other power. It is the modern substitute, so far as it goes, for physical force, and that is not a woman’s weapon. I shall be no party to vote for anything of the kind. It has been said that in South Australia and New Zealand the extension of the franchise has done no harm. The strongest argument I have heard put forward in support of it is that it has done no harm ; but if we abolished the outward and visible signs of Christianity to-morrow, in a few years the same argument might be used - that it had done no harm. We should find that the ethics of Christianity have been so embodied in our nature that they would carry us through without much apparent change for years, perhaps for generations. So I say that the nature of women which has been developed through all the ages - through the influence of domestic life - is such that it is not likely to be greatly altered in two or three years. I feel that one line of Tennyson summed up the whole question when he wrote -
Woman is not undeveloped man. and to quote or adapt the words of another poet :
All the question, wrangle ere so long, Is simply this: IE (“lod has placed them wrong V
– I should not speak at all if I were on the side of the majority, but being on the side of the minority I do not wish to be misunderstood by giving a silent vote. I do not intend to make a long speech, because this is a question which, upon both sides, has been thrashed out to the very finest point, and all the arguments are to be found in the literature of the subject. I do not suppose that anything fresh can be said upon the question by any human being. But it is one of those subjects which puzzle thinking men very often. It is a subject in which we have a conflict between logic and what we may call instinct. No doubt, from a logical point of view, it is very hard to say that a woman of 21 years of age, who has to obey the laws, and may be dealt with as a criminal if she commits a crime and who in every respect is a citizen living under the same conditions as men, should not have a vote. It is, further, a difficult thing to say that a woman of 21 years of age, of first-class education, and keen intelligence, is not more fitted to give a vote upon a political subject than an ignorant man. No doubt when we come to deal with the question on purely logical grounds, it is very hard to say that a woman should not have a vote. But, on the other hand, there is even deeper philosophy than mere logic. There are instincts, and those instincts often are founded upon the nature of things. Whether we decide that a woman shall have a vote or not, there is no use our blinding our eyes to the fact that a woman, physiologically and otherwise, is a very different individual from a man. Much as we desire to open up occupations for women in various directions, I do not think any man will say that every occupation should be open to women. Nobody will deny that there are many occupations for which women are not fitted. I have known cases in which women in hospitals have been put under a strain which has been much more than their peculiarly refined and hysterical nature could bear. We may come to the conclusion that woman, in the occupations of life, is certainly not on a par with man, so far as hard industry and wage-earning ability is concerned. I. must confess that there is a further difficulty in this matter when we di vide women into married and unmarried women. When a woman marries, to a great extent she merges her life in that of her husband. We do not desire, in the domestic circle, to introduce any element that would cause strife or discord. If honorable members ask, why should a married woman not have an independent opinion, then I say that when the woman votes in the opposite way to the man the effect is merely to neutralize the votes of both, and if she votes in the same way as the man, it is merely giving him a double vote. We must recollect that after all there is such a thing in dealing with politics as a knowledge of life., A man as a rule is only fitted to deal with politics after he has acquired a reasonable knowledge of life. Owing to her sex and the special circumstances which surround her, unless we desire to destroy her peculiar position, we cannot put a woman into all the positions of life which would fit her to deal with all classes of subjects. There are some exceptional women I know, but we must recognise the fact that, a woman’s training is very different from a man’s. A young woman after being educated enters upon domestic or some other work, and does not go out into life as men do, nor does she meet with all classes of society, and learn what life really is. God forbid that she should know about many phases of life in our cities. Then if the woman follows her natural destiny, at a certain age she becomes married. Supposing that a girl leaves school at seventeen years of age ; she goes into the domestic circle under the supervision of her mother ; at 25 years of age she marries, and a whole course of circumstances arise keeping her more or less to the domestic hearth. I feel that these are very strong reasons why we should draw a distinction between man and woman as a person under political conditions. Whether that is sufficient to debar her from the franchise or not is a matter on which men will be guided more or less by certain predilections which they may have. I fear very much that nowadays there is a tendency to consider that everything which is called progressive legislation is something which every democrat and progressive man should advocate. But to-night I have heard very little argument which touches upon the question at all. In this case, above all others, we can never retrace our steps, because in politics there are some movements from which we can never draw back. We must recollect one or two facts: In the United States of America, where there are 80,000,000 English speaking people, there is practically no female suffrage for either House of Congress. Even those who believe in female suffrage thought when they did vote for its enactment in some of the States of
Australia that it was well to try it as an experiment. When we make a great political experiment we cannot see the full force of it in a few years. We have female suffrage in South Australia, Western Australia, and New Zealand. Honorable members may say that it has done good, but I do not think sufficient time has elapsed to create data to guide us in deciding whether we should follow in the footsteps of those States. We are told that if it had notbeen for theLegislative Council female suffrage would have been granted in Victoria. We are also told that there is a tendency towards its adoption in New South Wales. In some things it would be very good to allow the States to experiment.
– We have our own duty to do.
– Yes ; but we have to be perfectly sure, when we are making a departure, which has not yet been made by the many millions of Englishspeaking people throughout the world, that it is a true move. I agree with the honorable member for Dalley when he said that we have led the way in many important’ political movements. I allow that it is no argument to say that other British communities have not taken this step. But I feel that we are very liable in some way or other to lower thecharacter of women by granting them the franchise. I am very much inclined to think that we are going to do away with that refinement which makes all the difference between the sexes.
– That was used a few years ago as an argument against educating women.
– There is no analogy between the two cases ; any one who used an argument of that kind must have been very silly. After all, the suffrage must give a woman all the rights of man plus her own privileges, and that is scarcely a fair deal. I think a great many women will not exercise the franchise, but there are privileges which we grant to woman as the weaker vessel, as the one who has to do the silent suffering, although man has to fight the hard battle of life. There is a courtesy, a refinement of feeling, a tenderness arising out of that ownership which protects, which is the prerogative of man in dealing with woman. If you give woman her full political rights, such as this Bill demands ; if you tell her that she is to go into every wrangle of political life, if a woman is to acquire a knowledge of life, of institutions and manners in all their ramifications, you must alter the whole course of her education. You must put her more and more on her own resources. In the conduct and walk of life, you must put her in the same position as man. If you drag her into political life you have no reason, as a father, as a brother, or as a friend, to tell her that she is not to have exactly the same freedom and liberty as . 1 boy.
– Why should she not?
– I do not think it would be a good thing for her. I do not believe for a moment that, when the suffrage is granted, there will be such a drastic difference. I think there will be sufficient influence arising out of her improved culture, the general education of the community and our civilization, to prevent retrogression beyond a certain point. I believe that, in many ways, we have not improved the position of our womanhood. The earning of her own living is attended with many great evils. The creation of congested populations of industrial life, the absolute freedom to thousands of unmarried women of tender age. in the great cities of America - and you will soon be creating it here - is in itself a very great danger indeed. I may be called a conservative or a tory, but I cannot see sufficiently far to go with honorable members who are in favour of this step. I cannot see all the consequences. Therefore, as we have not suffered so very much hitherto from the absence of women’s suffrage, and as there is no general desire, so far as anybody can ascertain, on the part of women to obtain it, we might act upon the principle on which we act, as a rule, in redressing grievances. In such matters we wait until the disabilities complained of are fully represented to us ; we do not go after a person and say, “ You are an injured person, and we shall pass an act of Parliament to give you certain rights.”
– The same thing was said of other extensions of the franchise.
SirWilliammcmillan.-i do not care what has been said about other extensions of the franchise. There is a plain principle with regard to manhood suffrage which I think is incontrovertible.
– It was not always recognised.
– No. I do not intend to labour the matter much further. I feel that there is a sort of atmosphere in the Chamber in which any one who differs from the Government on this subject is looked upon as a sort of monstrosity. Honorable members have got up, one after the other, and said that they could not understand how any one could desire to deprive women of the suffrage. I think that a man may have just as great a love for women, just as great a hope for her intellectual development and her employment in every possible sphere of life for which she is physically fitted, and may, in every way, desire to elevate her, and yet not desire to give her the franchise. Women have not got the franchise in America, because it is there believed that if once woman is enfranchised, the logical result will’ be that she will be capable of occupYing a place in Parliament. In spite of the paean of rejoicing which the honorable and learned member for Brisbane raised about this being such a great and immortal act on the part of the Federal Parliament it would be more statesmanlike and safer to pause, in order to see the effects of women’s suffrage in other parts of the world or in the Australian States, knowing that it is a matter concerning which delay can do little harm, but that once the proposed step is taken, it can never be retraced.
– It is only due to those who sent me here that I should not give a silent vote on this question. I made it clear to those who did me the honour of electing me that I would strongly oppose women’s suffrage. At no one of the many meetings at which I delivered addresses was I asked whether I was in favour of it, but I distinctly stated from the platform that I was not in favour of it. Indeed, I think I may say safely that the heartiest cheer I got during the addresses I gave was when I stated that I was opposed to the extension of the franchise to women. I may refer particularly to the attitude of Victoria on the subject, because it may be argued that Victoria has declared in favour of women’s suffrage through its Legislative Assembly, and that, therefore, the people of this State are in favour of it. It has been said that the Victorian Legislative Council rejected a measure to secure this reform’ five or six times. Early in the history of this Parliament I stated the facts of the case. They were these : When women’s suffrage first came up to the Victorian Upper House it was embodied in a Bill providing for one man one vote. The Council refused to consider the Bill as a whole, but there was nothing to show whether they were or were not in favour of women’s suffrage at that time. On the. first occasion when women’s suffrage came before the Council in a separate measure it was rejected. There was, however, only one meeting held in Victoria for the purpose of disapproving of the action of the Upper House. When the measure was again rejected there was not a single meeting throughout the whole of Victoria, so far as I am aware, to say “ Look at those fossils of the Legislative Council - they have dared to reject a measure sent up by the Assembly.”
– It was perfectly useless.
– Was ever any great reform regarded by the public with such apathy as that 1 If the people have at heart any measure, and the Upper House dares to reject it over and over again, will the people sit silent 1 On the contrary, in every town where there is a strong feeling, speeches are made and meetings held in favour of the reforms that are demanded.
– The Bill was sent up to the Council with increased majorities each time.
– That may be, but the advocates of women’s suffrage in Victoria cannot get over the fact that I have stated. That is a clear demonstration that the Victorian electors have not made up their minds on the subject, or at any rate have not declared in favour of the enfranchisement of women.
– Is the Legislative Council elected on the same suffrage as the Assembly ?
– No, but it is elected on a low suffrage. That, however, is not the point. The point is that the electors did not demand this reform. Those members of the Legislative Assembly who voted for it were elected on different issues. No doubt some of them were asked if they would vote in favour of women’s suffrage, and they replied - “ Oh yes, it will do no harm.” I shall only be repeating what others have said when I state that in regard to the United States, Colorado, Idaho, Wyoming, and Utah, the Morman State, are the only States where women have been granted the franchise. It was granted in the first-mentioned State in 1S69. How is it that all the other States have not pressed forward this reform since ? That is a strange fact. Advocates of the movement point to the experience of the United States of America. That experience, however, is a very small one, and it seems to me to go against the adoption of the principle. Ibr upwards of 30 years .one State has had womanhood suffrage. Three other States have adopted it since ; but, although efforts have been made to introduce the principle in other States, they have failed ignominiously. Honorable members on the Government side of the House are continually pointing to the fact that the people of the United States of America are great protectionists, and telling us that they are in the van of progress.
– They have put a prohibition on women.
– But, as the honorable member says, they have put a prohibition on women. New Zealand, South Australia, and Western Australia have adopted the principle of female franchise. Their experience of it, however, is also very brief. At the most it can only be said that it has done no harm, although the honorable member for South Australia, Mr. Poynton, has told us that the introduction of women into politics in that State has improved the membership of the State Legislature. This is a great step to take. We call ourselves a “nation.” That is a word I do not like, for I agree with the Minister for Defence that we are not a nation. But undoubtedly the Commonwealth will have to deal with very big questions. It has already dealt with some, and in the not very distant future we shall probably be talcing a part, either directly or indirectly, in Imperial affairs. Yet here, in our infancy, we are setting out on a huge reform. We propose to more than double the number of our electors by granting the suffrage to women, who, save in two States, have had no experience in political matters. We are taking a leap in the dark, without any experience worth mentioning to guide us. This is a verygrave step, and those who advocate it have not told us of any grievance that women suffer under at the present time. I have heard barristers say that, in some respects, it is the men, ,and not the women, who are at a disadvantage under our laws. There are two or three cases at least in which men are placed at a greater disadvantage than are women. I scarcely know of any matter in regard to which women can say honestly that they have a grievance which men are not prepared to remove.
– There are any number of them.
– There was a strong minority in the Legislative Council of Victoria in favour of womanhood suffrage, but, when the principle was discussed there, they did not give us a single instance of a disadvantage under which women suffered as compared with men. Most other great reforms have been put forward in order to remove some great grievance. We are told that the exercise of the franchise is a right which women ought to possess’. I should like to know on what evidence it is said to be a right. Over and over again we find that certain sections of the community are not allowed to vote. Formerly, in Victoria, policemen could not exercise the franchise. In the old country I believe soldiers are not permitted to vote, and I have been told, although I am not certain on the point, that members of the House of Lords do not vote for the Commons. I understand that the people of Washington have no votes for Congress.
– The members of Congress go to their respective States to vote.
– The law laid it down that they were not to vote for Congress. After all, therefore, voting is a mere matter of expediency. There is no such thing as a right in regard to it. It is a privilege granted to certain individuals by the community as a whole.
– It is a right.
– Supposing, as the honorable member for Brisbane has said, we were to raise the minimum age at which a person might vote from 21 to 2S years, would those between the ages of 21 and 28 have any justification for saying that they had been deprived of a natural right?
– The fixing of the minimum age at 21 is purely arbitrary. If women are to exercise the franchise, I think that a girl should be able to do so at the age of eighteen, when a man is allowed to do so on reaching the age of 21. The vote itself, is simply nothing more than a privilege granted to certain people to carry on the good government of the country; and those who put forward the argument of right advance an argument contrary to the actual facts connected with certain States of America and the position in England. I know that it is a forlorn hope to oppose the Bill; I know perfectly well that the battalions are on the other side. I do not believe that the heavens will fall if this measure is passed, but I am certain that we shall be no nearer Heaven. We are all prophesying to-night, and I venture to predict that if we pass this Bill the future will show that Australia has done great injury to herself instead of the great good anticipated by those who advocate womanhood suffrage. I have no more to say. I have done my duty to my constituents as I promised when before the electors, and if we go to a division I shall vote against the second reading of the Bill.
– A certain humorist, in dealing with the question of womanhood suffrage, has pointed out that if thirteen or fourteen reasons, pro and con, in relation to the question, were posted up in a legislative assembly or debating hall, it would greatly facilitate debate, insomuch as a person addressing himself to the question could say that he was in favour of womanhood suffrage for reasons Nos. 2, 4, 7, 8, and 14, or against it for certain reasons set out opposite other numbers. They are all stock arguments, which, to a very large extent, have been worn threadbare, not only in legislative assemblies, but in debating clubs and institutions. But it is Only right that on this occasion the reasons against women’s franchise should be placed on record by those who feel that the Commonwealth should not plunge into this experiment. We have had one measure after another of the first importance placed before us without being afforded sufficient time to deal with them. We have been cramped for time, and have been prevented from properly preparing the arguments which might very well be advanced against the present proposal. This is not the radical proposal that it is claimed to be. When we speak of radical measures we mean those which dive to the root of questions, which deal with them on their lowest basis, and extend right away down to first principles. If we make an appeal to first principles, we cannot find anything to justify the proposal to grant the franchise to women. No man has ever enjoyed to a greater extent than I have the inestimable blessing of the friendship and the companionship of women. I have had the happiest relations with mother, wife, and sisters, and with many women friends, and it is principally on account of these happiest and friendliest of relations that I am trying to prevent this Legislature from dragging women into the midst of political turmoil. I object to the present proposal, first, on the ground that there is nothing in what we may designate as political principles to justify this departure, and, secondly, on the ground that as a matter of common expediency there is nothing to be gained. With regard to the first principle, the question has been raised why should we extend the franchise to men at the age of 21. All political privileges are based upon political duties, and the reason why we adopt the principle of giving the franchise to males at the age of 21 is not very far to seek. The privilege of the vote is granted on account of the corresponding duty that every man of 21 - the age when man is matured and perfected - has to undertake. We know that every man on whom the vote is conferred has imposed upon him the duty of, if necessary, taking his life in his hands and defending the State, and if the privilege of the franchise is to be granted to women, a corollary of reasoning will require us to compel them also to take up arms in defence of the State. That is a proposal which, except in one or two isolated cases in history, and then far down in the barbarous ages, has never been entertained, and I do not think that this Commonwealth should adopt it. With the granting of the privilege of the franchise corresponding t duties are imposed, such as no man would ask any woman to undertake. That is my first point. My second point is that if the franchise is granted to women they will not gain anything. The question, eni bono? arises immediately - to what end ? The Minister for Home Affairs told us that in some special instances women had been the nobler partners in the married life, and had been denied the franchise, whilst the more debased partner had exercised it, but there is nothing in that argument to support his proposal. If the franchise is granted to women we shall achieve no Other result than the doubling of the votes upon any question that may be submitted. If under present circumstances we have 500 or 1,000 votes in favour of any political principle, we shall, under the new conditions, have 1,000 or 2,000 votes. We shall only double the votes and double the trouble, and we shall drag women into all the turmoil and the mud of politics. Let honorable members lay bare their hearts and souls upon this question, and call to mind their own experiences in political conflicts. They can all remember circumstances under which they would not have cared to have their own womanfolk mixed up in political affairs. I go further, and say that if we grant the franchise to women we cannot expect any better results, because where you have a good woman you will have the corresponding relative of a good man, and where you have a bad man you will have the corresponding relative of a bad woman. I think that the right honorable member for Tasmania, Sir Edward Braddon, has put this question very plainly before the House, and the right honorable gentleman “has nothing to fear. If the women are granted the franchise, I think they will have sufficient intelligence to vote for a member like the right honorable gentleman, despite the fact that he has opposed the extension of the privilege to them. Very many women will vote for him because he is opposed to extending the franchise to them. I should consent to the principle readily enough if we granted it conditionally upon the women of the Commonwealth affirming, upon referendum, that they desired the duties, as well as the privileges, of citizenship, to be thrust upon them. If such a course were adopted, I believe that a majority would be found against the principle embodied in the Bill under discussion. The agitation in favour of it has been created by certain advanced women who think that they have something to strive for. Some ‘ of these have no social relationships ; others have social relationships which have weighed against them. These, however, are the exceptions. The majority of women are opposed to the extension of the franchise to them, and it has ever been a principle in English politics that the suffrage should not be conferred upon any class unless some definite and pronounced agitation for it were raised. Coming down to basic principles, I think that by extending the franchise to females, we shall take them away from their proper sphere to exercise political duties. It is all very well to urge that they can perform those duties without any lapse of domestic obligations ; but though it may be comparatively easy to do so in towns, in remote country districts it would be exceedingly difficult for the wife and daughter and husband to be absent at the same time. I know that women do not desire the franchise. The mistake is that men take up the foolish stand of advocating this so-called reform on behalf of ideal women who do not exist, save in isolated instances. They are not the average of female humanity. It appears to me that we shut our eyes to the fact that there are as many bad women as bad men. I admit freely enough that women are as intellectual and as gifted as are men. I grant that in certain ranks and professions, in philosophy, literature, and ultimately in science, we may hope for women to equal men. But that is not the question. Outside of the intellectual question, there are a variety of other questions which have to be considered. In the first place there is a difference between men and women upon bare physical grounds, and the greatest philosophers have held that at certain recurrent periods of a woman’s life she is not so fitted as is man to exercise any powers which make a demand upon her judgment or logical faculties. 1 own that woman’s instinct is, in many respects, superior to man’s, but her powers of ratiocination are inferior. If it were merely a question of instinct which was involved, and woman’s instinct were superior to man’s, I should say - “ Take the franchise from man and give it to woman.” In this connexion too much importance is placed upon the effect of legislative ^enactments on civilization. We are told that these are the only things which ought to be considered in the march of civilization, but I hold that there are many others which affect civilization much more than do legislative enactments. It is in such spheres that the influence of women is most powerfully observed. Women as wives, mothers, and friends exercise more influence at the present moment than do all the Legislatures in the world ; and yet it is proposed to deprive them of that influence by removing them to a sphere for which they are not so fitted. If it is proposed to give women the franchise, because she de- 1 mandsit, I say let honorable members go further and show their faith in their logical premises by opening the doors of this House to women and allowingthemto occupy the Ministerial benches. Let us abolish all distinctions between the two sexes. Those who believe in this principle are not prepared to go to such an extreme at the present moment. Consequently they cut the logical ground from under their feet. I say there is a broad distinction between the sexes - a physical and a moral distinction. I must also add that I have enjoyed the intimacy of women as much as any man. Indeed, I can truly say -
If might of wisdom or grace be mine,
Her’s be the glory.
But in the common turmoil of politics woman would be out of place - out of her own sphere of action, and crippled in all respects. I won my election despite the fact that I repeatedly declared myself in opposition to the principle of adult suffrage. At the same time, if the franchise be extended to females, I have every confidence that I can obtain the votes of those who hold similar political views, just as readily as if I had advocated the principle embodied in the Bill. On true principles there is nothing to justify this measure. Women are not warranted in obtaining the vote, because they cannot undertake the corresponding duty of defending the State at the last extremity, and, because, as our common sense shows us, the results of the elections would not be different from what they are at present.
– I am surprised to hear the honorable memberforSouth Sydney say that there are as many bad women as bad men. My opinion is that in proportion to their numbers women are much better than men, and those who are bad have been made so by men. The honorable member for New England said he thought that the proposed extension of the franchise will give a larger proportion of votes to the cities than to the country. In New South Wales, and most other places, the principle has always been adopted of equalizing as nearly as possible the number of electors in each electorate. Though I have not been able to obtain any figures, my impression is that the extension of the franchise will give a larger proportion of votes to the country than to the cities. In the country, families are generally larger and the homes are permanent, and for one or two extra votes in a family in the city there will be four or five in the country. I should very much like to quote from some of the able speeches I have by me, because they are gems. But the hour is late, and, expressing my thanks to honorable members for remaining, I shall content myself with a comparatively short speech upon an important subject.
Question put. The House divided -
Ayes … …. … 29
Noes … … …6
Majority … … 23
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and committed proforma.
House adjourned at 12 (midnight).
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 23 April 1902, viewed 7 November 2016, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1902/19020423_reps_1_9/>.