4th Parliament · 3rd Session
The President took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
Motion (by Senator Henderson) agreed to-
That the report from the Printing Committee presented to the Senate on 3rd October, 1912, be adopted.
Debate resumed from 3rd October (vide page 3799), on motion by Senator McGregor -
That this Bill be now read a second time.
Upon which Senator Millen had moved -
That all the words after the word “ That “ be left out, with a view to insert in lieu thereof the following words : - “ no provision for maternity which does not form part of a national insurance scheme, providing for sickness, unemployment, and medical attendance, as well as maternity, and subsidized by an appropriation to the extent necessary to make the benefits immediate and adequate, will be effective, satisfactory, and consistent with the spirit of the Federal Constitution.”
.- The speeches we have had from the other side, with the exception of that of Senator Henderson, to which I think no exception can be taken, have mostly dealt with three points. First, an attack has been made upon certain members of the Opposition and a somewhat virulent attack too; second, we have had from honorable senators opposite a laudation of themselves as being the only humanitarian section in this Parliament ; and, third, we have had frequent references to the unfortunate women, and it seems to me somewhat regrettable that such “ ‘references should be made. They are really not cognate to the Bill, and I do not know why they should be dragged in so much. They surely cannot be appreciated by these individuals. I do not know that the frequent references to them which will appear in Hansard will make the measure any more acceptable to the other women in the community. I deplore the fact that the unfortunate women have been brought into the discussion so much.
– Who brought them in first?
– I think that the Minister is showing ia toad example by starting to interject so early. I do not know why honorable senators should take these individuals and try to make heroines of them. It is quite enough that we are /prepared to give them all the help that we can. I do not propose to make more than a slight reference to them as I am not catering for their votes. From the expressions of self-laudation from the other side one would imagine that there was no humanity displayed in this or any other Parliament in Australia except by the Labour party, and as Senator St. Ledger very truly said last night, there seems to be a good deal of the political Pharisee about this business. Honorable senators on the other side say, in effect, “ We are the only Simon Pures; we are the only people who are ready to -help any one else; we are the only people who ever brought in any benevolent legislation.” Can there be any stronger proof that this is purely in its inception a political measure, and designed, as I said before, to catch votes? How anxious honorable senators on the other side were to parade themselves as supporters of the proposal ! Why? It was done to catch the votes of a certain section. They were simply fishing for credit for themselves and endeavouring to put discredit upon their opponents, because the latter take exception to the measure in very many respects. No stronger proof that it is a political move could be furnished than the attitude of honorable senators on the other side yesterday. That is not, I think, the spirit in which such a measure should be discussed. If it were brought in in a fair way it should get the consent of all parties here, arid it should be framed in such a manner as to commend itself to all parties.
– You had no hesitation in raising the political cry when you got the chance.
– Is the little impertinent member of the Senate starting already to interject? I have travelled, a good deal about this State since the measure was introduced. I have heard expressions of opinion from all classes, both men and women, and the measure is viewed with very mixed feelings. By many persons it is looked upon as a boon, as something that will do much good ; by others it is looked upon as a superfluity ; and by a great many women of the working classes it is regarded as something in the light of a positive insult. But on one point I have found no divergence of opinion. Whether they are in favour of or against the Bill, they all agree that it is a political move. Those who are in favour of its enactment say, “ We know, of course, that that is what is behind the proposal, but, all the same, we support it because we believe that it will do a lot of good.” I have been told that I dare not repeat here what I said outside. I am going to say it again, because I do not ‘say here what I am not prepared to say outside, nor vice versa. When the caucus of the Labour party met previous to the beginning of this session they were under a very great shadow. They were under the shadow of that Sedan which one of their number had predicted for them, and it was largely caused because they had diverted from1 themselves an enormous amount of sympathy on the part of the women of this country by reason of blocking them in the exercise of their franchise, of taking away a political privilege, of taking away their birthright by striking postal voting out of the Electoral Act. It is not correct to say that the Liberal party have been opposed to womanhood suffrage. It was first proposed in Victoria by Dr. Maloney, who was then not a Labour man, but a Liberal.
– He was nothing else but a Labour man all the time. ‘
– Another interjector ! With one or two exceptions, the measure was brought in by Liberals all the time, and supported by them all through, arid from beginning to end. it was supported by myself. I can cite proof from Hansard that many members ‘ of the Trades Hall party were absolutely against the women’s vote when it was brought in.
– Yes, John Hancock was one, and Tom Smith was another. When this maternity proposal was submitted to the caucus we were told in the press that it was received with exulting cheering. No doubt it was, because the members of the caucus said, “ Here is something which is going to get us out of our trouble, which, will conciliate the women of Australia, and bring us their votes at the next election.” They were afraid of the women’s anger, and this proposal was born of fear and not simply of humanitarianism, as we are told. The members of the caucus took this proposal, which deals with the most delicate and sacred time in a woman’s life, and used it as a means for vote-catching in order to save their political skins. We are getting used to the distribution of Government money as largess. Of late years a lot of money has come into the hands of the Federal Government, and it has been used in every possible way to make safe their position on the Treasury bench. They are using the public money in order to get political support. While this money is, I admit, to be applied to humanitarianism, yet it is being used in this way largely with the object I have stated. I do not think that this proposal will affect the birth rate one way or other. I do not think that it will increase the birth rate either in or out of marriage.
– Can you blame this Government for spending money?
– The honorable senator is interjecting again ! We all sympathize, especially those of us who have a number of children, with women in this particular condition. We know that it is the lot of women to bear children and to endure suffering for the continuation of the race, and they are entitled to our best help. No matter whether they are married or single ; no matter whether they are the most respectable and virtuous or the most lost and degraded, they are entitled to our help .at that particular time in every possible way. I would give more help to the unfortunate ones than I would give to those who are placed in better circumstances. But we have to ask ourselves, “ Is this measure likely to give the help iu the best way?” This proposal should only be made for those who are in need. The great majority of the women in this country are not in need. There is no effort made to . find out those who are in need.
– May I ask you a question? I do not wish to interrupt you.
– No. It is very obvious why the Labour caucus, do not want to find out those who are in need. If the grant were only intended for such persons it would be absolutely valueless as a vote-catching proposition. That is where the economic aspect of this question comes in. It is proposed to tax the wage earners at, perhaps, the rate of 10s. a head - to do what? - not only to help those who are in need but to put money in the pockets of those who are well-to-do. In order to meet the needs of those who are in want at this delicate time, £100,000 a year would be quite ample, whereas it is proposed to spend £500,000. Why should we squander the difference upon those who do not require help ? We are told, and I think that the Attorney-General said in another place, that those who do not want the grant will not take it. I doubt that. We know that when- the public purse is opened wide many persons who should not do so, even many in high authority, are prepared to take from it money to which I do not think they are entitled. It is somewhat dangerous to teach the people to rely upon the Government, and we should be careful not to bring about such a conditionof affairs as Senator Millen sketched. The people should be kept in constant employment, so that the proposed bonus or allowance, or whatever it may be called, would not be necessary. It has been urged against the Liberals in this Parliament that they have never done anything like this onbehalf of the people. I venture to say that all the reforms which have uplifted humanity, and which have given it betterconditions, have emanated from Liberalism, and from Liberals who have been actuated’ by that spirit of altruism which comes from the Gospel. Yet we are told that they have never done anything. Who initiated the work that is going on in all the States to-day - work which is helping those whom this Bill is intended to help - but the Liberals ? Yet it is -repeatedly stated that since the advent of Federation Liberals have never brought forward a proposal of this character. Those who make that charge know perfectly well the reason why such proposals were not forthcoming. They know that in the earlier years of its history the Commonwealth was crippled by* the operation of the Braddon section of the Constitution. In 1905-6 the balance derived by the Commonwealth from Customs and Excise amounted to £1,600,000, the following year it was ,£1,800,000, the next year it was £2,700,000, the following year it was £2,900,000, and the next year it was ,£3,100,000. But immediately after the present Government came into office the Braddon section expired, and money fairly streamed into the Treasury. As a result, the balance derived by the Commonwealth. during their first year of office amounted to £7.700,000, the next year it was £8,885,000, and this year it will be still more. So that they have been flush of revenue.
– During the first five years of Federation, previous Governments had a balance of £6,000,000, which they handed back to the States.
– The whole Parliament agreed to it being handed back. But even though it was returned to the States <lid it not help the same people?
– The States were entitled to it under the Constitution.
– Probably it was unwise to return that money to the States, because that action resulted in starving the Post Office, and in preventing a number of public works from being carried out. How-, ever, the step was prompted by the best-of motives, and was taken in the interests of the people themselves. But the Government of which Mr. Fisher is the head has not been pinched for money. They have money to burn, and they are burning it at a very fierce rate. They are warming their own friends with the flame. But by-and-by the money will have been burnt, and somebody will be cooling when they ought to have a fire. The sneer that Liberals have done nothing in the direction proposed by this Bill is unworthy of honorable senators opposite, and is not correct. During the course of the debate some references have been made to certain ladies, which, to my mind, were not in good taste. For instance, there was a reference to Lady Way, who is a woman of very high repute, who is always engaged in charitable work, and who has done a vast amount of good. To hold her up to public scorn was unworthy of any honorable senator. The members of the Women’s National League have been treated in the same way. I am glad to say that from this side of the Chamber I have never heard a single word uttered against any woman, no matter to what class she may belong. Imbecile references to the Women’s “ Fashionable “ League come with very bad grace from any honorable senator. We know that women have the franchise to-day, and honorable senators opposite grumble because the women have organized for the purpose of giving effect to their own political views. My honorable friends grumble because the women are a menace to the party which is now in office.
– They should not say nasty things.
– Honorable senators opposite do not hesitate to slander these women because they fear them. If we choose to inquire who are rescuing unfortunates, helping the sick and suffering, and protecting children from disaster and death, we shall find it is the women who have been slandered in this Chamber. One point which has to be considered in connexion with this Bill is the disorganization which may result in the work which is at present being done. The number of institutions engaged in charitable work is very large. In Victoria alone 16,000 children are being maintained at a cost of £90,000 per annum, and I suppose that other States are doing equally good work. It is difficult to say what will be the effect of the Bill on these institutions. I come now to the constitutional aspect of this question. I do not pose as an expert in constitutional matters, but to me, as a layman, there seems to be grave doubts whether the Bill is constitutional. Possibly, nobody may test it, but should it be contested in the High Court, I believe that it will be held to be ultra vires. Of course that might suit the purpose of the Government, because it would provide them with a splendid cry upon which to go to the country. In connexion with this measure the plea of urgency has been raised. We have been told that 300 children- are being born every day, and that the help which it is proposed to extend to mothers cannot be extended to them until the Bill has become law. Consequently the Government wish to rush it through at any cost. I suppose the real truth of the matter is that Mr. Fisher wishes to be able to flaunt it before his hearers in Sydney on Monday next as an evidence of what the Government have done. But why has the matter been neglected so long?
– The Governments which the honorable senator supported had ten years to bring it forward.
– The Ministry have allowed the matter to stand over for two and a half years, notwithstanding that during that time they have received in revenue £18,000,000 more than did other Governments. They have chosen, however, to delay taking action in this matter until we are on the eve of a general election. In other words, the Bill has been reserved for a crisis. Reference was made last night to the Council of Churches. Now, the principal members of that council are ministers of my own church, and, therefore, I propose to say a word or two on their behalf. The Council of Churches waited upon the Prime Mininster in respect of this Bill. They placed before him certain views which were discussed for one and a half hours. They expressly informed him that they did not desire to say anything against the general principles of the measure. But they deemed it to be their duty, as the moral leaders of their people, to protest against no differentiation being made in respect of the manner in which the allowance is to be distributed. It has been stated that they endeavoured to deprive unfortunate women of the proposed allowance. They did nothing of the kind. They merely asked that a distinction should be made in the method of distribution between cases in which births were nuptial and those in which they were not. I do not say that I indorse the whole of their views.
– Nor do the Churches.
– Exactly. They put before the Prime Minister a proposal by which the mother and child should be taken in hand and cared for. They desire to make provision in that connexion more complete.
– That statement will not deceive anybody.
– It is not intended to deceive anybody. They said that they feared the Bill may encourage vice. A great many other persons entertain the same view. I do not think that any woman will sell herself for the sake of gaining a maternity allowance. But I say that these men are not deserving of the contumely which has been heaped upon them. When it comes to helping to succour humanity there is not one of them who does not stand miles higher than does any honorable senator in this Chamber.
– I say that that is an absolutely incorrect statement.
– They are all ministers, and their lives have been devoted to that sort of work. So many misrepresentations have been indulged in, concerning the deputation which waited on the Prime Minister, that the Moderator of the Presbyterian Assembly, the Rev. Laurence Rentoul, who is a straightforward fearless man as well as a scholar-
– He has degenerated. He used to be a really good muscular Christian.
– Professor Rentoul took occasion to correct certain misstatements, and I propose to put his letter upon record in Hansard. It reads -
Sir, - Were the witty Erasmus still alive, and still interested in human oddities, he would surely find abundant illustrations for his “ Praise of Folly “ in the floods of irrational clamor which during these last days have swept against the legs of the “ Council of the Churches “ and other hitherto respectable and respected Christian workers in the city of Melbourne.
I ask to be allowed to lift this subject out of the atmosphere of foolish personal abuse and misrepresentation, and to draw attention to a few practical facts.
These very writers pay no attention to the weightiest part of that “ admirable “ leader, viz., that part which points out that Mr. Fisher’s maternity bonus, if it is anything at all, is meant to relieve distress, to succour the impoverished, to cure sick mothers and to feed their infants.” But “ Mr. Fisher declines to search these women out. Rather than do that he prefers to give a bonus to every woman who becomes a mother, whether she needs help or not. Such a project is in violent conflict with the laws of economy and common sense.” That is most admirably said.
The women there “engage to nurse their infants.” And, more, “Every inmate has been told on leaving that the committee will help her, if necessary, till her child is two years old.” Compared with this practical uplifting mercy and its loving word “sisterhood,” Mr. Fisher’s “maternity bonus” of£5 does look a “miserable comforter.” Had I time to refer to Anglican and Methodist, &c, modes of rescue the same tale would run on well.
Ormond College, 9th September.
That is the position put fairly and plainly, and it is only fair to these people that their case should be put in such a form. Expressions of opinion have come from another quarter which are certainly deserving of consideration. Yesterday there was a conference of benevolent societies carrying on their operations around Melbourne, and of those engaged in rescue work and the helping of women and children. I believe that thirty women’s organizations were represented, and the meeting was a large one. A resolution was submitted and carried, and I shall take the opportunity of quoting it. Every one of these ladies knows more about the subject in hand than any of us do. The resolution was carried with only two dissentients. Only one lady - Mrs. Sangster - spoke against it.
– And she was more closely in touch with the subject than any of the others.
– It is nonsense to say that one woman representing one society was more in touch with the subject than any of the rest. The resolution is entitled to our best consideration. It is as follows -
That this meeting disapproves of the Maternity Allowance Bill, on the following grounds : - First, the useless expenditure annually of the large sum of money involved in making all mothers (irrespective of the need of financial assistance) eligible for the allowance ; second, the wholly inedaquate amount of the fixed allowance, which, it is considered, will in very many instances utterly fail to realise the avowed object of the measure and only render the work of existing societies and institutions more difficult ; and third, the absence in the Bill of any provision or guarantee that the allowance will be expended in any way which will benefit either mother or child.
I have read the speeches made at the conference, and can say that they were full of charity and toleration. Nothing was said to run down any woman, no matter how unfortunate. Everything that emanated from this conference was done with the desire to help. It would have been well, before this measure was brought in, had people like these from the various States been taken into counsel, and some scheme prepared which could have been by common consent recognised as suitable to the whole community. I feel quite sure that, whilst this proposal will do some good, whilst some benefits will arise from it, it will not be long before Parliament will be called upon to make a radical alteration on the lines which these ladies propose. I am against the Bill, and intend to vote against it for the following reasons : I object to it, first of all, because it is a votecatching proposition, and I am not going to play into the hands of my opponents by helping them to carry it through. Secondly, I object to it because the money could be better expended by working in with State and local agencies.
– Societies which cost more to work than they distribute in help.
– A great number of these organizations which are doing so much good in the community are administered without any cost whatever.
– Not one; can the honorable senator mention one?
– I object to the measure also because the amount that will be spent, except in cases of absolute need, will be unnecessarily spent. Lastly, I object to it because I consider that the whole subject should be dealt with on sounder line’s than those proposed at the present time. An expenditure of £400,000 a year, if wisely administered, would suffice to erect maternity homes, hospitals,, and similar institutions over the whole of Australia, and the balance to be expended would provide a foundation fund to keep these institutions going, aided, perhaps, by a little State or Commonwealth support. One year’s expenditure under this Bill would be sufficient to do this great work, which would be of enormously greater advantage than simply paying out a dole and forgetting all about the people who received it after the money was paid. For these reasons I intend to vote against the measure.
– In approaching this question, I say at once that I do not think that it is one that ought to be considered in a light vein. I heartily wish that it had been possible to keep out of the controversy such expressions as have been referred to by Senator McColl this morning. I wish we could have approached the subject without introducing abuse and animosity. But whois responsible for the introduction of the personalities? Is it the Leader of the Labour party or those who are opposed to this policy? I am sorry that Senator McColl is leaving the chamber, because I wish to say one or two things about hiscriticism. I trust that it will not be considered ill-mannered on my part if I refer to what he has said in his absence. From the very first day that this proposal was made - when, as Senator McColl says, it was received with loud cheers in the Caucus - it has been unfairly criticised. He allegesthat it was received with cheers because the Labour party felt that they were going to their Sedan, as announced by one of our members, who has evidently successfully pulled the leg of such individuals as Senator McColl, who are inclined to take such things seriously. It is quite true that the moment the policy was announced1 it was accepted by the Labour party, because we have always believed in the principle of this measure, although it had not been previously defined within the four corners of a Bill. Who started the abuse in connexion with the question ? Within two days after the policy was declared. Senator McColl denounced it as “ a low down political trick.” The arguments that he has been using for months past he has repeated this morning, though I must admit that they were couched to-day in clearer and more gentlemanly language. What is the truth in regard to this being a political trick? Senator McColl states that in travelling- round the country he has met people belonging to all sections of society, some of whom recognise that the Bill is a political trick, though they intend to support it because they believe if will do a great deal of good. Now, I do not know of any claim that any party can have to occupy the Treasury bench and bring forward proposals in a democratic Parliament unless they manifest a desire and willingness to pass that legislation which the people wish to see carried. I do not know of any higher compliment that can be paid to us by our political opponents than to say that we are introducing popular measures. What could be said more favorable to the Labour party than that our legislation is good and that people intend to support it? Senator McColl might have gone further. That view of the matter is not confined merely to the man in the street. The bulk of the members of the Opposition in the Senate, and in another place, have adopted the same attitude. They denounced the measure, and abused those who introduced it, but, when they found that the people desired such legislation, and that it was popular, they lacked the courage of their convictions, and refused, in another place, to call for a division and register their votes against the Bill. I trust that a division will be called for in the Senate. Where has. the abuse come from? A few days after the proposal was announced in caucus, there was a political dinner given, at which Mr. Watt, the leader of the State Government of Victoria, described it as a political dodge brought forward merely with the idea of catching votes. He said that in Victoria the State has control over a number of institutions in which all that is necessary is provided for in the interests of mother and child. I have not the report of the speech by me, but I think I am quoting Mr. Watt fairly. He said that if the proposal were given effect, the allowance would not go to the mother of the child, or to the child ; that every one knew the medical profession, and they knew that the doctors would simply increase the maternity fees, with the result that the allowance would merely be a sop to the medical profession.
– It is probable that that will be the effect of it.
– Does Senator St. Ledger indorse that statement ? If there is one class in the community which more than another has displayed a noble spirit of willingness to help those who are unable to help themselves, it is the medical profession. No public man, and no member of a State or the Federal Parliament, is entitled to abuse members of that profession, which has rendered such magnificent service to women. Such statements are unworthy of any public man, and they indicate the depths to which members of a political party can descend. Senator McColl, when speaking of the Labour Government and the proposal to pay a maternity allowance, made the statement that if a certain class of legislation submitted by the Labour Government is carried into effect, the day is not far distant when in this State a man will have to have two wives. If that is not abuse, I do not know what is. I regard it as one of the strongest statements ever made on a public platform. I do not believe that Senator McColl seriously advocated that a man should have two wives. I would not attribute that to him for a moment, but I do say that, in making that statement, he desired to suggest to the people that if the legislation of the Labour party be continued, it will be necessary for a man to have two wives if the ordinary work of his household is to be got through every day. -I regret the honorable senator’s absence from the chamber. I believe that he made the statement referred to with the object only of throwing so much mud at the Labour party.
– It is the last statement that Senator McColl could or would make.
– The statement was made at Kerang, and I propose to quote it.
– From what newspaper is the honorable senator about to quote ?
– From the
Kerang Ntw Times, of Friday, 27th September. Possibly it is an abbreviated report, but I may inform Senator Fraser that the newspaper is not a Labour paper. Senator McColl is reported to have said -
What about the woman? A man would need two wives if women were to work only four hours a day. (Laughter.)
I wish to make it clear that I do not mean to say that Senator McColl advocated such a thing. His whole object in making the statement was to imply that we are carrying legislation which will make it necessary for a man to have two wives if the work of his household is to be got through. No more objectionable statement could have been made by a public man. In this matter, I cannot congratulate Senator St. Ledger as I am able to congratulate Senator McColl. The latter honorable senator has repeated here the statements to which he has been giving utterance for months past, and has announced his intention to vote against the Bill. On the other hand, Senator St. Ledger has gone round the country enunciating definite principles, and when he comes here he repeats only portions of the remarks he has made outside, and qualifies, or absolutely contradicts, some of the statements he has made at public meetings. I can refer to one case in support of what I say. In the course of his address yesterday, the honorable senator said that he did not believe that the monetary advantage of the proposed allowance would lead to any increase in illegitimacy.
– Certainly, I do not.
– He went on to say rather dramatically that not £5, £10, or £20 would have that result. When I asked him why he had made a statement that in the Old Country, under the poor law, a certain allowance had had the effect of increasing illegitimacy, he was not prepared to answer. The honorable senator says here that not £5, £10, or £20 would have the effect of increasing illegitimacy, and I ask him now, and honorable senators will judge between us, what is the meaning of the following words -
That was where the sop to profligacy came in ; and, as he wrote to the Argus, from his knowledge of the history of the working of the poor law in Great Britain, the granting of a Government bonus indiscriminately to legitimate or illegitimate children tended towards a repetition of that which certain administration of the poor laws brought about in Great Britain.
– Let the honorable senator look at the Poor Law Report for 1832, and he will find that that is so.
– Why did the honorable senator contradict that statement yesterday? I am not questioning the accuracy of his statement that what he said was an extract from a poor law report, but his statement at Hamilton that an allowance of the kind did increase illegitimacy.
– I said that it did, according to the Poor Law Report of 1832.
– The question at issue between us is whether assistance of this kind will increase illegitimacy or not. The honorable senator said that it did increase it in the Old Country.
– I said, under poor law administration.
– The natural! inference from the honorable senator’s statement that it had that effect in the Old Country is that, if assistance of the kind were granted here, it would necessarily increase illegitimacy, or operate as an incentive thereto.
– That is an inference from the statement.
– It is a reasonable inference from the honorable senator’s remarks at Hamilton. Yet he told us yesterday that no amount of such assistance would have that effect. I wish to refer now to another statement which has been made by Senator McColl. At a meeting “of ladies yesterday he said that he was pleased to know that the ladies had not said an abusive word of any single individual. I admit that their language has not been vulgar, but: one lady, a Mrs. Kerr - I do not know whether she weighed her words deliberately - made the statement that as the result of her experience she had no sympathy with the expression “ grievously sinned against,”’ used in the Federal Parliament, as thosewho had experience knew ‘that those cases; were very few. Is it not correct tointerpret that statement as meaning that, apart from cases where persons have yielded to the passion of the moment, and which arevery few, all those who have been unfortunate must have deliberately mapped out for themselves a particular course of living? No greater insult could be hurled, at our women folk than that statement, made at a meeting of women: as reported in last evening’s Herald. The Government propose the grant of a maternity allowance, which some people are fond of describing as a “ baby bonus.” The first question that we haveto ask is, whether it is necessary. There is not a single church representative whohas expressed himself strongly in opposition to the Bill who has not also admitted’ the necessity of providing help for mothers at this critical period of their lives. Thereis not a single member of this Parliament, or an individual member of” the public, who will deny the necessity for it. Thequestion then arises: How can it be best provided for? It is said that we propose by this Bill to hand over grants of £5 to assist women at this period of their lives without- asking very many questions. Why are we not going to ask any questions? It is because to do so would bring the proposed allowance down to the level of a charitable dole, which the people of Australia, and particularly our women folk, would regard as a personal insult, and so the proposed law would be ineffective. Senator Millen, dealing with another objection to the Bill, said he preferred some scheme of insurance to which the people should contribute, and that under such a system people would be relieved of the feeling that the allowance was a charity. On the other hand, we have honorable senators saying that the moment the purse strings of the Treasury are opened for the payment of such grants people, even in good positions, who should be ashamed of themselves for doing so, would probably rush the Treasury to obtain the
– Why should they be ashamed to claim the allowance if it is a right ?
– If that be so, it cannot be correct to say that the people will regard it as a charitable dole. I am merely pointing out that the statements made do not agree. But do the people not contribute to the fund from which this allowance will be paid? Something was said to the effect that those who pay land tax do contribute, but I wish to point out that people of the working classes make substantial contributions to the fund from which such allowances will be paid. The average working man with a family living in the suburbs of Melbourne is contributing by way of Commonwealth, State, municipal, and other taxation nearly £18 per annum. That is too much, considering the enormous revenue duties on everything his family eats, drinks, or wears. Surely such a man is contributing to the fund? I feel sure that one of the reasons why people are not clamouring to-day for the removal of our revenue duties is that they recognise that they are contributing to the funds of the Commonwealth, and are in return getting such benefits as old-age and invalid pensions and the proposed maternity allowance. I believe that if we abolished this kind of legislation there would within twenty-four hours be a unanimous clamour for the removal of the revenue duties which bear so heavily upon the people. The necessity for this legislation is admitted by all sections of the community. It is said that the grant is too low in some cases. Senator McColl used another unfortunate expression to-day. He said he thought he would be willing to give more money in the case of “ the unfortunates.” If I were to adopt the practice which has been indulged in for the last few months, it would be quite possible for me, not only in Parliament, but in the country districts where there is a press circulating, to say that the honorable senator, from his place in Parliament, advocated increasing the allowance to “ the unfortunates.” We have no desire to do that sort of thing. I trust that I, at all events, will not descend to that level. The honorable senator’s statement is certainly ‘ open to that interpretation, but it would be mean and contemptible to attribute to him a meaning which I do not think for a moment he intended to convey. Still, when you go to the country districts, pick up the local press, and meet people who have been at meetings, you find that instead of an indefinite charge being levelled against the Labour party, there simply has been an insinuation that if the people were not careful something would happen. In my opinion, this is one of the finest pieces of legislation ever submitted to this Parliament. I believe that it is in full agreement with the desires of 80 per cent, of the community. I believe that there will be no abuse of this grant by the medical profession, and whilst the doctors may ask for a reasonable fee, as they are entitled to, I expect, despite the slander of the State Premier against a noble profession, that they will continue to render that splendid service which they have rendered to the community hitherto. On the question of whether the grant is likely to increase the illegitimacy of Australia, I desire to say a few words. If I thought for a moment - and I am expressing the opinions of a good many persons - that this legislation would have any tendency of that sort, I would not be found supporting it. When women - young women as a rule - have the misfortune to fall in this way, I believe that the allowance will enable them to get that attention and comfort which may be the cause of preventing them from falling still lower. If it will have that effect, we shall have well earned the good opinion of, not only the clergymen and the moralists of this State, but every clean-thinking man and woman in the community. Nearly all the members of the Opposition have been converted to this proposal ; the clergymen have withdrawn most of the statements they made against it; and the politicians and the organizers of the different political parties are getting round to the position of saying, “ The principle is a splendid one ; the idea is a great one ; the people want this legislation, and we are anxious, not only to give all that it contains, but to go further in regard to the benefits for which provision should be made.” Seeing that we have now arrived at that happy position, I trust that those who took the opportunity of misrepresenting the maternity allowance, of saying that the Prime Minister and his colleagues gloried in the fact that they were going to grant the allowance in cases where the children were illegitimate, will now be manly enough either to withdraw such statements or to demand a division in the Senate, and vote against the measure which they have condemned practically from A to Z. I trust that this legislation will be carried. I have every confidence that it will have that beneficial effect among the womenfolk of Australia which its framers intend, and if it does, this Parliament will have justified itself from the humanitarian point of view, and earned the good wishes of all lovers of civilization and clean morality.
– I cannot allow this measure to pass its second reading without saying exactly what I think about it, and also explaining why I offer it a straight-out and uncompromising opposition. I ask myself the question whether there is any demand for this Bill. The question of social amelioration is being considered in many countries, and quite rightly, too, but the schemes are all more or less on a contributory basis, which I believe to be better in character than this proposal. Take the Insurance Act which was passed in Great Britain only last year. In its comprehensiveness it is a heroic measure. The whole intention of that legislation is humane from beginning to end, but it is not a charitable scheme ; it is contributory from start to finish. It calls upon the employer, the workman, and the Government to make contributions towards the system.
– And the doctors have gone on strike against it.
– That is only an incident; whether it is fair to the doctors or not does not touch the principle of the thing at all. The system was made contributory, The employer pays part; the employ^ pays part, and the Government give a subvention.
– Does not everybody pay part under this scheme? Does he not contribute to the Consolidated Revenue ?
– Suppose that the Apt in Great Britain had been passed without providing for any contributions, could you not say exactly the same thing?
– Yes, and, in my, opinion, it would be a much better Act.
– That may be the honorable senator’s opinion, but it is not mine. I believe in the principle. I believe in a contributory system under which the workman pays something, the employer pays something, and the Government give a subvention. Under the English Act the contribution comes to something like is. per week. The Government pay 5d. and the balance is distributed between the employer and the employ^, though not always equally. Sometimes the workman pays 2d. and at other times 3d. or 4d. The amount he pays is not always the same, but there is a contribution from each party.
– What about those who cannot contribute?
– They are provided for as well. A maternity allowance is also provided under this contributory system. There is a very fine description of the Act published by the Daily Mail of London. One writer says -
Insured women, married or unmarried,’ will receive “in confinement” 30s., which may be paid in cash or in kind. Observe that “ confinement “ is not denned ; the presumption is for. a wide construction of the term, to include pre-viable delivery.
This proposal does not go so far as that.
The wives of insured men, although not themselves insured under the scheme, will also receive the maternity benefit.
If a woman is as an employed contributor insured, she will receive sickness benefit as well as maternity benefit, which amounts to a double maternity benefit [i.e., £3), whether her husband is insured or not. (Sub-section 6.)
Maternity benefit becomes payable after the insured woman, or the husband of the uninsured woman, has paid contributions for 26 weeks. (For voluntary contributors the waiting period in this respect is 52 weeks.)
The mother has the right to decide whether she will be attended by a doctor or by a properly certified midwife, and she will have tree choice of doctor or midwife.
An insured woman receiving maternity benefit has not to pay her contributions while away from work in consequence of her confinement.
It will be seen that in their Act the Imperial Parliament have made very good provision for the women in all maternity cases. It also provides for social relief in many other directions. It is as complete a measure as it could be made at present. It covers, as far as possible, every case of need. This Bill, however, is confined to only one portion of the community.
– We will extend it by-and-by ; we will nationalize the medical profession.
– I know that Senator Stewart has magnificent ideas-
– They will all come true some day.
– And if he only lives long enough to see them put into operation, Methuselah’s age will be nothing compared with his.
– Somebody will.
– There is a reason for this measure. The Labour party took away the postal vote from the women in maternity cases. They find that they made a very grave mistake, and have become unpopular in consequence. They want to recover that ground, and so this Bill is brought in with the idea of bringing the women into line again.
– Hear, hear ! Nothing like it.
– I am glad that the honorable senator acknowledges the truth of what I am saying. The Labour party are endeavouring to recover the ground which they have lost. That is, I believe, the full and true reason for the introduction of this measure. Of course, I know that our honorable friends on the other side are declaring that it is humanitarian legislation - that it is brought in with a desire to help the poor women, and so on - and those who oppose the Bill are accused of being Pharisees and hypocrites, having no soul or humanity about them. I believe that the Pharisaical spirit is altogether on the other side. I can imagine one of my honorable friends opposite piously crossing his hands over his breast, and saying -
Lord, I thank thee that I am not as other men, or even as this poor Liberal. I never pay tithes if I can help it. I always endeavour to place the burden on the other fellow. I did rob. the mother of her vote in her time of need, although I profess to have given her the franchise; but 1 am now endeavouring to deceive her with this maternity allowance. Fray do not condemn me as a hypocrite.
– We will get that framed.
–I hope that the honorable senator will get it framed, because it is absolutely true.
– It is no wonder that previously you paid a high compliment to your imagination.
– I do not think that I paid a high compliment to my imagination, but I think that I am carefully and truthfully stating the case, so far as the other side is concerned. We are told that this has always been the idea of the Labour party. Although a Labour Conference was held so recently as last January in Hobart, this was not put on the platform. It was not put out as something which the Labour Min.istry were to have brought into operation immediately. They were not even commissioned to adopt this bit of patchwork legislation in any way.
– Do you call it patchwork ?
– Yes, it is patchwork to put a little patch on our social conditions without boldly taking the whole into consideration.
– We are going to build the house a brick at a time.
– An amendment was proposed in another place - and I am glad that a similar amendment has been submitted by the Leader of the Opposition here - setting out that - no provision for maternity which does not form part of a national insurance scheme, providing for sickness, unemployment, and medical attendance, as well as maternity, and subsidized by an appropriation to the extent necessary to make the benefits immediate and adequate, will be effective, satisfactory, and consistent with the spirit of the Federal Constitution.
I thoroughly agree with that amendment. .
– It is so much humbug.
– I have just quoted, the humbugging prayer of my honorable’ friends. I have already said that this Bill is a piece of political hypocrisy. It touches only one part of a great social question. There is no place in the world where the people are better able to undertake a contributory system of insurance than they are in the Commonwealth.
– I have heard the honorable senator say that half-a-loaf is better than no bread. He is going back upon that statement now.
– I am not. I will show the Vice-President of the Executive
Council that I am prepared to grant a whole loaf wherever it may be wanted. I ask myself the questions, “ Why is this Bill brought forward? “ and “ Is there any urgent need for dealing with one particular phase of it?” I say there is no general need for the measure. At present necessitous cases are largely provided for by the States. In South Australia we have a l ying-in home for poor women and for single women. It is controlled by the Destitute Board, and it provides a home for the mother and child for at least six months, which is a better provision than that which is contained in this Bill. The Church of England have a Home of Mercy at Walkerville-
– Does not that encourage immorality ?
– No; I hope that the honorable senator will not ask me these silly questions. He is generally so sane upon all matters that I am surprised at him.
– If the granting of a maternity allowance is likely to encourage immorality, surely the prospect of a home for six months will encourage it still more.
– The Church of England has a Home of Mercy at Walkerville in which every attention is given to the inmates. The Roman Catholic Church has a similar refuge in the Fullarton district, where it does all that it can to relieve necessitous cases. The Salvation Army undertakes the same sort of work. The Maternity Home at Rose Park is an institution in which women who can afford to pay something for the attention which is bestowed upon them receive very considerable help. In addition, there is the District Trained Nurses’ Society, which is doing a really fine work. Its members are the ministering angels of the State, They recognise no creed, no political party, and no religious shibboleth. The only question which they ask is, “ Is there any need of pur assistance?” If so, it is granted immediately. Nearly every centre in South Australia is supplied with nurses in this way. Adelaide, Port Adelaide, Unley, the municipalities of Norwood, St. Peters, Gawler, Port Pirie, Yorke’s Peninsula, and a great many others are all supplied with them. The society is supported largely by private contributions. To my mind it represents the organization of the “ministering angels.” It was Scott who wrote -
O woman ! in our hours of ease,
Uncertain, coy, and hard to please,
Variable as the shade
By the light quivering aspen made;
When pain and anguish wring the brow,
A ministering angel thou !
It is due to Dr. Lendon and the late Dr. Campbell that this splendid institution was established, and I look upon it as the organization of angel women. The work which they are doing is an educational one. They teach the people the value of fresh air, of sunlight and ventilation, of proper food, and of the care of infant life. It is work of an eminently practical and commonsense character, and to my mind is worth a great deal more than is the proposed miserable maternity grant of £5. Then I object to the allowance because it is an indiscriminate one. It invites every one to come along and dip their hands into the Government bag.
– Is that not what we do in regard to our educational system ?
– That is all right. I pay my taxes, but I send my children to a private school and pay for their education. At the same time I would like to see education free and open to all, from the primary school to the University. That, however, is not a parallel case to the one which we are discussing. In regard to the proposed maternity allowance, we simply say, “ Come along. Dip your hand into this Government bag. Here is a horn of Cornucopia. . Come along and take£5 when you want it.” We do not apply that principle to old-age pensions.
– We ought to do so.
– Why do we not apply it to old-age pensions ? Simply because we cannot afford to do so. If we were to give everybody an old-age pension we should have to increase our taxation very largely. Why not apply exactly the same principle to this allowance? Why not say that we will give it to necessitous cases, but that we will not give it to everybody ?
– I would do that tomorrow if I could. It is not my fault that it has not been done.
– I know that. There is no need for this indiscriminate, universal maternity grant. I believe in giving it in necessitous cases.
– Under the honorable senator’s scheme, before any woman could obtain the allowance she would have to proclaim herself necessitous.
– So has any person who wishes to receive an old-age pension. There are thousands of men in this State who can afford to pay all the maternity expenses of their wives without having to deny themselves even so much as a cigarette or a cigar, or a bottle of ginger-pop or a soda and whisky. Why should we desire to shower £5 notes upon them? I notice that the Attorney-General, in speaking upon this Bill, said-
In all this legislation there should be no distinction at all. . . . We are to assume that no citizen will apply unless he or she wants it.
I think ‘he will find that he has assumed what is not a fact, and that a great many persons, simply because the money is available, will be ready to dip their hands into the public Treasury.
– I do not call it dipping one’s hand into the public Treasury. I would not have the slightest hesitation in” advising my wife to apply for the grant.
– The Bill is calculated to sap the very independence of our people. I do not want the State to ‘do for men and women what they are well able to do for themselves. If we want a strong, virile, self-reliant community, let our men and women be taught to do all they can for themselves, and to rely upon the State as little as possible.
– The honorable senator does not refuse to accept delivery of a letter at his own door ? ‘
– What do we pay our taxes for?
– Why does the honorable senator not undertake the work himself ?
– To nonsense of that * description I cannot reply. A contributory system of insurance is the right system, and would encourage in our people all those manly qualities that we desire to inculcate in them, such as grit, independence, thrift, and self-reliance. I oppose the Bill because if will weaken our national character, and teach our people to depend upon a motherly Government for everything that they want. At the present time, we know that they are doing a great deal for themselves by means of friendly societies.
There are 400,000 members of these societies in the Commonwealth, and Mr. Knibbs assures us that if we want to ascertain how many persons are affected by such societies we must multiply that number by four. Consequently, there are 1,600,000 people, or more than one-third of the population of the Commonwealth, who are touched by the operations of friendly benefit societies, and who receive help from them whenever they need it, not as a charitable dole, but as a matter of right.
– - There are plenty of members of friendly societies who do not receive aid.
– I am a contributing member of three friendly societies, and I have been so for more than fifty years. The fact that I have never had to take anything from them-
– That vitiates the honorable senator’s argument:
– Not in any way. Although I have not had to take anything from them, I am at liberty to make a demand upon their funds as a matter of right.
– The honorable senator helped them to help themselves.
– I have contributed to a fund upon which I can draw in case of need. These societies insure their members against sickness and death. They provide medical attendance for their members and the families of those members at a very small cost. They also make provision that reduced fees shall be paid in cases of confinement. The Government of New South Wales grant a subvention to these friendly societies. They do it on the principle of helping those who are endeavouring to help themselves ; and that is a thoroughly sound principle, which ought to be adopted by every Government at all times. Another aspect of the case is this : It has been shown that what we ought to do is not so much to look after the mother in her time of confinement, as to look after the child during the first twelve months of its existence. What did the Governor-General’s Speech say at the opening of this Parliament? It regretted the fact that every year nearly 9,000 children died in this Commonwealth under one year of age. Ought it not to be our task to try to remedy that state of things ? An honorable senator said last night that the child! is the greatest asset the State can have. So it is ; and for that reason we ought to devote every care to the preservation of the child when it comes into the world.
– We are doing that now.
– I do not think we are doing so by means of this Bill. I have read with great pleasure and profit a paper read by Dr. Hone, of Adelaide, before the Medical Association of Australia, where he treats of this very matter. I should like to read a few short extracts from what he said, because his observations are so thoroughly apropos to the occasion. He said -
As far as the Commonwealth is concerned, only a very small amount of infantile deaths are due to circumstances connected with the time of birth. Most of these’ children are doomed to die either by prenatal causes or from their subsequent environment. In the former case a subsidy at birth is ineffectual, because it is too late: in the latter case, because it is too little - unless the environment is alcoholic, when it is too much. What would be said to a proposal to bestow on shipping companies a bonus of j£j a head for all immigrants leaving England if it were known that one in every ten of those immigrants would die within twelve months of their arrival here, and there were no stipulations with the companies as to selection in England, or conditions of life on the voyage? Yet, this is on all fours with the present proposal.
Again, Dr. Hone said -
In attacking infantile mortality, we often confine ourselves to the problem of pure food and milk supply, forgetting that oxygen is just as much a food for baby as pure milk. In the past there has been no need for us to worry much .about this. < Through the foresight of Colonel Light we have had given us for all time abundant air spaces in and about our city, in our public squares and parklands; and we do not yet adequately recognise the debt which we and our successors owe to the founder of the city for this wise provision. But in the suburbs the case is different. There is practically no provision for any such air spaces.
We should all look upon pure air as a great factor in preserving infant life. Speaking of causes of infantile mortality this writer says -
Turning to an analysis of the chief causes of infantile mortality we find that by far the greatest proportion of deaths are comprised under two heads - and that these two alone give 55 per cent, of the deaths, 30 per cent, being constantly due to prematurity, congenital debility, and malformation, and 25 per cent, to diarrhoea and enteritis. Bronchitis and pneumonia, so fruitful a source of deaths in colder climates, only account for 5 to 7 per cent., and here, again, we are reminded of the favorable natural conditions we enjoy. It is characteristic of all countries that the largest proportion of infantile deaths come under the first head. Up to a very few years ago,- any thought of reducing this proportion was looked upon as outside the range of practical politics. However, the marvellous rise into prominence during the last few years of the science of eugenics, the latest born of the sciences - still only an infant itself, but with no appearance of congenital debility - is compelling us to revise this long accepted doctrine. It may be early yet to talk dogmatically on the subject, but the report during the twelve months of the Sub-Committee of the
A. Branch of the British Science Guild has. brought the matter into prominence locally, and henceforth this has to be dealt with.
I think that is entirely right. The looking, after the child during the first twelve months of its existence will do more for the community than any maternity bonus.
– What about the nourishment of the mother before the child is born?
– She is not helped by this Bill.
– She will know that she is going to get the allowance.
– If the allowance were ^50, it would not help the mother before birth.
– Could she not realize on the money beforehand ?
– She does not, know what is going to happen with regard to herself. She does not know whether she will get the money or not. I do not believe that the women of the Common- wealth want this allowance. The States are already doing a great deal in needy cases. I shall not discuss the constitutional aspect of the question. Frankly, I do not care whether the Bill is constitutional or not. If I thought that what was proposed was right in itself, I would vote for it, and chance its constitutionality. I am not opposing the measure on constitutional grounds, nor am I going to say whether it will encourage illegitimacy or not. Certainly it will not discourage illegitimacy. I thoroughly agree with what Senator St.. Ledger said last night, that if you are going to start this sort of business you will have to adopt a different attitude towards women. Instead of making the woman bear all the burden, ostracising her, and condemning her, whilst allowing the man who has wronged her to go scot free, you will have to put the man on the same level, ostracise him, and punish him. We do something of that kind in South Australia, because there, the putative father, if he can be found, is brought up and made to provide for the mother. We want equality before the law for men and women in these affairs, and should not leave the woman to bear the whole burden whilst the man is very often looked upon as a hero.
– The Commonwealth has no power in that direction.
– I think we have some power, although I admit that there is a difference of opinion about it. I d© not say that the mother of an illegitimate child, who is in distressed circumstances, ought not to be looked after just as much as any other mother. But if we want to do that we should alter the law in another manner. In this Bill you are saying to the woman who is living in open adultery : “We will give you a maternity allowance;” you are saying to the harlot : “ We will give you a maternity allowance;” whilst you say to the Asiatic woman : “ We will give you nothing.” This raises a somewhat curious position. Take the case of an Asiatic woman married to a European. On the birth of a half-caste child no allowance can be paid under this measure.
– Does the honorable senator think that is desirable?
– No, I do not; but look at the position that is being brought about. An Asiatic man may marry a European woman, and a half-caste child may be born. In that case the maternity allowance may be paid. Is that fair and just?
– Does the . honorable senator say that this Bill encourages women who are living in open adultery ?
– Has the honorable senator any common sense at all ?
– But the honorable senator said that.
– I certainly did not. What I did say was that the Bill will give a maternity allowance to a woman living in open adultery, or to a harlot, whilst not to a well-conducted Asiatic woman.
– Does the honorable senator think that the allowance will make any difference in such cases?
– I am not saying that it will. I am simply pointing to what the Bill does.
– The honorable senator would not give the allowance to any one.
– Why does not the honorable senator be truthful ? I am opposing this Bill, but I am not opposed to the relief of necessitous cases in any shape or form. I shall vote for the amendment submitted by Senator Millen,., and if that amendment be rejected, I shall vote against the second reading of the Bill, even if I have to cross the floor by myself. If I am held up before the electors, as I probably shall be, as lacking in humanity - if I am misrepresented as a man who would deny relief to a woman in her necessity -
I shall have to bear such statements with as good a grace as possible. Whatever the effect may be upon myself - even if it means my going out of political life - I shall not regret my vote. I shall go down with my flag flying. I intend to stand by my conscientious convictions in this matter, and those convictions lead me to oppose the Bill.
– I do not intend to speak for more than a minute upon this Bill in giving reasons why I shall vote against it. First of all, I say that it is bad in its origin. Secondly, it is bad intrinsically. It is also very bad in its tendency - a tendency which encourages Parliament to spend money lavishly in indiscriminate gifts. At the same time, while the Bill wastes money without advantage, it does nothing to prevent waste of life. Holding these views, I shall have to vote against the measure.
– We may congratulate ourselves that this debate has unearthed not one honest man, but two, in the persons of Senator Vardon and Senator Clemons.
– That is a nice reflection on the rest.
– If Senator St. Ledger will contain himself in patience, perhaps I may be able to satisfy even hiin before I am finished. Every one knows that when this proposal was first mooted, the party in opposition denounced it. Those in Parliament, as well as people outside, were loud and uncompromising in their opposition to the whole proposal. Yet we find now that both in another place and here most of those who originally opposed the policy, instead of being manly enough to maintain an attitude in accordance with their previous declarations, -as soon as they found that the tide of public opinion was not with them, commenced to shape their course accordingly. There are two honorable exceptions in the honorable senators whom I have mentioned. They have adhered to their wholesale condemnation, and intend to vote against the Bill. I have very much pleasure in congratulating both Senator Vardon and Senator Clemons upon the honest attitude which they have assumed. It is refreshing to see men who are manly enough to stand up for what they believe to be right apart altogether from any ulterior considerations. I have nothing but admiration for those who do that, although I may entirely disagree with them. What has been the main contention in regard to this Bill ? Senator St. Ledger went to all the bun-worries he could attend in Victoria to condemn this measure.
– That is not quite correct. I have attended only two meetings on the subject.
– I said that the honorable senator went to every one he could get to. If he could have gone to twentytwo he would have been there.
– I had time only to attend two, but I was asked to attend many.
– I have just said that the honorable senator went to as many as he could go to. He is so much in demand for these bun-worries and tea-fights that the Women’s National League would like him to be able to make half-a-dozen of himself in order that he might attend them all. What has been his contribution to the discussion of this proposal? He has said that it is “a sop to profligacy.”
– I said so, and I say it again.
– Will the honorable senator be candid enough to say what is the real meaning of the word “ profligacy ?” After giving the real meaning to it, will he go on to any public platform and say that -the women who will accept the maternity allowance will accept a sop to profligacy ? Will he go to any woman who, on giving birth to a child, a future citizen of the Commonwealth, accepts the allowance of ^5 and say that she has accepted a sop to profligacy, and is one of the profligates £0 whom the Government intend to give this sop?
– I have heard that kind of stuff so often that I take no notice of it.
– The honorable senator cannot get away from the fact that he made the statement.
– I have admitted that I said so, and I say it again.
– But I wish to pin the honorable senator down to exactly what his statement means. Every one knows what the word “-profligacy “ means. Will every woman who gives birth to a future citizen of the Commonwealth, and takes advantage of the maternity allowance, rest under the stigma of having accepted a sop to profligacy, and of being herself one of the profligates?
– Certainly not.
– That is what the honorable senator has said.
-I never said it, and never meant it in that sense.
– That is the only meaning that can be attached to what the honorable senator said.
– It is the old question of the penny and the image and superscription again.
– Let us deal with the hard facts. If the proposed allowance is a sop to profligacy any one who accepts it will accept a sop to profligacy, and must be recognised as one of the profligates.
– So the Pharisees said to One to whom the honorable senator and I bow down.
– I have not the slightest doubt that the honorable senator made the statement when he thought there would be a popular outcry against the proposal on the ground that the allowance is to be given to a mother in any circumstances. The Bill proposes to give every mother the allowance, irrespective of whether the maternity occurs ‘in or out of wedlock. The Council of Churches, our friends on the opposite side, and their compatriots outside, thought they would get the Labour party in a cleft stick over this proposal. That is why Senator St. Ledger described the allowance as a sop to profligacy. That is why he sought to raise an outcry against the proposal by an appeal to the Pharisaical feelings of certain people outside. I have a greater sympathy for the woman who is engaged inmaternity out of wedlock than for the woman who becomes a mother in wedlock, and for the reason that she needs that sympathy more. What is the position of a young girl who, betrayed and deserted, becomes a mother out of wedlock ? Not only is she deserted by her betrayer who has caused her fall, but she is very often deserted by her own people. I have known young girls whose parents were well to do, and even wealthy, to be turned from their doors because they were about to become mothers in such circumstances. Fathers, mothers, sisters and brothers have refused to look at them, or recognise them. What is tobecome of a poor girl in such circumstances? Is she to be left entirely outside the pale? Is she, because, in a weak moment, she has fallen, owing to the. temptation of one of those very nice men whohave been referred to in the Senate sometimes, to be left absolutely to her own resources? Her friends and relatives turnfrom her, and the rest of the community ostracise her in the same way. It is for this reason that I say the girl who becomes a mother under such circumstances has more of my sympathy than the woman whose child is born in wedlock. It is simply because she needs sympathy and help more. A child born out of wedlock may be superior to any child born in wedlock. 1 go so far as to say that, from the natural point of view, no child is illegitimate. Nature has never given birth to an illegitimate child during the whole history of this earth. Every child is born in accordance with natural law, and, therefore, cannot be illegitimate. But because we have imposed certain conventions we say that any one who disobeys those conventional laws are to be condemned, and their children are illegitimate.
– Countries that have adopted other rules have gone down very much.
– It is very questionable whether all of us religiously abide by the rules we have laid down.
– We may keep it dark.
– We have to cover it up. I have no doubt that a multitude of sins are committed in the dark. I do not wish to treat this very serious subject lightly. I have pointed out that girls who become mothers under the circumstances I have referred to are in far greater need of help and sympathy than are women engaged in maternity in wedlock. In Australia we badly need a large population. No one will deny that the most desirable population we can have will be those born and reared here. Leaving the question of so-called illegitimacy for the time, let me refer to this aspect of the question. I am able to say, from my own knowledge, experience, and observation, that the birth rate of Australia is very considerably reduced because mothers are unable to get proper medical and nursing attention at the time of their first birth. These are aspects of the question which one cannot discuss fully in an assembly of this kind, but any honorable senator who doubts my statement has only to consult a medical man to have it borne out completely. It often happens that, owing to a lack of proper medical attention and nursing, a. woman at her first birth, or even at later births, is rendered incapable of bearing further children. Every married man of experience knows that. I say, therefore, that in giving assistance to women at such a time to secure proper medical attention and nursing, we shall be taking the most proper, necessary, and, I hope, effective step to increase the birth rate, and, consequently, the population of the Commonwealth.
– Not to increase the birth rate, but to prolong life. It is of no use to confuse the two things.
– I absolutely disagree with the honorable senator. I am explaining my own belief, and I think that most members of the Senate will recognise that I am competent to explain what I mean without any help from Senator St. Ledger.
– I think the honorable senator is labouring under a delusion.
– I confess that, at one time, I laboured under the delusion that Senator St. Ledger was a very promising young Labour candidate. I was subsequently disillusioned.
– If the honorable senator said that he would be a liar. I never was a Labour candidate.
– I know that several members of the Queensland Parliament were looking round to see if they could find a safe Labour seat for him. We did not succeed, and if I were a very religious man I should go down on . my knees ten times a day to thank God that we did not succeed.
– I say in answer to that, that if the honorable senator had said it he would have been a liar all the time.
– Does the honorable senator say that Senator Givens is a liar?
– I say that if he had dared to say it it would have been a lie, and I should characterize it as such.
– If I had said what? Will the honorable senator look round this way, and let me know what it is he has said?
– If the honorable senator had said anywhere that I had stood’ as a Labour candidate, for any constituency, he would have been guilty of an atrocious and abominable lie. That is clear.
– This is a place which may be included in the honorable senator’s word “ anywhere,” and I say here, and now, candidly and fearlessly, that Senator St. Ledger was coquetting with the Labour party to get a seat in the Queensland Parliament as a Labour man, for years. There is no man in Australia, Mr. President, who is better acquainted with that fact than yourself. Now, if the honorable senator will repeat that epithet, I shall take steps to deal with him in a way that will be absolutely effective. .
– What statement does the honorable senator make? Let him make it clearly.
– I have made it as clearly and emphatically as it can be made.
– The Standing Orders prevent me giving the honorable senator the answer.
– T am prepared to await an answer. All this is quite apart from the Bill, but I was led off the track by the honorable senator’s interjection. He has said that the effect of this proposal will not be to increase the population or the birth *ate.
– I did not say so.
– By interjection the honorable senator said that it would prolong life, but would not increase the birth rate.
– I said the Bill might prolong life, but would not increase the birth rate.
– I am willing to accept that statement. If the grant of the proposed allowance will secure to a mother proper care and attention at this critical period of her life, it will insure that instead of her natural functions becoming disordered, as frequently happens, through lack of proper attention at such a time, she will have a successful birth, not only on that one occasion, but, it may be, on several subsequent occasions. Every one who has given any attention to the subject knows that, in many cases, women who lack the necessary care at such a time are never able to have a successful birth again. The honorable senator is, therefore, entirely wrong when he says that this Bill will not lead to an increase in the birth rate. If, as the result of the care which may be given through the proposed allowance, a woman is successful in giving birth to a child, we may reasonably hope that she will have several successful births later. In that way, I contend, the birth rate will be increased under the operation of this Bill. Unfortunately for myself, I have had to pay a heavy price for the experience I have gained. I know that what I am saying is absolutely true. If it had not been that I was in a position to spend hundreds of pounds for the necessary care of my wife at the birth of her first child, the probability is that I should never have had another. Now I have five, and I shall not regret if there are five to follow. I am giving my experience as a contribution to this debate, because I know it is an absolute fact that many women are unable to have subsequent successful births because of the lack of attention at such a critical time. If this Bill will enable tens of thousands of women to have that needful attention which otherwise they could not have, we can reasonably hope that it will very largely increase the effective birth rate of Australia, as well as ameliorate the suffering of thousands of women who could not otherwise get the necessary attention. The bulk of the people of Australia have to be content with an income of about £2 per week, or even less. Most workmen who are engaged in manual, or even clerical toil, cannot be sure of getting regularly much more than that income. I think it can be fairly, stated that if you allow for loss of time through the state of the weather, and other causes, the general average of the incomes of these people, on which they have to get married, maintain a house, and’ bring up a family, does not exceed £100 or £120 a year. I know, of course, that there are plenty of artisans who get ,£400 or £500 a year, and I am aware that there are plenty of men in responsible positions who get £1,000, or even £2,000 a year, but I am speaking of the general average of the incomes. That being so, how is a man to make adequate provision so that his wife can be assured of receiving the necessary medical attention and nursing comforts at a critical time in her life ? Whether it is on economical or humanitarian grounds, or on the ground of broad Christian charity, this Bill can .be justified on any platform in Australia. Senator Millen, at any rate, had the grace to say he thought that it could be justified on’ economical grounds, but he went a little further than that. He practically insinuated, that it was altogether disgraceful on the part of the Labour party that they should try to justify the measure on humanitarian grounds. I disagree with that view altogether. Even if the Bill could not be justified on economic grounds, there is ample justification for it on the grounds of humanitarianism. On the economic ground, I think we can all agree that if the Bill tends to very largely increase the effective population, that it will be ample justification for the expenditure of the money, whatever it may be. There are several other economic grounds on which it could be justified, but I know that the Government are anxious to get on with business, and I do not propose to go into them at all. Apart from that altogether, the relief of human suffering, the giving to a woman of a sufficient amount to insure to her the necessary care and attention when she is performing the highest function of womanhood, furnishes a ground on which alone the Bill could be more than justified. But we do not need any justification for the measure beyond the knowledge that it will be a blessing to tens of thousands of mothers who otherwise could not get the comforts and the attention which they need. We have been twitted with the fact that we propose to give the allowance to every mother whether she needs it or not. If my wife should ever present me with another baby, I shall not have the slightest hesitation in advising her to apply for, and accept, the money. We have been told by Senator Vardon, and others, that what is needed is a contributory scheme. In fact, they have harped so much on the word “ contributory “ that it seems to be like the blessed, word Measapotamia, which had such a comforting sound to the old lady’s soul. One would think that the word “ contributory “ covers the whole ground. Our honorable friends opposite say that the Bill, because it does not provide for a contributory scheme, will destroy that manly or womanly self-reliance, that, habit of providence, which ought to be inculcated in the people, arid which they ought to be taught to pursue. What grander example of forethought, or of the principle of contribution, can you have than the whole people combining and contributing together in order to provide for a national need? Why, the very essence of schemes of this kind is that instead of relying upon the isolated, helpful efforts which may be put out by a few charitably disposed persons, instead of relying on this altogether unsatisfactory means, we get the whole people to join en masse to contribute to help the mothers of the nation. There is no grander principle of combining to provide for the future, no grander principle of self-help, no grander principle of selfreliance, than the whole of the people combining together and contributing every day of their lives to a scheme which will enable such a great object as this to be accomplished. Therefore, when honorable sena tors opposite talk about the special virtues of their so-called contributory schemes, when they talk of teaching the people to be self-reliant, and to adopt provident habits, and the rest of the flapdoodle we hear so often from that side, I reply that they are barking up the wrong tree, because they are forgetting that the grandest example you could have of that sort of thing is the whole of the people combining together toprovide for every case which occurs, and not relying upon the indiscriminate charity of a few well-meaning persons, who help a few cases, and leave the bulk to go unaided. We have been told also, as one of the faults of this proposal, that it is altogther unnecessary, that it is worthy of condemnation, and that we should propose to offer this maternity allowance, which has beendescribed by our friends opposite as a £5 dole, only to those who are in need of it. The beauty of this proposal is that it is nota dole at all. We do not propose to give a dole to anybody, but to give back to every mother what is her absolute right, and what is provided for by the whole nation. It will be her right to apply for it after she has fulfilled the necessary conditions, which are that she should give birth to a baby, and register the fact in the ordinary way. The Bill does not take any cognisance of whether she is rich’ or poor. If our friendsopposite had their way, they would compel1 her to declare that she was in a conditionof poverty.
– Do not put into our mouths words which we did not use !
– I am glad that what has been said by other honorable senatorsis not indorsed by my honorable friend.
– You spoke as if we were all doing it.
– If any honorable senators are content to sit on that side, and allow such statements to pass uncontradicted, and subscribe to amendments which are moved for the purpose of carrying out the statements, they cannot blame us altogether if they suffer from their evil associations. Under this measure, no woman will be compelled to humiliate herself, and declare that she is a pauper, or in a necessitous state in order to get the grant. All that she will have to do will be to become a mother, and to register the fact in the ordinary way.
– That is the troublewith some of the objectors.
– -They want women to be compelled to go cap in hand, and say, “ We are miserable paupers, and we beg you to give us a dole.” The Council of Churches said, “ We would be content to give this relief to the mothers who give birth to children out of wedlock, provided that you give the money to us to distribute.” It was quite a laudable proposal then ; but when the State proposes to give the money without question or qualification - simply because a woman has become a mother, and registered the fact - the proposal is altogether wrong. The deputation to the Prime Minister were quite content that the so-called illegitimate mother should get this £$, provided that the representatives of the Council of the Churches had the handling of the money, but when it is to be handled by the State, it is altogether wrong. I do not propose to further labour the question. The Bill can be amply justified whether it is on the economic, . the humanitarian, or the Christian ground. Christ, when he was asked to condemn the sinner, absolutely refused. I suppose that every honorable senator has read the book of the Rev. Charles Kingsley, in which one of the characters is made to read a poem, which falls, after he is captured by the gamekeeper, into the hands of the squire, who reads it. In this poem, the Rev. Charles Kingsley - I forget whether it occurs in Alton Locke, or another book - states that a poor girl is condemned because she, to use a colloquial phrase, has fallen, and that perhaps the squire’s daughter would have done the same thing if she had been placed in the same position. It is quite likely that she would. We do not know the temptations to which these people are subjected. We do not know the lengths to which they are driven by their squalid surroundings, or their environment, and therefore we should not be too ready to condemn them. At . any rate, there is no single one of us who has obeyed all his lifetime the whole of the moral law. There is not one of us who has not, at some time or other, fallen away from the paths of strict rectitude. There is not one of us who can say that he is the righteous person who is entitled to cast the first stone. There is not one of us who has not sinned in company with all these people whom our friends opposite are so ready to condemn.
– We all agree with that. »
– Why should any one adopt a self-righteous attitude, and say that this is a blot on the Bill, that the mother who needs help most should be denied it altogether, or that it should only be given to her vicariously, provided she is willing to proclaim her shame by entering a home of refuge. The very fact that this £s will be available to any unfortunate girl at the critical hour of her life, and perhaps enable her to pay her board, will assist to save thousands who would otherwise perish because pf the conventional punishment which has hitherto been meted out to them. I regret to say that women have been the most ready to condemn each other. Up to the present ‘time, these unfortunate girls have been ostracised. But this Bill will place no such bar upon any mother ; and I hope that every mother in Australia will avail herself of its provisions to the utmost extent. If they do so, nothing but good’ will result; and I am sure that the very persons who are opposed to it to-da)’ will be absolutely in accord with it ten years hence. Indeed, I do not know that, before the lapse of that time, my honorable friends opposite will not be getting up on the public platform’ and declaring that they were responsible for the introduction of the Bill, and that they would have accomplished a great deal more but for the opposition of the Labour party.
– I must oppose this Bill upon many grounds. Knowing the world as I do fairly well, I have no hesitation in saying that there is no country upon earth which is so independent of a Bill of this character as is Australia. I know of no country where the people generally are as well off as they are in the Commonwealth. I know of n» country where there are so many charitable institutions to meet the needs of the deserving, and even of the “undeserving, poor, as there are in Australia. If there be any person in need in any way, there are charitable institutions which will meet his or her case.
– If every one had his or her right, there would be no need for charitable institutions.
– In this country, where the necessity for a measure of this kind is so slight, I cannot conceive why a proposal should be submitted to grant a maternity allowance in this indiscriminate way. To begin with, I imagine that the need for a provision of this kind exists only in about 1 per cent, of the births registered in Australia. At any rate, it would not exist in more than 2 per cent, or 3 per cent, of those births.
– Give them 10 per cent.
– The £5 will prove a veritable godsend in the case of 50 per cent, of the births registered in Australia.
– Only a very small percentage of the people who are in really necessitous circumstances, will benefit under this Bill. I make that statement knowing, as I do, not merely Victoria, but Queensland and the other States. To pass legislation of this character, which will apply only to a small number of persons, is not wise. Is there any sense in imposing a tax upon the poor in order to give to the rich? We know that taxation has been increased in the Commonwealth so that to-day it falls very heavily upon the people. I am not speaking for myself, because I have enough to live upon, and those who succeed me will, I hope, be able to look after themselves. To tax people who cannot afford to pay, in order to give money to thousands who do not require assistance, is absurd in the extreme. There is no justification for such a course of action. If my honorable friend, Senator Givens, who is a big-brained man, can see any question of sentiment in that, I am sorry that 1 differ from him. Humanitarian sentiments are prompted by a desire to help the needy, the suffering, and the criminal.. My desire is to uplift persons who are in the gutter, and to encourage them to remain up. But while I say that, I am glad to know that the position in Australia is not nearly so bad as it is in other parts of the world. When on a visit to Glasgow recently, during the continuance of a strike there, it took me an hour to get 3 miles in my motor car. To my amazement and horror, I saw women with babies in their arms and at their feet who were not able to walk straight, and I experienced a dreadful sensation. It is in that direction that we need to uplift the people. We require to teach them not to imbibe stuff that will addle their brains and drive them into the gutter.
– Does the honorable senator say that that is a general failing of the people of Australia?
– The people of Australia, as a whole, are not addicted to drink.
– What has that to -do with the maternity allowance?
– A gift of ^5 will probably make matters worse. The people of Australia have a reputation for sobriety. If one visits the Melbourne Cup, he may not see a drunken man all day, notwithstanding that there may be 100,000 people present. But if one goes to the Derby in England, he will see hundred’s of persons drunk. In returning from the course, he will need to be extremely careful that he does not drive over these persons in the middle of the streets. In my opinion, ninetenths of the crime committed in Australia, and a great deal of the destitution to be found here, is due to bad habits - to drink, &c.
– Will the granting of a £5 maternity allowance increase intemperance in Australia?
– 1 do not say that, for a moment. It would be too contemptible. But I submit that, if the distribution of the allowance were handed over to the Ladies Benevolent Societies - societies composed of women who know much more about these matters than we do, and who have devoted their lives to the cause of charity-
– Some of the noblest women on earth.
– Mrs. Kerr and Lady Way, for instance?
– If the allowance were distributed by these societies, it would not be open to the objection which I have to urge.
– There would be more abuses then.
– I regret that I cannot give my support to the Bill. It does not appeal to me in a common-sense way ; and if the motion for its second reading is pressed to a division, I shall have to vote against it. I have no desire to oppose the Government, but I cannot give expression to sentiments which my common sense entirely disapproves.
– I am pleased that Senator Fraser has seen fit to pour oil on the troubled waters, because I desire to discuss this Bill from an impartial stand-point. It is one of those measures which ought to be regarded as above all party considerations. I sympathize with the Government in the position which they occupy by reason of their having brought forward the Bill at the present juncture. If they desired, it to be regarded “from other than a political stand-point, they indeed occupy an unfortunate position, seeing that the women who will be benefited by it have recently been exhibiting their resentment because they have been deprived of one of their undoubted rights and privileges. lt is this circumstance which lends colour to the suggestion that there is a certain amount of political jobbery connected with the introduction of the Bill. I do not charge the Government with political jobbery-
– What does the honorable senator mean ? Are the people fools that they are expected to tolerate stuff of that kind ?
– I am not endeavouring to gull the people. I do not charge the Government with political dodgery in this matter. But coming, as the Bill does, on top of legislation which deprives the women of Australia, at a critical time in their lives, of the right to vote by post, I say that colour is lent to the suggestion that it is brought forward for political purposes.
Sitting suspended from t to 2.30 p.m.
– I have already said that the position of the Government in regard to this measure lends colour to the accusation which has been made that the policy was initiated as a political dodge. But I shall not labour that point, because, strictly speaking, it has nothing to do with the Bill. I wish to give my own ideas’ concerning it. I deprecate very much the tactics which have been resorted to by Ministerial supporters in casting reflections upon those who have shown antagonism to their policy. I especially deprecate the allusions made by Senator Needham and Senator Blakey to Lady Way, with whom I am not personally acquainted, although I know of her on account of her publicspirited, philanthropic work.
– Is she to say what she likes because she is philanthropic?
– The honorable senator says what he likes, and a person who is antagonistic to this measure has a right to express opinions without being maligned.
– Cannot any one reply ?
– Reply by all means, but no one is justified in saying that this lady was only fit to cuddle a poodle. They who use such language do not know her history.
– We do not want to know it.
– Since I have had the honour of being a member of the Senate, I have always taken Senator Blakey and Senator Needham to be gentlemen.
– What does the honorable senator think now?
– I think that, after reflection, they will be sorry for what they said about an honorable lady,, whom they have maligned. ,
– I did not malign any lady. I simply quoted from a speech which the lady made in Adelaide.
– I do not wish to say any more on that point. I have looked into he newspapers and elsewhere for information on this subject, and have failed to find any satistical or other reasons for the introduction of this measure. The Vice-President of the Executive Council, in moving the second reading, recommended it, practically under the cloak of Christianity. If it were permissible, I would call his attitude hypocritical cant. For any honorable senator to use the name of our Saviour Jesus Christ in advocacy of this measure is next to blasphemy. I expected that some honorable senators would give statistics or reasons to show that such a Bill is required. But evidently that did not suit their book. I venture to say that not 10 per cent, of the women of this country require such aid. A’n older man than myself, Senator Fraser, this morning said that he did not believe that more than 2 per cent, of the mothers of Australia would require the grant. Let us suppose that there are 10 per cent, of Australian mothers who are - in need. Let us suppose that another 15 per cent., who do not really require such aid, would nevertheless be pleased to receive it. We may allow that, for the sake of argument, another 10 per cent., who have no real claim upon the resources of the Commonwealth, will take the money. That leaves 65 per cent, of the mothers of Australia who do not wish for any measure of Government assistance. Senator Givens could not see the difference between moral profligacy and monetary profligacy. But they are quite different. In view of the fact that this Bill provides for taking public funds from the Treasury for people who do not require such aid, I venture to say that the term “ monetary profligacy,” used by Senator St. Ledger, is not too strong a one to use. It appears to me to be absolutely repulsive that th© resources of the public Treasury should be used for this purpose. Honorable senators opposite cannot point to any other part of the world where such a Bill has been placed on the statute-book. God forbid that I should think that the majority of the mothers of Australia are practically paupers. Indeed, I believe they are, as a rule, in a better condition than mothers in other parts of the world. I do not wish it to be inferred that I have not the strongest sympathy with women in their hour of trial. I realize that it is the most severe of all nature’s trials. As some one has put the idea in very fine language, “ When a women goes down to the gates of death, she has either to pass through quickly, or return bearing in ner hand the flaming torch of a new life.” I yield to no one in my sympathy for such women. I would extend relief wherever relief was required. If the Government had brought down a measure providing for rendering assistance where it was necessary, it would have had my hearty support. But the strong objection I have to the Bill is that it gives money indiscriminately from the Treasury to those who are absolutely in no need of it. I do not say that many who do not require the aid will not take it.- We cannot blame any one for taking it as soon as this measure becomes the law of the land. I am quite sure that there are few people in Australia to-day to whom a *£5 note would not be more or less acceptable. Much has been said from a humanitarian point of view in advocacy of the Bill. I say, however, that the measure goes quite beyond the limits of humanitarianism. Humanitarianism means philanthropy; but is there any philanthropy in a Bill which goes as far as this does? Absolutely none. I would support it if it could be justified on those grounds.
– Why not go in for an instalment?
– The Bill is far more than an instalment in the direction of philanthropy.
– Some of the Opposition say that it does not go far enough. How are we to please them all?
– I am speaking as I feel about the matter. The measure is not sound economically. Even the supporters of it can have no sympathy with the proposal to give this assistance to those who do not need it.
– The honorable senator voted for seed-wheat for farmers.
– I did, because they required it. I have said that I believe 65 per cent, of the mothers of Australia do not require this assistance. That statement is not rebutted by anything we have heard from the other side.
– They will not be forced to take it, any more than the honorable senator is forced to take his allowance.
– That is altogether beside the question. I am perfectly frank in this matter, and I have told honorable senators that I do not believe there will be more than 10 per cent, of *the mothers of Australia who, from one cause or another, will refuse to accept this bonus.
– It is not a bonus, but ari’ allowance.
– It does not matter whether we describe it as a bonus or a maternity allowance. I shall not labour the question of the effect of the proposal upon illegitimacy. It was all very well for Senator Needham to say yesterday that honorable senators who said it would have the effect of increasing illegitimacy should prove it. It is impossible to, prove it until it has had-a trial. There are, I believe, only two places in the world in which an allowance of this kind is indiscriminately given.
– If the honorable senator wishes to quote me, he should do so correctly.
– The honorable senator yesterday asked that an honorable senator on this side should prove the statement that the allowance would increase illegitimacy.
– I said nothing of the kind.
– Then I apologize to the honorable senator ; I must have misunderstood him. The question raised is one which can only be proved by statistics when the results of the operation of the allowance are before us. Still, I must say that I do not, for a moment, believe that the women of Australia would be prepared to sacrifice themselves for ^5, £10, or £20. It is useless to argue upon this phase of the question, as time only can prove which view of it is right, and which is wrong. The Bill goes too far from a humanitarian point of view, and, as I believe the principle of it to be absolutely wrong, it is my duty, not only to speak against it, but to vote against the second reading.
– I welcome this measure, first, for itself, and, secondly, because I believe it to be only the forerunner of much more comprehensive legislation of the same kind. The members of the Opposition are, in this matter, in the position of the man who was “ Willing to wound, and yet afraid to strike.” Most of them have been damning the measure with very faint praise. Some of them have execrated it as something almost beneath contempt. The word “ humanitarian “ has been very much in evidence during the debate, but I discard that word altogether. I say that this is a good business measure. This is good business for the people of Australia. We have heard a great deal of late years about the birth rate, the empty cradle, and the huge vacant spaces of Australia. Honorable senators of the Opposition are loud in their call for immigration from “anywhere - from Europe, and even from Asia, if it were permissible. Here we have the first attempt made by an Australian Government to encourage the production of population within the boundaries of Australia. Whatever be the ostensible reason for the introduction of this measure, I believe that is the real reason for it.
– If that is the object in view, the Government should devise a measure for taking care of the children during the first year of their lives.
– We are coming to that fast. This Bill is only the forerunner of much more comprehensive, legislation of the kind, which, I hope, will be passed in the very near future. I trust that before many years have gone over our heads the medical profession will be nationalized in Australia ; that every doctor will be a public functionary, and every hospital as open as the day, with medical advice, medicine, and all that sort of thing absolutely free. I trust that the expense entailer) in securing these things, which to-day brings many working-class families to the door of ruin, will be provided for by the community as a whole.
– Free dinners to able-bodied men.
– If it comes to free dinners, the people of the working class pay for their own. At present they are paying as well for the dinners of members of the privileged class whom Senator St. Ledger represents in this Chamber, the class who are getting £30,000,000 a year, as I pointed out the other day, of com munity-created values in Australia. That is the class for whom Senator St. Ledger isa special pleader. I am a special pleader for the other class.” I say, that we require to abolish the privileged class. We should use the money now being squandered in fostering those people to improve the condition of the great mass of the people of this country. I have said that this Bill is good business for Australia. We want more population, and the best kind of people we can get is the local product. We ought to encourage it, and this Bill, I take it, is a step in that direction. I have had no actual experience in this matter, but the onlooker often sees most of the game. I have observed that the. coming of a child into a working-class home is a very serious tax upon the monetary resources of the home. I have known working-class parents to be driven into a condition of comparative poverty for months owing to the advent of a child. In such circumstances, I should not be one to greatly blame parents if they were exceedingly careful in such matters.
– Would the honorable senator say that was the’ exception or the rule amongst those with whom he is acquainted ?
– I think it is the rule in working-class families, and they comprise the great majority of the families of the Commonwealth. Only about 5 per cent, of the people of Australia are born with gold spoons in their mouths. Another 5 per cent, may be born with silver spoons ; but 90 per cent, have to do with horn spoons, as I had in my youth.
– The honorable senator does not want a progressive land tax after that statement.
– I do. The Opposition see that the progressive land tax is looming in the future. They are wondering where the money is to come from to pay for all this kind of thing. I can tell them where it is to come from. It is going to come out of the pockets of the rich.
– And will be returned upon the backs of the poor.
– The honorable senator makes a huge mistake.
– The poor will have to pay the big proportion of it if the honorable senator’s policy is carried out. _
– They will not. Honorable senators opposite need not try to frighten the poor with that gag. They are paying just as much as they are able to pay now, and in no conceivable circumstances can they pay any more. Every Act passed by a Labour Government, whether Federal or State, has a tendency to lighten the burden of the tax on the backs of the poor. As I said here the other evening, my complaint against the Federal Government is that they are not moving quickly enough in that direction. But every added item of expenditure, such as this, will stimulate the movement for the readjustment of the incidence of taxation. That is what the Opposition are weeping about. It is not a sop to profligacy, or anything of that kind that is troubling them. They do not care two straws about that sort of thing. What they are frightened of is that capital will be called upon, as I hope and believe it will, to pay a greater and still greater share of the cost of the government of this country. I do not wish to delay the passage of this measure. I had no intention whatever of opening my mouth upon it. It has my approval. I trust that within a very short time its principles will be extended so as to embrace the whole medical profession in Australia. What we require, so far as I can see, is to nationalize the medical profession. The health of the community is surely one of its greatest assets.
– What would it cost to nationalize the medical profession?
– I do not care what it would cost. What does it matter what it would cost? It would not cost £30,000,000 per annum, as it does to keep up the useless crowd of land monopolists. Even if it cost a very large sum of money, surely it would be worth it? If we could raise the standard of health in Australia, and, consequently, increase the virility and courage of the people, surely that would he worth a great deal. What is money compared with such a result as that? I shall not further delay the passing of the Bill. I hope it is only the prelude to a still greater and more comprehensive reform. I believe that it is. I shall vote for this instalment with very great pleasure.
– I desire to reply to the debate very briefly. I have to thank honorable senators opposite for exhibiting no desire to delay the passing of this measure in any way. I wish also to thank honorable senators on this side for the forbearance they have displayed in refraining from replying to some of the alleged arguments used on the other side. As we have had a fairly exhaustive debate on the second reading, I hope we shall be able to pass the measure through Committee, and also to pass the third reading this afternoon.
Question - That the words proposed to be left out be left out (Senator Millen’s amendment) - put. The Senate divided.
Majority … … 9
Question so resolved in the negative.
Question - That this Bill be now read a second time - put. The Senate divided.
Majority … … 12
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
In Committee :
Clauses 1 to 4 agreed to.
Clause5 - (1.) A maternity allowance shall be payable in respect of each occasion on which a birth occurs, and the child is born alive, or is a viable child, but only one allowance shall be payable in cases where more than one child is born at one birth. (2.) Where the child is not born alive, or dies within twelve hours after birth, a medical certificate must be furnished certifying that the child was a viable child. (3.) Where the Commissioner is satisfied that no medical practitioner was available to attend the case, and he is satisfied by evidence that the child born was born alive, or. was a viable child, he may dispense with any medical certificates required by this section.
– I move -
That the following words be added to subclause 1 : - “ Provided that in cases of the second exnuptial birth, and birth subsequent to it, the Commissioner may withhold the grant unless he is satisfied that the father or mother has not sufficient means to provide for the necessary medical and nursing expenses, and that the mother is living in an approved Maternity Home or under such conditions as will conduce towards her moral amendment.”
This amendment is aimed at a specific purpose which, with all respect to this Chamber, every Christian, as well as every decent-minded person in the Commonwealth, will heartily approve.
– And those who do not approve are not decent-minded?
– I do not think that there will be any difference in this matter. I think that even my honorable friend opposite will approve of the amendment.
– Thank you !
– I wish to give my reasons for submitting the amendment. When we are discussing a matter of this kind, it is of no use to play the ostrich, and offer up worship of an ostrich character as a salve to our conscience. I have not done it in connexion with the Bill.
– What sort of a character has an ostrich, anyhow?
– If the honorable senator does not understand the allusion I have made about the ostrich in this business that is going on, I do not propose to make it clearer ; but I think there is not an honorable senator on the other side who feels more keenly the application and the significance of the remark than he does.
– Your jokes are so subtle that sometimes it is hard to follow them.
– He is like a Scotchman; he jokes with difficulty.
– I have this consolation, that I have not so much difficulty as some people have to understand a joke, or anything else.
– You have no difficulty in understanding because you are incapable of doing it.
– The honorable senator is now in a bit of a difficulty. He ought to apologize and go down on his knees for some things which he has said, but he will not do it. There are in the Commonwealth a few, and only a few, women who are in such condition that after the first ex-nuptial birth they are living in such circumstances as conduce to, and will certainly produce, a second and a third ex-nuptial birth. I was brought to task for a remark, which was twisted and distorted with what it would be charitable to call stupid perversity, because I referred in my public speeches twice to something about moral profligacy in this Bill. I shall now use a term which no honorable senator who has the slightest pretence to intelligence, or even the least shread of political intelligence, will be able to misunderstand.
– You are a champion, legometer.
– My honorable friend can call it by whatever fancy name he likes. As we press the Government here a little more closely and warmly than, perhaps, they were pressed in another place, they are feeling the criticism. If I were to plead with the tongue of angels on this occasion, I know that it would be of no avail. I recognise that I am fighting gallantly against desperate odds.
– I do not think that Senator St. Ledger should waste his fragrance on the desert air. [Quorum formed.]
– I say that the amendment seeks to provide safeguards in cases in which women continue to live in sin and in adultery. I object to giving a grant out of the public funds - even to the extent of £5 or£10 - to make the path of sin and adultery easy. If the Committee do not accept my amendment, I say that I was amply justified in affirming that the Bill offers a sop to profligacy. I make that statement, notwithstanding that the expression which I used on the public platform was so grossly twisted from its plain intention by honorable senators opposite. I used the term “ economic profligacy “ in connexion with the poor law administration of Great Britain, so that its application must have been patent to all. But its meaning was deliberately perverted by honorable senators opposite, and I can recall only one worse parallel, if I may be permitted to reverently mention it. It was the occasion on which our Redeemer was accused of preaching treason and disloyalty to Caesar, because he mentioned his kingdom. Of course, his accusers knew in their hearts that they were perverting his words. In regard to the moral sin of adultery, which, fortunately, prevails in Australia to a lesser extent than it does in any other country of the world, it is our bounden duty to make some reservation regarding the distribution of this maternity allowance. What is the object of the amendment?
– To whitewash the honorable senator.
– Not in the slightest degree. I have opposed this Bill at every stage of its consideration, and I am sure that everybody outside this Chamber will credit me with absolute sincerity in so doing.
– The honorable senator is dying mighty hard.
– I am fighting, not dying. The amendment recognises that there are women who have been betrayed, and seeks to provide that if such women, subsequent to their first child, bear ex-nuptial children, the Commissioner shall be entitled to inquire whether they or the fathers, have means to provide for those children. Why should not the community make that inquiry ? I said last night that respect for motherhood was binding both on the individual and on the nation. But certain circumstances require to be taken into consideration. The assertion of the two principles is not inconsistent. Indeed, one is a complement of the other. Why should a grant from the public funds be made for” the second and subsequent exnuptial births? Because such a grant was made under the poor laws of England, every child born ex-nuptially was a source of income to the lusty vagabonds who lived on the unfortunate earnings of such mothers. The same thing may happen in a few cases here. I object to offering a sop from the public, funds to sin and adultery in circumstances of that character. Why should we blind our eyes to such a condition of affairs? The amendment provides a further alternative, namely, that every mother who is living in a maternity home or under conditions which conduce to her moral amendment may receive the grant. During the course of the debate upon the motion for the second reading of this Bill it was stated that the Council of Churches had suggested that charitable institutions ought to be charged with the duty of distributing the grant. That statement was made with a sneer and a jeer, and was more or less supported by honorable senators opposite, until I pointed out that I knew of maternity homes in more than one State to which it would be better, to give £5 on behalf of the mother, than it would be to make an indiscriminate grant df ,£50 either to the father or mother. There are institutions in the various States under the care of which it would be a blessing for these unfortunate women to come. Does any one suggest that, after the second or third ex-nuptial birth it would not be an advantage for the mother to be brought under the influence of such institutions as are conducted by the Roman Catholic Church or by the Salvation Army? If the Government refuse to accept the amendment I shall be justified in saying that when 1 attempted to uplift these women, by providing that they should be rescued from their unfortunate surroundings, the Government positively declined to accord me their support.
– I am very sorry that delay should have been caused by the moving of Senator St. Ledger’s amendment. Had he not been so anxious to rush into the breach at an earlier stage, it would not have been necessary for him to take up so much time in apologizing for his previous utterances, and justifying his great display of courage. No one desires to injure the honorable senator. With respect to the arguments that may be used in favour of the amendment, I will turn back to an older precept than any that has been advanced by Senator St. Ledger. I direct attention to words to be found in the New Testament, containing the injunction that if our brother offends he shall be forgiven, not seven times, but seventy times seven. What applies to our brother must apply to our weaker and often less fortunate sister. That is the only argument that need be advanced at this stage against those urged in favour of the amendment, which I hope will be defeated.
– I give Senator St. Ledger every credit for sincerity, but it strikes me that in his speech, in moving his amendment, he was anxious to explain away his previous utterances.
– I have never flinched from one of them.
– The honorable senator was reported in the press fo have alleged that if this maternity, allowance were granted it would be “ a sop to profligacy.” Up to now he has not denied the accuracy of the report. But he has now made an ad misericordiam appeal. He tells us that the phrase he really used was “economic profligacy.” I venture to say that in characterizing this grant as a sop to profligacy the honorable senator was hurling an insult at every woman in Australia. The amendment now before us simply means that if an unfortunate woman has been betrayed once she is to have no sympathy in the event of being betrayed a second time; and if she is to receive any assistance at all the money is to be handed over to some charitable institution which can be trusted. Senator St. Ledger cannot trust the National Government of Australia ; that is exactly what it means.
– That is a wilful perversion.
– If any other interpretation can be placed upon the amendment I shall be glad to hear it. I am prepared to trust the National Government of Australia every time, and think that it is just as safe a custodian of the money of the people as any other body in this country.
– - It pains me to hear that the Vice-President of the Executive Council cannot accept the amendment. He knows - perhaps no one better - that if an unfortunate woman makes a mistake a second time she has evidently got into an environment from which she should be rescued. In each State there are homes for such purposes. I know that there are excellent institutions of the kind in New South Wales and South Australia. In such a home a woman of that kind could get away from objectionable surroundings. I intend to support the amendment. It is scarcely fair for Senator Needham to lecture Senator St. Ledger as he has done, because what the honorable senator originally said has now been made quite clear.
– Every one of us respects the opinions of so sympathetic a gentleman as Senator Walker, and I should be pleased to accede to his wishes if it were advisable. But there are many reasons why the Bill should pass in its present form. I can assure! Senator Walker, however, that if in the administration of this legislation it be found that it has a tendency to bring about the dire calamities indicated by those who oppose it, an amendment will have to be effected, and then I am sure the Government will be open to be convinced in the direction that Senator Walker indicates.
– - The charge has been repeated again and again against me that I have insulted the womanhood of Australia. But with my amendment before the Committee my meaning must be open and clear to every one. Towards the close of the debate last night, in order thai there might be no mistake, I read certain principles, which will appear in Hansard. One of them was that respect for motherhood was binding both on the nation and the individual. But, notwithstanding that I made that thoroughly clear, my meaning is still distorted - maliciously and deliberately, I am afraid - by Senator Needham. I have indicated the evil which I wish to prevent. Every one now understands it. If some such amendment is not to be inserted in the Bill, I do not see how that evil is to be guarded against. We have all heard of throwing sops to Cerberus. There is a certain moral condition, happily not too prevalent in society, but still existent, to” which I object to throwing sops. My amendment would permit an unfortunate woman to be assisted in the best and safest way. To secure that object is my only desire. The Bill at present is defective, and it is in order to guard against moral profligacy that I have moved the amendment. Every one now understands it, and any honorable senator who does not withdraw the imputations he has made against’ me is, I will say again, lying to himself and to his own heart.
Question - That the words proposed to be added to sub-clause 1 be added - put. The Committee divided.
Question so resolved in the negative. Amendment negatived. Clause agreed to. Clause 6 - (1.) The maternity allowance shall be payable only to women who are inhabitants of the Commonwealth or who intend to settle therein. (2.) Women who are Asiatics, or are aboriginal natives of Australia, Papua, or the islands of the Pacific, shall nol be paid a maternity allowance.
– In speaking on the second reading of the Bill, I said I was prepared to move an amendment on clause 6. I find it will be necessary to submit two amendments. I move -
That the words “ Asiatics, or arc line <t, be left out.
Perhaps it will save time if I mention now the second amendment. I propose to move -
That after the word “ Australia “ the words “ and excepting those of European descent or those who are naturalized subjects of the British Empire, the natives of “ be inserted.
– We could take a test vote on the first amendment.
– I shall not occupy much time in dealing with the matter, as the Government, I understand, wish to get the Bill out of Committee to-day. To begin with, I think there ought to be a definition of the word “ Asiatics.” We all profess, more or less, to belong to the Christian faith, and we cannot forget that our Lord was an Asiatic. Nowadays, the word “Asiatic” has a very wide signification, and I consider it very unwise to use the word in this clause. I may mention that. in many of the Pacific islands there have been Protestant missionaries for the last fifty or sixty years, and many of them have children. I know one missionary whose son is. a native of the New Hebrides, and would call himself a New Hebridian. I know another missionary who was in Samoa, and who has daughters as well as sons. I propose that we should not exempt from the benefits. of this Bill those who are of European descent. The word “Asiatic “ is altogether too wide. For argument’s sake, many Europeans have had children born to them in India, and those children are Asiatics, although their parents were born in Europe. The Vice-President of the Executive Council knows my views on this matter very well. If the Government are not prepared to accept even a verbal amendment, it will be useless to debate the question at any length. lt will make clear what I propose to do if I say that, as I wish to amend it, the clause would read -
Women who are aboriginal natives of Australia, and ‘excepting those of European descent or those who are naturalized subjects of the British Empire, the natives of Papua or the islands of the Pacific, shall not be paid a maternity allowance.
-551– It is a somewhat difficult matter to decide what is the right thing to do in this case. It would have been much better, as Senator Walker has said, if we had some definition of the word “ Asiatic.” Surely it does not cover any one born in Asia of European parents? It should mean people of the Asiatic races. The clause seems harsh, because there are in Australia many persons of Asiatic birth who have been respectable citizens of the Commonwealth for the last twenty or thirty years, and their, children would be debarred from obtaining the allowance under this clause. It would be too sweeping to negative the clause, but it carries racial antagonism rather too far. It seems to me that it would do an injustice to a great many very worthy people whom we have accepted as fellow subjects of the British Empire. I should like to hear the effect of the clause fully explained.
– Are we to understand that, under this clause, children born in India of European parents, and coming to Australia, would be debarred from receiving the maternity allowance ?
– Certainly not.
– Suppose the honorable senator had been born in India, and reared there until he was twenty-five years of age. He would be an Asiatic, but he would be of European descent.
– He would not be an aboriginal Asiatic.
– I take it that the word “ Asiatic “ covers all people born in any part of Asia, whether white or coloured. I should not be prepared to support the amendment if I were assured that natives of Asia of European descent would not be excluded under the Bill.
– I can assure the honorable senator that the clause will not apply to them.
– Every one knows what the term “ Asiatic races “ means.
– The word “ Asiatics “ is the word used in the clause, and not the words “ Asiatic races.”
– The honorable senator knows that if a man were born in a stable, he would not be a horse.
– I know people, who are known also to Senator Givens, who were born in Ceylon. They are. Cingalese, although they are white, and of Scotch parents.
– Would the honorable senator call MacPherson an Asiatic, even though he were born in Ceylon?
– He would not be a European because he was not born in Europe. The whole difficulty hinges . on the legal meaning of the word “Asiatic.” If I were satisfied that persons born in Asia, or in the South Sea Islands, of European descent, would not be excluded under the clause, I should not support the amendment.
– I certainly think there ought to be a definition of the very wide term “Asiatics.” Under this clause, if the Virgin Mary happened to be here, she would be debarred from obtaining the allowance because she would be an Asiatic.
– The honorable senator might very well drop that.
– All that kind of argument was trotted out years ago, when the honorable senator’s crowd were fighting for a Black Australia.
– I shall let that go by. I wish to know from the VicePresident of the Executive Council whether what I said on the second reading of the Bill in regard to the birth of half-caste children is correct? No Asiatic woman is to receive a maternity allowance. If she be married to a white man, and gives birth to a half-caste child, she will not be given the allowance. But a white woman, the wife of a black man, giving birth to a child would receive it. Is that the intention of the Bill?
– That cannot be avoided.
– Then I am to understand that what I have stated is a fact.
Question - That the Chairman do now leave the chair, report progress, and ask leave to sit again - put, under sessional order, and resolved in the negative.
– I do not propose to move an amendment. I oppose the Bill straight out, and am not going to do anything to improve it, but I do want the public to know that an Asiatic woman married to a European will not get an allowance in respect of her child, while a white woman married to an Asiatic man will get an allowance in respect of her child. I ask whether that is fair dealing? If the Minister chooses to say that it is not, and that they cannot help it, well and good.
– When I was in Bundaberg some years ago, at the time of a Show, I noticed three very pleasant-looking young girls. Somebody said to me, “ Do you know what those girls are?” I said, “I suppose that they come from the south of Europe.” “ No,” he said, “ they are Australian quadroons. Their mother was a half-caste, and their father a German.” They were just as nice-looking young persons as one would wish to see anywhere.
– They would not be debarred.
– Why not?
– Because they are not half-castes ; because they are less than half-castes.
– Their mother was a half-caste.
– But they are not halfcastes.
– It is a very dangerous thingnot to have a proper definition. I certainly think that when an amending Bill is brought in we.should have a definition of “ Asiatic.”
– I understand fairly well what Asia is, and the boundaries of Asia; but I do not understand, except in a general way, what “ Asiatic “ means. There is a clear distinction between the term “ Asia “ and the term “Asiatic” applied in connexion with Asia. Everybody born in Asia is not an Asiatic, and every Asiatic is not born in Asia.
– Does the honorable senator want to block the Bill passing today ?
– After the criticism that was administered over and over again from the other side, why should I be in a hurry to allow this Bill to go through ?
– Say so.
– No, I shall say what I choose, subject to the Standing Orders. Honorable senators on the other side have misused their power by misrepresentations of the grossest character, and that is a reason why we should analyze every line of the Bill. There is a difference between “ Asia “ used as a geographical term and “Asiatic used as a personal term, either directly or indirectly, in connexion with the word “ Asia.” Not everybody who is bom in Asia is an Asiatic, and vice versa. What, then, is the meaning of the word “ Asiatic “ ? From the explanation I have just given, everybody can understand the force of my remark, and I hope that the Committee will not allow the Bill to go through until we know exactly what this term means. If it means a person horn in Asia for the’ purposes of this Bill, why will not the Minister say so, and, if it does not mean that, what on earth does it mean ?
– I have said so.
– We do not want to know what it does not mean, because that does not help us. We want to know what it does mean. We ought not to allow the Bill to go through on the assumption that it does not mean this or that or anything else. We should only allow a Bill to pass from the Chamber when we thoroughly understand what the terms used in it do mean. “ Asiatic “ is a term which is capable of many interpretations. When we ask the Minister what does “ Asiatic “ mean, what do we get from him?
– I shall tell the honorable senator if he will give me an opportunity.
– I will.
– I have already stated clearly that, under the terms of this Bill, a person born of European parents in Asia would not be an Asiatic. “ Asiatic” is a racial term; it is a term which is understood very well.
There must be preponderating Asiatic blood-
– What do you mean by that expression?
– They must be aboriginal natives of Asia, and not civilize natives of Europe.
– Suppose that a Britisher marries ah Eastern woman according to Christian rites, and a child is born in Australia, what will be the position? Until the Minister is prepared to find a definition of “ Asiatic” we ought not to allow this Bill to pass. We have heard a good deal here about Christianity-
– Let us report progress.
– Very well.
Senate adjourned at 4.9 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 4 October 1912, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1912/19121004_senate_4_66/>.