4th Parliament · 3rd Session
The President took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
– I should like, by leave of the Senate, to make a personal explanation. It has reference to certain remarks and incidents which passed between myself and another senator on the occasion of our last meeting. I then used certain words, and should like to explain by relating the following facts: - In February, 1899,I published an address to the electors of North Brisbane, in which I stated thatI stood as a candidate in the interests of the Opposition. Secondly, the Opposition was then led by Mr. Charles Powers, and the Labour party by Mr. Anderson Dawson. The line of political demarcation was clear and distinct. With regard to legislation and social questions, my address to the electors contained the following paragraph: -
There are great social questions whose importance is accepted by the wise and wide liberalism of most civilized countries. I am in favour of legislation with a view of-
– Order! The honorable senator is going beyond a personal explanation.
– I bow to your ruling, sir. It is sufficient for me to say that my election address can be found in print. The third point is this. In December, 1899, I was invited by the late Mr. Anderson Dawson to take the portfolio of Postmaster-General in his Ministry, with a seat in the Queensland Legislative Council. That offer to me was unconditional. [ refused it. I need not enter into the reasons. So far, then from coquetting with the Labour party, I refused to take any political advantage of the offer made to me. I beg now to say to the Senate that, whilst I recognise that the language which 1 used was inconsistent with the dignity of the Senate, and with the spirit and intention of the Standing Orders, I hope that you, sir, and the Senate, will take into consideration the strong sense of irritation which I felt, and the circumstance that I considered certain remarks made to be a reflection upon my personal and political honour.
Senator McGREGOR laid upon the table the following papers : -
Defence Act1903-1911. - Regulations, amendments, &c. (Provisional) -
Military College. - New Regulation. - Statutory Rules 191 2, No. 191.
Military Forces. - Financial and Allowance Regulations -
Statutory Rules 1912, Nos. 190 and 192.
Lands Acquisition Act 1906 -
Land acquired -
At Liverpool, New South Wales - For Defence purposes.
At Kalgoorlie, Western Australia - For Railway purposes.
At Parkeston, Western Australia - For Railway purposes.
Papua Act 1905 -
Regulations, amended, &c. (Provisional) - Statutory Rules 1912, No. 194.
Public Service Act 1902-1911 -
Department of Home Affairs. - Appointment of H. M. Barker as Draftsman, Department of Public Works, Central Staff.
List of Permanent Officers of the Commonwealth Public Service as on 30th June, 1912.
– I wish to ask a question of you, Mr. President. I understand that another place has referred the Printing Committee’s report back to it for certain reasons. I should like to ask whether that action will prevent the printing of certain papers which were ordered by the Senate to be printed ? If so, it means holding up the printing of a number of documents.
– I was not aware that another place had referred the Printing Committee’s report back to the Committee. This is the first that I have heard of it.
– May I ask, sir, whether you will make inquiries?
– I will endeavour to ascertain what has been done in the matter.
asked the VicePresident of the Executive Council, upon notice -
Referring to the Prime Minister’s announcement that the Commonwealth Government must proceed with its own banking scheme, what are the distinguishing characteristics or principles of such banking scheme?
– The principles of the Bill referred to will be disclosed when the measure is before Parliament.
– I scarcely think that that is an answer to my question.
– It is the usual answer to such a question. When a policy is being evolved by a Government, it is not usual to give that policy to the country before the Bill embodying it is introduced.
In Committee (Consideration resumed from 4th October, vide page 3883) :
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 not be paid a maternity allowance.
Upon which Senator Walker had moved, by way of amendment -
That after the word “are,” line 4, the words “ Asiatics, or are “ be left out.
– Since we last met I have taken some trouble to see whether I could obtain a satisfactory definition of the word “ Asiatics.” The ordinary dictionaries simply say that an Asiatic is a native of Asia. They do not furnish other particulars. I turned, therefore, to the Encyclopedia Britannica to see whether I could obtain something more definite.
– How does common sense define the word?
– My impression is that it would be better to embody a definition of “ Asiatics “ in this Bill. It is all very well to say that a word is understood, but all of us who have to do with business know how misunderstandings continually arise through matters not being put in black and white. I propose to read a short extract from the Encyclopædia Britannica bearing on the subject. It states
Asia, including its outlying islands, has become the dwelling-place of all the great families into which the races of men have been divided. By far the largest area is occupied by the Mongolian group. These have yellow-brown skin, black eyes and hair, flat noses, and oblique eyes. They are short in stature, with little hair on the body and face. In general terms they extend, with modifications of character probably due to admixture with other types and to varying conditions of life, over the whole of northern Asia as far south as the plains bordering the Caspian Sea, including Tibet and China, and also over the Indo-Malayan Peninsula and Archipelago, excepting Papua and some of the more eastern islands.
Next in numerical importance to the Mongolians are the races which have been called by Professor Huxley Melanochroic (dark skin) and Xanthochroic (light skin). The former includes the dark-haired people of Southern Europe, and extends over North Africa, Asia Minor, Syria, to South-western Asia, and through Arabia and Persia to India. The latter race includes the fair-haired people of northern Europe, and extends over nearly the same area as the Melanochroi, with which race it is greatly intermixed. The Xanthochroi have fair skins, blue eyes, and light hair ; the others have dark skins, eyes, and hair, and are of a slighter frame. Together they constitute what were once called the Caucasian races. The Melanochroi are not considered by Huxley to be one of the primitive modifications of mankind, but rather to be the result of the admixture of the Xanthochroi with the Australoid type.
The tradition is that the Circassian family are descended from a very ancient stock, like the Vice-President of the Executive Council, who says that he is descended from Fergus I. of Scotland. They are said to be descended from Japhet, the son of Noah, from whom the British race are also alleged to be descended.
– I belong to the tribe of Ephraim !
– We ought to be very careful not to exclude the fair-haired races of Asia, or we may do an injury which we may afterwards regret. The Circassian family are divided into three groups, the western, or Abkasian group ; the eastern, or Chechar group ; and the southern, or Georgian group - all typical races. The Georgians, as honorable senators know, may be very slightly dark, but they are a very handsome race. I hope that the Minister will consent to recommit the Bill with a view to the consideration of certain amendments, particularly the one which was lost last week, and which I believe will commend itself, at certain moments of our existence at all events, to our earnest attention. One or two friends told me after the Senate adjourned on Friday that I had been unfortunate in delaying the passing of this Bill. But I am not aware that the Senate merely exists to record its agreement with another place. We are elected by the people, arid are expected to look after their interests. I have always maintained that the Senate is a Chamber which ought to give very close attention to all Bills. I beg honorable senators to give the greatest consideration to this Bill. I have been twitted in this matter by a friend, for whom I have a great regard. “ Are you aware,” he asked, “ that through the delay which has taken place you have deprived 300 women each day of this allowance of ^5?” I replied, “I am very sorry to hear that, but it can be obviated if the Vice-President of the Executive Council will agree to a recommittal and alter clause 2, so as to bring the Bill into operation as from the 1st October. ‘ ‘ It is the rule to date back the commencement of a Customs Tariff Bill, arid that can be done in this case. My amendment is to leave three words out of clause 6 so as to take Asiatics out of the exception, but I am prepared to withdraw the amendment if the Minister will say that he is prepared to recommit the Bill and insert a definition of “Asiatics.” That is a fair offer, I think.
– It is quite true, as Senator Walker has stated, that every twenty-four hours’ delay in the passage of this Bill means that nearly 300 unfortunate women in Australia will lose their chance of obtaining what they consider to be a benefit. I know, of course, that he regrets that very much.
– That was not Senator Walker’s fault, but Senator St. Ledger’s.
– Between the two there has been considerable delay, and at least 1,200 unfortunate women have already been deprived of an advantage. Senator Walker, who is acting with the best of intentions, has woke up rather late. It is rather late in the day for honorable senators to talk about a definition of “Asiatics.” It is rather late in the day even for them to be quoting Webster or the Encyclopedia Britannica or anything else. They should have done that when the Old-age Pensions Bill was before the Senate.
– When you supported the Asiatics.
– The honorable senator does not know what I supported.
– I do. I have Hansard here, and I shall give it to you.
– It . happened so long ago that the honorable senator does not remember what I did. We are now acting in accordance with the previous legislation, because we think” that it is the wisest policy to pursue. Until the people of Australia and their Parliament make up their mind in favour of altering a great many Acts, such as the Immigration Re striction Act, the Naturalization Act, and the Old-age Pensions Act, we cannot say that the time has arrived for departing, from a principle embodied in existing legislation. The day may come, perhaps, when something will have to be done, but then it will be done comprehensively. Consequently, the Government cannot accept any amendment such as has been indicated by Senator Walker. I am sorry that so far the Government have found themselves in a position that they cannot accept an amendment from anybody who likes to move it.. We should be only too willing to do so if it were convenient. But as we have anearnest desire to carry this measure asspeedily as possible, and in conformity with existing legislation, I hope that honorable senators will see the advisableness of adhering to the provision as it stands.
– I was very sorry to hear the Minister’s statement, because, amongst other things, it places me in a very awkward position. As a matter of fact, I had a modified feeling in favour of the Bill i» the hope that it would be altered to some extent in Committee, but if the Minister is not going to accept an amendment toalter a line or a comma, I am afraid that he cannot expect me for one to vote for the third reading.
– It is the Government’s Bill, and I think they have made it perfect.
– It is not perfect. The honorable senator has told us, and wequite accept his statement, that he is descended from a very fine people. Perhapshe will be pleased to hear that he has a characteristic which distinguished a greatstatesman, Sir Robert Peel, who has beer* described by, some person as being one of the greatest Prime Ministers the Mother Country has ever possessed. In a Life of Peel, by J. R. Thursfield, I find this passage
Here we encounter the fundamental defect of Peel’s character as a statesman. It is a defect to which, in a greater or less degree, all parliamentary statesmen are liable; and Peel, who was pronounced by no very friendly critic tohave Deen “ the greatest member of Parliament that ever lived,” had it in excess. He had insight, but not foresight. A parliamentary statesman is irresistibly impelled to deal only with, such circumstances as compel his attention, with such questions as imperiously demand a settlement. All other questions are to him “ outsidethe range of practical politics.” They only -come within that range when he is either com.pelled to deal with them by the force of circumstances or tempted to deal with them by the prospect of party advantage.
He had little or no perception of ripeness in political issues other than that which was forced on him by the imperious teaching of circumstances. The atmosphere of Parliament is very unfavorable to the growth of this inestimable quality. It engenders an opportunism which distrusts forecast and disdains all argument not adapted to its own temper. In this respect the temper of Parliament only reflects the temper of Englishmen at large.
I was one of those who thought there was not any great advantage in finishing this Bill last week, but I can- only say that my honorable friend, is possessed of insight - whether he is gifted with foresight I know not. The insight at that time took the form of “Let us have the Bill put through, and then the Prime Minister will be able, on Monday, to announce elsewhere that this great measure has been passed, and the GovernorGeneral’s assent has been given to it.” I am sorry to think that that is the case, because I defended my honorable friend (before from the charge of bringing forward this Bill as merely a card to counteract the effect of depriving women of the postal vote. I hope he will see his way to agree to recommit the Bill, if only to amend one clause which I think he would like to see amended.
. -I desire to ask the Vice-President of the Executive Council whether the word “ Asiatics,” as used in this Bill, will include a person of European parentage born in India or any other part of Asia?
– Certainly not.
– According to the definition which Senator Walker quoted, an Asiatic is a native of Asia, without reference to his parentage. In his recent remarks) the Minister mentioned that this clause is in harmony with the provision in several Acts, and that possibly at a later date comprehensive legislation might be introduced to meet the difficulty pre.sented by Senator Walker. In the Naturalization Act we made provision to prevent Asiatics from becoming naturalized, and the word’s we used in section 5 were -
A person resident in the Commonwealth, not being a British subject and not being an aboriginal native of Asia, Africa, or the islands of the Pacific, excepting New Zealand, who intends to settle in the Commonwealth, &c.
If we desire this Bill to be in harmony with existing Statutes, we should make it abundantly clear that the word “ Asiatics “ applies to the aboriginal natives of Asia alone, because according to the definition which has been quoted, it is apparent that “ Asiatics “ includes any person born in Asia, irrespective of parentage.
– I wish to remind Senator Keating that many years ago this question arose with respect to the Immigration Restriction Bill, and that an attempt was made to include the aboriginal natives of Asia, Africa, and the islands of the Pacific, but that honorable senators on the other side - in fact, a majority of them - objected to do so. When the Naturalization Bill was under consideration the same objection was not raised, and the aboriginal natives of Asia, Africa, and the islands of the Pacific were included. Then followed the Oldage Pensions Bill. If it be necessary that the words should be in this clause, it was equally necessary that they should be in the Old-age Pensions Bill. Why did not Senator Keating insist upon them -being put in then? As regards interpretation, so far there has been no difficulty in connexion with the Old-age Pensions Act, and why should any difficulty be anticipated under this measure? To make alterations such as those which have been indicated, and which are of no great consequence to my mind, in view of what has occurred, would only delay longer the passing of this legislation. Is that what honorable senators want, seeing that they would effect nothing by the alterations which they seek to make? If it is, then let them stone- wall “ the Bill as long as they like. I cannot help them doing that. In view of the fact that no evil has arisen from the existence of a similar provision in legislation already passed, and of our desire that this Bill should be passed as speedily as possible, I cannot see my way to accept any amendment. I am very sorry that I cannot please every honorable senator who may raise an objection.
– Are we to be merely a recording Chamber?
– Yes, when the other Chamber is right. It is our duty when they are right to record their wishes as soon as we possibly can. I should be the very last to agree to what is done in another place if there is anything seriously wrong about it. There is nothing seriously wrong about this. A similar provision and a similar . definition have been found sufficient in other legislation, and it should be sufficient for the purposes of this Bill.
– - I 3111 rather astonished that the Leader of the Senate should tell us that this is simply a recording Chamber for another place when that Chamber is right. Who is to be the judge as to whether the other House is right or not. Is it to be the majority in the Senate?
– I wish to remind honorable senators that, in 1909, no one was more enthusiastic in support of a proposal almost identical with that submitted by Senator Walker than were the three members of the Government in this Chamber, Senators McGregor, Pearce, and Findley. An amendment was moved by Senator Pulsford on the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Bill for the insertion of words almost exactly the same as those proposed by Senator Walker in order that Asiatics in Australia might be entitled to receive old-age pensions. What happened next? Senator Pearce asked, “ Why exclude African negroes?” and went on to make an eloquent speech in favour of the granting of old.-age pensions to African negroes as well as to Asiatics.
– The Senate did not agree to that.
– Just so; and because the Senate did not agree to it, and there has been a general election since, which led to a considerable change in political parties, the honorable senator is prepared to argue that he was justified in disagreeing at that time with something which he is now prepared to say is perfectly right. On the 5th August, 1909, when the Senate was considering the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Bill, Senator Pulsford moved the insertion of the following new clause -
Section 21 of the Principal Act is amended by emitting the words in sub-section (1), paragraph b, “ Asiatics (except those born in Australia) or.”
That is almost exactly the form adopted by Senator Walker for his amendment, though he does not use the words, “ except those born in Australia.” I point out that the omission of those words from Senator Walker’s amendment has not been objected to by the Vice-President of the Executive Council. Senator Pearce, in speaking to Senator Pulsford’s amendment, said -
A section of the Principal Act withholds the invalid pension from “ Asiatics (except those born in Australia) or aboriginal races in Australia, Africa, the islands of the Pacific, or New Zealand.” I regard an African negro as the equal of an Asiatic. If we are going to extend the Bill to Asiatics who are in Australia, let me point out that there are many African negroes here who are naturalized, and some of whom are as “ white men “ as any person in the Senate.
Later on, he said -
When we are considering a Bill to amend an Act it is so difficult to follow the two that I did not notice that we are asked to make a distinction between Asiatics and African negroes. In my opinion, it is an undesirable distinction to make. … It would be a deplorable thing if a distinction were made in favour of the Asiatic as against the African negro. We have some very reputable citizens who are African negroes. We also have in Australia some aboriginal natives of Mauritius, which, I believe, is regarded as part of Africa.
I am not responsible for the honorable senator’s geography. Senator de Largie said -
Senator Pearce is consistent because he has been voting for the extension of the privileges of this measure all through. But Senator Pulsford and his friends opposite have not been doing so. They have been voting against the extension of the privileges to people of their own race, whilst, at the same time, they are prepared to extend their sympathies to coloured races.
– What crumb of comfort does the honorable senator gather from that?
– I am quoting pertinent remarks on both sides. The division on Senator Pulsford’s amendment was not a party division.
– The last quotation missed fire.
– I find that Senator Pearce later in the debate said -
Common humanity recognises that if one of these men meets with an accident we ought to assist him. … I repeat that under this proposal we should not extend to the coloured races anything which we refuse to grant to the white races.
Senator McGregor said
I am very sorry that some members of the Opposition are taking unnecessary alarm at what I term, and always have termed, a simple act of justice. . . . We ought to be, if not generous, at least just to them. There is no danger in carrying this amendment.
Finally, we have an interjection by Senator Pearce, while Senator Needham was speaking, in these words -
There are a couple of African negroes on the Fremantle wharf who worked very hard for Senator Needham, Senator Lynch, and myself on last election day.
That was the honorable senator’s final and conclusive argument in favour of the extension of the benefit of old-age pensions to coloured gentlemen.
– Do not the kanakas in Queensland work for the honorable senator at election times?
– Perhaps the honorable senator wishes to say that that is why he assisted to expel them. As they were expelled before I entered Parliament, they could not have voted for me. Senator Pearce moved an amendment upon Senator Pulsford’s amendment to add to the proposed new clause the words, “ and. Africa, the islands of the Pacific, or New Zealand.’” The voting on Senator Pearce’ s amendment was - Ayes, 20 ; Noes, 1 1 ; a majority of 9 in favour of the amendment. Then the proposed new clause, as amended, was put to the Committee, and was carried by a vote of 17 “ Ayes “ to 14 “ Noes.” That was the important division, and I may inform honorable senators that, included amongst the “Ayes,” were some honorable senators who were on this side, and also Senators Findley, McGregor, Guthrie, Pearce, E. J. Russell, and Story. The ‘-‘Noes” included, amongst others, Senators de Largie, Givens, Gray, Keating, McColl, Needham, Stewart, St. Ledger, Turley, Vardon, and Chataway. I think that it is just as well that these facts should be put on record. We are now faced with another position, and we find that a number of honorable senators, who at that time voted in favour of making an exception on behalf of Asiatics for the granting of old-age pensions, now refuse to treat them in the same way in this Bill. In the face of this, they accuse honorable senators on this side of being the black labour party.
– I. shall vote on this occasion as I voted on the occasion referred to by the honorable senator.
– I shall vote in the same way also, though I shall have to vote against Senator Walker’s amendment, as I voted against Senator Pulsford’s amendment on the occasion referred to.
– Dealing rather with the desire of the Vice-President of the Executive Council, than with the probable effect of this clause, I gathered, from what the honorable senator said, that the clause would be interpreted as excluding only aboriginal natives of Asia. That, we are told, is what the “Government wish, although they have used in the clause only the word “Asiatics.” I point out that, in citing somewhat similar provisions of other Acts, the VicePresident has really given a strong argument why the wording’ of this clause should be altered- The Acts Interpretation Act will not assist us to solve this difficulty. The honorable senator mentioned the fact that, in the Naturalization Act, the words used are “ aboriginal natives of Asia.” If the matter were taken before a Court, and the provision of the Naturalization Act cited, the Court would obviously decide that, in that Act, the Legislature indicated clearly what was meant by using the words “ aboriginal natives of Asia.” It is probable, I think, that, when the Court learned that the word “ Asiatics “ alone was used in this Bill, it would say at once that a difference was clearly indicated by the absence of certain words in the description of the persons referred to. The Court would not necessarily interpret “ Asiatics “ as used in this Bill as meaning aboriginal natives of Asia. It would be much more likely to decline to interpret it in that way, because of the use of the words in the Naturalization Act. I do not think that the VicePresident of the Executive Council is justified in accusing any one on this side of “ stonewalling “ the Bill.
– I did not accuse any one of anything of the kind.
– The honorable senator did so just now ; and, personally, I resent the accusation. I resent also another remark which the honorable senator made, to the effect that the Senate must pass a measure merely because it has been passed- in another place. If our legislation has come to that, it is time the Senate was abolished. I am not greatly concerned about this clause; but, in the interests of what I regard as proper legislation, and, opposed as I am to slovenly legislation, I have not the slightest hesitation in saying that doubt and difficulty will arise from the use of the word “ Asiatics “ by itself in this clause. As the Government desire that it should be interpreted to mean “ aboriginal natives of Asia,” some amendment should certainly be made in the clause.
– When on Friday last I asked the VicePresident of the Executive Council a question in connexion with this clause, I was under the impression, as I am still, that the word “ Asiatics “ -means any person born in Asia.
– Does it mean that in the Old-age Pensions Act?
– The Court will interpret this measure by what they find in it. I was urged to raise the question because I personally know members of a large family who might be affected. I have just received a letter from which it is clear that a similar provision of the Invalid and Oldage Pensions Act has detrimentally affected certain individuals. If we said in an Act that no American should be entitled to an old-age pension, that would exclude the people of every part of America. It would be of no use for any one to say later that that was not what was meant. I know the case of a man who was born a mile or two within the boundary of the United States, but of British parents. He has been in this country for something like forty years. He was employed in a Railway Department as a porter, has exercised a vote during all the time, and has looked upon himself as British. He has been told that he is not eligible for an oldage pension. The statement made to him was “ We cannot give you a pension until you have been naturalized for two years.” The case here is somewhat similar. The word “Asiatics” is used in the clause, and in interpreting this measure, any Court will interpret it as it stands. The Court will probably say, “ If the Legislature had intended the Act to apply to white persons born in Asia, it would have said so distinctly.” In the case which I have mentioned, the father was a Scotchman, who wasemployed in the capacity of overseer in a tea plantation in India. The members of his family were born in that country. According to my reading of the clause, every one of them would be prevented from participating in this maternity allowance. I do not think that is the intention of the Committee. Surely it is not too much to ask that recognised flaws in the Bill should be remedied. If the Vice-President of the Executive Council will consent to the insertion of the word “ aboriginal “ before the word “ Asiatics,” I am sure that the other branch of the Legislature will agree to the amendment. Had he accepted such an amendment on Friday last, the Bill would have been the law of the land today. I hope that he will not prove stubborn on this occasion, and I am glad to find that the legal members of the Senate uphold my view of this matter.
. -Afew minutes ago,I referred to two divisions which were taken in this Chamber on the 5th August, 1909, upon, a proposal to insert the word “ Asiatics “ in the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Bill. That proposal was carried in both instances. I have since found that the word “Asiatics” does not appear in that Act; and I learn from a perusal of the Journals of the Senate that, on the recommittal of the Bill, the clause was struck out by sixteen votes to fourteen upon the following; division : Ayes - Senators Best, Cameron,. Chataway, de Largie, Givens, Henderson,. Lynch, McColl, Millen, Needham, Sayers,. St. Ledger, Turley, Vardon, and Stewart. Noes - Senators Croft, Dobson, Findley,. Gould, Gray, Guthrie, McGregor, Neild,. Pearce, W. Russell, Story, Trenwith, Walker, and Pulsford. That circumstance explains why, despite the fact that the amendment to include “ Asiatics” was carried, it does not appear in the Act.
– As the Vice-President of the ExecutiveCouncil does not appear to be responsive to my suggestion, which I can assure him was not made from any desire to “ stonewall “ this Bill, I ask Senator Walker to temporarily withdraw his amendment to enable me to submit a prior amendment.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
– I move -
That the word “ aboriginal “ be inserted before the word “ Asiatics,” line 4.
The adoption of my proposal will bring the measure into harmony with the provisions of the Naturalization Act.
– Why did not the honorable senator move a similar amendment when the Old-age Pensions Bill was under consideration?
– If we made an error on that occasion, that is no reason why we should repeat it now. I do not wish to delay the Committee in arriving at a decision on this matter, and, therefore, I will say no more.
– This discussion emphasizes the need which exists for a clear and sharp definition of the word “Asiatics.” I am not quite sure that the adoption of Senator Keating’s amendment will overcome the difficulty, although it will make it clear that the exception applies only to the aboriginal natives of Asia. But, even then, it will be difficult to interpret this clause.
Speaking from memory, I fancy that, under British constitutional law, naturalization follows the nationality of the father. Certainly that rule applies in the case of children, unless it is specially restricted by legislation. I am not sure that an aboriginal native of Asia - for example, a Syrian woman - who marries a British subject does not lose her Asiatic nationality, and by reason of her marriage, become a British subject. Whilst it may be hazarded that the children of such a marriage would be British, there is, I think, some reason for holding the view that the nationality of the wife follows very largely the nationality of the husband. All of this goes to show how hurriedly the Bill has been drafted. I do not say that I shall oppose the amendment, because it would have the effect of making it clear that the term “ Asiatics “ will apply only to the aboriginal Asiatics. But the term “ aboriginal Asiatics “ is very difficult to define as compared with the term “ aboriginal native of Australia.”
– What would be the difficulty in interpreting the word “Asiatics” if the word “ aboriginal “ preceded it?
– I have already indicated one difficulty. I -do not know that it has been formally decided by British law that the nationality of the wife follows the nationality of the husband, unless the wife, by her own act, denationalizes herself.
– The honorable senator is advancing reason why things should be left a’s they are.
– No. If the Vice-President of the Executive Council thinks that the term “Asiatics” in this Bill should have the same significance as attaches to it in the Old-age Pensions Act, it will be easy for the Government to insert an amendment to that effect now. Surely there is no violent hurry for this Bill for twenty-four or forty-eight hours. If it’s passage were delayed for that period, the Vice-President of the Executive Council would be afforded an opportunity of consulting the Crown Law officers again, with a view to securing a more satisfactory definition of the term “ Asiatics.”
– - I would like to ask the VicePresident of the Executive Council to what nationality a West Indian belongs?
– To the American.
– I propose to give an illustration of the position occupied by a man I know who is as black as is the ace of spades. He was born in the British Isles, served in the British Navy, and afterwards came to Australia, where he married a white woman. He can talk English probably just as well as I can. Yet that man is refused the sugar bounty on the ground that he is a coloured man, and notwithstanding that he employs only white labour. He originally hailed from Jamaica. Will his wife be entitled to the maternity allowance under this Bill?
– If she is a white woman she will.
– Suppose that this man’s .sister came from the West Indie’s and married a white man here, would she be regarded as a white woman or a black woman or a Papuan?
– She would be a negress.
– We know quite well that Scotland is full of women who hail from the West Indies. In what class of people would the coloured women of the West Indies be included?
– Senator Chataway and some other honorable senators have put forward a series of abstruse and elaborate questions. Senator Chataway knows quite as well as I do that there was an aboriginal race of the West Indies whose members were not black but red people. In the slave days, however, a number of negroes were brought over there, so that now we are accustomed to call negroes of the West Indies West Indians. They are really descended from the negro race. Senator Chataway ‘knows that as well as I do, though he tries to mix up a question about a man and a woman in Queensland in connexion with the sugar bounty with this entirely different matter.
– May I point out a curious thing in connexion with this clause? There is nothing to debar a native of Africa from receiving the allowance. A perfectly full-blooded negress would be entitled to it, whilst a full-blooded Asiatic could not get it. Is that what we want? I do not think that Senator McGregor knows the contents of his own Bill, unless he is aware that, under the clause as it stands, a negress would be entitled to the allowance. Are we going to pass legislation in this form?
Question - That the word proposed to be inserted be inserted- put. The Committee divided.
Majority … 8
Question so resolved in the negative.
.- I move-
That after the word “Australia,” line 5, the following words be inserted : - “ and excepting those of European descent, or those who are naturalized subjects of the British Empire, the natives of.”
If my amendment were carried, the clause would read -
Women who are Asiatics or 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.
– That amendment would allow residents of Singapore to come here and claim the allowance.
– No; because they have already been excluded as Asiatics.
– It would be better for the honorablesenator to move his amendment at the end of the clause.
– Will the Government accept it if I do that?
– No ; but at present the amendment causes confusion.
– For the last sixty years or more there have been missionaries in the South Sea Islands who have had European wives, and to whom sons and daughters have been born. In many cases these daughters are called Samoans, New Hebridians, and so forth. I know one minister of the Presbyterian Church who, when asked his nationality, always says that he is a New Hebridian. The
Vice-President of the Executive Council has refused to accept a most excellent amendment moved by Senator St. Ledger, and has also rejected a good one proposed by Senator Keating. Apparently he now intends to vote against my amendment. If that be done, he places me in the embarrassing position of having to vote against the third reading of the Bill.
– I wish to move a prior amendment.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
– I do not know whether the Government are satisfied as to the position of negroes under this Bill. I am not. I therefore move -
That before the word “ Asiatics,” line 4, the words “ negroes or “ be inserted.
– It would have been better for Senator Stewart, before moving such an amendment, to find out whether there are negro women in Australia. I believe there are none, and, under our Immigration Restriction Act they could not come here. If a negro woman did apply for the maternity allowance, inquiries would be made as to how she came here, and she would be deported. Senator Stewart does not need to be alarmed. The Bill is all right. All these points have been considered. There are no negro women here, and none can come.
– Why put in “Asiatics,” then?
– Because there are 4,000 Asiatic women here.
– I should like to have some evidence of the correctness of Senator McGregor’s statement that there are no negro women in Australia. Whilst not an expert as to races, and the shades of difference between them, I certainly have seen in Australia persons who appeared to be unmistakably negroes.
– Probably halfcastes.
– They seemed to be the ‘ pure merino. ‘ ‘ There may be few, but that there are some I feel sure.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Amendment (by Senator Walker) proposed -
That after the word “ Australia,” line 5, the following words be inserted, “ and excepting those of European descent, or those who are naturalized subjects of the British Empire, the natives of.”
– I do not think that we need fear that the natives of Singapore or Hong Kong, whether they happen to be naturalized or natural-born British subjects - that is, the Chinamen - will come to this country, because they can be easily dealt with under the Immigration Restriction Act. To that extent, the argument which was interjected just now is of no importance. But what seems to be of real importance is the omission of the words “ those of European descent.” The progress of Russia in Manchuria and Lower Siberia has created quite a large settlement, and there is no doubt that these settlers are Asiatics. Generation after generation has settled there, and a very large number of very valuable Russian settlers have come across from Vladivostosck, and are settling in Queensland. I do not know whether many of them are settling in the other States, but I think, speaking on behalf of these people, that the Government should make it perfectly clear that people of European descent are not to be regarded as Asiatics, even though they have lived for many years in a part of the world known as Russia.
– Nor are they.
– When any of the persons I am referring to applies to the Government for this allowance, the inquiry will be, “Where were you born?” “In Asia,” will be the reply. What other answer can a woman who was born on the Amur River give when she is asked to fill up a form, and state her birth-place? It cannot be given as Russia when she was born in Asia.
– According to that, definition, we have Asiatics in our Public Service.
– I have not the slightest doubt that we have; but does not my honorable friend want them to have babies, as well as any one else? If it was a question of only one missionary who was born in the New Hebrides, I would not think so much about this provision, but, as a matter of fact, during the last four or five years, as many as 400 or 500 young settlers have come to Australia from Siberia, and are settling in Queensland, and very valuable settlers they are making. I should say that the Minister might meet the whole case by inserting in the clause the words “except those of European descent,” and leaving out the rest of the amendment. We shall, I think, make a great mistake if the clause is passed in its present form, because Russian Asiatics and various other people, who make very valuable settlers may be excluded. Germans, for instance, who come from South Africa, will have to describe their birth-place as Africa, and it will be of no use for us to turn round afterwards and say that they are not Africans.
– Leave Africa out of the question, because it is all right.
– How does the Minister propose to apply this provision to women who are the descendants of Russian settlers in Siberia? There are hundreds of those persons, I repeat, coming into Queensland, and under this Bill, if strictly interpreted, they will receive no maternity bonus, though they are as white as we are, or will have to go to law and spend a large amount of hard-earned money in the attempt to compel the Government to give them fair play.
Question - That the words proposed to be inserted be inserted (Senator Walker’s amendment) - put. The Committee divided.
Majority … … 10
Question so resolved in the negative.
– Despite the objection to these amendments, I move -
That after the word “Pacific,” line 6, the words “ excepting New Zealand “ be inserted.
That is following the words of section 5 of the Naturalization Act, which reads -
A person resident in the Commonwealth not being a British subject, and not being an aboriginal native of Asia; Africa, or the islands of the Pacific, excepting New Zealand, who intends to settle in the Commonwealth -
In 1903 we passed that provision, and, so far as I know, New Zealand stands now where it stood then. If it stood then in the Pacific, and would be included among the islands of the Pacific, obviously nothing has happened in the meantime, although it is a very volcanic country, to necessitate a departure from the words in this case. I think that the Minister will recognise that my amendment is not moved for the purpose of delaying the passage of the Bill.
– Why not provide the allowance for our own aboriginal women ?
– What I am aiming at is not to include the Maoris, but persons born in New Zealand.
– Do you think that that is necessary?
– It is necessary. If there is any reason why we should depart from the words used in the Naturalization Act we might have the reason stated to us.
– I am sure that Senator Keating recognises that this is a maternity allowance. As regard the white women of New Zealand, when they settle in Australia and comply with the provisions of clause 5 of this Bill, they will be on just the same footing as women who have come here from Great Britain, or parts of Europe. As regards the aboriginal natives of New Zealand there are no Maori women here who would be likely to come under this clause.
– Yes, there are.
– Seeing that there are no Maori women here, and that they are not likely to come here, and cannot be naturalized here, what is the use of loading the Bill with an amendment of this kind? I hope that it will be withdrawn.
– If the Minister does not see his way to accept the amendment I do not intend to press it.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 7 agreed to.
Clause 8- (1.) Notwithstanding anything contained in the Audit Act 1901-1909 or any other Act, payment of a maternity allowance may be made by forwarding by post a money order to the person to whom the payment is to be made or to a person appointed by her in writing to receive it, and in either case it shall not be necessary for the claimant or other person to send a receipt for the payment to the Commissioner. (2.) Where payment of a maternity allowance has been made in the manner provided by subsection(1.) of this section the Commonwealth shall not be liable to any action claim or demand for any further payment in respect of the allowance.
– I move -
That the following words be added to subclause a : - “ Provided that where the mother at the time of the birth is an inmate of a maternity home the Commissioner may give to the authorities of such home such portion of the grant as he may think advisable. The Governor-General may make regulations not inconsistent with this Act for carrying out this provision.”
I shall not argue the amendment, I shall not even mention the reason for its submission. It is self-evident, like an axiom in mathematics. The Committee may accept it or reject it.
– I think that Senator St. Ledger, and other senators, must recognise that this is a maternity allowance only. It is not an allowance for doctors, or nurses, or for maternity homes, or hospitals, or anything of that kind, but purely and simply a maternity allowance. Any woman can apply for the grant. If a woman is in a maternity home and gives birth to a child there, and the child is registered, and the other conditions of the Bill complied with, the mother may make application for a maternity allowance. She can dispose of the money as she pleases. She can pay doctors or nurses with it, or give a portion of it to a maternity home or a hospital. I hope that honorable senators will accept the principle of the Bill, which provides only for a maternity allowance, I hope they will not make any alteration dealing with maternity homes or any other institutions of the kind.
– After that statement, there is only one course open to me, and I ask leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 9 to 11 agreed to.
Clause 12 (Regulations).
– I would like to ask the VicePresident of the Executive Council whether the Governor-General, in issuing his proclamation bringing the Bill into force, under clause 2, will proclaim it in force as from the1st October?
– I do not know that it will be possible to make the proclamation retrospective, but I can assure Senator Walker that the proclamation will be issued as speedily as possible, in order that relief may be given to those who are in need of it. I will convey Senator Walker’s suggestion to the Treasurer, and if the Governor-General and the Treasurer can do anything in that direction, I shall have no objection.
– As I have been’ asked to do so, I wish to inquire from the “VicePresident of the Executive Council whether the Government, in making appointments of officials for the administration of this measure, will give consideration to the advisability of appointing women?
– The machinery for carrying out the measure. has yet to be arranged; but I shall direct the attention of the Treasurer to the suggestion for the employment of women in the administration of the Bill, and I have no doubt he will give it due consideration. It should be remembered that we must, as far as possible, avail ourselves of the machinery of administration already in existence. There is such machinery in existence for the administration of the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act. That will be availed of for the administration of this measure; but if the services of women are found to be of use, consideration will be given to the suggestion.
– Senator de Largie submitted his suggestion in the form of a question ; and, while I was pleased to hear the VicePresident say that if the services of women were found to be of use .they would be availed of, I should like to impress upon the Government that if any new officials are required for the administration of the Bill it should be obvious that this is a1 matter in connexion with which the services of women should be peculiarly valuable. The appointment of women officials for the administration of such a measure should not be regarded merely as a sop or concession to women. It should be peculiarly within the province of women to have a consultative voice in the administration of a measure of this kind. In complex situations the assistance of women should be availed of. It should not be forgotten that women are entitled to invalid and old-age pensions as well as men, and should new officials be required, and women be appointed, their services would be available for the administration of the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act, as well as for the administration of this Bill. These measures might be as well, and probably better, and mo sympathetically administered if, at any rate, one woman were associated with the male officials administering them.
– I cannot imagine how the Government could, for a moment, contemplate ‘ that the administration of a measure of this kind could be successful, unless women have not only a consultative voice, but, in matters of administration, are placed in close touch with the administrative officers.
– A woman will only have to send in the certificate of the birth of a child, and, a Post Office Order will be sent back.
– If that be all that is intended, the thing is doomed from the beginning. Unless women, married find unmarried, assist in the administration of the measure, its administration will reek with foul abuses.
– Honorable senators, and’ especially Senator St. Ledger, need not be at all alarmed that “ foul abuses “ will arise from the administration of this Bill. Where the services of women will be of use, they will be availed of. Honorable senators should read the Bill, and understand what its administration involves. When a birth is registered, the mother of the child has to make an application, furnishing a copy of the registration of birth, and the allowance will then be sent to her in the form of a Post Office order in a registered letter for which she will have to sign. All these things will act as securities against fraud. In connexion with” offences under clauses 10 and 11, it .may be necessary ultimately to appoint a few females as inspectors in some of the States for the purpose of inquiries in cases where there is a suspicion of fraud. In connexion with the ordinary administration of the measure, there will be no great room for the appointment of officials, men or women. I hope that honorable senators will not go into hysterics about this matter. I repeat my assurance that where the services of women will be of use, they will be availed of.
Clause agreed to.
Preamble and title agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment
Motion (by Senator McGregor) proposed -
That the report be adopted.
– 1 do not intend to detain the Senate. A decision has been come to deliberately with considerable .force on the part of the Government, and some clear :ind distinct lines of opposition from this side. I thought it my duty to take strong exception, not only to the general principle underlying the Bill, but to what I consider to be a moral blot in it.
– “ A sop . to profligacy.”
– T do not care whether the word “ sop,” or the word “ blot “ be more acceptable. I think there is a strong moral blot in the Bill.
– The honorable member has said too much about this Bill already. He had better be careful.
– -The honorable senator wishes to get away from what he has said now.
– In answer to that, I say that I am not a “ quitter.” An American has said that “ God Almighty hates a quitter.” I am not one. I said at the beginning that I would fight the Bill on certain grounds, and I have done so right through.
– The honorable senator stumbled at the commencement, and he has been limping ever since.
– No; I have been right on my feet all the time. I am sorry that my amendment was not adopted, but I am proud, to say that I secured support for it from one supporter of the Government. I have pointed out that persons in the community representing a small section living under certain conditions are, by this Bill, .given the same grant for the same reason and for the same purpose that it is being given to decent married women in the community, who may, or may not need it. In other words, at a stage like that which we have now reached, and with an audience such as I am addressing, one need not be particular in his choice of language. But when one is addressing public meetings - and particularly audiences which consist mostly of women - he is bound to exercise a certain amount of restraint in the expression of his views. That is the position which I occupied when I spoke upon this Bill at several public meetings. I recognised all along that there was a moral blot upon it. I recognised that from the very moment when the Prime Minister announced that this maternity grant was to be made irrespective of considerations of legitimacy or illegitimacy. Naturally, in addressing public audiences, there were certain phases of the question at which one could only hint. Nevertheless, in as public a form as possible, I did indicate my views upon it.
– The honorable senator ought to be ashamed of himself.
– I am not. Under this Bill what have we done? We have placed the paramour and the concubine on an absolute equality with married women. This has been done notwithstanding that my amendment recognised the infirmity of human nature, both male and female, and proposed to offer them a resting place from which they could reconsider their position. I recognise that, in legislation as well as in administering the law, we are bound to take into consideration the infirmities of human nature. Only by so doing can we ask, in all sincerity, to be lifted to higher things ourselves. My amendment recognised those infirmities fully and freely. It proposed to appeal to the Christian organizations to especially help those women - often young women - who, after their slip, would, if not arrested in their downward course, certainly find their way to the only hell upon earth. I asked that the Bill should recognise the principle. The Senate, however, flagrantly rejected it. It is possible that I may hold too strong opinions in regard to the aspect in which marriage in relation to offspring ought to be considered by a Christian Parliament. It may be that, in the strength of my convictions, I do not see this question in its proper light, and that, as a result, I do an injustice to the Government. But I hold that the foundation of our civilization and progress rests, fist. last, and all the time, upon the obligations which are imposed by law and religion upon marriage. Whether I am right or wrong, I believe that we cannot consider this question unless we consider both maternity and offspring in their relation to marriage. I say that, from the moment any nation ceases to be jealous of its regard for all these obligations, it is upon the down grade. When my amendment was rejected, the Senate placed women of a certain class upon the same social, civilizing, and Christian level as that which is occupied by married women. My amendment bespoke my spirit, in that it provided for giving unfortunates a second chance. I object to placing married women- on an absolute equality in the matter of receiving the grant provided for in this Bill with the paramour and the concubine.
– When Senator Givens on Friday last remarked across the floor of this chamber that the time was when he regarded Senator St. Ledger as a promising Labour man, I thought it was a mighty good thing for the Labour party that that promise had not been fulfilled. It is speeches of the kind he has just delivered which makes me thank God that Senator St. Ledger does not belong to our party. I have no desire to misconstrue anything that he has said. If we were to judge him by the language in which he has indulged, we might be disposed to say that he has made strong statements. But that is not so. He has merely made loud statements, which is an entirely different matter. One of his most amusing assertions was that the Opposition have taken up a decided stand upon this Bill. I should like to know upon what side they have taken up a decided stand, for certainly nobody has been able to tell upon what side they have been since this Bill was introduced. When the proposal for a maternity grant was first mooted by the Prime Minister at the beginning of the session, Senator McColland others were much more definite in their condemnation of it than they have been since.
– The Prime Minister distinctly stated that he would not take into consideration the legitimacy or illegitimacy of children.
– As a matter of fact, the details of this measure were not settled till a very much later date, and consequently the Prime Minister made no such statement.
– - If the honorable member can prove to me that the Prime Minister did not make that declaration, I will withdraw my statement.
– That will not be a very difficult matter to prove. There is no other measure which will redound so much to the credit of the Labour Government as will this Bill.
– If that is a fact, they have not done much.
– The present Government have done more during the two and a half years they have been in office than all their predecessors put together. They have placed more important principles on the statute-book than all previous Governments combined.
– Order ! The honorable senator must confine himself to the motion which is before the Chair.
– I regret that I was drawn aside by an interjection. Underlying this Bill is a great principle, and I can assure honorable senators opposite that we are only at the beginning of those great principles. There is no subject to which the State can direct attention with more advantage than that of the welfare, of the infant life of this community. The Bill recognises that it is the duty of the State, as far as possible, to reduce the great mortality rate which exists amongst the children of Australia to-day. That is the intention of the measure, and even the small grant for which it provides will go a long way towards achieving that end. If there is one country in the world which ought to be careful about the preservation of its child life, that country is Australia. Statistics convincingly prove that the days of big families are gone, and that we have now reached an age of small families. How are we to make the most of them? How are we to make the most of the decreasing birth rate?
– Does the honorable senator think that this Bill will increase the birth rate even by one?
– I am not talking about that. If the honorable senator will pay attention to what is said-
– I was endeavouring to do so. The honorable senator said that the Bill would increase the birth rate.
– I said nothing of the kind. I suppose I am talking above the honorable senator’s intelligence, because what I have said must have been quite clear to any intelligent man. We are living in an age of small families, and we must make the most of them, in order to increase our population as much as possible. That can be done by safeguarding the lives of the 8.000 or 9,000 children who are annually lost to the Commonwealth. There is no country which requires population more urgently than does Australia, and the very best immigrant that we can get is undoubtedly the Australian baby, for the simple reason that it is an Australian native. No citizen can possibly love Australia so well as the citizen who is native born. I make that statement as one who is not a native born. The person who hails from another country, and becomes a citizen of Australia, has always a divided allegiance. No man or woman can ever forget the land of his or her birth. They have always a sentimental leaning towards the land of their birth. An Australian, being a native of the country, is the best kind of citizen we can have. In order that we may have as many of them as possible, it is the duty of the Government to pursue this policy. I hope that we shall pass other legislation with the object of making the most of the children born in Australia. Senator Millen, in his brief speech on this subject last week, said that no economic reasons had been given in support of the measure. If economic reasons were required, I make bold to say that they are as plentiful as blackberries. I have already mentioned some, and may point to another aspect of the same question. If we take the wages earned in Australia, we shall find that an enormous percentage of the population, notwithstanding all that is said about the high wages earned in this country, draw what may be regarded as a very modest return for their labour. I have taken the trouble to obtain a few figures on the subject. I have it on the authority of the Commonwealth Statistician, Mr. Knibbs, that miners in Victoria are paid the handsome wage of 7s. 6d. per day for pursuing their dangerous and unhealthy calling. Labourers and others in mines receive only from 6s. 6d. to 7s. a day. There are 20,000 miners in Victoria. Taking the wage-earners of Australia generally, the same authority informs me that there are only 114,000 persons earning over , £200 a year. There are 2,500,000 persons who are receiving less than £200 a year. So that it will be seen that the £5 which the Government propose to pay as a maternity allowance will undoubtedly serve a very good purpose amongst a very large section of the community. These are facts that cannot be gainsaid. A considerable number of people in this country require such assistance. It has been said time and again by Opposition members that we are providing an allowance for those who do not require it. I think I have shown that only a small percentage of the community do not require this aid. I should like to say, in conclusion, that the Opposition have been in difficulties throughout the consideration of this Bill. I sympathize with them. Mr. Deakin showed how difficult his position was when he spoke on the second reading of the measure elsewhere, and no one could understand on which side he intended to vote. From that time up to the present moment it has been clear to every one that the Opposition have been embarrassed. That is their own fault. They have been making professions of being favorable to legislation of this kind, whilst every one knew perfectly well that they were the bitterest enemies to it. They make claims as to what they have done with respect to oldage pensions and other social legislation; but I hold that every time measures of that description have been introduced into the Commonwealth Parliament, the opposition has invariably come from the other side. When they dared not oppose a measure openly, they have said that they opposed it. because we were robbing the States, and they felt obliged to protest. That was done when Mr. Fisher showed a way out of the difficulty respecting old-age pensions years ago.
– Order !
– I do not wish to transgress the Standing Orders, but I do wish to point out that if those who have been throwing insinuations across the chamber wish to make good their title to being members of a Liberal party - a name to which, in my opinion, they have no right whatever - they ought to reconsider their position. I am certain that the country will not forget their attitude upon this measure. They have made it clear that they are enemies to social legislation that is beneficial to the country. I should like to quote a few words from a book entitled
The Infant, the Parent, and the State. Honorable senators will see from this how necessary it is to provide a maternity allowance. The book quotes a whole host of figures concerning infant mortality, and the writer says -
The mortality is so high during the first week that were it to continue for forty-two weeks every infant born alive would have succumbed within that period.
It is during the first week of the life of the infant that we intend by this measure to do good. Undoubtedly, we shall pass other legislation of the same kind in the future; and I am satisfied that by its means we shall find that we have added much more to the population of Australia than by means of any other legislation that has hitherto been enacted.
– I should not have risen to continue this debate had it not been that I wish to resent the insinuations which Senator St. Ledger has cast across the floor. The object of his speech, if it had an object, was, I take it, merely to misrepresent the position of those who are supporting this Bill. Senator St. Ledger to-day moved an amendment of which he was evidently very proud. I wish to define my attitude regarding the question which he raised. I believe that I am speaking the mind of a good many people when I say that those who support this Bill are not unaware of the magnificent services performed by the maternity homes of this community. I have clearly in my own mind the splendid work done by them. I am fully aware of the kindness and generosity extended by those who manage those institutions to many an unfortunate woman who has slipped, not once, but a second and third time. But to say that, because these maternity homes exist, we ought not to allow a woman to choose whether she shall go to one of them to be treated is merely so much clap-trap. There is good reason to believe that those who have mouthed most about morality, and who have introduced the word Christianity most often into this debate, are by no means the most ready to give an example of what Christianity really means. Is it Christian to say that because a woman has made a mistake, we shall not pay this maternity allowance to her, but shall hand it over to a maternity home whether she likes it or not? I quite recognise the benefits conferred by those institutions, and the spiritual influences with which they surround their inmates; but is it not far better to allow a woman her choice of going into such an institution or not, as she thinks proper? I venture to say that a man who would misrepresent the attitude of his opponents on a matter of this kind is unworthy of being a member of this Chamber. Senator St. Ledger today puts forward the gospel that we glory in the fact that we are subsidizing illegitimacy. That is an attitude which he has taken up both inside and outside Parliament.
– The honorable senator is not quoting fairly.
– The honorable senator said on a public platform that the members of this party gloried in the fact that we were giving a maternity allowance to the mothers of illegitimate children.
– The press records are available to show that what I am stating is correct. Now the honorable senator says that his meaning is that the allowance will increase illegitimacy. He says that unfortunate women do not slip from desire, or because they have mapped out a career of shame. No one desires to say that any woman would fall in order to get £5, or even a much larger sum. Yet to-day we have the insinuation made again that the supporters of the measure glory in illegitimacy. Let me say, quite distinctly that I should be one of the first to move for the repeal of legislation of this description if it had any tendency to increase illegitimacy. I believe that that would be the desire of all of us. It certainly has not been the Labour party that has been responsible for the condition of society in which women have slipped. We have endeavoured, since we have been a party, to remove the causes as far as the material resources of politics would enable us to do so.
– The conditions are rather moral than political.
– We do not in Parliament deal with the spiritual aspect of these matters ; but as far as we have been able, as a party, to create a clean environment and moral conditions - as far as the material powers of legislation would enable us - I venture to say that there is no party that has such a clean record as ours. I am afraid that Senator St. Ledger’s attitude on this matter has been dictated by considerations of party advantage. The influence of the women with whom Senator St. Ledger is associated in his political campaign has led him to make references to matters which should have been revered by him instead of being dragged into the political arena.
– The honorable senator is misrepresenting me.
– Order !
– I know all that the honorable senator said, and I also know what he has said on the platforms of this State, but he has lacked the moral courage to come to this Chamber and repeat it where he could meet his opponents face to face. In conclusion, sir, I would point out that this legislation must necessarily be experimental. It may have weaknesses. I believe that weaknesses may be discovered particularly with regard to the administration of its provisions. But, because the measure is not perfect, is that any reason why we should reject it at this stage? On the contrary, let us put this class of legislation on the statute-book and give it a trial. If our hopes are justified the woman will have the opportunity of v’ getting material comforts at this event in her life. She may, if she so desires, get all the comforts of the spiritual surroundings of a maternity home. The child will have the opportunity of being brought into the world with the best medical treatment, and will be given a pure environment in the early stages of its existence.
– I hope so.
– The child will have a chance to grow up to be a worthy Australian citizen at a cost of £5 to the Commonwealth, and a citizen quite equal to those who are being imported to-day by the States at a cost of j£6 each. This is a big, worthy, and noble experiment. If the measure should fail to achieve its object; if our hopes should not be realized, surely Senator St. Ledger will not say that there are not clean-minded men enough in Australia who will, at some future date, come into these legislative halls and repeal anything which has a tendency to militate . against the moral or spiritual welfare of the people of this country. Knowing that it is an experiment I wish it well. I trust that it will have the beneficial effect which all the members of our party desire. I trust that it will realize the best hopes of, may I say, the clean-minded public of Australia, that it will never be regretted that the Australian Parliament initiated such legislation, and that it will have no baneful effect, but a tendency to elevate, and not to demoralize, society.
– I desire, at this stage of the measure, to emphasize a statement I made in speaking to the second reading. I said that the Leader of the Opposition, in another place, speaking for the party ‘ which he leads there and outside, received the measure with maledictions, but, that when it left there to come to the Senate he gave it his benediction. In justice to myself I desire to draw attention to the fact that my statement has been brought under the notice of Mr. Deakin, and that he has denied giving the Bill his benediction when it left another place.
– Will not the Bill itself be a benediction? Why should it want any one’s benediction?
– Quite right. In mentioning this matter I am simply endeavouring to point out the hypocrisy which animated the opposition to this measure from the moment of its inception. Mr. Deakin said -
However faulty this measure, however obvious and serious its omissions, and the numerous risks that it must run, I look upon it after all as a social endeavour in the right direction.
I ask my honorable friends opposite; I ask the champion of the opponents of this Maternity Allowance Bill, Senator St. Ledger, who has been so vigorous on the platforms of Victoria, and so weak in the National Parliament, if that statement is not in the nature of a benediction to the measure by his own Leader?
– I have not “ quitted “ one inch.
– Again Mr. Deakin said -
But with all these conditions, recognising its disabilities and dangers, it marks, after all, another forward step towards social union.
It is just as well that we, on this side, who have been supporters of the measure right through, should take this opportunity of bringing these truths home to the doors of those who have not only maligned the measure itself, but gone so far as to malign its supporters inside and outside of Parliament.
– And the women of Australia.
– And as my honorable friend has very pertinently interjected they have maligned the women of Australia. Senator ‘St. Ledger himself has never been able yet to deny the statement that he used the words “ a sop to profligacy.”
– I never quitted from it.
– And when he was confronted with his own words he, with his legal ingenuity, at once said that it was a sop in the economic sense, and not in the moral sense.
– No. I said, and I say now, that it is a blot.
– The honorable senator said that it was a blot in the economic sense, and not in the moral sense, but it was well known what he meant when he used the words “ a sop to profligacy.” It was that the chastity of any woman in Australia could be bought for ^5. He has never denied that statement.
– Well, well !
– Mr. Deakin went on to say -
I have taken the objection that we are not following the strict logical order, but yet that, having regard to its merits and value, I am unable to vote against the Bill.
But it is, at all events, .a beginning in the right direction.
I have made this utterance to justify the remarks I made in my speech on the second reading, to prove that the Leader of the alleged Liberal party, in the National Parliament, did condemn the Bill when it was introduced in the House of Representatives, and gave it practically his approbation when it was leaving there.
– He never condemned it very strongly.
– The honorable senator says that Mr. Deakin never condemned the Bill very strongly.
– He did not, unfortunately.
– At any rate, I repeat the statement that Mr. Deakin did condemn the Bill, and he spoke for the party of which he is the Leader. It has been followed here, and I will pay my honorable friend,’ Senator Vardon, the compliment of saying that he, at least, with one or two others on his side, had the courage to vote against the second reading here.
– And I did.
– And the. honorable senator included. All the criticism, all the condemnation that has. been hurled against the Bill, has been merely hypocrisy.
– Order !
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Standing Orders suspended, and Bill read a third time.
Senate adjourned at 5.26 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 9 October 1912, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1912/19121009_SENATE_4_66/>.