1st Parliament · 1st Session
The President took the chair at 2. 30 p.m., and read prayers.
SenatorCHARLESTON presented a petition from 942 electors of the State of South Australia, praying the Senate to reject the Matrimonial Causes Bill.
Senator DRAKE laid upon the table the following papers : -
Articles of agreementbetween the Government of the Commonwealth of Australia and Messrs. Burns, Philp, and Company.
Return of votes recorded at the by-election in Tasmania.
Ordered to be printed.
asked the Vice-
President of the Executive Council, upon notice -
Is it true that owing to the delaycaused by the insufficiency of the staff, a number of electors left without recording their votes ?
– The following report was received from the presiding officer at Queenstown : -
Queenstown, as a polling place, remained uninterruptedly open from eight in the morning until six in the evening on election day. A considerable number of electors arrived between five and six, but therewas plenty of room, and their convenience was met in every way possible, and every expedition used, and no complaint was received by the presiding officer of any description whatever. The number of electors on the Queenstown roll entitled to vote was 3,012, but only 493 recorded their votes, including electors of other districts. The presiding officer reported that the interest taken in the election appeared to be small. There was a presiding officer and an experienced poll clerk. The presiding officer reports that every elector attendinghad every opportunity of voting, and he was not aware of any person leaving without doing so.
– I move -
That this Bill be now read a second time.
This Bill is a part of the system of electoral reform which is embodied in the Government policy. The Electoral Bill provides for all the machinery by which the franchise is to bc exercised ; and this Bill establishes a uniform franchise for the Commonwealth. It contains very few clauses, and almost explains itself. I do not proposeto place before the Senate any considerations further than appear to me to be necessary to explain one or two of its provisions. But before I do that I may as well answer a question which has been put over and over “again in this House, and elsewhere, as to the necessity of introducing a measure of this kind. We are often asked - “ Why cannot you leave things as they are ; both Houses have been elected upon the State franchises, why not leave them alone ?” If that implies that it is the duty of this Parliament under the Constitution to leave the election of senators and members of the House of Representatives to be conducted on the existing franchises for all time, it is an absolutely mistaken view of our duty as representing the people of the Commonwealth. And if it means that there is no immediate necessity for the introduction of such a’ measure I ask the gentlemen who put that question when, in their opinion, there will be a necessity? The Federal Convention determined that there should be a National House representing the whole of the people of Australia entitled to vote, and a States House representing the same people voting on tho same franchise but grouped together as States. It is an essential part of that plan that the basis of the representation should be uniform throughout Australia, and there is no question that if the Convention had been in a position to do it, if it had been furnished with the necessary materials, it would have fixed a uniform franchise, and provided some method by which on that franchise the members of both Houses might be returned. But it is obvious that at that time the Convention was not in a position to so mould the Constitution, and therefore it did the only thing which could be done under the circumstances. It provided that the elections should take place on the State franchises, and under the State laws, until Parliament provided to the contrary. It is, we think, the duty of the Parliament at the earliest possible date to bring about that uniformity in the constituency which is to be represented in both Houses, which was in contemplation when the Constitution was framed, and which, whether it was in contemplation . or not, is certainly the only rational basis of so broad a franchise as that which is required for the Commonwealth Parliament. Why, for instance, should the value of a vote from New South Wales be different from the value of a vote from South Australia? Why should . the members for New South Wales or Victoria represent only half the persons who by every consideration are entitled to have their opinions voiced in Parliament ? Why should another State have representation which expresses the views of all the adult population qualified to vote 1 It is quite clear that until we have some uniformity in that respect we cannot have that uniform basis for the election of the members to both Houses which is essential to the perfect working of our electoral institutions. Let me call the attention of the Senate for a moment to the existing conditions of things, which some persons assert should be allowed to continue. In New South Wales and South Australia only has the property vote been absolutely abolished. In all the other States property has, under the electoral law, some kind of representation. So strong was the feeling of the Convention on that point that it was provided in the Constitution that each elector should be entitled to one vote only. That, of course, takes the sting out of the property vote in a great many of the States, but’ it leaves things in this anomalous position that in Victoria, for instance, aman who has property in five or six electorates may select the place in which he will register his vote. He is entitled to tone vote only, but he is entitled to be on the roll for a number of constituencies.
– In Tasmania a man can vote for every constituency in which he has a property qualification.
– In Tasmania, as my honorable and learned friend reminds me, at State elections a man can vote for every constituency in which he has property, “but under section 30 of the Commonwealth Constitution, although he is entitled to be on the roll, and entitled to. vote at any one of those places at a State election, he can vote at only, one place at a federal election. The effect of the property, vote has to a very large extent been rendered inoperative by reason of that provision of the Constitution. At the same time, it leaves a very anomalous position. That “is to say, that the elector who happens to have property in different electorates may make his choice as to where he will record his vote. But there is another want of uniformity which is even more important -still, and that is that in two States only out of the whole six States is there adult suffrage. I have some figures here which T think will be interesting to honorable senators in this connexion. In New South Wales, with a population of 1,359,133, there are 383,600 males and 299,050 females ; and the number of voters enrolled at the last election was 329,093. In “Victoria, out of a population of 1,201,506, there are 335,215 males and 321,600 females and the registration of voters on the roll was 257,000. In Queensland, out of a population of 503,266, there are 157,606 males, 104,382 females, and on the rolls there are 105,144 persons.
– That includes the plural voters.
– Yes, that includes all the voters. In Tasmania, out of a population of 172,475, there are 45,961 males, and 40,438 females, and the number of enrolled electors is 41,286. In all these cases the males and females of which I have given the numbers are 21 years of age and upwards, the age at which persons are entitled to vote. Now we come to the cases of South Australia and Western Australia, where there is adult suffrage. We find that these are the figures. In South Australia, with a population of 362,604, there are 83,000 males of the age of 21 years and upwards and 74,100 females, and there are enrolled 154,281 persons. That is to say that, comparing those figures with the figures for Queensland, the latter State has enrolled only 105,144 persons, whereas South Australia has enrolled 154,281 persons.
– Though Queensland has a population of 100,000 more.
– Yes ; in Western Australia there is a population of 114,094 persons, of whom 74,000 are males and 38,000 are females, whilst the enrolled electors number 91,522. Looking for one moment only at this question of adult suffrage, the difference brought about by this Franchise Bill, as it is calculated, will be that 765,470 persons who in the different States are not now on the rolls, and are not allowed to vote at elections, will be entitled to vote. That is to say, there are 756,470 women in the Commonwealth, who in South Australia or Western Australia would be entitled to vote, but who are disfranchised in the other States. The provision in the Bill introduced by the Government will remedy that anomaly, that want of uniformity, and. that injustice. There are two points of view from which” the question of women’s suffrage may be regarded. In the first place there is the consideration whether it is right or wrong politically to extend the suffrage to women. Now, Mr. President, I do not intend to go into any elaborate argument on the abstract question, but I should like to say that I see no reason in the world why we should continue to impose laws which have to be obeyed by the women of the community without giving them some voice in the election of the members who ‘ make those laws. Their capacity for understanding political questions, for thinking over them, and for exercising their influence in regard to public affairs, is certainly of that order and of that level which entitles them to take that part in public affairs which the franchise proposes to give them. My view is that the result will be infinitely to strengthen the means by which we shall get a true record of the real opinions of Australia upon all the different questions that will come up for settlement. I have no fear but that the influence which the vote of women throughout Australia will exercise will be, as it has been in other parts of Australia where it has been tried, uniformly for the good of the Commonwealth and in the interests of the best form of legislation. But I premised my remarks on this part of the matter, Mr. President, by saying that I did not intend to go into any elaborate argument on the abstract question, and I take it that it is not necessary to do so, because it seems to me that the question of reform in the direction of women’s suffrage has already won its way in Australia.
– Really !
– It has not won its way to the head of the honorable senator, but I am quite sure that it has won its way to his heart, and I think that he will before very long come round to our view.
– That is just what it has hot done.
– No doubt we shall hear the honorable senator’s views on the question. But I say again that everywhere in Australia this reform has won its way practically to the front. In New Zealand, which was the first of the Australasian colonies to adopt the reform, adult suffrage was passed in 1893. South Australia, in 1894, followed the good example, and Western Australia in 1899. So that in two States out of the Commonwealth already this is the existing law ; and I think I may appeal to the experience of my honorable and learned friend, the leader of the Opposition, and of other honorable senators for South Australia, as to whether the results in that State have not been fully what was anticipated by those who initiated the reform. In all the other States legislation on the subject has proceeded to a certain distance. In New South Wales a measure granting adult suffrage twice passed through the Legislative Assembly, and was twice blocked in the Legislative Council.
– It was the same in Victoria.
– In Victoria it passed the Legislative Assembly four times -in 1898, 1899, 1900, and 1901.
– I thought it was five times?
– The honorable senator maybe right, . but my record from official sources is four times. This reform passed the Legislative Assembly of Victoria, but was blocked in the Legislative Council. In Tasmania it passed in the Legislative Assembly, but was rejected by the Legislative Council. The Legislative Council of
Tasmania and the Legislative Council of Victoria are both elected Houses, but I think both are elected on a basis different from that adopted in the case of the Legislative Assemblies of those two States.
– I should say so!
– In New South Wales, where adult suffrage was rejected by the Legislative Council, that body is anominated body. I think I may fairly appeal to the history of the matter in Australia, therefore, as showing conclusively that the reform has so far won its way, and that it would be law now in nearly all the States but for what I may describeas a certain hesitancy to march with reform which is to be found, I think, in all theUpper Houses in Australia. Iam not saying, for one moment, anything as to the reasons why this measure was rejected in the different Upper Houses. All I say isthat honorable members of those Houses, exercising with perfect honesty and in a. perfectly legitimate way the right they possess of giving effect to their views, thought that the time was not ripe for the reform. But having regard to the position, we are placed in, . namely, the necessity for uniformity; having regard to the fact that that uniformity can only be brought about by extending thefranchise to all women; and having regard also to the position which the question occupies at the present time throughout all Australia, I think we may very well say that the time has arrived when this Senate cannot any longer withhold this measure of justice from such a large proportion of persons entitled to vote and exercise theirinfluence in Australian public affairs, and refuse to give the right which this Bill provides to all women of the age of 21 and upwards in the Commonwealth to vote for the election of members of both Houses of the Federal Parliament. There is only one other question which may, perhaps, be a matter of controversy, and that is that which is involved in paragraph (b) of clause 3. Clause 3 gives a description of the qualifications of voters, and paragraph (b) refers to those who are natural born or naturalized subjects of the King.
– That will enable, a. negro to come here from Jamaica and vote.
– The matter cannot be stated in that off-hand way ; that is not a comprehensive way of stating it. In
Western Australia and in Queensland legislation prevents aboriginals and coloured persons, speaking generally, from voting ; but in all the other four States of the mainland, aboriginals and coloured persons “who are naturalized subjects of the King have a right to vote.
– Except as debarred by accepting Government relief, as the aboriginal natives very largely do.
– In some States, as the honorable senator is aware, that will debar ; in other States it will not. It altogether depends upon the special legislation of the different States. But I am speaking of the matter broadly, and honorable senators may take it that in two of the States - that is, W Western Australia and Queensland - aboriginals are debarred from voting, and speaking generally coloured persons are debarred.
– And in the Northern Territory.
– I think there is a special qualification required in the Northern Territory, and that aboriginals with property are allowed to vote. There is some qualification of that sort. It is quite clear that section 41 of the Constitution preserves the right to vote of any person who has it now - that is to say, any person who had the right at the time of the passing of the Constitution. Therefore, in New South Wales, “Victoria, South Australia, and Tasmania we cannot take away the right to vote which aboriginals, or those other coloured persons who are naturalized subjects, possess. It would be impossible to take away that right, and we can only legislate for the future so far as those States are concerned. That constitutional difficulty does not’ arise in relation to Western Australia and Queensland. It seems to me that we have now to solve the problem of how we are to deal with this question. The Government propose to deal with it by allowing the right to vote all through Australia, so far as it relates to this question, to remain as it is in the majority of the States. In the first place, I think it will be recognised that the question of whether aboriginals should vote or “not is not a matter to be seriously taken into consideration where they are settled members of the community. Where they have settled down in occupations of some kind, I fail to see why they should not be allowed to vote in the same way as is any other inhabitant of the country. I think that we might treat this question of the position of .aboriginals under our electoral laws not only fairly, but with some generosity. “Unfortunately they are a failing race. In most parts of Australia they are becoming very largely civilized, and when they are civilized they are certainly quite as well qualified to vote asare a great number of persons who already possess the franchise. With regard tonaturalized subjects - a class which would include, of course, British subjects who come from other parts of the world, or personswho have been naturalized in any of the States - they have a right to vote whatevertheir colour may be. It appears to me that, in view of the provisions of theImmigration Restriction Act, which will enable us practically to shut out altogether any influx of coloured persons intoAustralia, whether British subjects or not, we might regard the matter only from the point of view of those who are here already. I think we have already safeguarded the community of Australia very efficiently from an invasion of coloured aliens. The administration of the Immigration Restriction Act has proved, as results; will show, that it will be practically impossible for any leakage of coloured- alien; races into Australia to take place that is worthy pf consideration. That being so, we have really to deal only with those who are here already. Once having naturalized any of these coloured people, and giventhem rights of citizenship in relation tothe holding of property and in other directions, it would be a mistake to deprive themof the right to aid in the making of the laws. What is one of the strongest arguments for a white Australia? Surely it isthat we do not want to have in our community any section which is in a servile condition ; we do not want to have any proportion of our community disfranchised and in a position of political inferiority, having no right to a voice in the making of the laws. It would be a greatmistake from every point of view to haveany portion of the community in such aposition that, while it had to obey the laws, it would have no right to vote in the election of those who had to make the laws.. Therefore, if we naturalize these people it appears to me that we ought to give them a full concession of all rights. If we do not wish to do so, then we ought to- alter the laws relating to naturalization.’ The subject comes within section 51 of the Constitution, and we have the right to take over the naturalization of aliens. That has not yet been done, and until we do so the laws of the different States relating to the subject will prevail. In the meantime the different States have the right to continue to make laws dealing with the naturalization of aliens, although it is not likely that they will interfere with the subject. As the Commonwealth has taken over the making of legislation in regard to emigration and immigration, it follows of necessity that it should control the subject of naturalization and the conditions and circumstances under which naturalization should be granted to aliens who settle down here. The law relating to naturalization should be uniform all over Australia, and it should be in the hands of Australia alone. There can be very little doubt that, whenever opportunity offers, the Commonwealth will take over that branch of legislation and deal with it. In the meantime “we have to deal with the condition of affairs as it is. Taking that view, and putting. the matter shortly, I say that, so far as four of the States are concerned, we cannot take away the right from aboriginals and coloured persons who . have already the power to vote. The leakage of coloured aliens into .Australia is likely to be so small under a proper administration of the Immigration Restriction Act that the question of the future is not to be considered. If it is to be considered, then we should say that wherever we have granted, or are prepared to grant, the right to an alien to become naturalized, we should give him the full rights of citizenship, without any reservation whatever. If he is not entitled to the full rights of citizenship he ought not tobe naturalized. We have chosen a method of dealing with this question which seems to me to be the wisest, having regard to the conditions of the Constitution and to existing circumstances. Aboriginals and coloured persons who are naturalized will be put upon exactly the :same footing as any other person who has resided for six months in Australia. I do not think that there are any other provisions of the Bill to which I need refer. It carries out, I think, what is the desire of Australia at the present time, that this legislation of ours should be based upon the broadest possible franchise ; that every person in Australia who is qualified by residence here for six months, and by reason of the fact that he or she has reached the age of 21 years - and is not disqualified in any way under the Constitution - should be entitled to have a voice in the making of our laws. The uniformity which will thus be brought about will be not only in consonance with that view of the broad generous nature of our franchise, but will, I feel assured, make for that steadiness in legislation and in the administration of the laws, which we all desire.
– I feel, as the Vice-President of the Executive Council indicated in his speech, that there are some aspects of this Bill which are entitled to serious consideration. In all respects it is a Bill of a very interesting character, and I for one, may be permitted to congratulate my honorable and learned friend upon having dug out so very interesting a measure with which to amuse the Senate, and wile away the time while we are waiting for the Tariff.
– The honorable and learned senator took the same view of the Electoral Bill.
– I did.
– Subsequent events showed that the honorable and learned senator was wrong.
– No; they showed that I was right ; but by diligent effort, and with the assistance of honorable senators on both sides of the Senate, we converted a measure - I will not say it was a monstrosity - which would have been a very serious blot upon the statute-book into what I believe will be a measure of very great utility. This particular Bill is even of a more interesting character. In that respect I congratulate my honorable and learned friend on having introduced it into the Senate, because really as pointed out on the occasion that has been adverted to, it might just as well have been put on the notice-paper of the Senate at the time the Electoral Bill was before us. We should then have been able to consider the two measures together. The objection was taken at the time, by some of us, that we should have been placed in a position to consider the whole question of electoral reform and the machinery effecting it at the same time. However, there are two or three provisions in this
Bill which are entitled to very grave consideration. The first of these is that to which my right honorable and learned friend has referred, in regard to naturalborn and naturalized British subjects. I entirely agree with the views of the Vice-President of the Executive Council in that respect. We know the serious -dangers which were apprehended in America in “connexion with the negro vote. Because of the great proportion of coloured citizens there modifications of the -electoral law had to be introduced, with a view of detracting from th« full value of that vote, which might have seriously interfered with the dominance of the white races - the citizens of America. As Senator O’Connor has pointed out, no such danger is to be apprehended here ; no such danger exists at any rate at the present moment; and by force of some of the laws which we have passed already, apprehensions of the kind are reduced to a minimum. If the possibility of difficulties should arise hereafter we have the Parliament to set them right, “because this is no part of the Constitution. These are provisions which it is in the power of the Federal Parliament to enact and to repeal. If we found at any time that a danger was to be apprehended or difficulties threatened, we should have the same power as we possess now to repeal or modify the provisions in any way for the public safety in electoral matters. No one can doubt that if we admit citizens, of whatever colour or nationality they may be, to the right of naturalisation amongst us, we should admit them wholly and generously to the full rights of citizenship, or else not admit them at all. It seems to me that there is no halfway house between the one position and the other. If any medium course were adopted the result would be that we should brand a sort of intermediate class of semi-citizens amongst us with a mark of inferiority, that they were unfit to exercise those rights of citizenship to which we had admitted .them already. Therefore, I agree with my honorable and learned friend in the view -which he submitted to the Senate, and which I hope will prevail in relation to sub-clause (£>) of clause 3 of this Bill. There are three other clauses to which my honorable and learned friend has not directed particular attention, but upon which I may be permitted to say a word or two. Each matter dealt with is different, and is dealt with in a separate clause, but in one particular they all come within the same category. I refer to clauses 4, 5, and 6. It may perhaps be a more convenient time to raise the point when we get into committee, and in the meanwhile you, sir, will perhaps consider it. I ask whether the provisions contained in clauses 4, 5, and 6 should appear in a Bill which is to provide a uniform electoral franchise, and whether they ought not to be introduced into an Electoral Bill ? It seems to me that they have no connexion whatever with uniformity of franchise. These clauses all deal with electoral machinery. We could not, of course, amend the Electoral Bill by this Bill now, because the Electoral Bill has not yet become law, but it would be a pity if we were to introduce into this separate measure clauses which, if my contention is well founded, ought to be embodied in the Electoral Bill. There is nothing more confusing even to lawyers, and certainly nothing more confusing to laymen - and it is with laymen that electoral legislation has chiefly to deal - than to have odd clauses in different Acts dealing with different subjects. I think it would be -very much better as a matter merely of prudence and convenience if these clauses were embodied in the Electoral Bill, and they might be introduced into that Bill during its consideration by the House of Representatives. It seems to me that as a matter of what is right from a legislative point of view, they should not appear in a Bill which is intended to deal only with the great object, I may call it, of establishing a uniform franchise for the whole of the Commonwealth. If, however, we are to deal with them, it will be as well to have them in some form which will be clear and effective, and which will not infringe the provisions of the Constitution. Clause 4 seems to me to be framed under a misconception, and if it is to be dealt with I shall, later on in committee, move an amendment upon it. It is framed to declare that -
Every adult person whose rights are preserved by section 41 of the Constitution shall be entitled - (a) To have his name placed on the electoral roll for the division in which he resides, and to vote at elections of members of the Senate and the House of Representatives.
Now, we have no power whatever to give that right. The right to vote at elections for the House of Representatives and for the Senate is conferred by section 41 of the Constitution upon every adult person who has or acquires the right to vote at elections for the more numerous House of the Parliament of a State. We should be exceedingly careful not to profess in any of our legislation to interfere with the scope and effect of the Constitution, but we should confine ourselves strictly to carrying into effect what has been effectively done by the Constitution. The right of voting having been given, if we are to provide for anything at all in connexion with it in this Bill, what I suggest is that we should provide that every adult person who is on the electoral roll for the more numerous House of the Parliament of any State shall be placed upon the electoral roll of the Commonwealth.
– Surely the honorable and learned senator would not do that, because a person may be on an electoral roll for a State and yet not be entitled to vote?
-Of course my honorable and learned friend, with that quickness of apprehension which
Ave are all glad to recognise-
– I am dealing with the honorable and learned senator’s words.
– Exactly; the honorable and learned senator is dealing with my words, but I was not stating the exact verbiage of the provision.
– Is it not possible that some of the States may in the future take away the right from some person. Where would we be then 1
– We. should then have our o wn legislation in which the suffrage is provided for. The object of this clause is simply to declare that those persons to whom the Constitution gives the right to vote under section 41 shall be placed upon the electoral roll of the Commonwealth. I think it is not necessary that such a clause should be in the Bill at all, but if it is to be in the Bill, the ‘ right being conferred by the Constitution, it should be merely an administrative provision setting out that, so long as the right continues, those who possess it shall be placed upon the electoral roll of the’ Commonwealth. This has nothing to do with clause 3, which is a substantive provision conferring the right, so far as the Commonwealth is concerned, upon every adult person to vote. Clause 4 is merely a provision to give effect to the Constitution which confers on certain persons, namely, those upon the electoral roll for the more numerous House of theParliament of the State, the right, to use a legal expression, ipso facto of being placed upon the Commonwealth roll so long as their right continues. If the right is taken away by the State, then the right of those persons to be upon the Commonwealth roll will not depend upon section 41 of the Constitution, but upon clause 3 of this Bill. Then clause 5 is merely a repetition of section 44 of the Constitution, but section 44 of the Constitution deals, as honorable members will remember, with a disqualification of candidates for the Senate or the House of Representatives. It has nothing to do with the qualification or disqualification of voters. It should not be imported into this Bill, but should also bedealt with in the Electoral Bill, as it has nothing whatever to do with uniform franchise.
– Should not a disqualification be in the same Bill as the qualification ?
– No ; it is not a franchise ‘qualification. It’ is an electoral disqualification. What is proposed is that every adult person shall enjoy the franchise and shall be entitled to vote. Then certain persons enjoying the franchise, which is uniform, are to be disqualified from voting, not because they do not come within the meaning of the uniform franchise, but because of some personal wrong-doing on their part. If, however, that clause remains, I think my honorable and learned friend will see that it is altogether too limited. It may be all very well as it stands in the Constitution, but as regards voters it is limited to persons attainted, or who have been convicted and are under sentence, or subject to be sentenced, for any offence punishable under the law of the Commonwealth or of a State. Now, why should a person who has been convicted in any other part of His Majesty’s dominions, and who has not been pardoned -or undergone a sentence for an offence, come here and be entitled to vote when our own derelicts or offenders against our Commonwealth laws or the laws of our States’ are debarred from doing so 1 It should apply to all convictions, sentences, attainders, and so on, in every part of His Majesty’s dominions, and not merely within the limits of this Commonwealth.
– The persons hit at would be in gaol.
– No, because when they have served their sentences it does’ not apply.
– It is realty wider than that. It is an essential provision, and one which I venture to think ought to be in any electoral law or in the Constitution. Then clause C undoubtedly is part of an Electoral Bill, and has nothing to do with uniformity of franchise. It says -
No person shall be entitled to have his name on the electoral roll for any electoral division except the division in which he resides -
That is purely electoral machinery ; or - To vote at any election except in the electoral division for which he is enrolled.
And so on. But then there is an extraordinary proviso added to which I invite the attention of honorable senators. There is an exception to be made in favour of senators or members of the House of Representatives, who are to be entitled to have their names retained on the electoral roll for the electoral division in which they resided at the time of their election, and not of the electoral division in which they actually reside. Why should that exception be made ?
– It is made because of Tucker’s case in South Australia. He voted at Encounter Bay, and resided at North Adelaide.
– Then he had no business to vote at Encounter Bay. The only reason I can see for it is to enable a member of the Senate or the House of Representatives to vote for himself.
– A very good one.
– No doubt honorable senators may be the best judges of their own qualifications, and would like to see themselves returned. But really this is rather a small and pitiable exception to make. Why should we destroy the symmetry and simplicity of the system, which says that no elector shall be entitled to be upon a roll except the roll for the division in which he resides, by making an exception in favour of members of this Parliament 1
– We wish to retain our citizenship in our own States. I wish to remain a Western Australian.
– The honorable and learned senator would not allow the PostmasterGeneral to remain upon an electoral roll in Queensland, but would compel, him to be- upon a roll in Melbourne, because he must reside here.
– Senator Drake is supposed to reside in Queensland. He is not a stranger here, because he is a friend ; he is only a sojourner here.
– That is not according to the Queensland law.
– Then I quite agree that that is a matter that must be met. But if that is so, let us alter the definition of residence, and make it applicable to every one, but do not let us engraft this as an exception upon the uniformity which we all desire with regard certainly to the principle that residence is the condition which entitles a man to be upon the roll for a particular division. We have taken great pains in the Electoral Bill to avoid any possibility of exception to that rule. At any rate let us deal with the matter in the Electoral Bill. ‘That is where such a provision as is dealt with in clause 6 should be introduced if it is not already in the Electoral Bill. I see no indication in> the Bill as to whether the provision is taken from the Electoral Bill or not. There is a reference to section 30 of the Constitution as bearing upon this particular point. But whether it is so or not, I see no necessity for an interference of the kind with the simplicity and principle of the measure we have adopted, and if it is to be arrived at with the view of getting rid of the difficulty which my honorable friend points out, it ought to be done in some other way than by making in favour of senators and members of the House of Representatives an exception which will undoubtedly look and will be regarded, probably, by the man in the street, as simply being intended to enable a candidate to vote for himself in the division he represents. Clause 3 contains really the essence of the measure, and my honorable friend has been kind enough to appeal to me as coming from a State in which women have enjoyed the blessing of the franchise as to what the experience of it has been there. In South Australia we have had women’s suffrage since 1S94. It has operated in at least six elections. It was brought into play at an election in 1896, at the election of federal delegates in 1897, at a general election in 1899, at elections for the Legislative Council in 1 900 and 1901, an 1 at the federal elections in 1901. I am bound to say that in South Australia it has done no harm, and it has done no good. It has had no effect upon either policy or personnel, so far as I have been able to discover.
– It put in King O’Malley.
– Yes; and it put out King O’Malley. A very great deal of extravagance and absurdity has been talked in connexion with women’s suffrage. On the one hand there were many predictions that it was going to introduce friction and all kinds of difficulty and disturbance into households. All those predictions have been utterly falsified. So far as I am aware - and of course I am only speaking from my knowledge of the public affairs of the State - there has been no increase, owing to women’s suffrage, in any of that incompatibility of temper which sometimes prevails. I am not aware that it has ever been adduced, either as a ground of petition, or as a ground of defence in the Divorce Court, that difficulties have arisen and that desertion has been brought about or cruelty practised owing to the introduction of the suffrage. On the other hand, the predictions of all those enthusiasts who said that it was going to purify, to be in the interests of temperance and morality, have not been altogether realized.
– The only argument used was that it was in the interests of justice.
– My honorable friend has not read up the subject, or paid that attention which he usually does, because I am quoting the words of a strong advocate for it in South Australia - that it was to be in the interests of temperance and morality. I advocated women’s suffrage in a certain modified form years before it was taken up by those who now claim the credit of the reform - as long ago as 18S6.
– In the interests of property.
– Not in the interests of property, but in the interests of those women who were subject to taxation in respect of their possessions. I am not now quarrelling with its having been extended to all women, but stating that the principle of women’s suffrage was advocated by me on the ground that an injustice was done to a particular section of women - and surely “ half a loaf is better than no bread “ - by their being subject to taxation.
I refer to unmarried women who had no opportunities of influence in political affairs, at all, and who were subject to taxation without a vote.
– The poor widow and the orphan.
– My honorable friend usually talks a lot of’ twaddle about the poor widow and the> orphan. It was put on the ground, which, is that of justice, that there should be notaxation without representation ; and then came those so-called reformers at a later period who, if I may say so, filched ourprinciples, but extended them somewhat further.
– They have evidentlybroadened the honorable and learned senator’s views, because he is prepared to accept- the Bill.
– They have not broadened my views a bit. Onthe one hand, honorable senators may eliminate all the extravagances against the suffrage - that it was going to introduce difficulty and dissension in domestic circles - and on the other they may disabuse their minds of the idea that it has brought about any purification or elevation, or any improvement in the direction of temperance and morality, as it was said, in political life. Nor is it - and I agree with my honorable friend very strongly on that point - a question of intelligence and capacity. There is not a man amongst us, but who is bound to admit that the intelligence, the capacity, of women stands on quite as high a level, although it is more open perhaps to influence by the emotions, as that of man. All these objections on the ground of deficient intelligence and capacity may be taken as entirely removed, although I am bound to say that women are characterized rather by quickness of intuition than by that soberness and solidity - perhaps women would call it stupidity - of judgment, which is characteristic of men. But I do know, and I think honorable senators will find when we have this suffrage throughout the Commonwealth - as I hope we shall - that women are much more influenced by their feelings as to the direction in which they will vote than by any question of public policy.
– They will be guided by sober feelings very often.
– I do not know exactly what my honorable friend means by that equivocal expression.
– They will cast their votes for persons who will seek sobriety.
– That is teetotalism. I do not think so.
– They will not be influenced by the power oE the beer-barrel.
– There are other influences, with which, of course, ray honorable friend is more familiar than I am. I do not profess to have that fascination which he, I am sure, will be able to exercise, and I think he will find, as it has been found in South Australia, that women are very often encouraged and induced to vote by other considerations than the beerbarrel - other considerations that he may very well imagine. But there is one thing which we ought to consider in this connexion. That we must have uniformity in the franchise that prevails in the Commonwealth is undoubted. It has always seemed to meand of course it does now, because the same conditions prevail - an absurdity that we should have votes cast by a constituency of one composition within one area, and by a constituency of a different composition in another area. Throughout aU Australia there must be a consensus of opinion that uniformity must prevail. This uniformity is impossible under existing conditions, unless the franchise is extended to women. There are two States in which women’s suffrage exists. Of course it is unthinkable that the State Parliament would take it away, that would be an impossibility whether it was exercised in large numbers or in small numbers. The women are entitled to vote if they choose. On the other hand this uniformity may be brought about by the States themselves. I think, and the most instructive information given by Senator O’Connor satisfies me, that very little would have induced the States to enact women’s suffrage.
– We shall help them over that difficulty.
– It is a very good thing to help them, but what I feel is open, at any rate to very serious question, is whether we ought in those four States where it does not exist to show the iron hand of the Federal Parliament. This is a question upon which the representatives of those four States must be chiefly consulted. If their ‘ view .is that women’s suffrage should be enacted by the Federal Parliament without more ado, there is nothing more for us to say. If they are satisfied that the expressions of opinion given by the various Houses is sufficient to indicate that these great communities desire women’s suffrage, then I think that those of us who come from States in which it exists are bound so to vote. It removes the natural disinclination which some of us would have to force women’s suffrage on these four States, unless there were that desire which my honorable and learned friend says has already been sufficiently indicated. I was not aware that in South Australia the women ever asked for-the franchise. The women in South Australia did not want the franchise and do not want it now.
– The biggest petition ever presented to Parliament in that State was with regard to women’s suffrage.
– That is an example of how such’ petitions are got up. But the best test of whether the franchise was wanted by the women is whether it has been used or exercised by them. In South Australia it has not been much used.
– I say it has.
– My honorable friend’s statement has no foundation whatever. It has not been used or exercised as it ought to have been, and as it was expected that it would be, by the women who were said to be burning to have it, and who were possessed with the idea that the franchise was going to do so much for them. But the women generally were not eager to get it, and have not availed themselves of it-1- certainly not to any greater degree than men have exercised it, but rather to a less degree.
– I believe that agreater proportion of women voted than men, in some cases.
– I havethe figures, which I intend to quote to the Senate, and which will show the true stateof the case. I will quote them in order todiscount what I will not call the fudge, but what was certainly the extravagant language which has been uttered as to theunanimous desire of the women of South Australia that they should have the franchise, and as to their belief that if they only got it they would be able to “ make things hum “ - to use an Americanism - in the way of securing better representation and the greater prosperity of the country to which they belong. There are women within my own knowledge- who have declined to be put upon the roll, and many women whose names were on the roll have point-blank refused to go to the poll. I know that not only have women refused to be put upon the roll, but that some of them have a sort of shrinking from the idea of getting their names upon it, as though the placing of a name upon the roll were fraught with something terrible.
– Yet they have voted at municipal council elections !
– The same remark
Applies to some men.
– I have not known it in the case of men. I rejoice to know that some women, however slight their interest in local matters, take a pride in having voted for the choosing of men to sit in the Federal Convention which framed our Constitution. I have no doubt that there are women in South Australia to whom it will be a matter of gratification for years to come that they voted upon the Referendum for the acceptance of the Common wealth Bill. But my remarks apply particularly to ordinary elections, and the figures which I shall submit to honorable senators for their consideration - not with a view of inducing them to hesitate about accepting the Bill - will show that there is not that urgent, and earnest, and universal demand for the suff- rage amongst the women themselves that they have been credited with.
– How can the honorable and learned senator show that ?
– I will show it in a minute. We had a general election in the year 1896. In 1899 we had
Another general election. On that occasion the figures show that in the metropolitan constituencies of South Australia - those constituencies in which the facilities for women going to the poll are greatest, because in the country districts it is next to impossible for them to go to the poll - there was a decrease in six of the seven constituencies, as compared with the percentage of women’s votes polled at the previous general election. In East Adelaide there was a decrease of 15 per cent., in North Adelaide 11 per cent., in Port Adelaide 16 per cent., in East Torrens 15 per cent., in West Torrens 7 per cent., and in Sturt 9 per cent.
– Did that cause a revolution in Adelaide?
– Iam not speaking about revolutions. I do not give i these figures to show that anything very serious has happened, but to prove that all this talk, which has frightened many weakminded men, who have been alarmed by some strident and strenuous women, who, no doubt, have been most anxious to carry this reform, has no justification. These figures show that we should not be frightened in considering this matter, and that after all we are not likely to be considered hostile or ungallant, or anything of that kind, because we question whether women - whom we all admire, and, I hope, love very much - do not so eagerly desire this boon as some people say they do.
– Was there a decrease in the number of male votes in all these places?
– In only three. The votes of the women decreased in six constituencies, and the votes of the men decreased in three, and the percentage of decrease in the case of the men was much smaller than in the case of the women.
– How much ?
– It was much smaller in the three cases in which there was a decrease in the proportion of male votes than in the six cases in which there was a decrease in the proportion of female votes. In East Adelaide the decrease in the case of the men was 7 per cent., and of the women 15 per cent. In North Adelaide the decrease was 15 per cent. in the case of the men, and 11 per cent. in the case of the women. But let me tell my honorable friends why that was. I think that the strongest conservative district in the whole of the State of South Australia is North Adelaide.
– I lived there once !
– My honorable friend was under good influences when he resided there. I am sorry that he is not with us still. Then in East Torrens the decrease in the case of the men was 3 per cent., and of the women 15 per cent.
– As compared with what?
– I am comparing the voting of the women in 1896 and 1899.
– If the honorable and learned senator would make his figures perfect he would tell us the number of electors ! in each of these districts.
– I want to give the Senate some further information. I will give all I have.
– For what it is worth !
– I do not know what my honorable and learned friend means by that.
– It does not really establish very much, one way or the other.
– Does it not ? I am glad that the expression “ for what it is worth “ as used by my honorable and learned friend does not mean what it sometimes means. These are authoritative figures, and they show a continual decrease in the number of votes recorded by the women in South Australia. Let me give the total women’s votes in 1899. The total women’s vote throughout the State was 34,438, and the total number of electors on the roll was 1 52, 393. The menand the women are very nearly equal in South Australia. An exact half of the total number on the roll would be 76,000. Suppose there are 70,000 women on the roll, then less than half the number voted.
– Does the honorable and learned senator know that domestic servants are not encouraged to go upon the roll ?
– My honorable friend’s question takes me rather out of the line of the question with which I was dealing, but I will answer it. He makes a statement which, as far as my experience goes, is absolutely and wholly incorrect. His statement is an aspersion upon the masters and mistresses of the domestic servants, and it is not justified.
– I will produce proof.
– Let my honorable friend produce it, but I know that domestic servants are most unwilling to be placed upon the electoral roll. I know instances in which they have refused to have their names placed upon the roll. I know also that if they are on the roll, it is with the greatest difficulty in the world that they are persuaded to go and exercise the franchise. In 1900 there was an election for the Legislative Council of South Australia. It was an election in which a deep interest was taken, and a very great deal of passion and excitement were involved. In the No. 2, or Southern district, party feeling ran very high. It will be recollected by my fellow senators from South Australia that the present Minister for Trade and Customs was a candidate in his absence, and naturally there was a great deal of feeling under the circumstances. I will mention the number of women voting, and the number on the roll. Again let me say, however, that I am not giving these figures with a view of questioning the right to vote of the women who are already on the roll, or in opposition to this Bill, but for the information of the Senate. In Onkaparinga there were 25 2 women on the roll, and 106 voted. In Noarlunga there were 166 on the roll, and 79 voted. In Mount Barker there were 341 on the roll - and there were circumstances which my honorable friends will recollect that affected the result in this case - out of whom 219 voted.
– Very good.
– Very good indeed, and that was due to the influence, not of the party to which my honorable friend belongs, but of the opposite party. In Encounter Bay there were 232 on the roll and 121 voted. In Albert there were 177 on the roll, and 90 voted. In Victoria there were 3S4 on the roll and 159 voted. In East Torrens there were 1,448 on the roll and 690 voted.
– A very good average all through.
– I will give the exact average all through.
– The average for the women was not so good as for the men.
– Nothing like as good.
– The men go out to enjoy themselves on election day, but the women have to attend to their homes.
– I quite agree with my honorable friend that women do not regard it as anyenjoyment to go to the poll.
– The honorable and learned senator is now referring to the countrydistricts.
– Not in the case of East Torrens. That is the peculiarity. In country districts, as my honorable friend’s question indicates, you cannot possibly expect the women to go to the poll, and they do not go. Very often, when traps are sent for them, they will not go ; and I have known instances where offers have been made by some one to stay and mind the baby if £he woman would only go and vote, and she would not do anything of the kind. The women prefer the interests and happiness of their husbands and their children to the interests of any politicians or candidates, or any policy that they ever heard of.
– Surely some of the places mentioned by the honorable senator are in the country districts ?
– What places ?
– Onkaparinga, for in-
– There are portions of the country in most of the districts. East Torrens is the most populous suburb of Adelaide.
– lt is metropolitan and suburban.
– Is it 20 or 30 miles square 1
– Not 10 miles square.
– At any rate, these are the figures relating to that particular election. In May, 1901, there was an election for the Legislative Council, in connexion with which there was a good deal of feeling. Mr. Parsons and Mr. Robertson stood for the central district, and out of 4,600 women on the roll only 1,435 voted.
– It was a byelection.
– It was a by-election, but the proportion was ridiculously small. It was a heavy falling away from the vote which it was expected would be exercised. Then coming to the federal elections for the whole State, which took place on the 30th March, 1901, we have some interesting figures, which I wish honorable senators to compare with those I have quoted already. As I have mentioned, at the elections in 1899, 34,438 women voted throughout the whole colony. At the federal elections in 1901, 21,471 women voted, only 30 per cent, of the women voters on the rolls exercising the franchise. The males were twice as many, namely 41,710. Taking these comparisons, we find a gradual declension of interest in these contests on the part of women. They show that there has been a gradually increasing luke-warmness, if I may so express it, on the part of women in the exercise of the franchise from 1896 - when women’s suffrage was first brought into force - until the present time. These figures show that thewomen, as a whole, do not regard the franchise with that adoration, nor do they display that enthusiasm in the desire for its exercise that has been so often ascribed tothem. They show that when there was a novelty about the system, as in 1896, largenumbers went to the poll. We are indebted to the present Ministerfor Trade and Customsfor having enabled us, while in Adelaide, toobtain these figures by which we can be guided, only to the conclusion that there isnot that unanimity on the part of women in respect to franchise which we were led to expect.
– Can the honorable and learned senator say whether any disordertook place when the 34,438 women attended the poll 1
– There* was no disorder.
– That was one of the.objections raised to the principle here.
– I think that so long as we are living in an English, community, and belong to the breed of men to which we do belong, a suggestion of thatkind on the part of opponents of women’ssuffrage is exceedingly far fetched, and that the best thing we can do is to treat it with contempt. I rejoice that I havethis opportunity of laying before honorable senators the figures which are authoritative, having been obtained im the electoral offices of South Australia - the best source available to us - so thatthey may see the interest that is taken and the earnestness which is shown in theexercise of the franchise which has been confeired upon women in the State from whichI come.
– Did I understand thehonorable and learned senator to say that at the federal elections in South Australia 41 per cent, of males voted and only 30 percent, of women ?
– No ; thepercentage of males was far larger than that,, as 41,710 men voted compared with 21,471 women. The proportion of females to menin South Australia according to our last census is still the same ; in fact, we havereally more women than there are men.
– Women over 21 ?
– We can only take the proportion.
– I ask for the purposes of comparison.
– We may take it that the number of women over 21 years is about the same as is the number of the men.
– Considering the difficulty experienced by women in getting away to the poll, as compared with men, does not the honorable and learned senator think that the percentage was good on the occasion referred to by him?
– I do not think so. I speak from personal experience. If women are in a factory or in a shop, or in service of any kind, and can be brought under the influence of some interested, enthusiastic, and active canvasser, it is possible to induce a great many of them to go to the poll. There are many who will not go to the poll, whatever inducements andpersuasions are exercised. I suppose that there is in the emotional character of women that which men do not feel ; an apprehension - which may pass off - that there is something mysterious, something uncanny, about being on the rolls. I have frequently heard the expression used by them that they do not want to mix up in these political matters ; that they are matters for men with which they do not care to have anything to do. I do not believe that, as the result of the extension of the franchise to women, there is any likelihood of the disarrangement of households, or of trouble between man and wife, or anything of that kind. Say what you will, if marriage is a partnership the husband is the dominant partner, and there is no doubt whatever that it would be a rare exception for a woman to take up such a position in opposition to her husband as would create family dissension. Therefore, all those fears may be eliminated from our minds. A certain section of women are entitled as a matter of justice to have votes; but in giving that right to all women we give it to alarge proportion - I should say two-thirds - who do not desire it, and who probably will seldom, if ever, exercise it ; while of the remaining one-third, the great majority will exercise it only when brought under the influence of politicians or their agents who are zealous in seeking support for their candidates, and in bringing every one to the poll. Whilst not desiring in any way to oppose what exists already - because those who -have the franchise have a right to exercise it if they wish -at the same time I do not believe that the giving of that right has added in any respect whatever either to the power or the influence for good of women.
– It has left things where they were.
– Yes. It has not affected the status, the moral standing, the personnel, or the quality of the representatives, or the quality of the legislation which has been brought into force in the States where it exists.
– But South Australia was in a very perfect condition before women’s suffrage was granted.
– That may or may not be so. I do not think that South Australia was either worse or better than any other State. I could give instances, if necessary, which would show that public feeling has notbeen growing insupport of this alleged improvement. My honorable and learned friend says that womanhood suffrage will exercise an improving influence. I think he is sanguine in expecting it. My own belief is that woman is at her noblest and best as a wife and mother. I think that the great majority, I will not say of the best women, but of women generally, are content to guide the house, the child to teach, to be an example to their children and the joy of their husband’s home. I feel that the introduction of political duties-I put it that way - into the ambit of their service in life is overloading them, and is certainly not promoting woman’s destiny at its best. She has an ample mission and an ample field outside and above all politics. Within that sphere she can influence her husband and her children in political as well as in other matters; she can soften the asperities of the one ; she can encourage his ambitions, and she “can be a guide, I think, without having the right to vote. She can be a guide to her children in forming their judgment and leading their thoughts in the right way. Politics means a service to the State. I think that women may be quite as good servants to the State, and quite as effective in their efforts by brightening their homes, by making them happy and attractive for their husbands, and by bringing up their children as well ordered and useful citizens of the Commonwealth.
– There is, I take it, little doubt that the central feature of the Bill before us is that of women’s suffrage. I was scarcely prepared to hear the Vice-President of the Executive Council put it that it was almost entirely an affair of the heart, and that he thought it would be very strange if my heart did not impel me to vote for womanhood suffrage.
– I did not say that ; but that is a mere detail.
– If the honorable and learned senator did not say it there must be something wrong with my hearing. I certainly think he did say it. So far as I feel my heart-strings pulled at all, I may say that both my heart and brain act together in antagonism to the principle of women’s suffrage. I am not prepared to describe women’s suffrage as a blessing. I would rather describe it as an attempt to throw a portion of the white man’s burden upon the white woman. I do not think that the interests of the States or of the people will be promoted in any shape or form by the change which is suggested. We have been told that two out of the six States already have women’s suffrage. That is true. But it is to be remembered that the entire population of those two States is only about 1 5 per cent, of the whole population of the Commonwealth, so that women’s suffrage does not exist amongst 85 per cent, of the people.
– It returned a third of the members of the Senate.
– We hear a voice from Western Australia, but they have no women there. At any rate, they have very few. “So that we cannot consider ourselves very much instructed by statements from Western Australia. We have had certain statements put before us as to the progress made in the Australian State Legislatures on this subject. I would like to put before the Senate a little information as to the state of affairs in America. I shall, first of all, give a short quotation from the famous work of Bryce on The American Commonwealth. At page 559, speaking of the general feeling amongst American people, he says -
There is a widespread apprehension that to bring women into politics might lower their social position, diminish men’s deference for them, harden and toughen them, and, as it is expressed, “ brush the bloom off the flowers.” This feeling is at least as strong among women as among men, and some judicious observers think that it is stronger now than it was 25 years ago.
– What is the date of that ?
– This was published in 1897. Bryce says further -
I am inclined to think, though of course this is mere conjecture, that the proportion of women who desire the suffrage is smaller in America than in England. Of the many American ladies whose opinions I inquired the enormous majority expressed themselves hostile, and there has been formed a Women’s Anti-Suffrage Association of America, which conducts an active agitation, whereas i n England no similar organization has ever been created among either men or women . It is remarkable that the movement has in America found little support among what may be called the “ upper classes.” Women’s suffragism has been, though perhaps less so now than formerly, thought “Bad form,” and supposed to betoken a want of culture and refinement.
If there is any country in this world where the position of women is specially high, where womanhood is reverenced more than ordinarily, that country is the United States, and yet that is the country in which, above all others amongst Anglo-Saxon people, the question of woman’s suffrage is making least progress. I deny that this is a reform. I deny that justice requires it. I deny that justice has anything to do with it. -I know a number of ladies who are interested in the woman’s suffrage movement. I know that they are as ardent as I am myself for the welfare of the country. They do not conform at all to the comic representation of the woman suffragists. They are not angular in figure, nor sour in temper. But, notwithstanding that, I am getting no nearer to a willingness to put on women what I call the burden of political life. If we are to expect women simply to vote without any knowledge, we will not be doing a very wise thing, and knowledge can only be obtained by a certain amount of effort. I do not think it is desirable in the interests of the sex themselves, nor do I think that they themselves desire, that they should be immersed in political life. I shall give a little . further information with regard to America. I quote now from something that appeared under the head of Woman’s Suffrage in the Review of Reviews of 15th September, 1899. This is with regard to America. It is said -
Figures taken from the Woman’s Journal show that the number of people supporting the supposed reform in some of the leading States is as follows : - Massachusetts, 51 per .100,000 ; Pennsylvania, 14 ; New York, 23 ; Connecticut, 23 ; Illinois, 13 ; and Virginia, 1 per 100,000.
– I should like to know how those figures were obtained.
– The figures are quoted from the Woman’s Journal of America, and the quotation proceeds -
Taking all the States together, not one seventieth of the population has extended the franchise to women.
Then the editor of the Review of Reviews adds -
The evidence that at present a vast majority of Australian women are either adverse or indifferent to the change is also too plain to be ignored.
Of my own knowledge I certainly do not know of any widespread evidence of a desire for female suffrage. I have not heard of the presentation of a single petition, either to the Senate or to the House of Representatives, before whom this Bill has been lying for something like nine months.
– Would the honorable senator be influenced by petitions ?
– I would be influenced by petitions. If I could find evidence of a wide-spread and very earnest desire on the part of the majority of the women of Australia for this power to vote, I should be prepared, even against my judgment, as to the consequence of it, to grant it. There are two matters to which I would like to refer. One is the matter of expense. Occasionally we hear about economy, but almost continually we find that, when any opportunity arises to spend money freely, it is at once availed of. The Vice-President of the Executive Council gave us no intimation as to what the expense of this would be to Australia. Of course we know that the system is already in force in two of the smaller States, but we do not know what the expense would be in the larger States, which represent 85 percent, of the population.
– It has been very small in South Australia.
– lt is very small in the smaller States, and I have no doubt it would be much larger in the larger States. But I say at once that, if we recognise that it is a matter of justice that this vote should be given to ^ women, then we -have no business to consider the expense ; that question is out of court at once, and the expense must be borne, what.everit is. But when I deny that it is a matter of justice ; when I deny that justice has anything to do with it at all ; when I say that it is an infliction upon women, and not a blessing, which- it is proposed to confer,, then I say that the expense may fairly betaken into consideration. There is another matter which is of some importance, in New South Wales especially - I believe it will be found to be very important also in Victoria - and that is, that the adoption of womanhood suffrage will .vitally affect the relative representation of town and country. Again I say that if this is a matter of justice, this consideration ought not to be weighed .at all. If we are denying to the women of Australia anything to which they are entitled, anything which in the very nature of things they ought to have bestowed upon them, any question as to the proportion of representation as between town and country ought not to be considered at all. But bearing in mind the apathy that exists throughout Australia on this subject, and in the absence of any urgent call for this representation, I contend that this is a matter of some importance, and I should like very much to hear what the country districts of New South Wales, Victoria, and Queensland have to say against a scheme which will throw a larger proportion of the representation into the hands of the city population.
– How will it do that ?
– Does not the honorable senator know that although there ‘ is a large proportion of men in the cities, the proportion of women in the cities is greater still, and there will, therefore, be a greater proportion of city votes ?
– The honorable senator seems to forget that this is representation of quotas of electors. Each quota of voters will have its representative.
– That is for the Senate. Now, with regard to the House of Representatives, I made a calculation some time ago, and I think that at the present time the city representation of the House of Representatives from New South Wales is ten, and the country representation is sixteen. I came to- the conclusion, by comparing the figures of population, that the representation of the country districts of New South Wales in the House of Representatives under this proposal would be something like thirteen, and the cities would also get a representation of thirteen. So that whereas at the present time the country has a
I majority of six, under this proposal the country would lose its majority altogether. That, in my opinion, is a matter of some importance.
– The honorable senator must have mixed up his Tariff figures.
– I wish the honorable senator would be good enough to cease any reference to the Tariff. When it comes before us I shall be able to deal with it, and I can assure the honorable senator that I can deal with the matter we have now in hand quite as well without his assistance as with it. I have no intention of occupying the time of the Senate at any great length. I could quote statement after statement which would ‘be of interest, and which could not fail, to some extent, to influence the minds of honorable senators whether or not it influenced their votes, but I shall content myself with giving a quotation from one of the greatest men of the last century, Mr. Gladstone. It is a remarkable thing that a number of eminent menin their earlier days gave some support to female suffrage ; but, in their later days, when they had the advantage of long experience and a greater knowledge of the world and political life, they decided that it was not desirable. Amongst these eminent men may be mentioned John Bright, Herbert Spencer, and Goldwin Smith. These three men, of rare ability at some period of their lives, supported female suffrage, but at later periods they all declared strongly against it. The quotation from Mr. Gladstone is as follows : -
A permanent and vast difference of tj,Pe has been impressed upon woman and man respectively by the Maker “of both. Their differences of social office rest mainly upon causes not flexible and elastic like most mental qualities, but physical, and in their nature unchangeable. I for one am not prepared to say which of the two classes has the higher, and which the other, province ; but I recognise the subtle and profound character of the difference between them. 1 am not without fear lest, beginning with the State, we should eventually be found to have intruded into what is yet more fundamental and sacred - the precinct of the family - and should dislocate or injuriously modify the relations of domestic life. Peaceful and pure home life is the true foundation of all national well-being> That happy home life can only be found when wives and mothers make the family the centre of their being. I believe the ultimate effect of pushing them into, the maelstrom of politics will be to produce an increasing silent distaste for married life, with all the enormous evils accompanying that distaste. I have no fear lest the woman should encroach upon the power of the man ; the fear I have is lest we should invite her unwittingly to trespass upon the delicacy, the purity, the refinement, the elevation of her own nature which are the present sources of its power.
– When did he say that ?
– I cannot give the date. I heartily indorse the sentiments which I have just quoted from the late William Ewart Gladstone, than whom no greater figure graced the nineteenth century. I believe that if we now decide to go in for womanhood suffrage it will tend to the vulgarization of women, and that none of us desires. It is entirely a mistake to imagine that this is a question of justice ; that it is in any respect a reform. It is a going back, and it is an introduction of elements which will not strengthen political life, but which will tend to lessen the strength of domestic life. If we in political life do half the good which women are capable of doing in domestic and social life we shall do a great deal of good. Just as we do anything that lessens the great solemnity and earnestness attaching to our women in- domestic and social life, so do we lessen the strength of the State. Therefore, in committee I shall not hesitate to move or support an amendment which will confine the vote to adult men.
– The last speaker has rather overlooked the fact that any amendment such as he suggested would completely ruin the object of the Bill.
– The object of the Bill is to provide for a uniform franchise, and as two States possess adult suffrage, which cannot be taken, from them, it would be useless to proceed with the Bill, except on that basis.
– Does the honorable senator argue that it is compulsory for us to give it 1
– I do not argue anything of the kind. What I suggest Ls that the honorable senator should vote against the second reading of the Bill if he does not mean to accept adult franchise. It is perfectly absurd to suggest such- a thing as being possible, because the whole’ people- of Australiapractically intimated at the elections that they expected, to get a uniform franchise. Therefore we may take it for granted, that - although perhaps to a largo extent they did not understand- what they were advocating - they must now be given: adult suffrage. In his speech, Senator O’Connor alluded to subclause (6) of clause 3, and he deprecated any restriction being placed upon1 naturalized subjects of the King. I do not think that any honorable senator desires to restrict the rights of those naturalized subjects who owe their parentage to either Europe or America. We fire perfectly prepared to accept them open-handedly, and to give exactly the same status as our own people, when once they are naturalized. But there can be no doubt that a very strong feeling prevails on the subject of what I may call the coloured’ races. I do not propose to deal with the coloured races on any question of naturalization or nonnaturalization. My objection to the coloured races is a racial one. To me it is a matter of indifference whether they are subjects pf the King or whether they are not naturalized. To my mind there is no difference, and there can be no difference to a logical person whether they are naturalized or not. As a voter none of them had any electoral rights in the country from which he came. No Asiatic, or African aboriginal, has any electoral rights that I am aware of. And I do not think that any Polynesian - any inhabitant of the islands of the Pacific - has any electoral rights.
– What about the Maories, who are Polynesians ?
– I do not know what their rights are, but I believe that they are very restricted, and they are represented in Parliament by a Maori. I wish to glance at the position in which the aboriginal native finds himself in Australia. Senator O’Connor was not quite accurate in what the said on that subject. In Western Australia and Queensland an aboriginal native cannot vote except under a property qualification. If he has property he is entitled to a vote, and 1 would still be entitled to a vote under the Federal Constitution in any case. In South Australia it appears that aboriginal natives are entitled to a vote, and, so far as I can judge, without any property qualification, but in the- case of New South Wales and Victoria, a section in the Electoral Act, providing that no person shall vote who is in receipt of charitable assistance, has exactly the same effect- as a property qualification. No aboriginal could become possessed of a vote unless- he had a property qualification, because in any other case he is in receipt, or may fairly be assumed to be in receipt, of a Government subsidy. And in Tasmania, I. believe, there are no’ aboriginal natives. So that at the present moment in all the States an aboriginal may vote if he has a property qualification, and that right cannot be taken away from him by any provision in our Franchise Bill. We must bear in mind that it does not deal with any property qualification. We propose to give every adult a vote, simply on the ground that he is an adult and a British subject, and is resident in a State. Therefore we must take some steps to prevent any aboriginal taken at large, chosen anywhere, from acquiring the right to vote. Unless we put in a clause limiting the power in’ that respect, any one of the 200,000 natives who are said to exist in Australia would be able, simply by proving- six months residence, to be placed on the roll. I use that number, because it is given in Coghlan’s work as a rough estimate of the number of aboriginals still in Australia. It can be nothing but a rough estimate, because no census could be taken, but still it is an important number, and it shows that this matter will materially affect Queensland, the Northern Territory of South Australia, and Western Australia.
– The number includes all ages.
– I presume it includes all ages, but it is simply a rough estimate, which honorable senators can take foi’ what it is worth.
– The number would be very much less over the age of 21.
– No doubt. That disposes of the question so far as I need touch upon it of the right of aboriginals to vote, and we now come to th’e question of the right of aboriginal natives of Africa, Asia, and of the Pacific Islands to voce. There we find again that the State Constitutions of Western Australia and Queensland prohibit those aboriginals from voting at elections unless they have a property qualification. It is perfectly true that in the other States, as far as I can ascertain, there is no restriction except in the case of South Australia, which, in legislating for the Northern Territory, has made the most stringent regulations of any State. It has provided that -
All persons excepting natural born British subjects, and Europeans and Americans naturalized as British subjects, are-, disqualified from voting.
That is to say, no person can exercise the franchise in the Northern Territory unless he is a European, an American, or a British subject. I do not think that there is any reason whatever why we should enlarge the scope of the State Constitutions in this direction. We do not want - at least, speaking for myself, I do not want - a single coloured person whom we can exclude, to have the right to vote for this Legislature. I do not think that they are mentally qualified to vote, for this reason : None of them have been brought up to exercise the franchise. We may fairly say that none of them are capable of realizing the responsibility of exercising the franchise properly. Under these circumstances they are all of them liable to be actuated by undesirable influences, and are not likely to exercise the franchise in that straightforward and independent manner which is desirable. For that reason alone I think they should be prevented from voting. But there is a greater objection than that to my mind. To a very large extent these aliens and members of coloured races are idolaters. They are not even Christians. lt is all very well to say that the question of religion should not be brought into politics. That is, I consider, a very sound principle as regards the different sects of the Christian faith ; but I am strongly and firmly of opinion that we should not do anything to give a vote to people who do not belong to the Christian faith, and who are admittedly worshippers of idols, and people for whose conversion those of us who go to church pray every Sunday. They are not people to whom we should give the right of influencing legislation in matters of education, of religion, and of marriage.
– What about those of the British race who do not belong to any religion 1
– One always lives in the hope that they will turn to the Christian religion ; but when a man is born ari idolater, I do not see that it is right that he should ‘ exercise a vote which will influence legislation in matters like marriage and education.
– These people are not all idolaters.
– When the majority of them are idolaters, would the honorable senator make a distinction between them because some few of them may have been converted ? I say, distinctly,
No ! There is another point which should not be overlooked, and that is that, there is a section in nearly all the State Constitutions prohibiting them from- being members of the Legislative Council or the Legislative Assembly. In the case of thefederal franchise it must be borne in mind that any person who is entitled to be a voter is also entitled to be a candidate for Parliament. That in itself is anotherstrong objection to these coloured races being admitted as voters.
– We might leave that to the electors, does not the honorablesenator think ?
– That is a fair comment on my argument ; but why has not that been considered “necessary in the Case of the States ? The States have considered the matter carefully, and in nearly every instance such a section has been inserted in the Constitution. It is therefore evident that the majority of the people of the States do not consider it sufficient to leave the matter to the electors. They consider that it is desirable to make this exception, and for that reason it has been done in the case of most of the Constitutions of the States. I have nothing more to add except to say, in respect to the adult franchise, that it has been urged that because some women do not wish, or are unwilling, to exercise the franchise, therefore we should not grant it to them. Surely that is illogical. The very honorable senators who bring that forward as an argument admit that there are a certain number of women in each State who desire to exercise the franchise. Under those circumstances it is but simple justice that we should give them the right to do so. We do not compel those who are unwilling to go to the poll, or to have their names placed on the roll. What we propose to give them is the same right as is given to men to go and exercise the franchise if they think fit. It is undeniable that many men are in exactly the same position. There are numbers of men who simply do not take the trouble, because they do not care about it, to have their names placed on the roll. If the argument is sound, it might as well be applied to male as to female adults.
– Like other honorable senators who have spoken, I must congratulate the Vice-President of the Executive Council and the Government on having decided to introduce the Franchise Bill during the present session. There is not a great deal of contentious matter in the measure, and there is no reason for lengthy speeches. I wish to point out that it appears to me that clause 4 of the Bill is not quite clear, and I hope that before the debate is finished we shall have the benefit of the opinions of some of the legal senators as to its constitutional aspect. The clause provides that -
Every adult person whose rights are preserved by section 41 o£ the Constitution shall be entitled to have his name placed on the electoral roll for the division in which he resides, and to vote at the election of members of the Senate and the House of Representatives .
Section 41 of the Constitution is as follows : - J
No adult person who has or acquires a right to vote tit elections for the more numerous Houses of the Parliament of a State shall, while the right continues, be prevented by any law of the Commonwealth from voting at elections for either House of the Parliament of the Commonwealth.
To a layman, I must confess that the point is rather puzzling. It seems to me that, in view of those words, the right which voters are given will be endangered in the event of any State curtailing the right which electors have at present in voting at State elections.
– No State legislation can override our Act.
– The electors will have the right under other portions of the Bill.
– There are other laymen in the Senate who have the same doubt about the clause. I only mention it in order to express the hope that the legal members will carefully consider the point, and see that theclause is made perfectly clear. Take, for instance, the case of South Australia, where there is adult suffrage. While the right continues in that State, under the wording of the clause, all adults who have a right to vote at State elections will be able to vote at federal elections, but if that right is taken from them in the State, or if any right is taken from any electors in any other State, is there any danger of the clause meaning that the same right will be taken from the electors in the case of federal elections 1 At any rate, the point is worth raising, and I know that at least one of the legal members has looked into the question from the same point of view. Probably the most contentious part of the Bill - if there is any contentious part in it - is clause 3, which deals with adult suffrage. We have had a long and excellent speech from the leader of the Opposition,, who has stated the reasons why he think* there is no necessity for this Bill. That, at least, I take it, was the object of the honorable and learned senator’s speech, although he certainly concluded without saying that he was opposed to the Bill, or to women having the right to vote. As a matter of fact, I believe he declared himself in favour of it. But he urged as a reason why we should not attempt to enforce upon some of the States adult suffrage where women’s suffrage does not at present exist,, that at the last election in South Australia the voting showed a very great decrease in the number of women who recorded their votes. I took down a few of the figures which Senator Symon gave us. He showed that in one case there were 341 women or* the roll, and 219 voted. In another therewere 232 women on the roll, and 121 voted ; in another, out of 177 women on the roll, 90 voted ; in another, out of 384 women on the roll, 159 voted; and in another, out of 1,448 women on the roll, 690 votedThose figures show, that 1,279 women recorded their votes out of 2,582 on the roll, which was really 50 per cent. If that average could be maintained in all the States at all the general elections, it would be a very good average indeed. I believe itwill be found that, as a rule, not more than 50 per cent, of the people on the roll vote at general elections.
– Sixty-five per cent, is the usual average in Victoria.
– I believe that if we were to take all the States for a given: period of ten, twelve, or fifteen years,, covering, perhaps, three general elections, we should find that the average number of’ votes recorded was not more than 50 per cent, of the number of voters on the roll. Then again, perhaps, the election to w bich Senator Symon referred may have been a>. by-election, or a general election at whichthere were no subjects of very great interest before the public. If it were a by-election, I can quite understand that a large number of women voters would not go to the poll. A few days ago a by-election took place in Tasmania, where we have manhood suffrage practically in a very broad and liberal form,, and only 25 per cent, of those on the roll recorded their votes, compared with about 50 per cent, of those on the roll who went to the poll at the general election twelve months ago. That is an instance of an election in which very little interest was taken. It was conducted in a hurry ; the candidates did not stump the country, and consequently the interest was small, only about 10,000 electors out of 41,000 on the lists recording their votes. I think, therefore, that Senator Symons’ argument that the women of Australia who have enjoyed this privilege have lost interest in it, falls to the ground.
– No ; Senator Symon said the figures which he gave referred to a general election.
– So much the better for my argument. One set of figures quoted by Senator Symon showed that 1,279 women out of some 2,582 on the electoral lists recorded their votes at one election. That was equal to 50 per cent., which is a very fair average for any State. Of course the model State from which the honorable and learned senator comes has, I believe, a better record, and I hope that the example set by it will be followed at all future elections in the other States. Another argument advanced by Senator Symon, who made rather a destructive speech against women’s suffrage, was that it had been shown that a large number of the women of Australia had not asked for this privilege, and did not desire it. He said also that those who possessed it showed a decreasing interest in the exercise of the franchise, and that after the first election - after the glamour of the new toy had worn off - they did not use it to any great extent. Can it be logically urged that because only half the number of women who availed themselves of the franchise on the first occasion used it at a subsequent election, therefore those who did take advantage of it should be deprived of their privilege - that one-half should be deprived of the right because the other half had lost interest in public affairs 1 It is an entirely illogical position to be taken up by any honorable senator, more especially by one who has had such wide experience in politics as has Senator Symon. I do not think that any fair-minded man would say that, because only 10,000 out of 41,000 male electors recorded their votes at the Tasmanian election the other day, that therefore the whole of the 41,000 electors should be disfranchised. Yet, if we follow
Senator Symon’s argument to its logical conclusion, that is what it means. If only a certain number of women who have the right to vote retain an interest in it, we should not - and, indeed, we cannot - attempt to take away that right. One remark, made by Senator Symon was, that, as a matter of justice, a certain section of women should have the franchise. I would ask, what is the section to which the honorable and learned senator refers ? Are we here to legislate for any section of men or women ? I presume that Senator Symon intended to- refer to a section connected in some mysterious way with property. He must have had in his mind women who are property - holders in Australia. I feel that I am not here to help to make laws for the protection of property alone, but to assist in making laws for the flesh and blood of Australia. It is a dangerous doctrine to preach that a certain section of the community is entitled to- exercise the franchise as a matter of justice while other sections are not : but we cannot draw any other inference from the honorable and learned senator’s remarks than the construction which I have placed upon them. I hope that this cry for class legislation will not be heeded. If we were to follow the honorable and learned senator’s argument, we should have to legislate only for a numerically small section of the women of Australia. That would be a dangerous thing for us to do, and I am pleased that, under the Constitution, there is no power to carry out that idea. I trust that the provision conferring the right of the franchise on women over 21 years of age, will be carried, together with the rest of the Bill. The measure is a short one, but there are several of its provisions on which I may have something to say in committee. At this stage I shall confine myself to an expression of the hope that the measure will be carried, at all events so far as it relates to adult suffrage.
– This measure is designed to carry out portion of the Government policy, and I think the Government deserve the thanks of the community, and more particularly of the large number of persons who are likely to derive political benefit from it, for having introduced it in the first session of Parliament. Although the measure may seem to be a small one, I find that no less than 765,470 persons will be enfranchised by it if it becomes, law. I think that Senator Pulsford said that the conferring of the franchise on women was- not a question of justice. I take the opposite view. I could never see the justice of withholding the franchise from women simply on the ground that they are women. If it be right that males should have the privilege of voting for men to make the laws of their country, then it is only justice that women should enjoy the same privilege. I know of nothing in the decalogue, or in any moral law, which says that women, because they are women, should be denied the right of a voice in the making of the laws of the country in which they live. I should like some honorable senator who is opposed to the principle of womanhood suffrage - if there are any honorable senators who object to it they are exceedingly few who oppose it on the ground that it is not just - to tell us where we can find any evidence of injustice so far as the enfranchisement of women is concerned. I have always taken up a stand for the enfranchisement of women on the broad ground of justice, and when we find that no less than three-quarters of a million of persons are to be enfranchised by the measure, we must confess that it is a Bill of no mean order. The Parliament which passes it will deserve the gratitude of those to whom the franchise will be extended under it, and I believe that when the history of the first Parliament of the Commonwealth comes to be written, the conferring of this immense boon upon so many people, not as a privilege, but on the ground of justice and equity, will receive the commendation of the historian. I am bound to confess that if Senator Symon’s speech means anything, it means that he is a decided opponent of this measure. Honorable senators ought to be perfectly honest and sincere. Whatever attitude they assume, whether they are in favour of or against the Bill, they should have the moral courage to say so. The speech made by Senator Symon was an able one, but it was also a most destructive speech against the measure. If the honorable and learned senator had shown that manliness and independence which Scotchmen usually exhibit, he would have declared himself emphatically against the Bill. He should have stated definitely whether or not he was in favour of the measure. The right to exercise- the franchise was conferred on the women of South Australia some time ago. Senator Symon says that it has done neither good nor harm. I am not inclined to call that statement in question, inasmuch as it comes from an honorable and learned senator hailing from South Australia, but on every possible occasion upon which the franchise has been extended - I refer more particularly to the people of Great Britain - legislation of a beneficial character has been the result. . Although measures of a drastic character may not have been influenced by the women’s vote in South Australia, I have not the slightest doubt but that, since they have exercised the franchise there, women have contributed their quota to the passing of progressive measures in the model- State of which we hear so much. I propose to deal with a few figures relating to the number of electors, both male and female, on the rolls of South Australia. Senator Symon laboured very considerably to show that the interest exhibited by women in the exercise of the franchise in South Australia was declining, as indicated by the number of votes cast at the last elections there. I find- that there are 83,000 men and 74,000- women on the latest rolls of South Australia, or 9,000 less women than men. I think the honorable senator said that 41,000 men voted, or nearly one-half the number, and only 21,000 women voted, or not quite one-half the number.
– Not one-third.
– Well, I will take it at that. I asked the honorable senator, during his speech, to consider the difficulties which women labour under in exercising the franchise. Let us consider the difficulty that women labour under in their homes, in the work of hospitals and eleemosynary institutions, in the nursing of their children, and their attendance upon sick people; and when these difficulties in the way of women going to the polling place are compared with those in the way of men, it will be seen that the percentage of women who recorded their votes was even greater than the percentage of men.
– There have been no very great issues before them yet.
– As the honorable senator says, no very great issues have yet been at stake,- and I have no doubt that if great issues had been before the country it would have been found that a greater effort would have been made by women to record their votes. Most of us have had considerable experience of elections, and we know that the election day is generally looked upon as a sort of holiday. In Queensland for many years the elections were held upon the Saturday. “What for 1 To enable men to get to the polling places easily after the performance of their day’s work. At the elections which have just been held in Queensland the Government, for some reason or another, did not hold them upon a Saturday, but they did the next best thing, and proclaimed the election day a public holiday throughout the States, so as to enable men to get to the polling places with ease and comfort. A holiday is sometimes very inviting for the female portion of the community, and we all rejoice when they avail themselves of holidays. But the fact remains, that under no circumcumstances can we enable women to take advantage of the right to discharge their duties as citizens to the same extent as men. Notwithstanding all that has been said by the honorable senators to whom I have alluded, in view of the difficulties to which I have referred, and of the fact of which Senator Charleston has reminded me that no important issues have been at stake, I say that the percentage of women recording their votes has been reasonable. The honorable senator said that the fact of women voting on several occasions has had no moral effect, and really no beneficial effect so far as the legislation of South Australia is concerned. I am willing to set against that the opinions of an independent witness as to how far the influence of women has had a beneficial effect in New Zealand. I am going to call as a witness a perfectly independent gentleman, the American Consul at Auckland. Dealing with the first election in which they took part, and speaking of the influence of women at elections, I find that that gentleman, Mr. J. D. Connelly, writing to a paper published at Denver, the capital of the State of Colorado, on 29th December, 1894, says : -
Of the extension of the franchise to woman, I can only say that the experiment has proved eminently successful, even beyond the most enthusiastic advocates. Her first effort h>is raised the moral tone, and purified to a large extent the moral atmosphere of politics.
He further says -
Woman has demonstrated here that she is disinterested, unselfish, and fully worthy of the political confidence reposed in her
That is so far as the moral tone is concerned. It is alleged sometimes that women do not take sufficient interest in politics. That was the line of argument adopted by Senator Symon, and Senator Pulsford was very emphatic on that point. That honorable senator contended that not. only did women not take sufficient interestin politics, but that it would spoil women to give them facilities for voting, and would prevent them from discharging their domestic duties with the same degree of satisfaction as they do now. I do not at all agree with that. I was in New Zealand some years ago, and I made a few notes upon this subject, from which I quote: -
I was pleased to note that in New Zealand , notwithstanding the short time allowed for legislation there after the passing of the Act conferringthe franchise on women, in a few weeks, no less than 100,000 women were registered as voters, and no less than 90,000 out of the 109,000 recorded their votes at the last election .
That was in 1893. What the percentage of their voting at subsequent elections, has been, I ‘am sorry to say, I do not know ; but, so far as any information reached us in Australia from New Zealand,, it is plain that woman has played a most important part in politics in that State.
SenatorSir Josiah Symon. - The Mayoress of Onehunga, for instance.
– I am very pleased that that interjection has been made. I was in New Zealand when Mrs. Yates was Mayoress of Onehunga. I called and saw Mrs. Yates. I had lunch with her, andi spent some little time” with her ; and I am bound to confess that I found Mrs. Yates an exceedingly able and clever woman. I am bound to confess, further, that because Mrs. Yates, as a woman, obtained the highest civic position in the town in which she resided for some years, and merely because she was a woman, every possibleobstacle that could be discovered by puny-minded men was thrown in her way to pi-event her discharging her duties and fulfilling the anticipations of the people with respect to her. If she did not fulfil those anticipations it was not because of any want of ability or energy or of tact, but because of the great jealousy and the punymindedness of the-men on the council, who prevented that woman doing as much goo’d as she might have done.
– What about Mr. Yates ?
– I saw Mr. Yates,
I and dined with him at the same time. I I found Mr. Yates an exceedingly able man, but I found Mrs. Yates a far abler woman. Some of the newspapers at the time sneered and jeered at Mrs. Yates ; but they were inspired by men who perhaps did not exactly care to come under the control and supervision, for the time being, of a woman. Some time ago the highest personage in the land, and a ruler of this mighty Empire - to which I think we are all proud to belong - was a woman, and a woman who made her mark, not only within her own Empire, but in every civilized country in the world. None of us demurred for a moment, or thought that we were any less men because a woman presided over the destinies of this Empire for a great number of years.
– Of course, there was Queen Elizabeth, also.
– I am aware of that. I am glad that Senator Symon reminds me that we have had Queens of England before. I venture to say that we shall have Queens in the future, and that the Empire will be carried on as well under the beneficent sway of a woman as it would be under the sway of a man. Senator Pulsford laid some stress upon an opinion against woman’s suffrage given by Professor Bryce. No doubt Mr. Bryce stated what was true, so far as. his own observation went, when he said that there was not that interest taken in this question in America than might have been supposed. But in consequence of that, Senator Pulsford fancies that we are thrusting something upon the women of Australia that they do “not want. The honorable senator may speak for his own State, but I can tell the Senate that I know of no question which has occupied such a large place in the minds of the people of my own State as the extension of the suffrage, not only to the men who are unfranchised at the present time, but also to the women of the State. I venture to say for the men of my own State, and I may reasonably say the same for the women of the other States, that if they are given the opportunity of exercising the franchise, they will do so in no destructive or hurtful way, and the result will be good legislation and a humanizing of our laws, which will be made more beneficial and more progressive than they have been hitherto or are at the present time- Senator Pulsford also referred to the late Mr. Gladstone as opposed to woman’s suffrage. Of course he was, for a considerable period of his life, but the views of other eminent men could be quoted in the opposite direction.
– Gladstone recanted.
– I am glad the honorable senator reminds me of that. No man in humble life ever regretted the death of a public man more than I did that of Mr. Gladstone, of whom I was a political follower for very many years. For years before he died we know that he did not show that amount of enthusiasm, which was characteristic of the man, against woman’s suffrage that he previously did. We know also that, notwithstanding the opposition of her husband to the extension of the franchise to women, Mrs. Gladstone was an ardent friend of the woman’s suffrage movement, and was, I believe, the head of the movement at one time in England. No doubt through her influence, and in consequence of further knowledge and light upon the question, Mr. Gladstone’s opposition to the movement was wonderfully lessened, and I have little doubt that if that eminent statesman had once more been at the head of the Government of the country, one of the planks of his platform would have been the extension of the suffrage to women.
– In 1871, in the House of Commons, he went back on his previous statement.
– I am going to cite the opinion of other eminent persons equally favorable to women’s suffrage. I do not say that they are -as eminent as Gladstone, but they were eminent to a degree in different parts of the world. What did Plato, who certainly was a thinker, say in regard to this question ? -
In the administration of a State neither a woman as a woman nor a man as a man has any special functions ; but the gifts are equally diffused in both sexes.
I shall now quote the opinions of a very eminent American, and when I mention his name very few honorable senators will deny his eminence, ability, and goodness. I know no statesman whose name stands higher in the opinion of the people of that great Republic than Abraham Lincoln, excepting it be Washington himself. What did Lincoln say 1. -
I go for all sharing the privileges of government who assist in bearing its burdens ; by no means excluding women.
Justice is on the side of woman suffrage.
Chief Justice Chase, who was a man of eminent ability, and whose daughter is, I believe, a lawyer of great ability in the State of Kansas, said -
I think there will be no end to the good that will come by woman suffrage on elections, on government, and on woman herself.
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow held that -
Woman sum-age is undoubtedly coming ; and I, for one, expect a great deal of good to result from it.
Whittier, the American political poet, said -
For over 40 years I have not hesitated to declare my conviction that justice and fair dealing, and the democratic principles of our Government, demand equal rights and privileges of citizenship irrespective of sex. I have not been able to see any good reason for denying the ballot to woman.
What did Wendell Phillips, another eminent American, say ? -
I take it America never gave any better principle to the world than the safety of letting every human being have the power of protection in its own hands. I claim it for woman. The moment she has the ballot I think the cause is won.
I shall now read the opinion of a woman who figured most prominently in the middle of the last century, and who I think played an important part in her day. Most honorable senators will remember how Miss Florence Nightingale won a world-wide fame in consequence of her humanity during a dire period of our history, the Crimean war. What does she say ? -
You ‘ask my reasons for woman suffrage. It seems to me almost self-evident - an axiom - that every householder and taxpayer should have a voice in the expenditure of the money we pay, including as this does interests most vital to a human being.
The late Professor Huxley, a profound thinker, said -
Suppose for the sake of argument we accept the inequality Qf the sexes as one of nature’s immutable laws - call it a fact that woman is inferior to man in mind, morals and physique - why should this settle or materially affect the subject of socalled women’s rights ? W ould not this very infirmity oe a reason why every advantage should bo given to the weaker sex, not only for its own good, but for the highest development of the race?
Most honorable senators will be familiar with the magnificent thoughts of the great American writer, Ralph Waldo Emerson. Ridiculing the opponents of women’s franchise, he said -
It is very cheap wit that finds it so droll that women should vote. If the wants, the passions, the vices, are allowed a full vote through a halfbrutal, intemperate population, I think it but fair that the virtues, the aspirations, should be allowed, a full voice as an offset, through the purest of the. people.
Quincy Adams, another very able American, who lived not .a great time ago, said -
The correct principle is that women are not only justified, but exhibit the most exalted virtue when they enter on the concerns of their country, of” humanity, and of their God.
I shall conclude these extracts with aquotation from a woman of some eminence, who has played an important part in theagitation for a more sober community, Miss. Prances Willard -
If prayer and womanly influence are doing somuch for God by indirect methods, how much shall it be when that electric force is brought tobear through the battery of the ballot-box ?
These opinions I quote as a set-off to theopinions cited by Senator Pulsford. Certainly the authority of Gladstone cannot fairly be quoted to-day against women’ssuffrage. Judging by the opinion which heexpressed some time before his death, we may reasonably claim that ultimately he was in favour of women’s suffrage. I do not sharethe objections which are sometimes urged against adult suffrage. It is sometimes alleged, as it has . been to-day, that women do not want a vote until such time as wehave a law compelling both sexes to go to the ballot-box and record their votes. Woman is entitled to the franchise on the ground of justice, fair dealing, and equity. If she does not use the right, that is her look out. Large numbers ,of men do not careabout voting. Senator Symon said thatsome women would not have their names enrolled. Some men will not have their names enrolled. I know some such men. When I was in the old country I went to a man with an application to get his signature sothat he might be enrolled, but he said, “ I must go and consult my master before I sign.” There are other instances of that kind which I could cite. In Queensland I have known men, certainly not many, to declineto have their names enrolled, and enrolled men who declined to vote. Only yesterday I heard a woman say that she did not think it would be safe to confer this right on women, because very dire things were likely to follow. It is also alleged that women would be influenced by the clergy, by good-looking candidates, and by young men.
– Now we begin to understand.
– I am not young, and I do not think I was ever very goodlooking. I could scarcely hope to be successful in a contest with a young man of vigour, good looks, and plausibility. . Notwithstanding the want of those qualities, I am prepared to see this right conferred on women, and to compete for a seat with the youngest, the strongest, and the best man in the State. I shall endeavour, so far. as I can, not only to influence young men, but also to influence the fair sex to return me to the Senate at the next election, or at some other time. It is idle to suggest that women are going to be influenced in this way or in that way. I remember putting to the test the question of whether women are influenced by the clergy or the church when I was in New Zealand in 1 893. I happened to be in Napier after the 1893 elections. A wealthy brewer .was competing against the then sitting member, who was a man of very humble means, and by no means goodlooking. Notwithstanding that he belonged to the secularist party, and had been a pronounced advocate of secularism for many years, he was returned because he was a sober man. A majority of the men voted for the brewer, but a large majority of the women voted for sobriety and against the man with good looks. Notwithstanding the youth, the good looks, and the wealth of the brewer, and the support of the churches to some extent, the humble photographer - a man of modest means but considerable ability - was returned by the women with an overwhelming majority.
– Did not the men also vote for him ?
– He was in a minority as far as the men were concerned, but the women gave nearly a block vote for him, and by a large majority sent him into the House of Representatives.
– The women always like ugly men.
– I do not think they do, any more than I think that my honorable and learned friend likes the ugly women. ‘ As far as concerns the statement that women would be influenced by the church, by good looks, and by money, I reply that nothing of the kind will be the case. They will be influenced by what is best, wisest, truest, and most just in the interests of the country. Those influences will guide them as they guided the women, in the Napier election in 189.3. Another reason which is sometimes advanced against, women’s suffrage is that women do not understand political questions. That argument presupposes that all men understand political questions. I think, however, that there are great numbers of men who have had far more opportunities than women possess, who do not understand many of the great political questions concerning which they have to vote. We may reasonably say, also, that women have not had the same opportunities of making themselvesacquainted with the affairs of their country as men have had. Taking into account also that they have not possessed this political weapon, we may reasonably say that, once the women are armed with it, they will take care to make themselves acquainted with the subjects which are influenced by the elections in which they take part, in. order to ascertain how they shall best use their votes to advantage in the interests, of the country. The old argument has been used that the extension of the suffrage to women would take away their beauty and their charm, and cause them to neglecttheir domestic affairs. I do not think thatit will do anything of the kind. Some of the most intelligent and charming women, one can meet are those who have taken an active interest in the great movement for women’s suffrage in different parts of theworld. So far as my observation goes, wehave nothing to fear from that cause, and the extension of. the franchise will not take away the desire of women to look after the interest of their homes, and to mind theirresponsibilities to their children. Then ithas been said that it would be a shame to invite women to go to the polling booth, because sometimes there is a good deal of” rowdyism there. I think that that argument, if it is a true one, tells the other way. If, however, there is such rowdyism at thepoll, I am a stranger to it, although I am no stranger in connexion with elections. So far as my observation has gone, I have seen very little in the way of disturbances at polling places on election days, nor have I noticed any misconduct. If there were, the very fact of women making their appearance at polling places and casting their votes. would hate a good moral effect in toning down the rowdyism and bringing about that peace and good order which we all wish to see at election times. I sincerely - hope that the measure will be passed at an early date. There is no doubt that as far as the Senate is concerned, the Bill will find a place upon the statute-book of the Commonwealth. I also believe that when it makes its way to the House of Representatives, and when that Chamber finds time to devote to the subject, we may reasonably hope to see passed a Bill establishing a uniform franchise throughout the whole of the Commonwealth instead of, as we have now, a franchise which allows women to vote in some States, and not in others. I believe that the extension of the suffrage to women will result in good, and not in evil to the Commonwealth, and in beneficial legislation for the whole community. I am satisfied that in years to oome it will be found that the measure has been for the genera] good. I, therefore, Slope that with as little delay as possible the Bill will find its way upon the statutebook of Australia, so that both men and women shall be able to declare their opinions fearlessly and frankly through the ballotbox.
– I have listened with a great deal of attention to the various members of the Senate who have spoken with regard to this Bill. Dealing first of all with the speech of the Vice-President of the Executive Council in support of the measure, I was struck with the fact that he treated it as a question of expediency, and that there was little or no attempt to discuss it as an important matter of principle. I wondered as I listened to him whether the honorable and learned senator had failed to realize that this was a matter of vital principle in itself, quite apart from the question of expediency in connexion with the desire to have a uniform -franchise law. We recognise, of course, that as the Constitution now stands, we cannot take away any of the rights or privileges that have been granted in certain of the States in the direction of adult suffrage. But that, in itself, is really a very poor argument to show that the ‘whole of the Commonwealth should be brought into line -with two of the smaller States simply because it would be impossible-to bring those States into line with the others a.t the present time. Then Senator O’Connor pointed out that a demand has been made for the passage of this legislation in some of the States, and that those demands have not been successful, because of the opposition of the
Legislative Councils. In New South Wales on two occasions the Legislative Assembly has passed a Bill in favour of women’s suffrage. Nevertheless, it has been an open secret that very many members of the lower branch of the Legislature supported the measure in the secret hope that it would be defeated in the other Chamber.
– That was not very honorable, at any rate.
– We know perfectly well that sometimes Members of Parliament have an idea that a certain thing is popular with a certain class of the electors, and, therefore, they desire to support a pleasure of the kind with the possibility of its being rejected by the other Chamber. Whenever a great change has taken place with regard to the franchise there has always, in the first instance, been a strong demand in favour of it, and it has been made abundantly clear that it was. necessary, as a matter of justice and right, that the extension should take place. Has it been shown, on behalf of the women of the Commonwealth as a whole, that there is any demand for the extension of the franchise ? I admit that a large number of ladies have been very energetic and persistent in advocating the extension of the suffrage to women. They have argued it as a matter of abstract justice and right, contending that it would make Parliaments better and purer, and that better men would be returned to Parliament. Such advantages have been pointed out as a probable result of the extension of the suffrage. But there has never yet been a movement by a large section of the women of the Commonwealth in favour of the principle. I admit at once that if.it were shown that there were a large number of women in the community who were desirous of having the suffrage extended to them it would be only a matter of right and justice that it should be extended. But I do not think that the Legislature is bound to extend the franchise to a large section of the community unless that section indicates that a majority of it desires to be enfranchised. In any community it will be found that until there is a large section desirous of some course of legislation being pursued that legislation is not enacted. If it can be shown that a majority of the women are desirous of having the franchise extended to them, give it to them by all means. I have no fear that the extension of the suffrage would do the slightest injury to our legislation. I believe that the women would cast their votes honestly and with integrity, and with a desire to do justice. “But I know that there are a large number of women who say - “We do not want the franchise, and would rather be without it.”
– They need not use it.
– If, however, the franchise is extended to women and the minority exercise it, the majority will be compelled to do so also. It will become a duty for every woman, as far as she possibly can, to exercise the franchise. Some women may say - “ We do not want to exercise it,” but nevertheless they will have to vote to protect themselves just as men as a matter of self-protection have to cast their votes on one side or the other with regard to political matters, unless they wish the opinions they hold to be defeated. The Vice-President of the Executive Council has pointed out that in a State where there is no women’s suffrage a vote only counts as one as against two votes in a State where there is women’s suffrage. But nevertheless that does not create any anomaly, if the women are proportionately in the same number as the men, and it is assumed that they exercise the franchise as the men do. But unfortunately we find from the statistics quoted by Senator Symon in connexion with South Australia, that women do not exercise the franchise to the same extent as men do. There must be some cause for that.
– They have domestic duties to attend to.
– As the honorable senator interjects the women have domestic duties to attend to, and probably those duties render many of them undesirous of voting.
– Has not a man his work to attend to ?
– A man’s work is different altogether from the domestic duties which a women has to discharge. Is it found that the number of male voters is falling off % I think that the men who are not called working men in the strict sense of the term mightderive a beneficial lesson from the way working men exerise the franchise. Have they shown that they value the franchise as working men, be it said to their credit, have shown in elections from time to time 1 Then we come to the question of what lias been the effect of extending the franchise to women. Has it purified Parliament in any degree ? Has it improved the moral tone of Parliament, and enabled the elections to be conducted better than they were before 1
– South Australia is a model State.
– We recognise that; but did not the honorable senators who represent that State represent South Australia in the State Parliament before womanhood suffrage was passed there 1
– Perhaps they were the. best men who offered themselves.
– I do not know-.. Senator Glassey quoted the opinions of Abraham Lincoln and George Washington, and went back even as far as the days of ‘ Plato. I am not going to delve into theregion of antiquity when Plato lived, although we might learn a great deal of value to us all by doing so. I find that Bryce in his book on T/ie American Commonwealthstates at page 552 that -
In every congress, amendments to the Federal Constitution, recognising women as voters, are submitted. Neither House has so far accepted such an amendment, and the chance of its being passed by three-fourths of the States is at present very small.
It is pointed out by him that notwithstanding all the arguments which have been urged from time to time, notwithstanding that the United States of America is looked upon as one of the most democratic countries, in the world, and despite the efforts that-, have been made in every Congress to havethe franchise extended to women, neither House has accepted such an amendment of the Constitution. Election after election takes place in the United States of America, but public opinion on the question of women’s suffrage remains in the same position there. With regard to the suffrage in. America, I find in the World Almanac and Encyclopedia, 1902, that -
In 1001, the New York Legislature passed a-, law providing *’ that a woman who possesses the qualifications to vote for village or for town offices^ except the qualification of sex, who is the owner of property in a village, assessed upon the last preceding assessment roll thereof.is entitled to vote upon a proposition to raise money by tax or assessment.” California, March 9 - A Bill permitting women to vote for the issuance of school bonds or levy of school taxes waa defeated by a vote in the House of 21 nays, 14 yeas. New Mexico, February 25. - The House voted 21 nays, ‘2 yeas on a woman suffrage resolution. Arizona, 8th March. - A woman suffrage Bill was defeated in the House by a vote of 18 nays, 7 yeas. South Dakota, February 14. - A resolution to submit the question of woman suffrage to the people was shelved in the Senate by a vote of 26 nays, .17. yeas.
The book goes on to give the names of a large number of other States in America which have dealt with this question in the same way.
– Does it give the number of States that have adopted womanhood suffrage?
– Pour States have adopted it.
– The following statement appears in it : -
Indiana. - The House passed a Bill for an amendment giving women the suffrage, which was killed by the Senate on the claim that “ less than 10 per cent, of the women care to exercise it.”
That is the position I take up in opposition to the Bill - that the majority of the women do not caz-e to exercise it.
– How can the honorable and learned senator prove that statement.
– By showing that no steps have been taken by the women as a community to impress upon the Legislature the desirability of extending the franchise to them. If they desired it they would make their representations in the way in which they are invariably made to the Legislature. In the absence of such representations, and assuming that it is being sought for, we have only to arrive at the conclusion that the majority of women do not require the franchise, more particularly when we find a vigorous, though numerically small, section of the ladies doing their level best to have it extended to their sex. The World Almanac and Encyclopedia, 1902, also contains the following statement : -
Illinois. - April 27. - The House of Representatives killed the measure framed to extend woman suffrage to township elections. Connecticut. - June 6. - A Bill for woman suffrage was rejected in concurrence with the Senate by a vote of 119 nays, 53 yeas. Massachusetts. - March 15. - The House defeated a proposition for woman suffrage by a vote of 156 nays, 53 yeas.
This book gives a record of what has been done in the United States during the year just passed, and we find that womanhood suffrage has not made the advances which some believe it ought to have made there.
– It has made no advance.
– No. The fact that womanhood suffrage has been discussed in the Legislatures of all the States as well as in the .Commonwealth Parliament, has been due to the persistency of the small number of ladies who honestly believe in the principle.
– Why should they not have it 1
– Because the majority do not desire it.
– That statement has been made over and over again. What ground has the honorable and learned senator for making it 1
– The honorable and learned senator is asking for an extension of the franchise, and it becomes his duty to show that it is necessary and desirable : he should show that the people to whom it is proposed to extend the franchise desire it.
– I contend that the desire has been shown by the passing of Bills to confer upon them that right in every popular House in the States.
– That has been due to the persistency of certain ladies, and possibly of certain honorable members who believe in the principle and think it desirable that effect should be given to it. But a great movement like this ought to be supported by petitions or representations which would satisfy us that the bulk of the people were desirous of obtaining an extension of the franchise in the way proposed in the Bill.
– Has the New South Wales Parliament ever been petitioned on the subject 1
– I do not know that it has been petitioned upon the question by any great number. At all events, I think it is desirable that on a great question like this honorable senators should hear what can be said against as well as for the proposal.
– What the honorable and learned senator has said in opposition to the proposal, may bring about his defeat at the next election.
– It may do so ; but I do not think it will so long as I am honest in my expressions of opinion. The question is whether womanhood suffrage is desirable or necessary in the interests of the community at large. If it be the will of Parliament that the franchise should be extended in that way, I suppose that every honorable senator will be prepared to accept the position. The matter is one that can be debated in the most amicable manner, although honorable senators may be strongly opposed to each” other upon the question.
– I rise to speak on a subject which some honorable senators naturally treat in a more or less humorous way, but which, I think, is a question of immense importance that we should consider very carefully. I have always been in favour of womanhood suffrage, and, indeed, I think I suggested its adoption in South Australia as early as any one did. When legislation relating to it was first introduced there by Dr. Stifling - and it had the fatal defect of limiting the franchise to women who possessed property - I strongly supported it, and when later on a Bill was brought in to extend the franchise generally to women, 1 still supported the principle. Since then we have had some experience, and the matter is now brought before us in order that we may consider whether the principle should be adopted for the Commonwealth Parliament. During the time I have been in the Senate I have strongly advocated that we should be economic in our legislation, never treading unnecessarily upon the toes of any community which is perfectly able to govern itself, which does not wish to interfere with us, which desires to submit to the laws of the Commonwealth, but desires also to be left alone as much as possible. When I came here I saw that South Australia and Western Australia were the only States which had adopted the line of legislation now proposed, and which I had always advocated ; and I felt that a little consideration ought to be given to the larger States which did not want any legislation of the kind. As a member of the Convention, and in urging the passing of the Federal Bill in the State Parliament, I advocated that we should be very careful, if we desired to make federation a success, not to interfere to too great an extent with the internal economy of any State. We took the power to legislate upon this question, and we have the right to exercise it, but we ought to exercise it very carefully. I desire to ascertain whether or not New South Wales, Victoria, and Queensland are against this proposal, but I am unable to do so. 32 t 2
– Will not the honorable and learned senator make the discovery when we come to a vote *i
Senator Sir JOHN DOWNER. So far as expressions of opinions in the Senate are concerned, it appears to me that every State is in favour of womanhood suffrage, the only slightly divergent note being that which came from Senator Pulsford.
– Do not call it “ slight.”
– I will not do so. It was a strongly divergent note. I have heard no. other expression of opinion on the part of representatives of New South Wales, with the exception of that given by Senator Gould, which certainly had the characteristic of mildness. So far, nothing at all has been heard from the representatives of Victoria.
– The honorable and learned senator will hear from us later on.
– I wish my honorable friends from the other States to understand that I am not going to support the hurried passing of this measure if the States which have not yet assented to this proposal still hold strongly divergent views. But if, although not practically in agreement on the question, they desire us to take the responsibility of the situation, I shall be quite prepared to do so, and to advocate the passing of the Bill. I am not going into the questions relating to clauses 4, 5j 6, as they are mere matters of machinery which can be disposed of as we please. There is one central principle in the Bill, and that is female suffrage. I do not propose to go elaborately into the great discussions which have taken place . in the States at various times on the question of the equality of the sexes, or the question of whether the man is more charming than the woman, or the converse, whether one is more intellectual and the other more virtuous ; or whether woman from natural causes is so circumstanced as to be unable for a great part of her time to devote herself to parliamentary questions. These are matters which I do not propose to go into at present, but I am going to support this Bill, because in my opinion it practically gives the independent woman with means a vote which she has not got now.* “It ‘ does that most atrocious thing, which my friends on the opposite bench would above all things speak against, it gives to a woman who has something the right to be represented and to have a vote. We have tried it in South Australia. We have never called ourselves the model State ; it is representatives of the other States who have called us that ; but we have adopted this system, and with our bestintelligence we have watched the effect of it. We have not up to the present been able to detect that it has had any effect. We have not up to the present been able to find out, except possibly in one instance, which has been referred to, that its effect has been to return other than those men who would have been returned anyhow.
– Then the women have been given a lot of trouble for nothing.
– I agree with the honorable senator. The conclusion I have come to is that, except in the case of a woman who has some means or property of her own which gives her an individuality, women vote just as their husbands, fathers, brothers, or sweethearts vote ; and if a woman does not happen to have any of these relations, she votes just as the other man, whoever he may be, who has the greatest control over her, votes. That is the way in which it generally works out. But the woman who possesses something substantial that she has to look after, is a conservative of conservatives, and looks after her interests very well. It is because of this that I am going to vote for this Bill. I consider that in the case of the infinite majority this system simply results in a duplication of votes. But it has this virtue, and this great advantage, that in the case of a woman who has property of her own, whether she is married or unmarried, she is given a vote for the protection of her own interests, which she had not before. I feel that it will make no substantial difference, and that the general result of the Bill will be a duplication of votes ; but there is this plus quantity for the benefit of order and good government, that under this system single women who have property may fairly be depended upon to look after themselves a little, and also married women who have property.
– And widows.
– I was including widows amongst single women, as unattached people - liable to attachment, but at present unattached. They have property which they have a distinct interest in protecting, and their interests maybe such as the blandishments of friends and relations will be unable to overcome. So that I vote for this.measure practically because I think it a highly conservative measure. I vote for it solely on that account. I’ think that women are better than men, and have purer and higher notions, but I am sure that they are very much open to the influence of those who have not notions so high or noble as their own. But I do recognise that women who have the chance of exercising the vote independently will exercise it on the higher side, and not on the lower, and that is all so much to the good, whether we call it liberal or conservative. The claims of women who have had the dutiesand responsibilities of citizens, and who have been enabled by the law to acquire property, have been constantly ignored by the English law, and they have never yet had any representation in respect to that property. Those women are becoming more and more, and not fewer and fewer, in the population of every State. To those women we propose to give not a boon, but at this very late stage we propose to concede to them a right. They are subject to all the laws, and subject to taxation, and they should have the right to vote, if not the right to be represented in Parliament, which is a right I am not prepared at present to concede to them.
– Will they not have the right under the Constitution %
-I am not sure about that ; I do not wish to commit myself, one way or the other j but where they are subject to taxation they should at least have the correlative right of some kind of representation. That is the view I take in reference to this Bill, and I do not intend to go into any sentiment about it. I understand from Senator Playford, who is skilled in the laws of Solomon, that Solomon said that, although he found one man in a thousand, he did not find one woman in a thousand, who was wise. I do not propose to follow the honorable senator in that, nor to follow my better-read friend at the back of me into the laws of Plato, or to compare them with my more modern impressions. Neither will I deal with the great Ralph Waldo Emerson’s contention, nor that of any faddist, who, having nothing at all to do with legislation, has laid down general laws with respect to matters which he did not understand. Dealing with the question from the point of view of people who have seen the system actually at work, and who have had seven or eight years’ experience of it, I say that, so far as I can learn, it has made practically no difference, though it has given us a lot of extra work. I believe it will and must make this difference, however, that it will give a vote to that down-trodden class “who, although they have been enabled, as the result of their industry or from other causes, to acquire property, have never yet had an opportunity of securing the representation to which, in respect of that property, they are legitimately entitled, lt is for that reason, without speaking further, that I shall support this Bill.
– The only serious opposition to the Bill so far has come from Senator Pulsford, whom I am glad to see in his place once more. He referred not only to the late Mr. Gladstone, but also to Mr. Herbert Spencer. In speaking as he did he was utterly incorrect. For instance, Mr. Gladstone, like many others who - had been in politics for many years, in the latter period of his life not only backed down, but supported in the House of Commons women’s suffrage. If Senator Pulsford will refer to the History qf Our Own Times, hy Justin McCarthy, he will find at page 317 these words -
During a debate on woman’s suffrage in 1871, Mr. Gladstone stated that if the ballot were once introduced there would be no harm done by allowing women to vote-
The honorable senator was also unfortunate in his reference to Herbert Spencer. I shall read a quotation which proves clearly that there was no halting on his part in this respect -
The extension of the law of equal freedom to both sexes will doubtless be objected to on the ground that the political privileges exercised by men must thereby be conceded to women also. Cif course they must - and, why not ? We are told that woman’s mission is a domestic one ; that her character and position do not admit of her taking part in the decision on public questions ; that politics are beyond her sphere. But this raises the question - Who shall say what her sphere is ? As the usages of mankind vary so much, let us hear how it is to be shown that the sphere we assign her is a true one, that the limits we have -set to female activity are just the proper limits. Let us hear why on this point of our social policy we are exactly right, whilst we are wrong on so many others. We must conclude that being required by that first pre-requisite to greatest happiness, the law of equal freedom, such a concession is unquestionably right and good.
So much for the statement that the late Mr. Gladstone and Mr. Herbert Spencer were opposed to women’s suffrage. This Bill is a complement to the Electoral Bill that lays down the methods which are to be adopted. Women’s suffrage is not a new question. It has been adopted in two States, and in the popular Houses it has been frequently affirmed. Senator Downer desired to know what the representatives of Victoria and New South Wales had to say. For several years past the trend of popular opinion in Victoria has undoubtedly been in favour of extending the franchise to women. Time after time has the Legislative Assembly recorded a vote in its favour by an overwhelming majority. On some occasions a three-fourths majority has been obtained in that House. Though the measure did not affect the rights and privileges of the Upper Chamber, but applied to only the Lower Chamber, yet time after time the1 will of the Victorian electors was denied. We have been asked, Where is the popular demand for this change in the franchise t Again I reply that in Victoria time after time public meetings have been called and petitions presented in its favour. The largest petition ever presented to the Victorian Parliament was one in favour of women’s suffrage. It contained 30,000 signatures, and had to be carried into the House by two men. Yet we are asked, Where is the demand for this reform ?
– There was just as large a petition presented against that Bill.
– It was put as a distinct issue at several Assembly elections, and the only reason why it was not carried was because the Legislative Council did not represent public opinion. Because it conceived that it was not a good thing for the people, it would not pass the measure, although public opinion was undoubtedly in its favour.
– The honorable senator is altogether wrong.
– I am not altogether wrong, and it is for the public of this State as well as the people of Australia to judge between us. There is’ no doubt that this Bill will be passed. Those who, in season and out of season, have sought to educate public opinion are in a majority. And although perhaps some of the States are not prepared to extend the franchise to all adults, yet it will be to the credit of the Federal Parliament that it achieved the great reform. I am glad that the measure has been introduced in the Senate. In some of the States the Upper House is not viewed too well by the people at large. The Senate has a chance of showing itself to beliberal and amenable to the will of the electors generally. I am not sorry that it will go down in history that in the very Chamber in which another body consistently blocked a similar measure, the representatives of Australia, elected under a more popular franchise, assented to adult suffrage. We have heard a good deal this evening about what is Government, and why should we deny to a part of the population a right to the representation of their political’ views provided that they are taxed. We are told on the dictum of the’ political economists that representation should go according to taxation, and yet what do we do ? We tax the whole of the people, including women, and- compel them to obey laws which they had no voice in making. We pride ourselves on our democracy, and yet straight off when naif of the population desire to be enfranchised we say, “ You must be placed exactly in the position of the male portion of the population, but we deny you your pol tical rights in this respect.” We are told that the women do not want the franchise. That statement is scarcely a fair one. We know that, as with men, quite a number of women may not desire the suffrage, and may not use it if conferred, but that is no reason why it should be withheld.. We should not stay our hand because a few do not desire to vote. Even among the male electors the same thing occurs. Quite a number of men do not exercise the franchise, and sometimes we come across a few who say that Parliaments are of no use. The same arguments that have been advanced in this respect could also have been advanced against the slavery system in Amenca. There were quite a number of the .slaves who in their debased condition did not know the value of freedom, and there were even those who said they did not desire it. But that was ‘ not the dominating factor in the determination of the question. The question was - was it right, just, and proper to permit slavery; and the answer that America gave was conclusive upon the point. We know as a matter of history what resulted. Then we are told, Mr. President, that another objection to the extension of the suffrage is that women are not sufficiently educated. If that is a ground of objection, we can say the same with regard to many of the male electors. Who shall prescribe, as Herbert Spencer and John Stuart Mill say, the standard of education in respect of elections? I do not think there is any one who would attempt to do it. We are not and shall not be placed, in the -position of being required to establish a standard of education in respect to the voting power of the electors. These arguments show how shallow, narrow, and unworthy are the objections, urged against the extension of the franchise to women. If women are not sufficientlyeducated to vote, how comes it .that in regard to municipal life we allow the franchise to be exercised by them 1 If women are independent enough to exercise the franchise’ in regard to municipal matters - and there are someknotty points involved therein - surely they are intelligent enough to exercise a voice in respect of questions that make for the good and the welfare of the. nation. The truth is, after all, that not a, very great effort is required in this direction. Give woman the power of exercising the franchise, and it will be found that she will educate herself speedily, and we shall soon hear no more of the argument advanced, in that direction. It will be interesting, in” making this alteration in our electoral law, and so as not to take an uncertain leap in. the dark, to note what other countries in the world have done, in which women are exercising the suffrage, either in its full or in its limited form. Let us for instance look at Great Britain. We find there that women are allowed to exercise the franchise in respect of all elective municipal offices. In France, women exercise a vote with regard to the school boards and elect their own sex on the boards of education. In Sweden and Norway it is the same. In Ireland they have adopted women’s suffrage for the election of harbour boards and poor law guardians. In Belfast they have women’s suffrage for municipal offices. Then I turn to Finland. We are sometimes inclined, in speaking of foreign countries, to think that we can learn nothing from them, but under present circumstances, I think we shall be able to learn something from these countries, which, perhaps, are not so far behind as many people think they are. We find that in Finland women exercise the franchise for all elective offices. In Croatia and Dalmatia the same is the case. Turning to India, we find that in the Madras Presidency and in Bombay, in connexion with municipal government, women also exercise the suffrage. In Russia it is true that there is some restriction, and the suffrage is confined to heads of households. But if we turn to British communities, we find that women’s suffrage exists in connexion with municipal elections in Cape Colony. In New Zealand not only do women exercise the franchise municipally, but members of the sex have been elected as councillors, and have occupied official positions. In the sister federation of Canada, women’s suffrage is the rule in every province and municipality. In Ontario women enjoy the franchise for all elective offices except those in connexion with the State and Federal Legislatures. In the United States I find that 2S States and territories have given the suffrage municipally, namely, Arizona, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, North Dakota, South Dakota, Oregon, Texas, Vermont, and Wisconsin. Wyoming has given the suffrage since 1870. In Delaware it is restricted to some of the municipalities. In Kansas, as far as municipal privileges are concerned, women are in exactly the same position as men. Coming nearer home we find that in New South Wales women have a vote in connexion with all municipal elections, provided they are property holders. The same applies in South Australia and Victoria. In regard to the exercise of the suffrage by women directly for the Legislature of the country, we know that the franchise was extended to them in New Zealand in 1894. Some remarks have been made this afternoon with respect to the interest women take in elections. I am extremely sorry that I have not the figures in regard to the later elections in New Zealand, but I find that at the first election after woman’s suffrage was granted, in 1S94, there were 109,461 women upon the roll, and 90,200 voted, showing that at any rate in New Zealand women have been alive to the importance of their political privileges. Before the suffrage was extended to women, we were told that the same evils would accrue as are threatened to the Commonwealth ; but in spite of those prophecies the New Zealand Legislature was liberal to the extent of giving, the women the vote.
What has been the effect ? The history of New Zealand from that time down to the: present has been one of continued progress, and it will generally be admitted that New Zealand is to-day one of the most progressive countries in the world. There: can be no doubt that she leads the world in progressive legislation. Let us turn to Wyoming. In 1S70 the suffrage was granted to women in municipal affairs, but in 1899 a convention sat to form a State Constitution, and with its previous experience it unanimously gave the suffrage to women. Later on that Constitution was approved at a special election by a three-fourths majority, and Congress, admitted Wyoming as a State on the 10th July, 1S90. From that time Wyoming hasenjoyed woman’s suffrage, and there is not, the slightest doubt that women will continue to exercise the franchise there. Since South Australia and Western Australia admitted women to the suffrage, none of the evils which were predicted have ensued, but, on. the contrary, it has been shown that the sex has exercised a beneficial influence. There is. no need to discuss the matter at very great, length. It has been worn threadbare as far as concerns our State Parliament. Every honorable senator realizes the responsibility resting upon him in respect of the vote he shall cast, and we have all made up our minds in regard to it. As far as I am concerned, I have never been so perfectly sure in regard to any question, as to the way in which I should vote, as I am in regard to this. Realizing that the extension of the suffrage to women is just, right and proper, and feeling sure that the people, of this State are heartily in favour of themeasure, I intend to vote for its second reading, and also to do my very best to get the Bill passed, so that at the next election the whole of the people of the States may be the electors for the Senate and for the, House of Representatives.
– J. do not intend to occupy the time of the Senate for more than a few minutes at this stage, but I wish to take the opportunity of congratulating the Government on bringing forward this important measure, in the face of some considerable opposition, in this first session ofthe Federal Parliament.
– Where is the opposition 1
SenatorSTANIFORTH SMITH. - There “was considerable opposition to it when it was proposed on the part of several honorable senators.
– It is unspoken opposition.
– Yes. Some have been -
Willing to wound, and 3’et afraid to strike.
Two pieces of legislation have been dealt with by this Parliament in its first session which are of the utmost importance as matters of principle, and which honorable senators will be able to look back upon with price and pleasure. One is the Immigration Restriction Act, which places on legislative record for all time the great principle that Australia is to remain for the white races of the world. After having closed the door against alien immigration, the Government have brought in a Bill to provide that the young Commonwealth of Australia shall be governed by the people of Australia, and not by a portion of them. It has been said that this franchise is laid down in the Constitution. That is perfectly true. If we have a Franchise Bill, it must be on lines which practically include adult suffrage. But the Government are to be congratulated on having brought the measure forward at this stage. It is an undeniable fact that the whole course of franchise legislation amongst civilized races is tending towards one great ideal, and that is universal adult saffrage. That movement has never taken a backward step, except when it has been met by armed force. The progress has in many cases been slow, but it is steadily progressing towards the goal, and I am glad that this national Parliament that governs a continent is the first to reach that goal, and to bring forward legislation so broad and liberal that it is impossible to extend it further. There are, as has been mentioned by my honorable friend, Senator Barrett, four States in America in which universal adult suffrage is in existence. With these exceptions this will be the first Parliament to have universal adult suffrage for both Houses of the Legislature. This Bill will not confer a favour upon the women of Australia, nor a boon for which they should be grateful. It will do a simple act of justice that has been withheld from women for very many years. If we turn to Blackstone, who, I think, is an authority as a constitutionalist, which every lawyer in the
Senate will recognise, we find that he writes as follows : -
No subject of England can be constrained to pay any aids or taxes, even for the defence of the realm or the support of the Government, but such as are imposed by his own consent or that of his representatives in Parliament.
I will quote now from Lecky, another recognised authority, who said -
Parliament was essentially a machine of taxing, and it was therefore right that those who paid taxes should have a decisive voice. . . . The indissoluble connexion between taxation and representation was the mainspring of English conceptions of freedom. That no man should be taxed except by his own consent was the principle which was at the root of the American revolution. It was the chief source of all extensions of representative government. . . . No danger in representative government was deemed greater than that it should degenerate into a system of veiled confiscation - one class voting the taxes which another class was compelled to pay.
If we are in accord with the views expressed by these eminent authorities, we must admit that every women in Australia should have the right to vote, because it is an undeniable fact that every woman in Australia is taxed. If women are not subject to direct taxation, they are all subject to indirect taxation. Therefore we must admit, as a simple act of justice, that as long as taxation continues every woman in Australia should have the right to vote.
– And a right to sit in the Senate.
– That also follows from this Bill. . In regard to the question of womanhood suffrage, it is very interesting to note the opinions that have been held by people of different ages in regard to women. I am not going back to Plato, but there were races who looked upon women almost as animals, and who did not believe that they possessed souls. It is on record that an early Christian council considered profoundly the momentous question of whether women had souls. Fortunately for women and Christianity they decided that they had, but before arriving at that conclusion they had to put the question to a vote. The opinions which men held in regard to women in those days seem gradually to have improved until we come to the feudal days when women were, in many instances, given the same right to vote as that enjoyed by men, provided that they owned property. That right became extinguished on account of wars and revolution and turmoil. We find that even in the time of the French revolution, when the whole cry was for liberty, equality, and fraternity - when every one was to obtain justice - women were refused any right to vote, and that when they clamored for it some of them were imprisoned. That shows that even at that time people had not arrived at the true conception of liberty and equality. There were not very many women in England who had votes ; but it is stated in old records that one woman voter was enabled to return two members to Parliament. Those rights lapsed, although there seems to have been no legislative enactment against them. A considerable time ago a case was tried in the English courts to determine whether or not women had the right of voting. That court came to this extraordinary decision -
That whereas it requires intelligence and ability to exercise the franchise, and as it is believed that women do not possess these attributes, therefore they should not be allowed to vote.
That decision, of course, w is as untrue as it was ungallant. But still there are many people in the present day who believe that women should be excluded from any right to assist in making the laws, notwithstanding that they are amenable to them, and have to pa)’ the taxes imposed. Those who oppose this extension of the franchise - and I am glad to see that I can exclude honorable senators from that category, because no one in this Chamber appears to be absolutely opposed to it - seem to have drawn their views from the medieval days when the people said that anyone who had property had the right to vote. The sacred rights of property were then considered to be inviolable, and women were allowed to vote as long as they had property. There are many people in the present day - and even some honorable senators - who hold this medieval idea that women and men should be allowed to vote only when they possess property. That idea presupposes one of two things : either that property should be allowed to vote, and that the owner of it is merely acting as an agent in voting for that property ; or else that unless a person owns property he should not be entrusted with the right to vote ; that people like professors, learned members of the University, philosophers, and others, should be excluded from the franchise if they do not possess property. There is no doubt that womanhood suffrage is certain to become co-extensive with the civilized world. The only question is at what date it will come. Sydney Smith mentions a mythical dame of the name of Mrs. Partington, who endeavoured with a broom to sweep back the Atlantic. I am very much afraid that there are very many Dame Partingtons at the present day, each with a broom–
– I do not think it is fair for the honorable senator to refer to Senator Pulsford in that way.
– I am not making any local references, but I am very much afraid that there are many Dame Partingtons, who, with a broom, composed of prejudice and conservatism, are endeavouring to sweep back the tide of democracy, and to prevent a simple act of justice like this being done. Senator Pulsford said that we were seeking to place a burden on the shoulders of women. I cannot see that this will be a burden, when it will be optional for women to accept the right and the responsibility and honour of taking a part in the government of this young Commonwealth. No burden will be imposed when it is optional whether they carry it or not. I feel sure that this measure will be carried by the Senate, and I hope that before the session closes it will become an Act of Parliament. I believe that it will be an example, not only to the States of Australia, but to the world. If the women of Australia are good enough to elect the members of the Federal Parliaments, who have to legislate for the whole continent, it is difficult to see why they should not have the ability to vote for members of State Parliaments, whose functions, although very important, are, I suppose, less important than those appertaining to the Federal Parliament. There is only one other matter to which I wish to address myself, and that is the amendment to be proposed by Senator Matheson to exclude coloured races from the franchise. I think it is our determination that Australia shall remain only for the surplus populations of the white races of the world, and I contend that we should be governed only by white people. Therefore, I am opposed to any coloured races which may be in Australia having the right to vote at the federal elections. Let us look at the position of Queensland, for example. AVe find that in some of the electorates there the coloured people possibly predominate. In some of the towns of Queensland the coloured races are bound to be in the majority.
– Not in the towns.
– Are they naturalized ?
– We have no Commonwealth naturalization law, and it is possible that they may have the right to vote.
– The State Parliament can naturalize them.
– Yes, and our estimable friend, the Premier of Queensland, would probably be glad to enfranchise all the kanakas. With the assistance of the conservatives and the kanakas he might be able to run Queensland for a considerable time. But apart from the position of Queensland, let us look at the Northern Territory. We find that in spite of the model State - I was nearly going to say the “muddle” State - of South Australia, the coloured races exist there in the proportion of two to one to the whites. What would be the result if, under this Bill, those coloured people had the right to vote, and any person the right to stand for the Federal Parliament 1 It would be possible, and in fact probable, that we should have a Chinaman in this Parliament as representative of the Northern Territory, for I understand that the Chinese are the most populous race there. If we are going to administer the Northern Territory as a territory, I presume we shall give the people there some representation, just as has been done in the United States. If we give them that representation, and coloured races are allowed to vote, then in all probability they will return a coloured person to represent them.
– But the Chinamen in the Northern Territory are not naturalized.
– That is true ; but it is within the power of the State Government to naturalize them. If we do not desire them to have any voice in the election of the representatives of the people of Australia, we can say so in this Bill, irrespective of the Naturalization Bill-, which has not yet been introduced. It would be a dangerous thing to give the States the power to enfranchise these coloured people.
– We cannot take their rights away.
– Exactly, but subject to the section in the Constitution which relates to that matter, we can say that other coloured persons shall not become eligible to vote at the Federal elections. I do not intend to take up any more time in dealing with the Bill at this stage, because I feel sure that the Senate is going, not only to agree to the second reading of the measure, but to pass the whole Bill. I sincerely trust that it will become law before the close of the session. Of such an Act we shall be able to feel proud. I, as an Australian, feel proud to think that the Australian people are sufficiently educated, and possess sufficient patriotism, and the genius of self-government, to be entrusted, without any exception whatever, with full voting power. With equal voting power, this great continent of Australia will be governed by the whole of the people of Australia, and not by a section of the people, as has been the case in the past.
– I do not know that I can add anything very useful to the debate. But it may, per-, haps, be as well, on account of my constant attendance in the Senate, that I should prove to my constituents that I do not come here so often without saying something. The first thing that strikes one in this Bill is its straightforwardness and simplicity. The idea appears to me, in short, to be this : To extend the franchise to every inhabitant of Australia, whether male or female, and whether that male or female be coloured or white. But the Bill goes further, and declares, not only that every inhabitant, what-, ever the sex or the colour, shall have a vote, but that each person shall have only one vote. Whatever defects may be in the measure, all our good wishes must be enlisted by reason of its simplicity, its thoroughness, and its symmetry. To those who love democracy, it is certainly the. realization of their ideal. To those who believe that the community is best governed by finding the resultant of the opinions of all its members, taken from them equally and impartially, this measure must appear as a heaven-sent one. Such persons, I think, ought only to have this regret, that another proposal, the object of which was to give effect to the idea running through this BilL, and to place in this Chamber an effective voice to give expression to the opinions of the members of the community, should have been lost. I say nothing more upon that. It is dead and gone. If I were an out-and-out democrat I should, without any hesitation, not only support, but welcome this measure. But being J - and I always like to be frank - anything except an out-and-out democrat, I cannot welcome it, though I am bound to support it. My friend Senator Glassey laughs. But I will show the honorable senator why my judgment and my desire are upon this occasion divorced ; why I cannot welcome, but still must support, this measure. I think it is desirable that we should have uniformity of franchise throughout Australia. It would be an anomaly if we found members .of this Senate coming here to discuss matters of Australian interest sent by mandates of different degrees and of different characters. It is essential that members of the Commonwealth Parliament legislating for the good of all Australia, and discussing political topics here, should represent constituencies of the same political power and of the same character of franchise. Section 41 of the Constitution says -
No adult person who has or acquires the right to vote at elections for the more numerous House of the Parliament of the State shall, while the right continues, he prevented by any law of the Commonwealth from voting at elections for either House of the Parliament of the Commonwealth.
That, in short phraseology, means this : whoever has a vote now must have a vote for ever, whether we give it to him or not.
– No ; the State can alter the vote.
– Senator Playford is quite right, ‘but I am dealing with the Commonwealth Parliament, and whoever has a vote now must have a vote for ever so far as this Parliament is concerned. We cannot interfere with it in any way. Since, therefore, we cannot cut down, and since it is desirable that we should have a uniform system, our only method is to enlarge to the extent of the greatest existing enlargement. It is only in that way that we can have uniformity. We must take the- extreme of the franchise given in any of the States, and make that the boundary up to which our franchise for the Commonwealth shall operate. It is impossible for us to narrow in any degree, and if we desire a uniform franchise we must accept the widest franchise which exists in any one of the States. We find in Western Australia and South Australia that there exists a system of .universal franchise for every man and woman. It is, therefore, imperative, if we are to have uniformity, that we must pass such a Bill for the whole of Australia. In four of the other States there exist laws differing somewhat, but the general trend in each is to give coloured naturalborn or naturalized subjects the right to vote. If we are to have uniformity we must in the Commonwealth give all coloured natural-born or naturalized subjects a vote-. It, therefore, I think, follows, without going deeply into any questions of principle, that every person who thinks it desirable that the same system of franchise should exist all over Australia must support this Bill with reference to these two points-, namely, the extension of the franchise to every adult male and female, and the inclusion in the number of adults of all natural-born or naturalized subjects. But the Bill goes a little further. It says there shall be one man one vote. I do not pretend to any great research upon the subject, but I am not aware whether in any of the States the principle of one man one .vote already exists.
– Yes ; in South Australia and in New South Wales.
– I am delighted to hear that, because it saves me, or rather it enables my conscientious objections, to retire under the canopy of the practice existing in those States, for the sake of uniformity. But, in any event, I think that the fiat of public opinion has gone forth, and that whether individuals like myself think it right or wrong, the principle has been so universally accepted in Australia that one would be very foolish from a political point of view to go against it, and one would be very arrogant from an intellectual point of view to stick strictly to an opinion which he found so discounted by all the other intelligent members of the community. Therefore, I accord my support to the principle” of one adult one vote. I am personally of’ opinion that property is entitled to repre,sentation. It does seem to me to be very unjust in these struggles between labour and capital that a system should be enforced which throws all the legalized power into the hands of labour.
– No; it gives equal power to either side.
– Capital that would employ 5,000 men, and therefore gives 5,000 votes to the labour element in the community, would itself have perhaps five or six votes. That is reducing the voice of capital to that of what Shakspeare calls “ the mewling and puking infant,” and enlarging the voice of my friend the labourer to that of the “big fat belly with good capon lined.” I do not think that is fair. However, the oracle of Australian opinion has spoken, and I am not going to oppose it. A good deal has been said during this debate - and really it .is the only interesting thing in it - upon female suffrage. It has been suggested that those who oppose the extension of the franchise to women do so on the ground of their want of intelligence. Well, I oppose ib, but certainly not upon that ground.
– On the ground of too much intelligence.
– Yes, on the ground of too much intelligence ; on the ground of a too refined intelligence; a too tasteful intelligence to meddle in the dry humbug, to them, of politics about which they know nothing. I agree with the remarks which have fallen from Senator Symon during the course of this debate. I agree with him that the vote itself would prove perfectly harmless, and that there has been a great deal of fustian and extravagance talked in reference to its operation. I agree that on the one hand it would not destroy domestic bliss, and that on the other hand it would not lead to that elevation and that purification of morals that has been claimed for it. I do not suggest that the giving of a vote to our womankind would lead to ruptures in the home, but, on the other hand, I hesitate to think that the possession of the vote would breathe into the ballot-box that divine afflatus that would elevate the whole of us to a higher moral plane, and instil into us a contempt for everything low and unworthy. I think its effect would not be felt at all. We are told that that has been shown in South Australia, and reasoning from first principles I cannot see that the illustration thus afforded is anything different from what ought to have been expected. If you give the franchise to women, the woman who is true to her natural instincts will either not vote at all, or will vote under the guidance of those who do know something of these matters, or if she has not those guides, or if she will not heed them, she will vote under the influence of emotions that are so non-political in their character and so transient in their operation that the effect will be to destroy all political significance in such of their votes as are cast. The women who ask for the suffrage are in a minority to start with. They are the faddists of the sex. They are those who are unsatisfied with the true mission they have to perform. They are animated, not by a desire to put in a useful word for the good of their country, but by a desire to make felt that personality which they believe is too much slighted in the ordinary sphere of duty they have to fill.
– The honorable and learned senator ought to vote against the Bill.
– I certainly do not welcome it, but I must support it, because I want uniformity. If it were not for that desire I should most unhesitatingly vote against its second reading. At this stage of my remarks, I must acknowledge the truth of an observation that fell, I think, from Senator Pearce today - that it is a question, not of the women who are doing well in the world, but of those who are unmarried and have to make their own way. I must parenthesize that the objection to the vote is that it is the thin end of a wedge which will mean the Americanizing of all women - which will mean the forsaking of their homes, the despising of their position as housewives. I admit that the denial of certain occupations is very hard on many women with intelligence, character, and energy, who have not been fortunate either in obtaining husbands or in findingmeans of livelihood in the ways that are deemed appropriate to the sex, or who have bad husbands ; but we must remember that it is our duty to legislate for the whole class, and not for the exceptions to it. We must pause well and consider before we allow our sympathy for a few to induce us to strike a blow at the social and domestic order which now exists, which finds its root in natural instincts, which has been growing for countless generations, and which, though it may give to men privileges in the form of additional occupations that it denies to women, at the same time amply compensates them in creating in their favour a spirit of gallantry, chivalry, and tenderness, which is their sheath in many of the troubles and worries of life, which acts as a halo of countless minor joys round their existence, and which, whilst it is thus benefiting them, and leaving men free to indulge themselves in their hereditary and natural callings, at the same time elevates and refines the whole race - men, women, and children.
– Where does the honorable and learned senator find the band-box female he has just depicted ?
– If what I have been depicting has found its presentation in my honorable friend’s mind in the form of a band-box female, all I can say is that he lias a reducing, and,at the same time, an eliminating tendency that only allows those pigments of my picture to enter his mind which are in accordance with his own very circumscribed modes of thought. For these reasons I think it is not desirable that women should be encouraged to regard as unbecoming, or as unworthy of them, the duties which attach to a home, and that they will so regard them if we, by admitting them to the franchise, and thence into men’s occupations, make them think that there is no difference in the duties which attach to the sexes. But, while these are my personal views, it is impossible to give effect to them in this debate. Women have the franchise in Western Australia and in South Australia. We must have uniformity.
– Not necessarily.
– It is more desirable that we should have uniformity than that women should be denied the franchise. Of course it is not absolutely necessary, but I think it would be so anomalous, so contrary to the spirit of the Constitution, not to have uniformity, that it would do more harm in the long run than would be done by giving this very innocuous vote to women. If I might appeal to honorable senators, the time for us to consider the view of the question which has been put to-day, and which I am seeking to put, is when a demand is made to go further than the mere extension of the franchise. This, in itself, is no harm. -I agree with Senator Symon that nine out of ten women do not want the suffrage. If you were to take a census of the women of Australia to-morrow on the simple question, “ Do you want the franchise,” I believe 99 per cent, would say - “ No ; we are quite satisfied to be women. We consider thatin our own kind we are just as good as you. We have no desire to be you. Life has a dual relation. You must catch your hare and then cook him.
You, poor foolish man, go out and catch him - we are quite satisfied to stop at home and cook him.” That is the opinion of all true women. There is no more degradation in cooking the hare than there is in catching it.
– Supposing that the man is taken up for poaching - the woman goes hungry as well as the man ?
– Under those circumstances she must catch the hare in her own way. I quite agree with Senator Symon that clause 4 is inappropriately placed in the Bill. It says nothing more than is stated in the. Constitution Act -
Every adult person whose rights are preserved by section 41 of the Constitution Act shall be entitled to have his name placed on the electoral roll.
That is only another way of saying to a person - “ Your rights under the Constitution Act are preserved, and you are therefore entitled to have your name put on. the roll.” If it is of any good at all it is only good as an administrative clause, showing exactly how the rights preserved in the Constitution Act are to be given effect to, and it should appear, if at all, in the Electoral Bill. I think Senator Symon’s observation as to clause 5 was also just. It reads as follows : -
No person attainted of treason, or who has been convicted and is under sentence or subjected to be sentenced for any offence punishable under the law of the Commonwealth or of a State by imprisonment for one year or longer, shall be entitled to vote at any election of Members of the Senate or the House of Representatives.
I understand a Franchise Bill to be one conferring the privilege of voting. If this clause had to do with a limitation of that privilege, if it were in the nature of a proviso to the general statement, it would be properly there. But Senator O’Connor will see that it is not in the nature of a limitation but is in the nature of a disability.
– Is it not really a disqualification ?
– lt is a disability.
– Ought you not to put the disqualification in the same Bill as the qualification 1
– Yes ; if it be a” disqualification. If it said that every adult shall have a vote except certain persons it would be all right ; but I think it must be read in this way, that every adult shall have a vote, but though he has a vote certain things may happen which may deprive him of the right to exercise that vote. It is not a question of limiting the number of persons who are given votes by the Bill, but it is a question of how persons who have votes may be deprived of the right to exercise them. While a Franchise Bill has to do with the conferring of privileges, an Electoral Bill has to do with ascertaining how those privileges are to be acquired, and how they are to be lost. Therefore I think that is a clause that should have been in the Electoral Bill.
– I should think that it was a constitutional point, not a matter for the Electoral Bill.
– Whether my application of the point to the particular clause is right or not, I am, I hope, fortified with the opinion of Senator Downer that my argument is correct.
– I am afraid that I disagree with the honorable and learned senator.
– ^1 have spoken longer than I intended. I think I have been frank with the Senate. This is really only a Bill for carrying out the Constitution, and it is somewhat irrelevant to go into the broad question of one man one vote or f female franchise, because if any Franchise Bill is desirable this Bill is necessary. I have wandered in dealing with the - matter because previous speakers have done so, and also because the Senate ,has so seldom an opportunity of hearing my exposition of a subject.
– I should not have risen to take part in the debate but for the remarks of my colleague, Senator Barrett, in reference to what has happened in the State Parliament of Victoria. I shall support the Bill of the Government with great pleasure, because I think it is a step in the right direction, and one that is guaranteed by the terms of the Constitution. As to what Senator Barrett has said with reference to the Legislative Council of Victoria, of which for so many years I was a member, I would say that the honorablesenatoris unacquainted with the facts in connection with the treat ment accorded to the Women’s Suffrage Bill. A larger petition was presented to the Victorian Legislative Council against granting the franchise to women than was presented in favour of it. On many occasions when the Bill was introduced, the chief objection of the members of the Council was that it was brought in at the eleventh hour of the session, when they had not proper time to consider it. On several occasions the Government of the day threatened to have a special session in order to coerce the Legislative Council to do what they did not think they were justified in doing. If the Victorian Government had consented to grant to women the right of voting by post, the right to vote in Victoria would have been granted to the women for many a session past ; but for some reason, best known to themselves, the Government would not grant the privilege of voting by post to women, and therefore the majority of the Legislative Council said that until that was granted they would not concede the right asked of them.
– Was not that a very small thing to stand in the way ?
– The reason the Council acted in that way was to protect the women in the bush, who would have great difficulty in going to the poll to record their votes. It would have been easy enough for the women in the towns to vote, but it was necessary to protect the women in the country. The Senate might very well consider this Bill as one that does not require to be debated at great length. Seeing that two of the States have adopted women’s suffrage,- we should not be doing justice to our constituents if we did not concede the same privilege to the women of the other States. Senator Smith has said that there is some opposition to the Bill in the Senate. I have yet to learn where that opposition is. It must be a figment of the honorable senator’s own brain. I have heard of no opposition. As to the statistics brought forward by Senator Barrett, he must know, as a thinking, man, that the States of America which have granted the franchise to women constitute a very small minority of that great nation. He has simply taken the smaller states, which cannot be quoted as fair instances of countries that have granted the franchise to women. Let him take the States which contain the great centres of population, and will he say that female suffrage is the law there? . In granting the suffrage to. the women of the Commonwealth we are doing something new so far as great communities are concerned. We should not leave the beaten track, and enter upon an unknown path, before considering whether it is desirable to do so. There are many people who hold strong opinions against the extension of the franchise to women, but I urge them to remember that women have as much sense in the practical affairs of life as men, and that in the majority of instances they are far more conservative. This concession must result in a universal uprising of women, and the whole female population of the country must come forward and take its proper interest in the affairs of the country. That can only be done, however, by the Government granting the right to vote by post to women.
– “We have provided for that in the Electoral Bill.
– That measure has not become law yet, but I hope it will be passed. The Franchise Bill has been sufficiently debated, and, as far as I am concerned, I shall support it.
– After hearing some of the speeches that have been delivered this afternoon, I have begun to think - “ What is this extraordinary creature to whom we propose to give the vote ? What is it that we have amongst us, that lives in our midst, shares our life with us, that is generally understood to take part in most of the affairs of this world, and yet hitherto has had no interest whatever in, and no knowledge of, the practical conditions that surround her. ?” Honorable senators tell us that - women know nothing about the Constitution under which they live. Are we to understand that the women of this country have been so stupid, so ignorant, so absolutely short of the. ordinary faculties that are given to individuals, that throughout all these years they have been unable even to understand and grasp the fundamental principles according to which they are governed, and have been unable to learn that which is good for themselves and for their fellow men and women? To those who make that statement I say - “The women you have met must indeed be a sorry class ! If they are not capable of exercising the franchise just as intelligently as men, you must have been unfortunate in your acquaintances.” My experience in the affairs of this life, and in my business and social relations, has shown me that women are just as intelligent as men, and are just as consistent and as reasonable as men are, speaking generally, throughout our community. That being so, surely if women can guide us, as very often they do in the ordinary affairs of life - if we as men have, found time after time that if we had listened to the voice of some of the women we know we might have avoided many of the calamities with which we have come into collision - if women are capable of advising us wisely, what reason have we for saying that they shall take no interest in the affairs of the country? Can it be asserted that women have no interest in the laws we make for the government of the country ? Can it be pretended that they have no interest in the divorce and matrimonial laws in connexion with which they labour under such distinct disadvantages to-day ?
– Senator Dobson has gone.
– Senator Dobson’s Bill will undoubtedly do a great deal to alleviate the condition of women in that direction. I say that women have just as much interest and just as much right to be heard, in connexion with the matrimonial laws as men have. Have we done justice to the women in the past ? Is it not manifest that, in connexion with divorce, women are placed at a disadvantage as compared with men inasmuch as a man can secure divorce on grounds upon which a woman cannot? Is it not manifest that under the system of the representation of the country by men only, legislation for generations past has tended in the direction of curtailing the power of women to hold property ? It is only in the later years of the nineteenth century that there have been conceded to women equal rights with men in many directions. Have we not found that in connexion with the laws in regard to the custody of children women have been cruelly and wickedly ill-treated ? Do we not as lawyers know that a woman has no right over her child, and that a father has the right to take a babe of six months old out of its mother’s arms ? These conditions show that we require representation on the part of the oppressed- and the oppressed in these cases are in my humble opinion the women.
– The women do not know it.
– The woman who comes to a lawyer for advice, and asks whether she has a right to her child or whether the father has the right to take it from her, does know that the law has treated her with injustice.
– A Judge can give her control over her children.
– In very many States the custody of the child belongs as a matter of law to the father.
– When the child is over a certain age.
– Quite so. If Senator Playford is not satisfied on that point, let me direct him to the law of divorce, by which a man on certain grounds can obtain a divorce from his wife, whereas if the wife can adduce the same evidence with regard to the husband there is no redress for her. What is good for the man is good for the woman ; and I say that if any argument is required to show the necessity for women’s suffrage it is that men in the past have not done justice - have not done the fair thing - to the women of this country. Let us turn again to the question of industrial disputes. Is it not manifest that the women of this country have an important interest in all industrial affairs, in the avoidance of strikes, and in conciliation laws and other legislation of that class 1 Do not those of us who have seen large industrial strikes know that they fall first on the women, that the first pinch of poverty is felt by them 1 And is it not fair, therefore, that they should have some voice in determining the methods by which these evil consequences are to be avoided in Australia ?
– We have given them that right in South Australia, and we propose to give it to them throughout the Commonwealth: Why whip a dead horse 1
– The honorable senator assumes that we are going to give women the right to vote for the Commonwealth Parliament. So far a3 the Senate is concerned, it seems fairly clear that we shall do so. I am endeavouring only to answer those persons who say that woman lives in a sphere -separated from man ; that woman’s sphere is entirely removed from politics and their influences. I assert that our political conditions are wrapped up in the life of every woman in the community ; that the laws which control the men control the women ; and inasmuch as every man in this country is given the right to take a part in the making of the laws that control him, so, in my bumble opinion, a similar right should be extended to women, irrespective altogether of the question of a uniform franchise. I admit that there is much in what Senator Harney has said in regard to a uniform franchise, and that this is the only way in which it is possible to obtain uniformity ; but putting that question aside, I affirm that this is the only principle by which we can obtain the true representation of the people, that we are often so ready to talk about. It is the only true principle by which we can give to every class the right to control the affairs of the community, and to mould them, in accordance with their interests, just in proportion as those sections have influence in the country in which we live.
– I should like to add a word of congratulation to the Government for introducing this measure at this stage, and thus giving the first Federal Parliament an opportunity of doing justice to a large section cf the community, which, under this Bill, will be entitled to exercise the franchise in some of the States for the first time. It has been said, and I think it is a truism, that we have practically reached a stage at which no debate is necessary in order to prove the justice of the claims of woman to a vote. I should not have risen at this stage but for the fact that there are some honorable senators who continue to advance the old arguments against the right of woman to vote, and who are still prepared to champion the lost cause of manhood suffrage alone.
– Only one.
– They are in a minority, but whilst this question is practically settled so far as the Federal Parliament is concerned, it is by no means settled so far as it relates to the State Parliaments. I do not think it is altogether out of place, in this State at all events, to advance some reasons why women should have the right to vote for the national Parliament. If we can prove that women are worthy of voting for the Parliament which sways the destinies of the nation, surely we shall suggest to the minds of the people, if not to the minds of the legislators of Victoria and other States where the principle has not been conceded, that they should also have a voice in the smaller affairs of the States ?
– The Commonwealth Parliament does not stand exceedingly high at the present moment.
– In the minds of certain people it may not. I know that there are some people who looked to the Commonwealth Parliament to cheek that legislation which is becoming so frequent in the State Legislatures. Fortunately their hopes have not been realized, for this Parliament is prepared to go even further than some of the State Legislatures have done. I wish to refer to one or two remarks made by Senator Pulsford,andto dosowith the best of good feeling, because he is the only honorable senator holding opinions adverse to the principle contained in the Bill who has been prepared to stand up boldly and state them, and to indicate that he will take up the logical course of moving an amendment at a later stage. We must respect the honorable senator, who, in face of such an overwhelming consensus of opinion against him, has the courage to do that. He has expressed his anxiety to keep woman to the domestic hearth, which, he says, is her proper sphere. I am afraid his sympathy for woman is rather belated. He should have shown that sympathy in a practical way long ago, when women commenced to go into the industrial world ; when they were first compelled, by reason of our industrial system, to go into our factories, and in some cases intoour fields, and compete with men under conditions dictated by men, and legislated for by men. If that honorable senator wished to keep woman to the domestic hearth, he should have shown his desire by voicing an agitation having for its object the passing of laws which would prevent women from going into our factories, shops, and fields. Recognising as we do’ that women are compelled to go into the industrial world and earn their own living, that in some cases it is not only the father, but the mother, and even the daughter, who have to go out to earn a livelihood by labour, and recognising that where men have had to go out to work it has been found necessary for their own protection to give them a voice in the legislation of the country, we should enable these women, who are less able to protect themselves than are men, to have a voice in shaping legislation which will have some effect, at, all events, on the industrial conditions under which they labour. We shall have Senator Pulsford telling us a week or two hence how the Tariff will affect the industrial conditions of Australia. Will he tell us that the Tariff, or any other legislation which we may pass here, will not affect women, and especially the women workers of Australia ? He will quote the condition of workers of both sexes in Australia, and admit by his quotations that our legislation must affect not only the men, but the women of this continent. Yet he would deny to women the right to any voice in that legislation. We have heard the old objections to womanhood suffrage trotted out once more, but if we analyze them we shall find that there is not one of them which would not also apply to manhood suffrage.
SenatorDawson. - With equal force.
– In my opinion with added weight. Men have a certain amount of physical force, and a coarser nature than women, which enables them to protect themselves. Women, with their weaker physical endowments and more refined nature, do not possess the same power of resistance to bad conditions. We rememberthe history of this movement ; we know what has been its history in Western Australia and Victoria. If there is any State in which it has had an unfortunate history that State is Victoria. The wish of the people of Victoria, as expressed again and again at the general elections, has been that women should have the right to vote, and yet the State Legislative Council, which sat originally in this chamber, has time and again flouted the will of the people. Senator Zeal and Senator Fraser, who were members . of that Council, are elected now on a different suffrage from that upon which they sat originally in this chamber, and I make bold to say that neither of them is prepared to take up what was the attitude of the Council in former days. They will be found amenable to the popular opinion. Not oneof those members of the former Legislative Council in Victoria is prepared to advocate in the Senate the principles in regard to this question which they advanced in days gone by.
– They were elected to. the Senate after the action taken bythem in the State House in reference to womanhood suffrage.
– If the women of Victoria had had a voice in the elections for the Senate, I am satisfied that Senator Fraser’s position on the poll would not have been so flattering as it was.
– It would have been a little higher.
– We know that, unfortunately, the male elector has not a good memory, but I hope that when women obtain the right to exercise the franchise they will show themselves superior in that respect.
– The best justification of the conduct of the honorable senators to which Senator Pearce refers was their return to this Chamber.
– I think that questions other than the question of womanhood suffrage influenced the electors. Now that they are elected on a broader franchise we shall ‘ hear a tale very different from that which this chamber heard in days gone by. I believe that Senator Symon spoke as an opponent of womanhood suffrage, although he recognised that the people were in favour of it, and was prepared on that account to concede it. But although he spoke as an opponent of the principle, he was compelled to admit that even if the extension of the franchise to women in South Australia had not. influenced the legislation of that State for good, it had done no harm. I contend that that in itself is one of the best reasons that could be given for womanhood suffrage. There we had a number of women who had been trained from their infancy to believe that politics had nothing to do with them ; that they were not to interest themselves in any public movement because it would be unwomanly to do so, that they were not to have a vote, that the affairs of the country did not concern them, but were purely within the province of men. What would be the result of giving the franchise to an equal number of men altogether ignorant of politics? Would it not have a bad effect on the legislation of the country? Undoubtedly it would. What were the objections that were urged against the extension of the franchise to working men in England 1 Were they not that because those men had never had the right to vote, and were not trained in political questions, they would misuse the frailchise? Was not the effect of their vote used in those days as an argument against the further extension of the franchise? The very fact that it is conceded by an opponent of womanhood suffrage that the extension of the franchise to women in South Australia has not had a deteriorating effect upon legislation there shows that when women shall have been trained in politics, and shall have learned to believe that it is part of their province to take part in politics, there will be an improvement.
– The parliamentary representation of South Australia has not deteriorated either.
– I think not. We have representatives here from South Australia who would not disgrace any Parliament of the world, and we have to remember that they were returned largely bv the votes of women, lt is said that women’s opinions are largely the result of intuition - that they do not look to a man’s career or study his politics - yet we find in the Senate representatives of South Australia who have been associated with the politics of that State for a quarter of a century. If women were swayed only by intuition rather than by the political principles of a candidate, we should not see so many old and tried politicians, who have made their mark, representing South Australia in the Senate. I think the presence of these men is a sufficient refutation of the statement that women do not use their solid judgment as men do. The most surprising speech made during the debate was that of Senator Harney. I am sorry that the honorable senator has left the chamber ; but, as he would naturally know that I would be prepared to deal with some of the statements which he made, he had the choice to remain if he wished to hear what I had to say. I think that Senator Harney, holding the opinions he does about women, should certainly vote against this Bill. I cannot understand any honorable senator getting up here and saying, as Senator Harney said, that a woman who was true to her natural instincts would not vote at all, voting for this measure. Let us analyze this statement, and what does it mean but that only the worthless women in a community will vote. If I believed that only the worthless women, only those who are not true to their natural instincts would vote, I should certainly vote against woman suffrage.
– Nearly all women are true to their natural instincts.
– The statement made was that women who are true to their natural instincts will not vote, and when, therefore, it is suggested that we are conferring the franchise only upon the worthless women of the community - those who are untrue to their natural instincts-1- I ask is that statement true ? Is it true of South Australia? Senator Symon told us that so far as he was able to judge it was not, and I know of no honorable senator better able to speak upon the question, because he has anintimateknowledge of those unhappy cases which come before the courts in South Australia. We know that the cases which come before the courts of any State afford the best indication to enable us to judge as to the conditions of the home life of the community.
– They are only exceptions.
– I say that the number of those cases and their frequency enables us to judge as to whether there is any effect upon the home life of the community. Senator Symon, who for over 25 years has been at the bar in South Australia, says that the result of his experience is that it has had no such effect. If ithas had no such effect how can it be said that it breaks up the home life ? If the result in South Australia, after some years of trial, is that it does not break up the home life, what becomes of the objection to allowing women to take part in elections on the ground that it does away with the refining influence of women in the home? There is one other point mentioned by Senator Ewing. It may be said that there are some questions which will come before the Senate in which men are peculiarly interested, and with which they are familiar ; but there is one question which will come before the Senate sooner or later, in which every woman is equally interested with every man, andthat is the question of divorce. I contend that the question of divorce is just as much a woman’s question as a man’s question. We have a right to know what is woman’s idea upon this question of divorce. How can we get it ? Can we allow men coming here elected by the votes only of men to get up and tell us what is the idea of the women of Australia upon the question of divorce ? I contend thatin order to have a properdivorce law which will represent the real opinions of those interested in such a law, we must give the women of Australia a voice in the making it, and we can only do that by giving them a vote. . Why should we talk about the sacredness of the home circle in a debate like this, when we know that there are questions which directly affect the happiness, and therefore affect the sacredness of the home circle, in which women are interested, and upon which at present they have no voice? We know that the happiness of the domestic circle depends very largely upon the nature of the living which those in it are getting. It depends largely, to put it in plainer words, upon the wages which men are getting, as to whether the home circle is to be a happy and a sacred one.
– “ When poverty comes in at the door “-
– We know the old adage that “ When poverty comes in at the door, love flies out at the window.”
– It depends upon sobriety also.
– It does depend on sobriety also, but the honorable senator knows, without my telling him, that sobriety is a questionlargelyaffectedbyenvironment. We cannot expect people who have to live in the slums and who never know what it is to live in comfortable surroundings to be refined. If we make a man live like a pig we cannot expect him to act like a human being. If we compel him to live amidst brutish surroundings, we get a brute as the result. I ask honorable senators what it means for women. If a man happens to live in the slums he has an opportunity of getting away from them during the time he is engaged in his occupation. He has an opportunity at night-time of going to an hotel or somewhere else where he can escape from the discomforts of his home, but the mother cannot do that, and the daughters cannot do it. They have to remain there all day and all night, and it is they who should have a voice in arranging the conditions under which they shall live. Give them a voice in arranging those conditions, and I guarantee that their votes will be given in favour of making the conditions a little better than they are.
– But we must not put wages first. Character must come first if we want happiness.
– Wages have a great deal to do with character, Give a man a wage upon which he cannot live, and what character are we likely to get ? Before I sit down I wish to refer to the point raised by Senator Matheson. I consider it a most importaut point. That is the question as to whether the coloured races now in Australia should have a vote. I recognise that this is a very difficult question to deal with, but it may also be a very dangerous one in its effects. We have to remember that there are somewhere about S0,000 of the coloured races in Australia apart from aborigines. It is said that there are 200,000 aborigines in Australia, and during the debate upon the Immigration Restriction Bill it was estimated that there were 80,000 coloured aliens in Australia. In Queensland we have 10,000 kanakas and a large number of various assorted aliens. We know the very keen interest which certain people in that State take upon the question of coloured labour. We know that they have a Government there who might give facilities to those coloured persons to become naturalized. I do not say that they will, but that Government might see that, by enrolling the 10,000 kanakas’ in that State, they would have upon the coloured labour question a very powerful ally. We might have the State Government of Queensland issuing naturalization papers to any coloured aliens who might apply for them. I ask the Senate to seriously consider what would be the effect of such action on the part of the Queensland Government. We would have in Queensland such a large coloured alien vote that allied to theexisting conservative vote it would be able to defeat the rest of the white voters in Queensland. We have to remember also that in the north-west of Western Australia we have large numbers of aborigines living upon the sheep and cattle stations. The only white people on those
Stations are the station-managers or squatters. What would happen if those aborigines became enfranchised 1 We must remember that they are natural-born subjects of the King, and they do not need naturalization papers. There are some thousands of them in our north-west country. Allow the squatters to get them put upon the roll, and who is the returning officer when the election comes round but the squatter himself t What is to prevent him enrolling all the blackfellows on his run and manipulating their votes at election times, seeing that he is himself the returning officer 1 There is not a white man within hundreds of miles of some of those stations. The squatter is a law unto himself ; nobody would say that he was transgressing the electoral law, as it would be nobody’s interest to say so. I do not say that these men would do such a thing ; but there is the possibility, and if we allow these black people to be registered as voters, we give the squatters a means of deciding elections in I those districts. We should also remember that we can look back over the history of ‘ the United States on this very question. In the United States after the war of Secession there was a wave of feeling going to the other extreme, and it was decided to give the negroes a vote. What was the result ? Were the Southern States of America able to carry that out conscientiously 1 Every honorable senator is, I am sure, conversant with the history of that question in the Southern States of America, and he knows how the law had to be broken by the State Legislatures themselves, and how the black men were deprived of their votes. Honorable senators know that even now in those States where the black men form a dangerous minority, there are such proceedings taken during the course of elections as to nullify the effect of the black vote.
– -They do not let them vote.
– They do not let them vote, and I make bold to say that if the people of the United States could go back over their history there would be no hesitation on their part in dealing with this question. They would not hesitate as to whether they would give the black races a vote. Th’ey would refuse to give even the American negro a vote, although the American negro is immeasurably superior to our Australian blacks, and immeasurably superior to the kanakas and » the Chinese. We have to remember that the aliens in Australia are altogether foreign to us in religion. As has been pointed out by Senator Matheson, their ideas of political life are foreign to our ideas, their ideas of civilization are foreign to ours. They have not a single idea in common with us. There are of course a few exceptions. There are a few civilized Chinese and Japanese, who are as good in these respects perhaps as any white man, but the great bulk of them do not understand what political liberty is. They do not understand the first principles of political economy, and I say it would be a positive danger to the Commonwealth if it were made possible under our franchise that the 80,000 aliens and the 200,000 aborigines in Australia should be given votes. I certainly shall support Senator Matheson, who I believe has given notice of an amendment in this connexion. I shall support anything which will deprive the coloured races of the power of doing harm to the Commonwealth. It has been said that, because we allow them to remain here, we should give them the full rights of citizenship. In their own country they are not given the full rights of citizenship. In India does the British Government give the Hindoos the full rights of citizenship 1 The Hindoos have no votes in India, and are we to be more generous to these aliens in our land than their own Government is to them in India 1 If they are not fit to have a voice in the government of a country with which they are familiar, whose religion is their own, whose civilization is their own, they are not fit to have a voice in the government of Australia. Are the Chinese allowed a voice in the government of the foreign concessions by the Germans, the French, or the English? No. Do the Chinese Government give the people a vote in their own country 1 No. Why should we give a vote to these aliens in our country 1 I believe that the franchise should be as wide and as free as possible, but we must pause when we see that, by enfranchising a large population which is alien to us in every respect, we might be doing a great deal to undermine the fabric we have built up. I ask the Senate to seriously consider whether it is not advisable to amend the Bill in the direction of preventing any of these persons becoming voters if the State Government should see fit to naturalize them. In many of the States the issue of naturalization papers has been refused, but we never know what may happen. The time may come when, owing to some political excitement, or owing to some bitter feeling between a State and the Commonwealth, or between State and State, naturalization papers may be issued. Worse things than that have been done in our national career, and history may repeat itself. I ask the Senate not to court such a danger, but to enact a provision which will prevent these aliens ‘from having a vote. Of course, we cannot deprive any alien of a vote which he already has, but those persons form a very small minority, and they will get less as time goes on. We have not yetexercised our power to deal with the question of naturalization, and until it is exercised the issue of naturalization papers by a State will be practically the issue of the right to vote. I am very pleased to have the opportunity of speaking and voting in favour of this measure, recognising that it will do an act of simple justice to a large proportion of the people of Australia, and believing that its effect on our legislation will be to make~ Australia a better place to live in, and to raise the condition of those who do not lead the life they should.
– I have much pleasure in supporting the second reading of the Bill. Iti is very creditable to the Government that, in the first session of the .Federal Parliament, it should proceed to carry out the spirit of the Constitution by placing the supreme power in the hands of the people. I am very glad that there is no opposition to the idea of universal manhood suffrage. The only note of discord that we hear is a faint remonstrance against the idea of admitting women to political power. I felt very much sympathy with Senator Harney when he was speaking. He is of opinion that, if women are enfranchised, our social order will be destroyed, the happiness of our homes will disappear, and generally chaos will result. But, notwithstanding that he sees this terrible catastrophe before the Commonwealth, he is going to support the Bill.
– I said that the vote itself is harmless, but that it is the thin edge of a very dangerous wedge.
– If I held the opinion which Senator Harney expressed so forcibly and eloquently this evening, I should oppose the Bill as long as I was able to stand and speak against it. The only conclusion I could draw from his remarks was that he is not of the stuff that martyrs are made of. He goes out into the wilderness like a John the Baptist, but he retires before the first attack of the enemy - in fact, he flees even before lie is attacked. If he really believes what he said here this evening, he is a traitor to the best interests of the Commonwealth, and he should oppose the measure to the utmost of his capacity.
– On the ground of uniformity I cannot.
– Uniformity in evil ! If Senator Harney believes that the Bill will bring about social chaos, why does he not vote against its second reading ? If he does not hold that belief, he is merely masquerading. For what purpose I do not know. It really is not worth powder and shot. Let us look at a few of the reasons which have been given why the franchise should not be extended to women. First we are told that women do not want to be enfranchised. How do we know that they do not ? Next we are told that there has been no agitation on their part. These men, whose sole desire apparently is to dress women up like dolls, set them on a mantelpiece and fall down and worship them, seem to require that women should hold meetings in our halls and at the corners of streets, mount platforms, lorries, boxes, and barrels, march with torches, break down the gates of public parks, and come up to Parliament House in a huge procession, flaunting their banners and gamps, and playing their bands, and demand the franchise. Would anything be more unworthy of our female friends than that? It has always appeared to me to be the duty of men to anticipate the wants of their female friends - not to wait until they come begging like suppliants to us for favour, but to foresee their necessities arid to supply them. That is chivalry ; that is gallantly. The opposite - well, I cannot find words to express my opinions about it. If a number of women do not desire the franchise, and would not vote if enfranchised, is that any reason why the vast number of women who wish to be endowed with political power, and to have a voice in making the laws they have to obey should be divorced from that privilege ? Is that any reason why the gates should be shut in their faces. If these fine ladies who affect to sneer at the franchise, whose whole lives are passed in attending balls and parties and levees, and doing the block in Collins-street, who are clothed in all the finery that the modern modiste can devise - if these fine ladies do not care about the franchise there is no one who will rouse them up to the poll. Because they do not want the franchise, because they are placed beyond the reach of want, because their husbands are able to clothe them in purple and fine linen, take them out in carriages, and provide palaces for them, is that any- reason why miserable girls who have to work for their living and to pay taxes, who are ground down at sewing machines, and for whom on any day of the week the “ Song of the Shirt “ might be once more recited, should not have the opportunity of voicing their ideas in the Parliament of their country ? By all .means let the fine ladies stay where they are.
– Do not slander our Commonwealth.
– What is slander ? Senator Dobson ought to be able to define the word. I do not know that I am able to give a legal definition, but havel said anything which is untrue? I find that the greatest opposition to women’s suffrage does not come from working women, but from women, in the highest social circles.
– How many pounds a year will a vote give to a poor woman ?
– I believe it will give them some pounds a year, or, if it does not, it will give them the equivalent of some pounds a year, and that is one reason why it has my support. I did not intend to slander any section of our community ; I merely stated what is a fact. The opposition to the female franchise comes from the rich men and women in the Commonwealth, and it proceeds from the same class in the old country. If to state a fact about a person is to slander that person that is not my fault. It is the fault of the person who places himself in such a position that to say that he holds a particular opinion is discreditable.
– The slander I meant was by the honorable senator saying that the “ Song of the Shirt “ is applicable to the young women of Melbourne.
– So it is, to many of them.
– I do not believe it is.
– We are told that the franchise will degrade our women. That is one of the most extraordinary statements I ever listened to. Does any one believe that to proceed to a polling place to get a ballot-paper from the returning officer, to score out a name, or several names, and to deposit that paper in the ballot-box, will degrade a woman ? A great many persons profess to believe that it will. I find that those very men and women who say that the act of voting will degrade a woman, admit women to occupations which are absolutely degrading, and in which they ought not be permitted to be employed. In the old country, morning after morning, I have seen women similarly attired to men, with only one slight difference to designate the sex, going into the depths qf the coalmines of free England. Male labour was too dear, and women had to be got because they were cheaper. On the labour of these unfortunate women many of our great English coal-masters and aristocrats have built up their huge fortunes.
– Does, the honorable member think that that has anything to do with the question of giving the franchise to women ?
– The people I refer to always declare that to give a vote to women is to degrade them. I have seen women ploughing in the fields. I am told that in South Australia women have been known to pull the plough. I do not know whether that is a libel or not, but I have been told in confidence that it has been done. T have been told that as a fact, though I can hardly believe it. But I have seen women in the old country following the plough and working in the harvest fields side by side with men. I have seen them working in the brick-fields, doing very hard work indeed. They are employed by tens of thousands in factories, and they are to be found in almost every occupation of industry. When we come to Australia we find the very same thing happening. The very men who say that giving a woman a vote would degrade her, have not the slightest compunction about making her a drudge. They do not regard it as degrading for a woman to black a man’s boots. Oh, no ! It is not degrading for her to scrub a floor or to be turned into a stuffy kitchen to cook for a man, or to be put into a factory where she will have to work nine or ten hours a day for a wretched pittance. None of these things will degrade a woman, but to give her a voice in the government of the country will degrade her ! That is what the opponents of female suffrage tell us. If giving a woman a vote will degrade her, there must be something specially foul and degrading in politics and in casting the vote itself. Is there ? What is politics ? It is a science of government - the making of the rules .and regulations under which a community carries on its business and its social life. Instead of their being anything degrading about a business such as that, it appears to me to be elevating in the last degree. If there is anything terrible about it - if it is the cesspool we are told it is - the people who, during the past centuries, have conducted politics, are responsible for it. The party to which I belong is not responsible. We have only just come into politics. We have not very long come into our kingdom, and we have entered politics with ennobling ideals. Our mission is to elevate the national character, not to depreciate it - to make the lot of men and women happier and better, not to retard progress, and, perhaps,, cause society to relapse into barbarism. We say that women can assist us in that task just asmuch as men can, and, perhaps, very much better. If there is nothing essentially degrading in politics, how can it be degrading to women to have a vote? We say that the opposite is the case. The scienceof’ government is the most important matter with which any man or woman can be connected, and I believe that every man of us who feels his responsibility as he ought to do is of that, very opinion. If that be the case - if government touches the lives of every man and woman at every point, as we hold that it does - it cannot be degrading to have any connexion with such a thing. We are told that if we give women a vote they will neglect their homes. That is another of the stupid assertions that ore made in op position to this reform. There will be a general election, we will say, once in three years, when women will have an opportunity of voting for the House of Representatives. Does any one imagine that in the interval between one election and another a woman will interest herself about nothing but politics - that she will devote her mornings and her noons, and her evenings to politics ! politics ! politics ! - nothing but politics? Do they believe that when her husband gets up in the morning, instead of his breakfast she will give him Hansard, and that when he comeshome for dinner, instead of a meal she will hand him a newspaper containing a leading article specially devoted to some political question, and that in the evening he will get a second edition of the same? We might just as well suppose that an ordinary working man who has got his living to earn and his business to attend to, and theordinary occupations of life to occupy him, will give up sill his time to the consideration of politics once he gets a vote. I believe that that was one of the reasons given by the opponents of any extension of the franchise to working men in England. They said - “If you give these fellows votes, they will do nothing from one year’s end to another but discuss politics. We shall not get any work out of them. They will simply become ranters and mouthers of political speeches.” We know how false those prophesies turned out to be, and it will be the same in regard to women. I have no fear that any woman who is endowed with the franchise will neglect her I home, even for a single hour, because of that right being conferred upon her. No, Mr. President, I believe that those very home duties will become more sacred to her on account of the new responsibilities that will be thrown upon her. We are told again that women are stupid, and do not know anything about politics - that they have never given any consideration to public questions. Well. I pity the man who thinks women are stupid. He cannot have had very much to do with them. I have very seldom pitted my wit against that of a woman, but I was sorry for it afterwards. I found that in such a dispute I was very much the loser - I was worsted ! I can assure honorable senators that I have a much higher appreciation of the keen wit and subtle instincts of women, than to imagine for a moment that they will be likely to make huge political mistakes if endowed with the franchise. Then we are told that not only are women stupid, but that if they have the vote they will only vote for the young and handsome men. I quite admit that if that were likely to happen, my chance of being returned to the Senate would be a very remote one ! But we can only reason as to what will happen in the future from what has occurred in the past. We find that the honorable senators returned from South Australia do not number a single dude amongst them. They are all fine big, rough, upstanding men, not particularly handsome. There is plenty of them, and in their return, the good ladies of South Australia have completely shattered the .argument that our women will only vote for young and handsome fellows who wear high collars. Those are some of the objections raised against the franchise being extended to women, and we have seen how flimsy they really are when subjected to the search-light of even the faintest examination. Now, let us consider some of the reasons why women should have the franchise. In the first place women have to obey the laws. At present men make the laws, not only for themselves, but also for women. Are women mentally inferior to men ‘? Is there any reason for thinking so ? There are women who have attained high rank as poets and novelists. Have any of the opponents of this measure read the novels of -George Eliot, a woman ? Have they read the poetry of Mrs. Browning ? There are women who have attained the highest rank in all the arts - painting, music, poetry, and the novel. We may be told that no woman has ever written a standard philosophical work, but I confess that I have found a great deal of satisfaction in some of the writings of our women, and that the thought was much more agreeably conveyed than in the pages of many of our foremost male philosophers. I am not at all sure, Mr. President, that if women were allowed to go to the bar they would not make excellent advocates. I believe that they would be splendid cross-examiners. We find that women are gradually invading the domain of medicine. The woman doctor, although many of her own sex affect to look down upon her, is, I believe, achieving a position in that profession which is not only creditable to herself, but which has enabled her to render eminent services to the women of our community. So that in quite a great number of the avocations and businesses of life women have been successful. Of course, there are some trades and occupations which women could not follow. You could not, for instance, make a navvy of a woman, although I have seen a woman breaking stones. I know of several women who used to travel over Queensland breaking ballast with their husbands, and I believe they made very fair wages. But I have never heard of a woman going into a railway cutting and shovelling earth into a waggon. While, however, there are some occupations which women cannot or ought not to engage in, there are also occupations the doors of which are shut against men. So that if we have exceptions on the one side, we also have exceptions on the other. The matter thus balances itself. As I have already said, women have to obey the laws, and the laws affect women. Have they not to pay taxes’! How many women are there amongst us who earn their own living 1 Do we not tax their clothing, their boots, their food, and the furniture in their homes ? Do we not touch them with laws at almost every point of their existence ? That being the case, is it not fair and just that they should have some voice in the making of those laws ? They contribute to the cost of government, and yet we debar them from having any voice in the conduct of the government. That is not just. Then women have a very close interest in social questions. The liquor traffic has been mentioned in the course of the debate. I believe that women are more interested in the traffic than are men. One of the greatest misfortunes that can befall any woman is to be married to ‘ a drunken husband, or to have drunken sons or drunken daughters. We may be sure that if we invest women with political power they will use all their influence to minimize that kind of evil. Will not that be a good thing in itself) Surely it is at least worthy of a trial 1 Man by his own unaided efforts has not been able to do anything to stem the awful tide’ of immorality, which seems to be> sweeping over thecommunity. Let us then call in the assistance of women, and our combined efforts may result in the accomplishment of something profitable. Women have a most farreaching influence in every social question. Let us take for example the position of a women who rears a young lad. She takes the utmost care of his health during all the years that he is under her charge. She is careful about his food and his clothing. She turns him out as effective a working unit of society as it is possible to make him. He goes into some stuffy factory where the sanitary conditions are bad - where the air is foul. He is over worked,, perhaps; and subjected to conditions which ruin bis health. Then he is sent back to her an invalid ; yet according to the opponents of female franchise there is nothing left for that woman to do but to stand by helplessly and see the work of her hands destroyed before her very eyes. We propose to invest a woman with the right to follow her child from the home into the work-shop - from the home right through his life, wherever he may go ; to protect him by a voice in the Parliament of the country when she is no longer able to exert her influence over her children in her own home. Does any one imagine for a moment that that influence will not be used for good ? Senator Harney said to-night that woman was content to sit at home and cook the hare which man went out to obtain. As I interjected at the time, the poor man unfortunately does not get the hare. And why not? Simply because the social conditions are- so arranged that unhappily he may be unemployed ; the market may be glutted with a particular article at a particular time, and there is no work for him. There are no wages earned, and there is misery and wretchedness in the home. Who is the first to feel that position ? Is it not the woman? She is the chancellor of the exchequer. She has to stand there day after day, and, perhaps, see her children pining away for the want of the necessaries of life. She may be reduced to that condition herself, but she cannot do a single thing to remedy it. There may be in the land in which she lives wealth and to spare. There may be mountains of wealth on one side, and great hollows of poverty on her side, and yet she cannot reach out her little finger to remedy that wretched condition. We propose to give her the power. She is equally interested with the man in the welfare of -her family, and we propose to give her the right to say how social matters shall be arranged to the advantage of her family. We have heard a great deal about the natural instincts of a woman. After hearing some honorable senators speaking, one would imagine that woman was an entirely independent species from mcm.
– A new animal.
– A new animal just discovered. So far as I have been able to discover, the natural instincts of a woman are identical with those of a man. Women become hungry just as men become hungry. Women become thirsty just as men become thirsty. Some honorable senators appear to have a clearer conception of the thirst of women than I have. Either they drink water or tea ; perhaps they draw the line at whisky and beer, but they have the same natural thirst that men have. The same passions rule their lives ; they have the same desire to propagate the species. There is not the slightest difference, so far as I can find out, between the natural instincts of man and woman, and if that is the case, why should the rights of the one be abridged any more than are the rights of the other 1 A woman has just the same interest in life as is possessed by a man. She is subject to the same conditions, and should have the same power of control over those conditions. We have heard something also about the breaking up of home life as the result of the extension of the franchise ti women. We have been told that husband and wife would be at loggerheads continually as to which party each should support. It is said that the husband would probably support the free-trade party, while the wife would support the protectionist party,- and that there would be continual wrangles, with the result that the home would be broken up ; that the mau and the woman would separate because they could not agree on politics. My experience is that which Senator Pearce has so “graphically described - that the .one thing which breaks up the home life more than any other is poverty. We are told that “when poverty enters in at the door love flies out at the window.” There is no influence which tends to so disrupt family associations as poverty does, and when we place men and women on the same political level, I anticipate that women will use their political power to destroy their arch-enemy - poverty. 1£ they do not, then I shall say that the power has been given to them in vain. If they misuse it, it will be their look-out, not ours. We have our duty, and by passing this Bill we shall discharge it. I hope that the Bill will become law very speedily ; that every man and woman on this continent will be invested with full political power ; that in this matter Australia will show an example to the whole civilized world ; and that we shall go forward to greater prosperity and happiness on so broadening out our franchise as to cause it to include tho whole of our people.
Debate (on motion by Senator Dawson) adjourned.
Senate adjourned at 10.-21 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 9 April 1902, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1902/19020409_senate_1_9/>.