1st Parliament · 1st Session
The President took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
asked the VicePresident of the Executive Council, upon notice. -
– The answers to the honorable senator’s questions are as follow : -
asked the VicePresident of the Executive Council, upon notice -
– The following answer to the honorable senator’s questions has been supplied : -
On the s.s. Ortona, which arrived at Melbourne on the 12th March, were three Japanese gentlemen booked for Sydney. They were allowed to land in Melbourne, as it was their intention to return to the ship. They, however, decided to stay in Melbourne. They have since gone overland to Sydney and Brisbane. It was ascertained . that they were gentlemen travelling under the auspices of the Japanese Government for the purpose, among other things, of making inquiry into the system of sugar growing in Queensland, with a view to the utilization of that knowledge in the Island of Formosa. They were reported to be cultivated gentlemen, here on a short visit only, and with no intention of establishing anything like permanent settlement in the country. The whole of the circumstances were reported immediately to the Prime Minister, who decided that it was not a case in which the provisions of the Immigration Restriction Act should be applied. I would refer the honorable senator to section 3, sub-section (e), of the Act.
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable senator’s questions are as follow :-
Debate resumed from 9th April (vide page 1 1502), on motion by Senator O’Connor -
That this Bill be now read u second time.
– When I moved the adjournment of the debate last night I felt that it’ was something like Hogging a dead horse, but I do not feel in that way to-day. I think the debate ought to be continued in order to give medicine to a sick mule. Even although we may be almost unanimously in favour of enfranchising women, what we do will have an effect in other places. Only two out of the six States have female franchise, and we are endeavouring to compel the other four to adopt it.
– In the other States the Houses of Assembly have adopted it.
– In some States they have, but not in all. In Queensland, for instance, it has not been adopted by the Legislative Assembly simply because we have a very bad franchise, and the popular will is never given effect to. Notwithstanding the fact that there is apparent unanimity in favour of the Bill, there is an undercurrent of antagonism manifested by several honorable senators, notably by Senator Symon, the leader of the Opposition, and Senator Harney. While they were quite willing to agree to the Bill, they took particular pains to point out the evil results which would follow from its acceptance. On a big question which involves very large interests, which concerns fully one-half of the population of each State, a public man is not justified in assuming a “ yes-no “ attitude. There can be no question that Senators Symon and Harney assumed that position; whether they believed in it ‘ or not we do not know. Senator Symon said that the Vice-President of the Executive Council had only “dug up” this Bill for the amusement of honorable senators ; and, presumably, for the readers of Hansard and those who sit in the gallery. I absolutely deny that the enfranchisement of women is a matter of amusement to anyone. It is one of the most serious questions we have to deal with. It ought to be treated here, not as a matter of amusement, but as a serious matter of public business. Judging by his speech there is no .doubt that Senator Symon did feel that it was .only a kind of theatrical entertainment. He believed that it was not right that woman should get a>. vote, and yet he was going to give her one. Like Senator Harney, he believed that if we gave the franchise to the band-box woman - the little butterfly who is to be put under a glass case on the mantelpiece - she would be denied, degraded, and dishonoured. At the same time he manifested his affection for that woman by giving. her a vote ; and it followed, as a natural consequence, that she was to be defiled, degraded, and dishonoured. The question has been asked - Why all this hurry about the introduction of the Bill1! The enfranchisement of women is a matter of very urgent necessity. It is a measure of justice which has long been delayed. There is no particular pressure of other public business. We have a breathing spell in which we can afford to turn our attention to the doing of justice to half the population, and that the better half. Why should not the Government take advantage of that opportunity to introduce the Bill ? If, after the Tariff or any other big question had been dealt with, they were to try to force this Bill through without full and free discussion, there would be some reason to growl and complain. But they have taken the most opportune moment available to bring forward the Bill. It has been urged that the necessity for the Bill has not been proved by Senator O’Connor - that all he set out to prove was that it was desirable. If a Bill is desirable, why is it not necessary? If anything is desirable, certainly it is necessary ; and this Bill is urgently necessary. We must not forget the fact that before very long federal elections must bo hold. At a certain time one-half of the members of the Seriate will have to retire, and a new House of Representatives will have to be elected ; and those who are to represent the manhood and womanhood of the Commonwealth must be elected on a federal franchise. We do not usually pass a Bill one day, and hold an election under its provisions the next day. Quite a number of things have to be done before an election can be held. Persons, both male and female, have to qualify in order to get votes or to become candidates, and the sooner the necessary machinery is set in motion to give every adult person the opportunity to exercise the full rights of citizenship the better it will be. Senator O’Connor is to be congratulated on the fact that he lias taken the earliest opportunity to provide the necessary machinery to have the federal elections worked harmoniously and to the best advantage of the electors. I propose now to deal as rapidly as possible with some of the objections which have been urged against the Bill. I must give Senator Pulsford great credit for his straightforward attitude and his outspokenness. He does not believe in female suffrage. He believes that it will not only work harm to the Commonwealth, but will not be conducive to the best interests of women, and therefore he is quite prepared to vote against the Bill. While Senators Symon and Harney agree on the main proposition with Senator Pulsford, they are going to help to pass the Bill into law. In other words, while they love the woman they are going to injure her. It has been urged by Senator Pulsford and others that it will be an infringement of State rights for this Parliament to pass the Bill. Itwill be no infringement of State rights. All that we propose to do is to fix the franchise for the election of those who shall represent the Commonwealth in its Parliament. We do not propose to interfere in the slightest degree with the franchise that governs the representation, of the people of the State in the local Parliament. The Bill has no more to do with the State franchise than with the municipal franchise. All it does is to settle b)’ what means the people of the Commonwealth shall be represented in its Parliament. It has nothing at all to do with the State Parliaments. But, even supposing it had, to urge that we should refer this question back to the State Parliaments is to my mind a most absurd proposition. Take the State of Queensland. What possible chance has the great female population of that State of getting the vote there, through the action of the local Parliament ? I am one of those who, with the assistance of my colleagues - the present Postmaster-General was the leader of our party at first on this question - tried to get women’s suffrage acknowledged by the State Parliament of Queensland, but without avail. If the public will had been able to operate, there can be no doubt that female franchise would have been secured in Queensland long ago. What blocked it 1 We have a franchise system there that is absolutely a disgrace to any civilized community. A few little commercial centres dominate by the plural vote the whole of the residential vote ; and it is the conservative party, taking every advantage of their privilege through a bad Electoral Act, that has prevented the accomplishment of one-man-one-vote and the exercise of the franchise by the female citizens of the State. To urge that the question should be allowed to be settled by a Parliament that is dominated in that manner is one of the most absurd propositions that I have ever heard in the whole course of my political existence. We might as well ask the unemployed to demand work from the employers of labour as. ask the females of the State of Queensland to demonstrate, by an overwhelming majority - the phrase used, I think, was to make an “ unmistakeable demonstration” - that they want the vote. I do not require an overwhelming majority, or any unmistakeable demonstration to convince me of the necessity for conferring the franchise upon women. What we are providing for in this Bill is the recognition of the right of the female portion of our community, who are over a certain age, and are neither idiots nor criminals, to have the right to get their names on the roll ; and they can please themselves afterwards whether they exercise the franchise or nob.
– As men do.
– As men do- exactly. It has been said, during the course of the. debate, and I notice that a very respectable, undoubtedly able and’ illuminating newspaper in Melbourne, in commenting upon the debate last evening, has pointed out, following Senator Symon, that the female vote would create a kind of domestic tyranny, and that as the husband voted, so would the wife, the mother, the daughters, and the sister or sisters-in-law vote. It is argued that this would aggravate the evil of plural voting. It is supposed that one man - say his name is McGregor - who has neither mother, wife, sister nor daughter, goes to the poll. He has only one vote ; while it is alleged that another man, his neighbour - say his name is Higgs- his mother, wife, sister and daughter, go to the poll, and consequently exercise four votes in addition to his own. . I am very much concerned to find the man who has no mother.
– She may be dead.
– My honorablefriend says she may be dead. But all that we are contending for is the right of a woman to get her name on the roll. If she is dead she cannot get her name on the roll. The same thing applies to a man. If he is dead he cannot vote even though his name be on the roll, inless perhaps in “ The model State,”, where Senator Charleston, who is a fine electioneering agent, may be able to plump the “ cemetery “ vote. That is the only way I can see whereby the vote of the dead mother could come in. The argument of Senator Symon and of the pocket-book edition of Senator Symon - Senator Harney - that the one who wears the trousers is absolutely “ the boss “ of the household rests upon an assumption which I absolutely deny.
– The honorable senator should know !
– Senator Smith evidently does not know ; and if I had my wa)’ all good looking bachelors would have a poll tax placed upon them ! But this is not a matter for joking. The assertion is that the man is absolutely the king of his own household, and that if he has a wife, a sister, a daughter and a mother, they will, because they are females, absolutely be compelled at the dictation of this domestic tyrant to vote as he votes. I say that that is absolutely untrue. It has not the slightest foundation in fact.
– The grey mare is very often the better horse.
– If there were anything whatever in the contention as to the home influence, the case is exactly as Senator Playford states in his interjection, that “ the grey mare is often the better horse “ because I believe that the average man recognises the superiority of his better half, and listens to her dictation very much more often than he asserts his own will. If one sex must be disfranchised, I think it ought to be the male sex, and that we should give the women the vote. It has also been urged with a great deal of fire - I noticed that Senator Harney was particularly fierce about the matter - that we were thrusting - I noticed that he rolled the word “thrusting” round his tongue very much as though it were a sweet morsel - the vote on women.
– Quite true.
– It is absolutely untrue. I am glad to find, however, that Senator Pulsford has enough energy left after his effort last night to contradict my remark. I believe that he also made the observation that we were thrusting the vote upon the women. But there is no compulsion whatever in this Bill from beginning to end. I challenge Senator Pulsford to show that there is even a suggestion of compulsion in this measure. Not that I do not believe in compulsion. If the Vice-President of the Executive Council brought down a provision making it the duty or every man and woman eligible to vote to record his or her vote, I would support him, because I believe that it is the sacred duty of every man and woman, not only to themselves, but to the rest of the community, to record the votes which the law gives to them. But all that this Bill provides for is that those who desire to exercise the full and free rights of citizenship, apart from sex altogether, shall be able to do so, and that there shall be no disability so far as sex is concerned. If some women do not like to have their names placed upon the roll, and to exercise the franchise, they will be at liberty not to put their names on the roll ; and, even if they do, they will be at liberty not to use the right - though, for my own part, I believe that the name ought to be struck off the roll if the elector will not vote. I cannot understand how a seasoned, hardened, experienced politician like Senator Pulsford, who understands English, and, I presume, has read the Bill, can say that there is any such provision of compulsion in it. Senator Symon and Senator Harney, in the beginning of their addresses, elevated woman into a goddess. She is, according to them, an angel of light and love. She can do nothing wrong. She is a being especially created by God to come down upon earth and redeem degenerate man. But afterwards woman was represented to be everything that was evil and vicious and unreliable ; and though she might be trusted with our honour, our reputation, and, more than all, our banking account, they feared that she could not be trusted to wield a little pencil and strike out the name of a man she did not want to represent her in Parliament ! The two positions seem to me to be absolutely at variance. Senator Symon, and Senator Harney particularly, seem to me with the left hand to lift up woman and caress her on the cheek, and then to crash her to the ground with a blow on the point with the right.
– Do not be too hard on those who are going to support the Bill!
– I want it to be understood that those who are advocates of the extension of the franchise to women, and the women themselves who are desirous of having votes, do not want to accomplish this reform under any misapprehension or by any side wind or political trick whatever. They want to secure what they regard as a political right, but at the same time they want to secure it by means that are fair and above board. Every honorable senator who votes for the Bill should do so because he conscientiously and honestly believes that it is for the good of the whole community that the women should get the vote. Senator Symon and Senator Harney proclaim in their speeches that they are going to vote for the Bill because they are compelled to do so, and not because they believe in it.
– It shows that public opinion is behind it.
– It does not matter whether that is so or not. What we want to see is that every honorable senator who votes for the Bill does so because he believes in it. If he does not, then like Senator
Pulsford, he should declare his intention of voting against this principle. Senator Harney said last night that lie was compelled to vote for the Bill for the sake of securing uniformity in the electoral laws of the Commonwealth. He is not compelled to do so on that ground. It is desirable that we should have uniform electoral laws, but the Vice-President of the Executive Council has not invited any honorable senator to do violence to his conscience or his convictions, in order that that may be secured. If an honorable senator honestly believes that by granting the franchise to women we shall not only do her harm, but militate against the progress and prosperity of the whole community, it is his duty as an honest man to vote against the Bill, notwithstanding any desire for uniformity in the electoral laws of the Commonwealth. I come now to a question which in my opinion deserves serious attention. It will be remembered that’ Senator Symon, in that lofty style of which he is a past master - and which Senator Harney makes great efforts to imitate - gave us a lecture lastnight on the noblest function of womanhood. I am sure that every honorable senator listened with rapt attention to Senator Symon’s eloquent words, to the pathetic tone of voice, with almost a sob in it, and to the beautiful language with which that sentiment- was expressed, and feebly imitated later on by Senator Harney. He told us everything that was likely to happen to a woman if she got into the turmoil of politics, and picked up the defiling pencil to scratch out somebody’s name on a ballot paper. I am glad that Senator Harney, who lifts up a woman with his left hand and knocks her down with his right, has just arrived. In these high flights of oratory we were told of the great mission for which woman had to live ; she was particulary designed to minister to the wants of mankind. Senator Symon, followed as an echo by Senator Harney, said that woman’s mission was wifehood and womanhood ; that she should not bother about anything else, that her duty was to become a wife, and then to become a mother.
– Her pleasure, not her duty.
– Her duty. It may be her pleasure. Senator Fraser is an older man than I am, and he may know more about the matter than I do. This, however, was the fine “hifalutin” sentiment expressed by Senator Symon and Senator Harney. I think both of them struck a very important point in relation to this Bill. The question of wifehood and motherhood is a somewhat delicate one, but it has to be faced, and understood, and thoroughly threshed out. The conditions of life to-day in all our large centres are such that the more intelligent, the more experienced, and more educated, women are afraid to accept the responsibility of wifehood. Even when they do so, many of them dread to take upon themselves the responsibilities of maternity. If we look closely into the statistics of the States, we shall find that the population is gradually falling off, that the marriage rate is decreasing, and that this is a subject of complaint, not only on the part of our statists, but also on the part of priests and parsons. The reason of it is, that the women of to-day who have an opportunity of education, possess intellects, and they refuse to hamper themselves or become hacks to anyone. They absolutely refuse to accept responsibilities which they see they are not likely to fulfil in a proper manner, in view of the conditions that operate around them. What is one of the suggested remedies for this ? It is, that we should allow a woman - an educated woman, who can pass the necessary test of intelligence, just as a man can do - to have a voice in the legislation of the country ; that, whatever her profession, occupation, or art, may be, she should have a voice in the affairs of the country, which will carry just as much weight as that of her brother or her son. I think that that is one of the means by which we shall be able to bring about a better understanding. I fail to see how it is that sex should be a disability. I have always understood that an ideal representative government is a collection of persons possessing a knowledge and experience of life, and wisdom enough to use it for the benefit of the general community. Can any one say that all knowledge and experience is concentrated in the male being ‘( As a matter of fact, there is a certain amount of knowledge and experience, which in the nature of things it is impossible for a man to know anything about. Senator Ewing said last night that if we granted the franchise to women, it would really amount to nothing more than an extended roll. I deny that. It is because woman lives in a different domestic and social atmosphere week after week and year after year, and has an environment different from that of man, that we must give her the right to vote if we desire to have ideal representation.
– She is a distributor.
– She is more than that. She represents a phase of life which it is absolutely impossible for a male to represent. When the amendment indicated by Senator Pulsford comes before us, I shall have more to say on this subject. I sincerely trust that, notwithstanding the jeers and jibes which have been hurled at the devoted head of the Vice-President of the Executive Council, he will persevere with the measure, be it late or early, and cany it into effect. I trust that when after the next Commonwealth elections the representatives of the different States attend here, honorable senators from Queensland, at all events, will be able to say, as those from Western Australia and South Australia can say now, that they represent the whole of the people of that State, and not merely one section.
– I did not intend at first to speak on the motion for the second reading of this Bill, but I do not wish to give a silent vote or to hide my views in any way. I always have held the opinion that the extension of the franchise to women would not benefit them. I hold that opinion still, although I agree with a good deal of what was said last night by honorable senators in relation to various matters affecting this question, and I do not think that the extension of the franchise to women will result in any harm. I agree also that possibly there may be no apparent change in politics.
– The honorable senator has slightly changed his ground.
– Not one whit. I do not change my ground as a rule.
– But the honorable senator would not support the second reading of the Bill before.
– I would not support the second reading of this Bill if I could avoid it. Do not let us have any mistake about that. I am fighting a retreat now in an honorable way. If I could stop the Bill from becoming law, do not honorable senators believe that I should do so? I should not be true’ to my convictions if I did not.
– The honorable senator Cannot struggle against the inevitable.
– It would be useless to attempt that. I see that there is a very large majority in favour of the Bill, and I am not going to be obstructive. I acknowledge that women have intellects just as acute, and probably still more acute, than the intellect of the average man.
– The honorable senator has not made that statement before.
– I have said so before, and it is to be found in Hansard. So far as I can ascertain, no country that we can look up to with admiration, or regard as an example, has extended the franchise to women.
– What about New Zealand?
SenatorFRASER. - They are doing very well there ; but, after all, New Zealand is only a small place.
– The honorable senator is hard on South Australia.
SenatorFRASER. - South Australia is a model State, no doubt ; but, after all, it is only a twopenny halfpenny country. I do not say that in any disparaging sense. I speak merely with regard to the smallness of the population. I have the greatest regard for Senator McGregor and other honorable senators from that State.
– Victoria would not make a serviette for South Australia.
SenatorFRASER. - Victoria can do other things that South Australia cannot do.
– What about the county councils in England ?
SenatorFRASER. - I grant at once, and have always granted, that in connexion with municipal institutions women should have a voice, but municipal government is a different tiling altogether from political government. Municipal government is only a co-partnership in the management of cities, towns, and boroughs. It is to some extent of the same nature, but it is on an entirely, different plane from political government. We are not justified in forcing a franchise upon women which will not benefit them, and to which we know the majority of them are opposed.
– How does the honorable senator know they are opposed to it : by personal canvass ?
– Not by personal canvass, but I know perfectly well that they are opposed to it. I have always been opposed to it, and on purely political grounds. I have expressed my opinions upon the subject as fully, and perhaps more fully, than most honorable senators, and on about 40 different platforms on which I have appeared during the last eighteen or nineteen months I did not hide my views on the subject.
– That Bendigo speech comes to my mind again.
SenatorFRASER.- The report of that Bendigo speech will show thatI said I was always opposed to women’s suffrage, and would continue to be opposed to it. I have said so wherever I have spoken, and I am as sure as that I am standing here that if we could have a plebiscite or referendum upon the question in this State there would be found to be an overwhelming majority opposed to women’s suffrage.
– That is no reason why we should stop the minority.
SenatorFRASER.- Yes, it is, if the majority are not to be benefited.Why should we force upon any section of the community something which will not benefit them, but which, on the contrary, will interfere with the other avocations in which they are engaged?
– It is not a question of a benefit ; it is a question of the exercise of a right.
– It is a question of benefit to the people and to the country, because after all the country is governed by political institutions. Would honorable senators give the franchise to infants and to children?
– Would the honorable senator place women on the same plane as infants and children?
SenatorFRASER.- No, I would not, but I used that as an argument to show that we cannot extend the franchise indefinitely. Woman has very many other duties to attend to. She naturally expects to be married, and very properly, because if she did not marry, the race would come to an end. If she is married she has to attend to her household and to her little ones, and if she does her duty as mothers do - as, at any rate, 99 per cent. of them do - she has her hands pretty full from morning until night. These are her duties, and they are very important duties, and if she performs them as the majority of mothers do, I say she ought not to be dragged unnecessarily into politics.
After all, the Bill is an acknowledgment by men that they cannot manage their own affairs.
– And they have not done it.
– I agree that to some extent they have not done it. There is nothing perfect upon the earth. While men, or women either, live upon the earth there will be imperfection. But so long as they do their duty honestly and according to their lights we cannot blame them. There is nothing perfect on the earth - not even Senator McGregor, though he is very near perfection. I say that to drag woman from her proper sphere into the turmoil ofpolitics, which is very often not what it ought to be, is to drag her into a position which will not be to her advantage. In this State - to the credit of the State be it said - we have passed laws which are greatly in favour of the protection of women. A boy of 16 years of age is liable to imprisonment here if he tampers with a young woman of 18 or 19 years of age.
– Does the honorable senator want to protect the boy ?
– I have said many a time that we ought to protect the boy in a case like that, and I say so here again. This is heaping up protection with a vengeance. I do not hide my views upon the matter, and I know that every honest woman will agree with what I say now. But this legislation only goes to show that man is prepared - and poor and miserable is the man who is not so prepared - to extend every possible protection to womankind.
– Give her everything but a vote.
– Woman naturally and properly clings to man. Naturally and properly, by an instinct born in her, she seeks the advice of man, and looks up to him for assistance and guidance. She looks to man with confidence, and man does not, as a rule, disappoint her. If he does, then he is a miscreant. I say that woman should not enter into the arena of politics, the turmoil of it, and the chicanery of it. I say that if she enters into the arena of politics herself ; if she is a unit, as has been contended here ; if she uses her own judgment and discretion in politics, she throws away all the advantages which have been extended to her from time immemorial. I say the one thing involves the other, and were
I a young woman I should infinitely prefer the position of looking up to man as my director, my guide and adviser, to that of having the privilege, the sham privilege, of entering into politics, and fighting and elbowing my own way in spite of man. What has been said with respect to the divorce laws is only a cry. Woman is the very first to forgive and forget all the past misdeeds of man if he is at all a decent sort of fellow. When men are not at all decent, when they knock unfortunate women about, and spend their earnings in public-houses instead of doing their duty to their households, the women are then naturally thrownupon their own resources, and are not the creatures that nature intended them to be. This Franchise Bill will not benefit woman, and shedoes not wantit. It is castingdifficulties upon her, and when it is passed, as I believe it will be, will this nation beany the better for it ? I deny that it will. How will the passage of this Bill bring any more comfort to the home ? I say that the passage of 50 such Bills would not bring one atom of benefit to the home in this or in any other country. On the other hand, in my opinion, it may create discord. I do not say that it will have that effect, to any great extent, because in 99 cases out of every 100 the wife will vote with the husband, the daughter with the father, the sister with the brother, and the effect will be only to multiply the family vote. In my home I shall have ten votes under this system instead of one.
– I suppose the honorable senator will make all ten vote in the same way.
– I will lay odds that the ten votes in my house will go as I think. My domestic servants do not go in to-day and out to-morrow. Some of them havebeen in my house for over twenty years. Do honorable senators not think that a feeling of friendship must have sprung up in all that time 1 It would be very strange if it had not. I say that this Bill will not bring credit upon the Commonwealth, and in this first session of the Commonwealth Parliament there is no urgency for it. I disagree intoto with the statement that uniformity is necessary. Where is there uniformity in this world ? There is none anywhere. Uniformity is not an advantage in many cases, and it will not be an advantage here. The franchise in South Australia is an adult franchise, and the people have sent as representatives here good men and true. The franchise of New South Wales is the same as the franchise of Victoria, and the people of New South Wales have their representatives here, the same men whom they would have sent if the franchise had been extended to women. Where then is the advantage in the proposed change, and why all the anxiety to push this thing through 1 I do not object to it because of the harm it will do. If this Commonwealth were in dire trouble tomorrow, should wo ask our women to take a part in defending it? Surely we are not going to ask the women to fight our battles. Are we going to put khaki on them, and ask them to fight our battles?
– Did we not send women to South Africa.
– For very good reasons that honorable senators will readily acknowledge, we sent the women in South Africa to places of safety. When wehave a drought in New South Wales or anywhere else, we do not like to lose our female stock. Nor do we send women into the stokeholes or a thousand other places. In a dire national struggle would we expect the women to fight? No ; it is the manhood of the country who have to withstand a bitter struggle when it comes. We have too great a regard for our womenkind to ask them to do such a thing.
– Who has to starve at home? The soldier’s wife.
– And his widow.
SenatorFRASER.- The British Empire will see to those women.
– In the poor houses.
SenatorFRASER. - Women are not starving anywhere in the British Empire. In a British community, here or elsewhere, women have only to let their condition be known to be rescued from their troubles. If, unfortunately, a woman of noble nature will not let her case be known to any institution, she may suffer, and we admire a woman who suffers in that spirit. In Australia and other countries there is generosity to women. In this country there is abundant generosity to all who require assistance. It is not true that women are starving at home. Sometimes the man to whoma woman is tied makes her starve at home. It will be the same hereafter as heretofore, so that the Bill will not relieve such cases. It will accentuate the evil rather than otherwise. If the Bill is passed women will have the right to enter the Senate. That will be a very improper thing, and it will not conduce to the national advantage.
– That is a reflection on the Senate.
SenatorFRASER. - I do not reflect on women in the least degree when I say that if the Bill is passed, the Senate, as well as the other House, may be composed of women instead of men. That ought not to be. I have said all I intend to say. I cannot stop the passage of the Bill, and I am not going to be obstructive.
– Like the last speaker, I did not intend to address the Senate. The question has been pretty well thrashed out, and as there is only one dissentient to the Bill I do not know the reason why any speeches are delivered. I cannot understand why speeches are required unless it is because we wish to let our constituents know that we are in favour of giving the suffrage to women. SenatorFraser has raised the objection that a woman has not time to record her vote; that it will take her away from her household work. That is one of the old stale parliamentary platitudes we have heard expressed until they are quite endeared to us. Women vote at municipal elections throughout Australia, and it takes just as long to put a vote in the ballot-box for a municipal councillor as for a senator. One of the favorite reasons advanced against women’s suffrage is that it will create dissension in the household ; that husband and wife, brother and sister, will disagree as to the candidate for whom they ought to vote. But the honorable senators who urge that reason tell us that there will be no dissension in their own household. Senator Eraser, for instance, said that not only will members of his family vote as he does, but that all his servants will follow his lead: Many honorable senators have congratulated the Government on the introduction of this Bill. I do - not intend to follow their example. I shall congratulate the Government when it becomes law. I do not know that a man is to be congratulated for doing his plain duty. It was certainly the duty of the Government to introduce the Bill this session, otherwise they would not have been obeying the wishes, and I think the expressed will, of the great majority of the people of the Commonwealth, or carrying out the Maitland speech. I can understand Senator
Pulsford’s position. He is consistent right through. He said - “ I would not give any woman a vote, and I am not afraid or ashamed to say so.” Senator Dawson was, to my mind, rather severe upon Senators Symon and Harney. The position they take rp is quite consistent. They are lawyers, and no one knows better than a lawyer that laws are made to be obeyed. They break them, when they can, on behalf of their clients, but I do not know that personally lawyers are law-breakers. I believe they are more strict in the observance of the laws than is any other section. It seems to me that Senators Symon and Harney are quite consistent. They do not like to fly in the face of the will of their State Parliaments. They are here to represent their respective States, and they say - “Although we do not approve of a woman being enfranchised, still, in deference to the will of our State Parliament, we shall vote for this Bill.”
– But I approved of a woman having a vote.
– The honorable and learned senator may have made, that clear to some honorable senators, but he did not make it quite clear to me. Ever since I began to speak in public I have advocated that women should have the suffrage. I was amongst the first advocates of the principle, and I shall do all in my power to secure its enactment. Two dear old bogies, which I thought had been laid to rest for all time, have been trotted out again, but yesterday Senator Symon, in answer to an interjection of mine, said that although 34,000 women attend the polls in South Australia on one occasion, he was not aware that any woman had cause of complaint against the male electors. In season, and out of season, it has been advanced as a reason why women should not have votes that they would have to mix in all the turmoil of elections. That would have been an objection half a century ago ; but in these enlightened days, whoever hears of a row at a polling booth ? He may hear of a bit of fun at a public meeting, but there are no rows at polling booths. Another reason, advanced here time after time, is that, if enfranchised, woman would be carried away by her emotions - her likes or dislikes - to such an extent that the chances would be that she would vote for a young, handsome, plausible man. I cannot
Accuse the women of South Australia of having voted for young, handsome, or plausible men.
– What does the honorable senator say about the women of Victoria 1
– In Victoria women have never had a chance to vote, but I am quite sure that when the Bill is passed they will show the good, sound common sense which their sisters in South Australia showed, and vote, not because a man parts his hair in the middle, waxes his moustache, and looks nice, but because he is the most fit in their estimation to represent them in the Parliament. That was proved to be the ease in South Australia by Senator Symon when he said that women’s suffrage had made no difference ; that since its enactment the same men were returned as had been returned before, showing that the women indorse the sound common sense of their male friends. What harm can be done by the Bill?
– It simply duplicates the votes.
– It gives women a right. Another dear old platitude is - “ No taxation without representation.” That is as true as the day when it was first uttered. What was the alleged cause of the Boer war ? It was that the Boers refused to give the suffrage to a few thousand foreigners. Here we have refused to give the suffrage to three-quarters of a millon of, not foreigners, but women of our own flesh and blood.
– Who are not asking for it. That is the difference.
– It has been asked for time after time. In two States the principle has been enacted. In three other States it has been affirmed by the Legislative Assembly - in Victoria five times, and in Tasmania once.
– Not in answer to a request from women, but on their own part.
– I apprehend that the members of the Legislative Assembly knew the wishes of the women of the State. We must accept the members, of the popular Chambers as the exponents of the popular will. In Queensland it has never been introduced. Queensland has a nominee Upper Chamber ; New South Wales also has a nominee Upper Chamber. The other two States that have not women suffrage have elective Upper Chambers. The whole number of electors returning the members to the four Upper Chambers is only 143,000, while, on the other hand, the representatives of the people in the Lower Chambers have 716,000 electors behind them. These same electors have, time after time, elected members who have desired to give the franchise to women, but the Upper Chambers have thrown out the measures introduced for that purpose. I wondered once or twice, while listening to the debate yesterday, that the gasa.liers in this chamber did not fall on the heads of some of the speakers. I took good care not to sit under one of them myself. There has been nothing short of sacrilege in the speeches delivered in a place that was once the abode of the Victorian Legislative Council. I wonder that the ghosts of departed councillors did not appear, to protest against the utterances of my honorable friends who have supported the Bill. It is an inconsistency that a woman, should not have a vote, although she may employ a large number of people, and have a considerable stake in the country, whilst a Chinese gardener has the franchise. The woman may contribute as much to the taxation of the country as 50 Chinamen, yet she has no voice in making the laws which she obeys, and which, the Chinaman evades on every possible occasion. The Chinaman does not spend more than a few shillings a year on his clothing, and - if I may use such an expression - will live upon a bag of rice and the smell of an oilrag for six months.
– I am afraid the honorable senator does not know the Chinese very well.
– I am glad that I do not know them. I should not be at all proud of the acquaintance of any coloured aliens. There is another matter to which I should like to refer before I sit down, i I cannot understand the inconsistency of any honorable senator who would shut out coloured aliens from Australia, and yet would confer a vote on those who are already here. It is true that under the Constitution we cannot deprive any one of a vote which he now possesses. That we must admit. But if I had my will I would not allow any coloured man who might come to this country to have a vote. I would not permit any more rights to be issued to any coloured aliens.
– We ought not to permit them to enter the country unless we are prepared to give them the rights of citizenship.
– I hold that if they are admitted to Australia, the full rights of citizenship should not be given to them.
– The honorable senator would pole-axe them !
– No, I would not. So long as they obey the laws of the country I would treat them fairly ; but I would not give them a voice in the making of laws which they do not understand, especially as they have no voice in the making of the laws in the countries from which they come. I am glad that the Immigration Restriction Act will exclude nearly all of these coloured aliens in the future ; but I say again that if I had my way not one of those here now should be allowed to exercise the franchise. It seems to be a little bit inconsistent, when the Constitution tells us that in counting the population for the purpose of deciding upon the quota for the representation of the country in the other House, aboriginals are not to be included, that we should give votes to them.
– That is a good point.
– I think it is an important point. The Constitution declares that aboriginals shall not be counted, and yet under this Bill we are not merely going to give votes to aboriginal men, but to black gins. I hope that the Vice-President of the Executive Council will see his way clear to alter that. Those who are in favour of excluding coloured races from Australia do so on the ground that they believe in a white Australia. We have heard that phrase used so many times that it has become a little stale. But the very same gentlemen who advocate a white Australia do not mind giving Australia a piebald ballot-box. That is a matter that is worthy of some consideration.
– That is very picturesque !
– Yes. I am becoming quite poetical through sitting in this corner adjacent to my honorable friend, Senator Zeal.
– I am no friend of yours.
– I must say that that remark is unworthy of the honorable senator I do care a great deal about him. I happened to give offence to the honorable senator some time ago, and cannot withdraw that; but I do not wish to have any sort ©f illfeeling, and it is not worthy of any honorable member of this Chamber to keep up feeling about a little petty-minded thing of that kind. At all events I do not wish to be severe upon him. I know his little weaknesses. I have known him ever since I was a boy, and am aware that he has some good points. I have now said all 1 have to say about the measure. I shall vote for it, : and I am only sorry that the vote was not taken directly after the Vice-President of the Executive Council made his speech.
– It is all very well for the previous speaker to express the opinion that the division might as well have been taken after the VicePresident of the Executive Council had made his second reading speech, especially as the honorable senator himself has occupied the time of the Senate in giving his own opinion on the measure. If others hadshown an inclination to put into practice the principle of voting without speaking at an earlier stage of the debate I should have been content to follow them, but under present circumstances I feel compelled to follow the example that has been set by so many previous speakers. I congratulate the VicePresident of the Executive Council, not only upon the introduction of this measure, but upon the manner in which he submitted the motion for its second reading. The form of the debate that has taken place has fully justified the attitude that he took up. He did not enter into any discussion of the comparative intelligence of the sexes, or the capability of women for exercising the franchise, nor did he dwell at any length upon the inherent political right that a woman has equally with a man to register a vote in the selection of the persons who are to be intrusted with the government of the country. “What we have to consider is whether we are going to have a perfectly symmetrical law throughout Australia with regard to the franchise, or whether we are going to leave the varying franchises of the States as they are at present, with the possibility that they may be modified by the State Legislatures for State purposes, and thus affect the franchise of the Federal Parliament. I, for one, am of opinion that, apart altogether from what the State Parliaments have done in. the past or may do in the future, it is desirable that for the Commonwealth Parliament we should have one unvarying franchise throughout the whole Commonwealth. Otherwise it would be quite competent for any single State Legislature to modify its franchise to such” an extent for purely State purposes that the result would be that those elected to the Commonwealth Legislature for the various States would be elected on different principles altogether. Being in favour of an uniform franchise, I conceive that it is most desirable that we should level up the franchise rather than level it down. We have two States, Western Australia and South Australia, where woman suffrage has been in existence for some time. ‘
– We cannot level down the franchise.
– I used the phrase “level down” in the sense of restricting the franchise, and the phrase “level up” in the sense of extending it. My opinion is that we should extend rather than restrict the franchise. We should adopt the broadest suffrage that we find existing in any State. The broadest suffrage exists in Western Australia and South Australia. If we are agreed upon making the franchise uniform, we should adopt the broad suffrage ‘that exists in those two States.
– We must do so.
– Apart altogether from what seems to me to be the obligation . that devolves upon us, I most cordially support the principle pf female suffrage. I have supported it for some years by my voice, and I now have an opportunity presented to me for the first time, of supporting it by- my vote. I shall do so with great satisfaction. The attitude taken up by Senator Symon and Senator Harney, and which has been so adversely criticised by Senator .Dawson, is one that should not, I think, exercise the minds of honorable senators, because there is no more effective answer that can be given to the arguments adduced by those honorable and learned senators than the answers given by themselves. After indulging in an amount of criticism upon the principle of female suffrage, and pointing out the evils that in their opinion flow from it - after referring to the want of necessity for the establishment of female suffrage - both honorable and learned senators indicated that it was their intention, if not to vote for the measure, at all events not to oppose it !
– The criticism was beside the question ; I acknowledge that.
– There was no necessity on the part of other honorable senators to come into conflict with the honorable and learned senators in question with reference to their attitude. “We have heard for many years the argument used, that to give women the suffrage would create, in many instances, at all events, dissension in the household in reference to political questions. Experience and observation on the part of Senator Symon and of others who have had the same opportunities of witnessing the effect of the reform, have convinced them that that argument can no longer be used with truthfulness. The opponents of the reform are now driven to the extremity of saying that the result of conferring the franchise on women is not to create political dissension in the household, but only to duplicate or triplicate the vote of the “head of the household. Whether that be so or not, I do not think it is an answer to the proposal to confer the suffrage on women. I should think that the truth lies really between these two statements, between the argument that it would create dissension, and the argument to which opponents of the Bill are now compelled to resort, that the effect of granting the franchise to women will be simply to duplicate Or triplicate the votes. I cannot understand how, lifter listening to a debate of such length as we have had on this subject, some honorable senators who have also had an opportunity of discussing the question in this Chamber before, and who have given a vote upon it, should still resort to the arguments which imply that we are now about to enact that which would compel women to do something which the)’ do not desire to do. We are asked - “ Why should we force the franchise upon women? Why should we drag them from the domestic hearth to engage in the turmoil of politics ?” I think that honorable senators who have used that argument have done so simply by force of habit. There is no intention on the part of those who support this measure to force anything upon an unwilling woman. It is intended only to give her an option which she may or may not exercise at her own sweet will. It will be competent for her to register herself as an elector in the division in which she resides. It will be equallly competent for her to disregard that option altogether. If we are satisfied that as a matter of justice a woman has an inherent right to a voice in the selection of the representatives of the people in Parliament, then I am of opinion that we should give her that right, and leave it to her absolutely whether she shall avail herself of it, or exercise it in any case, or in all cases. If only one-fifth of the womanhood of the country were desirous of exercising the franchise I do not think the want of any such desire on the part of the remaining fourfifths should prevent the one-fifth from attaining that right to which they are entitled by every principle of justice. I cannot agree with the honorable senator who spoke last in regard to the position of coloured aliens. I think that if we are going to admit the coloured alien into Australia under any terms or conditions, and if we are going to allow him to become a naturalized subject of the King, we must confer upon him all the rights of citizenship so long as he remains with us. So long as he remains with us he must have the same rights as a citizen of Australia. For that reason I shall not support the amendment which Senator Matheson has indicated he will move at a later stage. There are just one or two other matters in the Bill to which I should like to refer. I think that the leader of the Opposition, in an exceedingly hypercritical mood, intended yesterday to do with this Bill what some kind critics have been good enough to say he did with another measure that was before us - to knock it out, lock, stock, and barrel. He started with clause 5, and took exception to it because it provides that -
No person attainted of treason, or who has been convicted and is under sentence or subject 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.
He asked - “ Why should not that provision apply also to a person who had been convicted of an offence outside the Commonwealth ?” The obvious answer is that, if a person who had been convicted of an offence outside the Commonwealth were in the Commonwealth, clearly he could not be under sentence at the time. This provision extends only to a person who has been convicted and “ is” under sentence, or “ subject to be sentenced” - for any offence punishable under the law of the Commonwealth or of a State.
In other words, it applies only to a person who has been convicted for an offence against the laws of the Commonwealth or of a State, and is actually serving a sentence.
– Some person in gaol or out on bail.
– Some person who is in gaol, or who has been granted his liberty on entering into recognisances to be pf good behaviour for a certain term, or to appear for sentence when called upon. Any person who had been convicted outside the Commonwealth would have served his sentence before coming into the Commonwealth, and, therefore, he would not fall within the class aimed at in this provision. As to Senator Symon’s criticism of clause 6, I think it was based either upon a misconception of the provisions of the clause, or was due to an entire failure to advert to the circumstances which now arise foi1 the first time in Australia. We have honorable senators sitting here, and representatives in another place, who come from distant States, and who are compelled, in a session such as the present one, to absent themselves from those States for a very considerable period. Their absence may be of such duration that it disqualifies them from remaining on the roll for the State from which they come. This clause simply provides that no person shall be entitled -
Provided always that any senator or member of the House of Representatives shall, if he so desires, be entitled to have his name placed on and retained on the electoral roll for the electoral division in which he resided at the time of his election, instead of the electoral .roll for the electoral division in which he resides.
I do not know whether the circumstances are quite correct, but I understand that the Postmaster-General, having to attend not merely to legislative, but to administrative duties here, has been compelled to absent himself almost wholly from Queensland since he took upon himself the duties of his office.
– That applies to several others.
– Under the law of Queensland, in consequence of that absence, his name has been struck off the roll for the particular division in respect of which he was registered as an elector when he was elected to the Senate. As the law stands, if this proviso were not inserted in the Bill, the Postmaster-General would be compelled to become an elector of Melbourne for the House of Representatives and of Victoria for the Senate.
– Why confine this provision to Members of Parliament? Private individuals may be situated similarly.
– They cannot very well be situated similarly. A private citizen might leave his usual place of residence, and stay for a considerable time in another part of the Commonwealth, with no intention of acquiring a domicile there.
– Assume that Senator Drake was not a Member of Parliament, and did what he is doing now. ‘
– The whole difference is that the Postmaster-General is discharginga public duty which necessarily keeps him away from his home.
– We may have instances like that to which Senator Harney refers, and it will be competent for him,, if he thinks that those instances are likely to be so numerous as to warrant some provision being made for them, to move an amendment extending the provisions of this, clause. I shall be prepared to support him if he can, by his eloquent advocacy of such an amendment, commend it to my judgment. With regard to the question of domicile, I understand that it is the law of Queensland that if a man has been absent for a certain time from his State,, he can no longer hope to have his name retained on the roll after the revision hastaken place.
– That is not the law there must be bond fide evidence of domicile.
– The fact remainsthat the Postmaster-General has had his. name struck off the roll in Queensland, sothat he is a senator for that State, although he is not,’ at the present time,, an elector for it. He was an elector in the State of Queensland when returned for the State, and the object of this provision is to prevent occurrences of that character,, which might be very frequent. It is not. put in, as Senator Symon suggested, simply that any honorable senator, or any honorable member of another place, shall continue to have some connexion with? the electorate for which he has been returned,, in order that he may help himself at any subsequent election. I have no furtherremarks to offer. I regret that the debate,, which was started by the Vice-President of the Executive Council, was not confined within the limits laid down by him in his terse and excellent speech. I hope to see the Bill pass through the Senate without any dissentient voice. The fear that, if it were allowed to pass without discussion, it might be said subsequently in another place, or outside the Legislature, that the measure had been put through the Senate hurriedly, before honorable senators had had time to think it over, is, I think, the best justification for the long debate which we have had on the motion for the second reading.
– It is not with the intention of flogging the dead horse to which reference has been made that I rise to make a few remarks on the motion for the second reading of this Bill, but rather with the idea that the discussion which has taken place here may have an influence beyond the Senate itself. We know that in the different States the fossilized remains of the opponents of adult suffrage are still endeavouring to exercise their influence ; consequently it is the duty of those who have always advocated the principle to do what .they possibly can to destroy that influence. Adult suffrage has been a plank in the platform of the party with which I am connected from the inception of that body, and every member of it has been gratified, not only by the number of conversions they have made, but by the number of partial conversions, a number having been almost compelled, if not induced, to go half way in the acceptance of the principle. I was rather amused to find that a number of half-converted honorable senators were prepared to speak with all the force and eloquence they possessed against this Bill, although for some reason or other they declared that while they were not going to vote for the Bill, they were not going to vote against it - that they were not going to call for a division. It is very kind of those honorable senators, who have maintained this desperate struggle so long, to take up that position. I am sure .that those of us who have been fighting so long in what we consider to be a right direction, must feel obliged to them. I once heard that many hundreds of years ago a general, who was going into battle, called on all those of his soldiers who would rather stop at home to do so, and ordered them away. He also adopted another test, by which his forces were reduced very considerably. I am satisfied that those who support this measure to-day would rather carry it without the assistance of those honorable senators who give only a qualified support to it. Some honorable senators who have spoken against the measure have declared that Western Australia and the State from which I come represent only one-fifteenth of the whole Commonwealth. I always understood thatSouth Australia itself was more than one. tenth of the Commonwealth, and surely Western Australia must be counted as something, although these States may not be so populous as are others. It has been contended here that the women of Australia do not want the franchise ; in fact, we have been told that if they were appealed to 99 per cent, would declare that they did not desire it. In contradiction of that statement, I desire to give the experiences of South Australia. SenatorSymon supplied us with a set of figureswhich I consider were very misleading, and had nothing to do with the subject. I wish to point out that in South Australia the result of the extension of the franchise to women has been that there are 75,000- women on the roll as against 83,000 male voters. What does that mean 1 It must mean that some very strong influence hasbeen used on the women of South Australia to make them get their names on the roll tosuch an extent. When I tell honorable senators that in South Australia the applicant for a vote has to fill up a claim and sign it, they .will see that it was impossible for any one to put this large number of female voters on the roll without their own consent. I am sure that the women of South Australia are not so chicken-hearted as to attach their signatures to any document without thoroughly understanding* what it means. I can point to four out of the 27 districts that were in South Australia before the recent amendment of. the Constitution, on the roll of which therewere more female voters than male voters. I can also say that two of those districtswere not metropolitan or suburban districts, but exclusively country districts. So that all the arguments that have been used with respect to the difficulty of getting women toput their names on the roll entirely fall tothe ground on the experience of South Australia. Then again, the electors for the more numerous House in South Australia were asked whether they would have adult suffrage for the Legislative Council,. and by nearly three to two they declared in favour of it. What better evidence than that do honorable senators want? I have not the least doubt that the people of other portions of the Commonwealth have exactly the same feelings, inclinations, and aspirations as the people of South Australia. It has been said in the characteristic speech of Senator Fraser - and that reminds me that in 1889 that honorable senator, although he did not speak against women’s suffrage in the Legislative Council of Victoria, interjected against it and voted against it. But in the year following that, he interjected against it and he did not vote at all, and I am hoping from this gradual process of melting down, that this time, instead of abstaining from voting, he will vote in favour of it. He will then only be following out the tactics he has adopted in the past. First he voted against it, and then he did not vote at all.
– I was paired, I think, or absent.
– Peoplepairfroma great many motives, and it is true that the honorable senator mav have been absent. That; is what the prophets of the Lord said to the prophets of Baal, that their god was probably asleep, or was out. hunting. That was very likely the case with Senator Fraser, as the god of the anti-franchise at that time. From that experience, seeing that in one year the honorable senator voted against the female franchise, and in the next year he did not vote at all, the natural sequence will be that this year he will vote for it.
– The honorable senator must be hard up for an argument if he calls that one.
– If Senator Pulsford wishes me to deal with his arguments I can only tell him that they were of such an insignificant character as to be hardly worth mentioning. I wish to point out the position of the suffrage question in South Australia, so that there shall be no misunderstanding or misconception in the minds of honorable senators or in the minds of ‘the members of the Parliaments of the States. It is for that reason I rose, but I think I have a right to point out to honorable senators the position which Senator Fraser occupied in connexion with this matter. From what he has said here, the honorable senator does not seem really to know where he was. He does not know whether he paired or was absent when the question was being decided, and I hope that on this occasion his full senses will have returned to him, and he will vote in favour of this measure. I should like to say a word on the change of front that has been presented to the supporters of this movement by those who used to oppose it so earnestly. What were the arguments used in the days that have gone by? I have listened to them very often, and I am sure that Senators Pulsford and Fraser recollect them very well. The arguments were that women would be better at the wash-tub or mending their husbands’ stockings.
– Well, and would they not ?
– I am not saying anything as to whether they would or would not. But I wish to point out that to-day the opponents of the reform have become more refined. They are looking now to the interests of woman on the score of her refinement and social position, and they say it would be a very dangerous thing if she were to be brought into the whirl of politics.
– So it would.
– No one can deny the sincerity of Senator Fraser, but I should like to ask him what women’s suffrage means? It means that, under ordinary circumstances, a woman will be called upon to spare halfanhour once in three years to record her vote. We are dealing here not with State elections, but with a federal franchise, and it is only supposed that we are to have a federal election once in three years. We are going to ask women to give half-an-hour out of the three years to record her vote.
– What about political meetings?
– If a woman has the time and the inclination to attend political meetings why should she not do so ? Again, I point out that the experience of South Australia has taught a lesson in that respect. There was a time when political meetings were not all that they ought to have been. They were not the creditable gatherings that civilized people should look to for the selection of those whom they wished to represent them in Parliament. But, since the women of South Australia have secured what is really their right, they attend these political meetings, and the character of those meetings has been changed. The people listen to what the candidates have to say, and, from what cause I am not going to say, the meetings are much more largely attended, and are of a much more satisfactory character than ever they were before. Then, with respect to the polling booths, to which, it is said, we ought not to bring the women of Australia. There may have been a time when the conduct of males at polling booths was not all that it ought to be. But in South Australia that is entirely changed, and at every polling booth I have attended the conduct has been more like the going to church of the people than anything else. They go there earnestly and eagerly, to do what they consider to be their duty. And the influence of woman has brought all that about. Notwithstanding what Senator Symon has said, I would like to ask honorable senators, is that not one of the good things that have been brought about by the advent of women into politics? Then, there is the cry that in those States in which women have secured the franchise, the expectations of its advocates have not been realized. I say that the anticipations of those who have always supported adult suffrage have been more than realized. If we go back to the early history of the colonies, from the time when men were first put upon the roll until we had manhood suffrage, we will find that, after 30 or 40 years, the percentage of men on the roll and going to the poll was not nearly as great as the percentage of women on the roll and going to the poll when they had enjoyed the right for only four or five years. Then it is said that the influence of women is not yet apparent. A couple of days after the vote which established the Commonwealth, I often heard people saying - “ Now you have got federation, what good has it done you ? “ Senator Eraser, only half-an-hour ago, uttered an expression of a somewhat similar character. He told us that federation is not so popular now as it was twelve months ago.
SenatorFraser. - Is that not true?
– I have not the least doubt that it is true. I always expected that it would be true ; but that does not compel me to believe that ultimately federation will not be a benefit to the people of Australia.
SenatorFraser. - I say the same.
– Very well then, how can the honorable senator expect that we are to give women the franchise one day, and to see the beneficial political results of it the next day 1 Bo not honorable senators recognise the absurdity of any such argument ? We have had manhood suffrage in some of the States for 50 years, and its influence has only grown gradually. It is exactly the same with the admission of women into politics. We are not going to notice any drastic change after the first, second, or third election. We must give them the same time to enable their influence to work. I hope that honorable senators will look at the question in this manner. There should be no necessity to repeat the arguments used in this debate, in support of women’s suffrage. I hope we shall never hear again the clap-trap which has been talked in opposition to this measure. Look at the position. SenatorFraser tells us that his vote is to be increased tenfold, and many others are in exactly the same position. It is against human nature to imagine that the man who is afraid to give his wife or daughter a vote, and so double or treble his own voting power, is sincere in opposing the Bill.
SenatorFraser. - Mine do not want it. They object to it.
– We shall not send a policeman to compel them to take the vote. The man who advances that reason against the granting of female suffrage is, to my mind, a hypocrite. He opposes the principle, not because his voting power is to be increased, but because he. is afraid that the women of his household will not vote as he votes. Why should it be otherwise ?
SenatorFraser. - “ Suspicion haunts the guilty mind.”
– There is no suspicion in my mind. I am not talking with the appearance of suspicion. I do not ask my wife how she is going to vote. I tell her what I believe to be right, and if she has other information on which she places more reliance, she is quite at liberty to act as she pleases. SenatorFraser is afraid that some other influence may be exercised over the ten women under his control, and that they will not vote in the same direction as he does. Honorable senators have no compunction in asking women of the Commonwealth to do almost everything that is necessary towards securing their own comfort. It does not matter what sphere . of life they occupy. Either they must get their clothes washed and ironed by the female portion of the Commonwealth, or go to the Chinamen. What are they going to dol Which does Senator Eraser prefer t If he is prepared to allow the women of the community to do this service for him, why is he not willing to allow them to go to the ballotbox and record their views on politics ? He is prepared to allow the women of the Commonwealth to go with him to church, kneel at the same altar and pray to the same deity. Yet the very persons with whom he expects to go to heaven are not fit to go with him to the ballot-box and record a vote. He will take them to the theatre, the music hall, the circus, the exhibition. He will take them anywhere, but he will not allow them to go the ballotbox.
– Because they do not wish to go.
– In South Australia, over 70,000 women signified their willingness to go and sign their names, for nobody else could do it for them, and in Victoria the women will do the same thing. If it were not for the law of the State and the fear that Senator Drake might take action against me, I should be willing to make a bet with Senator Fraser that more than 50 per cent, of the adult women of Victoria, will be enrolled in less than five years from the passage of the Bil]. He will not take me on, because he knows that what he says is not according to the experience of the past. Again, we are told that we should look to the sanctity of the home - to the influence that women have to exercise in home life. Is not the woman who taught her boys, and gave them the cue to all their future actions as worthy of recording a vote at the ballot-box as are her sons? If honorable senators would only look at the question from the common-sense point of view they would see that the right of woman to the franchise is incontrovertible. They all acknowledge that her influence in home life has been for good. This is only a question of extending that good influence to the larger family of the Commonwealth. When honorable senators look at the question in that common-sense light they must - even Senator Pulsford himself must - who is as fossilized as a log 1,000 years old - recognise that the extension of this good influence is in the interests of the whole community. It is farcical to hear honorable senators talking of the benign influence that a woman exercises in the home life, and yet denying her the opportunity of extending that glorious influence to the national life of the Commonwealth. I hope that no honorable senator will have the temerity to call for adivision when the question is put.
, In reply. - I have but very few words to say, principally because my anticipations with regard to the acceptance of the measure have been fully realized. It cannot be doubted that, though we have had some very bold speeches against the Bill, we have had other speeches giving what may be described as a grumbling assent to its enactment - speeches from honorable senators who admit that they are forced to retire by the overwhelming tide of public opinion from the position which they have occupied. Many of them have gracefully retired without so much aswetting their feet, but others of them - Senators Fraser and Pulsford - stand there until the overwhelming wave of publicopinion washes them high and dry. I honour them for their action. What I have to do here is to put forward as much strength and argument as are necessary in favour of the measure which I have submitted. Honorable senators may be well assured that if I had notknown well what the condition of opinion in the Senate was, and the reception of the measure was likely to be, I should have used, although perhaps not with anything like the same force or strength, many of the arguments which have been urged so admirably by some of its supporters. I hope it is not going to be taken as a test of a man’s sincerity or earnestness in proposing a reform of this kind that he has said only afew words in its support. I expressly cut down what I had to say, because I did not think it was necessary to speak at length. I said, and I repeat, that I profoundly believe in the justice of this reform. I have the utmost faith in its efficacy, and I feel sure that the arguments which have been used, from the experience of the past, to the effect that women will not use thisprivilege, are based on an absolute misconception of the facts, and fail to take into, consideration an element which we must all consider, that in public affairs woman is now only undergoing the first stage of a. process of education which cannot fail tolast for some years. It is a little over 30- years since Mill wrote his great work on The Subjection of Women - a phrase which properly described the condition of women at that time. If honorable senators will cast their eyes back over the intervening period and compare the condition of women, not in political affairs only, but in social and industrial life, they will see that woman in those days was treated as one of God’s creations, it is true, but as designed altogetherfor a different purpose than that for which the lord of creation was designed, and to occupy for ever an inferior position in the scheme of the universe. It has only taken 30 years to make an immense difference in that respect. During that period woman has been educated, and it is impossible to affirm what the result of this reform will be until the education of woman in public affairs has been completed. “We cannot too often or too earnestly remember what has been very well put by Senator McGregor, that it is a good thing that the children who will become the men and women of the community ought to be educated into an intelligent grasp of public affairs. So it is most important that the mother, who more than anybody else has the control of all education, should be invested with that actual interest in public affairs which the right to exercise the franchise alone will give, which will enable her to bring up her sons, not only with strong arms and sinews, and well educated to take their place in the world, but with a sense of responsibility in public affairs, and a public spirit and patriotism, without which we never can breed true Australians. Senator Symon has accused me of digging up this measure. It was one of the earliest pieces of legislation prepared by the Secretary for Home Affairs.For many years he has taken a deep interest in the question of electoral reform, and particularly in the question of extending the franchise to women. It was his earnest desire to introduce the measure in the other House. It was only upon his recognising that it was in the interests of the business of the Government and in the interests of the measure itself that it should be introduced here that he gave up what was to him, as honorable senators can well understand, not only a duty, but a privilege. I cannot allow the debate to close without expressing my sense of the public spirit which has actuated my honorable colleague in giving up his right to introduce into the legislature a measure which he had taken so much trouble to prepare in order that it might be dealt with at the earliest possible moment. I think honorable senators will recognise that not only the Senate but the Legislature generally has become alive to the necessity for the passage of this measure. This and the Electoral Bill which has been sent from the Senate to the House of Representatives is necessary to cany out a reform of our electoral franchise, and I sincerely hope that the measure will become law at a very early date, if not this session atall events veryearly in the next session. Some other matters of interest have been referred to, which perhaps will be dealt with in committee. I allude specially to the matter brought under notice by Senator Styles, and which has also been commented upon by Senator Matheson and concerning which that honorable senator has given notice of an amendment which the committee will consider later on. I have now to express my gratification that although perhaps there may have been no necessity, for the purpose of informing the Senate, for the speeches that have been made in support of the Bill, yet that so many admirableexpositions of it have been given from our side of the question, which will enable the public and our honorable friends in the other branch of the Legislature to realize the strength of the arguments and of the opinions which undoubtedly prevail in favour of this reform of our representative system.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
In Committee :
Clause 1 -
This Act may be cited as the Commonwealth Franchise Act 1 902.
– An amendment is necessary in this clause, to provide that the Bill shall be read together with the Electoral Bill. No doubt it would inany case be read with that measure, but I wish to insert the usual words making that imperative. I move -
That the following words be added to the clause: - “and shall be incorporated and read as one with the Commonwealth Electoral Act 1902.”
Amendment agreed to.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clause 3 -
Subject to the disqualifications hereafter set out, all adult persons -
Who are inhabitants of Australia and have resided therein for six months continuously, and
Who are natural born or naturalized subjects of the King, and
Whose names are on the electoral roll for any electoral division, shall be entitled to vote at the election of Members of the Senate and the House of Representatives.
– I move -
That after the word “ adult,” line 2, the word “ male” be inserted.
My amendment, if carried, would make the clause read -
Subject to the disqualifications hereafter set out all adult male persons, &c.
I intend to make it perfectly clear that in proposing a measure which puts upon the statute-book of the Commonwealth of Australia the principle of womanhood suffrage a step is being taken altogether in advance of public opinion not only in Australia, but throughout the world. When I referred yesterday to an expression of an opinion by Mr. Gladstone, I was told by Senator Barrett that Mr. Gladstone had gone back on that view at a later date.
– I gave chapter and verse for the assertion.
– I will make a brief statement on the point, and let the matter rest there. I quote from the Encyclopædia of SocialReform published in New York in 1897.
Senatorhiggs. - I rise to a point of order. I wish to take the ruling of the Chairman as to whether the amendment is in order, in view of section 9 of the Constition, which provides that -
The Parliament of the Commonwealth may make laws prescribing the method of choosing senators, but so that the method shall be uniform for all the States.
Section 41 of the Constitution also provides that -
No adult person who has or acquires a right to vote at elections for the more numerous House of the Parliament of a State shall, while the right continues, be preventedby any law of the Commonwealth . from voting at elections for either House of the Parliament of the Commonwealth.
I take it that, in view of those two sections, it is impossible for the honorable senator to move the amendment, inasmuch as the effect of it would be to disfranchise the women of South Australia and Western Australia.
– The point of order raised by Senator Higgs is very important in one aspect. He has very properly directed attention to section 41 of the Constitution. But I submit that the question raised is a constitutional question, and that if he is right the amendment of Senator Pulsford would render the measure unconstitutional, and inoperative to the extent that it is unconstitutional. But I submit that it was never intended that a constitutional question of this kind should be decided as a question of order in either House of the Parliament. It would be a very serious thing indeed if the Legislature were prevented from discussing a matter simply because of the provisions of the Constitution. It will be within the recollection of honorable senators that this point was raised some time ago, when a discussion was initiated in regard to section 51 of the Constitution, which contains the 39 articles or subjects for legislation by the Commonwealth Parliament. There was a motion before the Senate in regard to State assurance, and Senator Harney raised the point that the matter could not be discussed because the terms of the motion travelled beyond the legislative power’s given to the Commonwealth Parliament. The ruling of the President was invoked, and he decided. - if I may say so, with absolute correctness - that it was a constitutional question, and not a question of order, and that it was never intended that these constitutional questions should be ruled upon as questions of order. There are provisions of the Constitution’ relating to the contents of Bills, and other matters of that sort, in regard to which some question may be raised. I do not profess any opinion about that. But I submit that in regard to this section of the Constitution, the validity or invalidity of a proposal has to be determined, not as a matter of order by the presiding officerin either House of Parliament, but is a question in the first place for the Senate itself to decide upon, and in the next place if the Senate comes to a wrong conclusion it is for the High Court of the Commonwealth to decide it. Of course, effect can be given to Senator Higgs’ view by a vote of the committee. But 1 suggest that it would be a very dangerous thing for a matter of this kind to be decided upon a point of order.
– I submit that the amendment proposed by me, as it would establish a uniform franchise throughout the Commonwealth, is constitutional.I say, further, that Section 41 of the Constitution itself contemplates such a Bill as
I desire to see passed. If we carry this amendment, the two small States, representing 1 5 per cent, of the population, may in their wisdom consider it desirable to drop woman’s suffrage, and then the franchise would be uniform.
– If it were competent for me to decide a constitutional question, my ruling on the point raised would probably be different from the ruling that I now propose to give. It appears to me that there is nothing in the standing orders ‘ to prevent Senator Pulsford from submitting his amendment, which is therefore in order.
– When I was interrupted by the point of order, I was about to say that in 18S4, Mr. Gladstone stated in the most emphatic manner that his Government would decline any further responsibility for the Franchise Bill, if a clause providing for woman’s suffrage were adopted. The clause was accordingly thrown out by 271 votes to 135. Further, in 1892, which was I think about the last time Mr. Gladstone dealt with this matter, the subject came up again -
Mr. Gladstone wrote a letter to Mr. Samuel Smith, M.I?., which was widely circulated in pamphlet form, urging members to vote against it.
I claim therefore that to the end of his life Mr. Gladstone was an opponent of womanhood suffrage. While I am referring to the position in England, I should like to read the following additional quotation from the Encyclopedia qf Social Reform -
Victoria Woodhull Martin -
I dare say the name will be known to many honorable senators as that of a lady who lias taken a prominent part in this movement - in the Humanitarian for July, .1896, says, upon this point : - In England, while other aspects of the woman’s movement have gained ground, this (the suffrage phase) has moved slowly. Little has been achieved beyond a monster petition ; despite the platitudes of votecatching Ministers, the Bill was relinquished in the lust Parliament amid ribald laughter, and this session it has been dropped with a silence which is even more contemptuous.
I know that the statements that I have made and will have to make will not be welcome to many honorable senators, but I intend to show beyond all doubt that this measure is being forced upon us against the general feeling and against the general tendency of legislation in AngloSaxon countries. We heard from Senator McGregor a little while ago about the wonderful way in which the women of South Australia had placed their name* upon the electoral rolls of that State. He told us that the names of 70,000 - practically all the women of that State - appeared on the rolls, but he did not enlighten us in regard to the way in which the electoral rolls of South Australia are prepared. I believe the truth is that, as in New South Wales, the police in South Australia obtain the names of those who are entitled to vote. A policeman call3 from house to house and, in South Australia, also carries with him the forms which have to be signed. That is the way in which practically the names of all the women are got together, yet the fact that so many women in South Australia are on the rolls has been presented to us as a proof that they are at one in desiring to have the suffrage. I should like to give the committee some idea as to the extent to which women in the United States have shown their desire for the suffrage when they have had an opportunity of doing so. The Encyclopedia qf Social Reform, a comparatively new book published in New York, and which some honorable senators, may know, gives the following quotation from a tract entitled “Tested by its. Fruits “ :-
How small is the proportion of women whoreally wish the ballot mav be inferred from the “referendum” upon the question of municipal suffrage for women, taken in Massachusetts in 1895. The opportunity was given to women at that election, without any expense, or any trouble beyond that of registering and voting,, to say whether they wanted municipal suffrage. Out of about 575,000 women entitled to vote, only 22,204 expressed a desire for the ballot. In Massachusetts, therefore, where the suffrage agitation has been as active as anywhere in the Onion, less than 4 per cent, of the women want to vote. Assuming that this ratio holds generally, thesuffrage proposition is that the ballot should be forced upon the 96 per cent, of indifferent or reluctant women, because the 4 per cent, wish it.
That is a statement with regard to America Yesterday Senator Barrett took exception to some of the statements made by Senator- 1 Gould and myself in regard to women’ssuffrage in the United States. He endeavoured to make it appear that a largeproportion of the States were in favour of womanhood suffrage, and that there was really a very substantial feeling in this, direction in America.
– The honorable senator is wrong ; I spoke about their municipal life and government.
– I grant that that was the way in which the honorable senator put it, .but he spoke with the intention of discrediting what I had said, and of creating the impression that there was in America a very strong feeling in favour of female suffrage. The honorable senator referred to
Wyoming as a State in which female suffrage was in force. I find that female suffrage was granted there in the year 1S70. At that time the total population of the State was 9,118 - just about as many people as might be put into any of the main streets of Melbourne. In the year 1.900, when the last census was taken, the population of Wyoming had increased only to 92,531. That was the first State of America in which female suffrage was granted, and, according to a statement which can be found in Mr. Bryce’s book, The American Commonwealth, it is commonly reported that the whole thing was a kind of joke, and that it was never intended to allow the proposal to pass. There are three other State’s in which womanhood suffrage is in force. One of these is Idaho, the population of which in 1900 totalled 161,772.
– That, is almost as large as the population of Western Australia.
– But they have no women in Western Australia.
– Thirty thousand women have the right to vote there.
– I do not imagine “that Utah is a State which honorable senators would quote with very much favour, but female suffrage is in force there. Its population is about 250,000. The last of these States is Colorado, which has a population now of 539,000. Let me tell honorable senators that in 1899 woman suffrage Bills were defeated in the Legislatures of Massachusetts, M’aine, Connecticut, Vermont, Illinois, Oklahoma, Arizona, Indiana, Missouri, Michigan, and California, and in 1900 in Iowa and Massachusetts. I desire also to give honorable senators some idea of the relative populations of these States.
– Would the honorable senator consent to be bound by American authorities on the fiscal question?
– The population of Massachusetts is 2,805,000; Maine, 694,000 ; Connecticut, 908,000 ; Vermont, 343,000; Illinois, 4,821,000; Oklahoma, 398,000; Arizona, 122,000; Missouri, 3,106,000; Michigan, 2,420,000; and California, 1,485,000. These States, the population of which amounts to millions upon millions, have refused womanhood suffrage, while the population of States where womanhood suffrage is in force at the present time is little more than 1,000,000. There can be no doubt, therefore, as to the strength of the feeling in America against the principle. What makes this fact so very noteworthy is the position held by women in America. A little while ago we had the Vice-President of the Executive Council recalling to our minds a book, written by Mill 30 years ago, entitled Subjection of Women. Let us read something as to the position of women in America. I think honorable senators will concede that it is altogether out of the question to talk about the subjection of women in that country -
The provision for women’s education in the United States is ampler and better than that made in any European countries, and the making of it has been far more distinctly recognised as a matter of public concern.
– What authority has the honorable senator for that assertion ?
– A gentleman named’ Bryce, who wrote a book called The American Commonwealth, which is generally considered to be one of the greatest authorities on America -
To these advantages, and to the spirit they proceed from, much of the influence which women exert must be ascribed. They feel more independent ; they have a fuller consciousness of their place in the world of thought, as well as in the world of action.
That is one extract from Bryce. I come now to another -
A European cannot spend an evening in an American drawing-room without perceiving that the attitude of men to women is not that with which he is familiar at home. The average European man has usually a slight sense of condescension when lie talks to a woman on serious subjects. Even if she is bis superior in intellect, in character, in social rank, he thinks that as a man he is her superior, and consciously or unconsciously talks down to her. She is too much accustomed to this to resent it, unless it becomes tastelessly palpable. Such a notion does not cross an American’s mind. He talks to a woman just as he would to a man, of course, with more deference of manner, and with a proper regard to the topics likely to interest her, but giving her his intellectual best, addressing her as a person whose opinion is understood by both to be worth as much as his own.
It is a remarkable thing that in the country which, by universal consent, holds woman in the utmost reverence, womanhood suffrage has made the least progress. In view of that, and of the additional fact that the population of the United States is now well on to 80,000,000, it is idle for us to be told that we are depriving women of their rights ; it is idle to say that we are inflicting upon them an injustice by witholding the franchise from them, and great strength is added to my contention that the passage of such a measure as this will place a burden upon woman, and that it is not to their interests or to the interests of the State that they should bo asked to carry that burden. Strength is given also to my contention that the ultimate result of bringing woman into political strife in which men alone should take part, is not calculated to be a great and lasting good to the Commonwealth. We were told last night by Senator Pearce that women suffered under many disabilities. If he had drawn aline between the States in which female suffrage exists and those in which itdoes not exist-if hehad been able to say that in Western Australia andSouth Australia variousdisabilities under which women suffered had been removed,
And that in States in which woman suffrage is not in force they are oppressed with disabilities of any kind’, there might have been some force in that argument. But there is no force at all in the argument as it has been brought forward by Senator Pearce and other honorable senators, that women have no voice in public affairs. Such is the competition beeween public men that any representation made by any large body of women could not fail to be completely considered, and if the views put forward were just and right it could not fail to have at an early date a marked influence upon the legislation of Parliament. I recognise that members of the committee do not see this question as I see it. I regret that that is so, but I am willing to believe that other honorable senators are actuated by principle, as I feel that I am actuated. I do unhesitatingly state that I believe the proposal put before us is not warranted - is not wanted - and that in no shape or form is it calculated to be beneficial to the State or beneficial to those in whose behalf it is specially put before us.
– I wish just to point out that Senator Pulsford himself recognises that it is impossible for him to carry any amendment of this kind in the clause. In the first place, the power given us by the Constitution is to make a uniform electoral law. Section 9 of the Constitution is plain enough upon the point. We must make a uniform electoral law, and the law could not be uniform if the women of SouthAustralia were to have votes and the women of Queensland were not to have votes. I do not see that we can consider the amendment for a moment. I do not intend to take up the time of the committee, because we see, as Senator Pulsford sees himself, that he is almost alone. Indeed, it is a fortunate thing that he is. The honorable senator belongs to that type of politician who has opposed the progress and advancement of the rights of women ever since women’s rights have been spoken of. I dare say that at the time when it was customary for a man to be able to sell his wife - and that is not so many hundreds of years ago - there were men like Senator Pulsford who stood up for that privilege, and when a husband had the privilege of beating his wife provided he only gave her a few sharp strokes with a birch, there were men like the honorable senator who supported that. I have not done so before, but I now congratulate the Government upon bringing this measure forward, and upon having the privilege of placing Australia so far in advance of every other nation on the face of the globe in this respect.
Senator PULSFORD (New Seuth Wales). - The remarks made by Senator Higgs are of a character outside what I think might be expected in a debate in this Chamber. They are simply insulting. I suppose the honorable senator cannot help it, but none the less, being a senator who has some selfrespect, I cannot entirety put up with them without protest. There is no man in this Chamber who would be less willing to promote or assist in the passing of any measure which he thought would be likely to act injuriously either to woman or man than myself. I do not consider the conferring of a vote upon women as giving them anything that will be of advantage to them. I look upon it rather as the infliction upon them of a burden. I am desirous that; they shall not be burdened with what I consider to be an “obnoxious duty. Because of that I am not to be slandered as a man who approves of wife-beating or wife-selling. I think it would have been quite allowable if the Chairman had requested Senator Higgs to withdraw the words he used.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 4 (Rights of electors of States).
– Attention has been called to the question of whether clause 4 is necessary or not. Since this Bill was drawn a new clause, clause 53, has been inserted in the Electoral Bill. That clause really serves all the purposes of clause 4 of this Bill, and the matter is really better dealt with in the Electoral Bill. I therefore propose to negative this clause.
Clause 5. (Disqualifications).
– I hahvegiven notice of an amendment upon this clause. I wish first to remedy what is undoubtedly an omission in the Bill, and to provide that no person of unsound mind shall have a vote. I propose also to provide that no person who is in receipt of charitable relief as an inmate of a public charitable institution should have a vote. I move -
That the words “No person who i3 of unsound mind, or in the receipt of charitable relief as mi inmate of a public charitable institution, and” be inserted before the word “ No “ at the beginning of the clause.
I do not think there can be any doubt as to the necessity of the first portion of the amendment, if we do not provide that persons of unsound mind shall not have a vote, there is no reason why lunatics should not be put upon the electoral roll and they might claim the right. The other matter is I admit, a more difficult one, but I think it will be found that in all the electoral laws in Australia, there is a provision of this kind.
– That is not so.
– I think that in South Australia there is no such provision, but in all the other States there is a provision of this kind. I have drawn the clause in this form, because it appears to me that it is altogether beyond the grounds of what is right and practicable that the inmates of a public asylum living upon the charity of the Government or of the public, and unable to take any part whatever in public affairs, should have their names registered and be allowed to vote. I presume that in many of the States, as in New
South Wales, there -are large numbers of persons who are unfortunately obliged to seek relief in these public asylums, and I do not think it desirable on any ground to allow them the right to vote. If we once go beyond that, and provide, as is provided in some State Acts, that no person in receipt of charitable relief from a public institution, shall be allowed the right to vote, we embark upon a very wide field. Every one will admit that the receipt of an old-age pension is not a matter of charity, but something to which a man is entitled from the State in which he has lived for a certain number of years, which should not place the recipient in a position of mendicancy, and s’:ould not deprive him of the right to a vote. In the case of a nian who is getting this relief, and at the same time supporting his home, and discharging his duties as a citizen as well as he can, it would be unjust to deprive him of all political privileges. Again, it unfortunately happens, owing to the fluctuations of prosperity amongst all classes in the community, that persons temporarily receive relief from the Government, or from public institutions. It is hard to believe that those persons should be prevented from being put upon the roll as voters simply because they are in receipt of charitable relief for a time. The difficulty is to find a reasonable way between the extremes. I think that those who are unfortunately reduced to the position of living in a public asylum, and being dependent entirely upon public aid for subsistence, and who are withdrawn absolutely from contact with ordinary life and public affairs,’ should not be in a position to exercise full political rights. It seems to me that the only way to arrive at a fair settlement of the difficulty is by such an amendment as I propose.
– What does the honorable senator mean by “a public charitable institution V
– I mean by that an institution open to every member of the public. As we all know, there maybe persons who are in receipt of charitable relief from’ their friends. Those are cases into which we cannot inquire, but a public charitable institution is open to the public, and to public inquiry, and its inmates can be ascertained. It is only in such a case that Ave can exercise this power of disfranchising the persons who are so unfortunately situated.
– I fail to appreciate the distinction which
Senator O’Connor has attempted to draw. We must proceed on the assumption that property or possession has nothing to do with a vote. The only thing which excludes a person from that privilege is his being of unsound mind, or his being of the criminal classes and suffering punishment. As Senator O’Connor properly says, there is no reason why we should deprive a person of this right because he has obtained an old-age pension. True, he obtains the money from the State; true, he may be living entirely on that money, but he is not a criminal nor is he of unsound mind. Why then are we to deprive persons similarly situated of the same privilege ? Is it because they happen to live in an institution instead of wandering about the streets? Senator O’Connor will see that in clause 5 he recognises that in the case of a criminal it makes no difference whether he is within the walls of a criminal institution or whether he is wandering abroad under the same ban. A person who is out on a ticket-of -leave or a license, has to be treated, while his sentence continues, in all respects in the same way as if he were within the walls of a gaol. Why not carry out the same principle in reference to persons having poor relief ? Some of them obtain State support by following certain rules within an institution, and others get from the State a weekly stipend which they spend as they think fit. What distinction is there between the two classes ? The only distinction we now recognise, as excluding a person from the suffrage, is that he is not an adult ; or, if an adult, that he is not of sound mind, or that he has shown a moral unsoundness by being in gaol. Do one of these things apply with greater force to a person who is resident within the walls of a charitable institution than to a person who is obtaining charity and is walking about the streets ? I think Senator O’Connor will see that it is a distinction which ought not to be maintained, because it is illogical.
– I entirely agree with everything that has been said by Senator Harney. Any attempt to do what Senator O’Connor has suggested is really a contradiction of the principles of the Bill. When we attempt to do these things we always get into the mud. The amendment distinctly refers to public institutions. Why should an aged man - or an aged woman - who has fulfilled all his duties in life up to the time when he was incapacitated and compelled, because there was no legitimate system of old-age pensions, to go into a public institution, be deprived of the right to vote?With respect to the qualification for a vote, what difference does it make whether a man is in a public or a private institution?’ Are not private institutions, in which old men and women are taken care of by benevolent people, apart from the State altogether, in exactly the same position as public institutions, which have the special care of the poor, infirm, and destitute? I know a great number of aged persons who cannot be looked after by their relatives on account of distance, and very often a person subscribes an allowance to a public institution for the maintenance of a relative. One section of these men is in exactly the same position as the other, but this amendment will enfranchise the one and disfranchise the other. In South Australia, an inmate of a destitute asylum whose maintenance is borne by his friends in England or America, has as much right to a vote as has a man whose board at a lodging-house in Hindley-street is paid for by his friends. In that State we have extended the franchise to all unfortunate people. We recognise their past services in the development of the State, and they are still entitled to exercise the suffrage, and we do not classify them with either lunatics or criminals. I hope that honorable senators will see the difficulties with which we shall be confronted if we endeavour to tamper with the main principles of the Bill. We do not know the adversity and misfortune which may have led many a man into a charitable institution. I hope that Senator O’Connor will not persist with his amendment. I feel convinced that if he does, it will be defeated.
– It is not very surprising that in a country where the golden calf is so idolatrously worshipped as it is in Australia a provision of this kind should be sought to be enacted. In the eyes of some persons, to be poor is the greatest crime it is possible for a man to commit. I hope that this excellent measure will not be disfigured by the amendment. Senators McGregor and Harney have pointed out clearly its inconsistency. In Victoria an old-age pensioner is to be free to go aboutwherever he pleases and to record his vote like any other citizen, but a poor unfortunate person, who is so frail or infirm or friendless as to be provided with a refuge in an asylum, is- to be disfranchised. Where is the difference between the two individuals supported by the State? 1 agree with Senator O’Connor that it would not be fair to withhold the franchise from those who are temporarily receiving State assistance. But in the case of two men receiving assistance for the term of their natural lives, we are asked to enfranchise one and disfranchise the other. Why do we give very large pensions to our Judges when they are no longer able to satisfactorily perform their .duties ? Simply because we recognise that they did good service to the country while they had the ability and the capacity. We are attempting to carry the same principle right down to the bottom of the ladder. The man who breaks stones on the road is just as necessary to the well-being and progress of the community as is the mau who sits on the judgmentseat. We do not look down upon a Judge because on his retirement he receives a pension. On the contrary, we say - “ This man’ did his duty well while he was able, and now the country provides for his wants.” Very few working men are able to provide for their old age. Senator O’Connor said that the recipients of State relief are separated, so to speak, from the social and political life of the country. Why should not a man, although he is an inmate of a charitable institution, be allowed to take an interest in the affairs of his country? I know a number of inmates of charitable institutions in New South Wales who take a very keen interest in its politics. In many cases they had been ardent politicians and hard workers in the army of reform, and now, when they are no longer capable of taking their part in the work outside, they take a keen interest in the government of the country. I know that these men will be greatly disappointed if, by an amendment of this kind, they are deprived of the suffrage. I hope that Senator O’Connor will withdraw a portion of the amendment. No one objects to the provision that a person of unsound mind shall not vote, although I known considerable number of madmen who take part in politics. I move -
That the amendment be amended by the omission of the words “ or in the receipt of charitable relief as an inmate of a public charitable institution.”
– The amendment which I have moved follows the terms of existing Acts, except that of South Australia. I admit at once, as I intimated when moving the amendment,- that it is difficult to draw the distinction which is the only one that can be drawn in order to carry a clause of this kind. An interjection of Senator McGregor has pointed out another difficulty which to my mind is insuperable in the carrying out of the amendment. That is, that even if there is only one State which confers the franchise upon people in the condition mentioned, those people cannot be deprived of the vote ; and it would be a most unsatisfactory proceeding to give the franchise to those persons who happen to have it at the present time, and deprive others who are in the same position of it. Therefore I do not think it worth while to press the amendment in its present form, and I am agreeable to accepting the amendment upon the amendment moved by Senator Stewart.
Senator HARNEY (Western Australia.) I would point out that no definition isgiven of the word “ adult.” Has the word a legal definition? We know the literary definition, but on turning to some legal books I find that the use of the word is doubtful. I find that Wharton’s Law Lexicon, instead of defining “ adult “ as a person who has attained his majority and reached the age of 21, mentions many legal periods. So that 21 is not necessarily the age at which the adult stage is reached. My honorable and learned friend will know, from his legal experience, that there are many occasions when persons are treated as adults although they have not attained the age of 21. In some cases the age of eighteen is specified as that at which a# person is of full age for certain purposes. It would lead to confusion if the Bill were left in its present state.
– If an amendment’ of the kind suggested is to be moved it should be moved on clause 3.
– Who is to say whether a person is “ of unsound mind “ ? Any number of persons of unsound mind go to the ballet-box. The clause should say - “ no person who is adjudged of unsound mind.”
– Adjudged by whom 1
– It cannot be left to the returning officer to say whether a man is mad or not.
– The provision is taken from the Western Australian Act.
– The whole clause follows the Western Australian Act, and I think it is bad. It should say - “ a person adjudged to be of unsound mind,” which would mean adjudged by the Court.
– I do not rise to oppose Senator Stewart’s amendment. Poverty .should be no bar to any person exercising the right to vote. But I wish to point out to some of my friends from Queensland that the carrying of the amendment would place in the hands of the Government of a State a weapon which might be used very unfairly. There are a considerable number of old people who are inmates of one or other of the benevolent institutions of Queensland. A Government might turn the votes of these people to considerable advantage to itself, by means of its officials, by manipulating them against the interest of a candidate to whom it was opposed. I should not dream of opposing the conferring of the suffrage upon any person who is in the unfortunate position of being placed in one of our eleemosynary institutions. No man should be debarred from his right as a citizen in consequence of his poverty. I, myself, have suffered from poverty on many occasions. I might say that I have been cradled amidst poverty. My whole sympathy goes out to those who are poor. But it is just as well to look at this matter from every point of view. Some of us have had to oppose the Government of Queensland on many occasions owing to intense conservatism. Might not that Government, through the officials of the benevolent asylum, endeavour to use the votes of the inmates against a candidate whom they did not wish to see returned 1 I find from the annual report of the Benevolent Asylum of Queensland for the year 1900, that the men in the in’stitution numbered 845, and the women 163. If any Government were able to use the votes of these people, or if any rich man, by inducing his wealthy friends to spend money amongst them, prior to election, were able to influence their votes, it might be a dangerous weapon to use against any candidate who was not wealthy enough to adopt the samp- methods. It may be said that in consequence of the fewness of the numbers of the inmates of these institutions, it* is not worth while to quarrel about the point. But, at all events, I thought it right to call attention to it. I repeat that I have no desire to deprive any man of a vote through poverty, but at the same time I do not want, if it can be avoided, to put into the hands of any State Government, a weapon which might be used by them to further their own particular ends.
– I wish to try to allay the fears of Senator Glassey on this subject. The only point of view from which we should consider it is whether what is proposed to be done is right or not. AVe must come to the conclusion that the amendment which Senator O’Connor agrees to accept is right, and, therefore, we cannot hesitate to accept it. If there were only an individual case in question, I have no doubt that Senator Glassey would say at once that the person receiving relief should not be deprived of a vote. If he looks at the matter all round he will see that the same, principle applies to persons in benevolent institutions. This question was discussed in England many years ago. Senator Glassey’s observations bring to my mind a passage from William Cobbett’s Advice to a Citizen. Cobbett, of course, was one of the old-time radicals of England, a man who did not fight with kid gloves on, but who spoke what was in his mind, and suffered because of the manner in which he expressed his very strong opinions. History has proved- his views to have been right. ‘ In the old country, 60 years ago, Cobbett inveighed against the proposal to deny the franchise to those who were receiving charitable relief. In the charitable institutions of Melbourne there are men who have occupied high positions in the land, and who have helped to make this country. They have lost hundreds of thousands of pounds, and in their old age have to find relief there. As Senator Stewart has ‘said so forcibly, we give our Judges handsome pensions, because we believe their services entitle them to that reward ; and what are we to say of men who have helped to make the country, and who through no fault of their own are to-day in these institutions ? I know of men who were formerly among the foremost of our legislators, who are now in these asylums. It is no crime for a nian to be forced to take relief in his old age, and therefore I think that Senator O’Connor’s suggestion will commend itself to the committee. I am glad that we have got away from precedents, and that the Commonwealth is going to set an example.
– It seems to me that the Federal Parliament is passing some laws which will hereafter bring disaster upon us, and will certainly not redound to our credit. I was surprised to find Senator O’Connor ready to accept Senator Stewart’s amendment.
– Does not the honorable and learned senator see the constitutional difficulty, which seems to me to be insuperable so far as inmates of these institutions are concerned?
– I know that this right to vote has been given to the inmates of charitable institutions in South Australia, and I would allow them to retain that right, but to provide that all those who are in charitable institutions in the rest of the Commonwealth shall enjoy this right would be to make a most terrible blunder. Do honorable senators of the labour party desire to see the Commonwealth, governed in accordance with common-sense principles ? Some of them seem to care for nothing but the glorification of giving every one every possible power. We have one institution in Tasmania in which there are 500 men and women. I do not suppose that 2 per cent, of them ever see a paper, or that 10 per cent, of them know what is going on in the Commonwealth. They are between 60 and 90 years of age. Some of them are relics of the old convict days, who have been in gaol again and again ; others have been in gaol only a few times, while others, again, may have no blot against their character. It would be a farce to allow canvassers to go with cabs to an institution such as that and drag out the inmates to do something about which they know nothing. I object to the principle altogether. The most that we ought to do, if we are to do anything in this direction, should be to make a distinction between those who are receiving outdoor relief - who are able to walk about the streets and learn what is going on - and inmates of institutions who are neither physically nor mentally fitted to vote. I happen to know the head of the charitable dep6t in Hobart. When an election came round for which I was a candidate, I might telephone to him, and ask him to submit my name to the inmates, while another candidate might do the same thing. Then our cabs would be sent there. In two or three cases out of five, a kind of conference would have to take place between the doctor, the matron, and the manager to determine, whether a nian or woman should be lifted into the cab to go to the poll. The clause as it stands is, in my opinion, absolutely right. Are we going to say that the Government of our country shall depend as much upon ignorance as intelligence ?
– There is just as much ignorance outside these institutions as inside them.
– Where should we be able to find outside so much mental and physical weakness as is to be found inside one of these asylums ? People only go there because they want to be cared for, and cannot live outside ; therefore, I think that Senator Harney is wrong. What is the use of bothering about men who have done their work in life, for whom homes have been provided, and who are unfit to vote? I believe the time is coming when there will be a reaction, and we shall probably exclude the ignorant vote. I am willing to stand anywhere and say that no man or woman should be allowed to vote who has not the education and intelligence to enable him or her to write out an application to be placed on the roll. This proposal seems to me to be democracy run mad. I hope that if this amendment is agreed to by the Senate we shall find a little more common sense prevailing in another place, and that it will be struck out there.
– During the debate on the second reading of this Bill there was a great cry for uniformity.
– Uniformity and ignorance.
– Uniformity must verT often bring ignorance with it. I protested at the time that there was no necessity for uniformity in this matter. But now, however, we cannot help ourselves. The Vice-President of the Executive Council has seen very clearly the predicament in which we are placed, owing to the fact that ‘in South Australia paupers - I do not use the word disparagingly - are in possession of the franchise. We cannot deprive others of that right who are similarly situated in the other States. That is the point, and I think we must accept the statement of the VicePresident of the Executive Council as being absolutely correct.
Senator McGREGOR (South Australia). - Senator Dobson is very much concerned about the remaining convict stains of that beautiful little island which he has the honour to represent.
– Many good men were transported for nothing.
– Exactly; many of them were sent out to Tasmania and other places because they held advanced views, and dared, in their day, to advocate reform.
Senatordobson. - No such men are to be found in Hobart.
– Thousands of honest men were sent out from Ireland.
– Certainly. Does Senator Dobson imagine that we are legislating only for Tasmania in this matter, or for conditions which have existed there for the last fifty years? Does he not know that we are legislating for a time when we hope to see every man and woman in Australia, whether in destitute asylums or in the palaces of the cities, educated and able to express their views intelligently at the ballot-box? Because there may be a few ignorant individuals in the destitute asylums of Tasmania at the present time, we are asked to deprive the thousands in the asylums of Victoria and other States of the right to vote. It was only a short time ago that some honorable senators who oppose this principle denied the franchise to the police and other officers. This principle exists in South Australia, where it has done a great deal of good, and I hope it will be carried.
– I wish to say a few words in reference to the aspect of the position which was mentioned by Senator Glassey. In Queensland there is an institution called Dunwich, where there are something like 1,000 or 1,200 men and women receiving charitable relief. As Dunwich is situated in a federal electorate, it would be possible for a candidate to go to that asylum and endeavour to secure the votes of all the inmates. A candidate who adopted that method would probably be one who had opposed all increased assistance to old and indigent people, and I venture to say that if Senator Glassey went to that asylum and pointed out to the inmates that he and the party to which he belonged had for years endeavoured to secure increased allowances and old-age pensions for them, he would probably receive as strong a vote from them as would any one else. Senator Dobson seems to take exception to this rebuttal of the case put by Senator Glassey. No doubt the honorable senator’s chief fear is that the people at Dunwich and similar institutions would not vote for the conservative party, but for the party which has been doing its level best for ages to improve the condition of the poorer people. Senator Glassey’s fear is the other way, and inasmuch as there are people of all classes, and of all kinds of education and political beliefs, I feel sure their votes would be as much divided as the votes of any other section of the community. There are people unfortunate enough to be in Dunwich who have had as wide an experience of affairs as Senator Dobson. Some of the best men in Queensland are in Dunwich, and some of those men have helped to build up that State through adversity, drought, and misfortune ; through the failure and swindling of banking institutions ; and in spite of the devious ways and practices of some people who are well off now, and able to exercise the franchise in perhaps half-a-dozen different constituencies. I do not think that very much harm can come of allowing these people to have a vote. That has been proved by the experience of South Australia. Then there is the constitutional point raised that as this is the law in South Australia, and we must have a uniform franchise, we cannot prevent these people in Queensland and in other States from having a vote.
Amendment of amendment agreed to.
Amendment, as amended, agreed to.
– The clause speaks of offences punishable under the law “ of the Commonwealth or of a State.” That is rather a narrow expression, and I think it would be better to follow the course followed in many of the State Acts, and use the expression “any part of the King’s dominions.” I therefore move -
That the words “the Commonwealth or of a State” be omitted, with a view to insert in lieu thereof the words “any part of the King’s dominions.”
Senator STEWART (Queensland). - Why should we trouble ourselves about anything that happens outside the Commonwealth ?
– Suppose a man who escapes from New Caledonia, without serving his sentence, comes here and is naturalized without his history being discovered. Why should he not be prevented from voting when it is discovered that he is an escapee?
– But New Caledonia is not a portion of the King’s dominions. Is this a fresh development of Imperial policy ?
– That is only an illustration.
– I do not pretend to understand the question very clearly, but my impression is that, so far as this matter is concerned, we should confine ourselves to the Commonwealth.
Amendment agreed to.
– It is suggested that the amendment, of which I gave notice as a new clause, might properly be inserted at the end of this clause. I, therefore, move -
That the following words be added to the clause: - “No aboriginal native of Australia, Asia, Africa, or the islands of the Pacific, or persons of the half blood shall be entitled to have his name placed on an electoral roll, unless so entitled under section 41 of the Constitution.”
I said a good deal upon this subject on the second reading of the Bill, and there is no necessity to speak upon it at length now. Having regard to conversations that have taken place outside the House, I should like to impress upon the committee that the object of the clause is not to take away any rights that exist in any State at the present moment in respect of the aboriginals of any country. Those rights are preserved by the Constitution, but, in order to avoid any misapprehension upon the subject, honorable senators will observe the proviso in the amendment I propose, that it shall not apply to those entitled to the right to vote under section 41 of the Constitution. I call special attention to that point because of the position in which aboriginals have been placed in South Australia. It appears hardly credible, but apparently it is a fact, that in South Australia any aboriginal is entitled to be placed upon the roll, and so far as I can judge any lubra or gin is entitled to the same privilege. I cannot say whether advantage has been taken of the privilege in that State or not.
– Advantage has not been taken of it, except in the case of one or two. natives who have become civilized, and are settled upon the land.
– I believe that, as Senator Playford says, advantage has been taken of the privilege only in the case of a few natives who have acquired a property qualification and have been educated. Perhaps it would be as well for me, at this point, to explain what the rights of State electors under the Constitution are in order that there may be no misapprehension as to the effect of my amendment. Whatever franchise we pass for the Commonwealth we cannot either now or hereafter deprive a person entitled to vote at a State election of the right to vote at a federal election. I know that some honorable senators think that as soon as this Bill is passed we in some way restrict the rights of those who, in a, State, may become entitled to vote eight or ten years hence. I shall deal with the aborigines in South Australia in order that this matter may be made perfectly clear to the representatives of that State, who are afraid that the South Australian aborigines will suffer some damage from my amendment. In that State an adult aboriginal is entitled to have his name placed on the rolls as soon as he attains the age of 21 years. I understand that in certain mission colleges there are a number of young, and, I am told, intelligent aboriginals who are growing up, and who, in the course of three, four, or five years will attain that age, and will thus be entitled, under the State law, to vote at State elections. Every one of those men will by that fact be entitled to vote at a federal election, and I defy any lawyer or layman to dispute that fact. Section 41 of the Constitution is quite distinct on that point -
No adult person who . . . acquires a right, to vote at elections for the more numerous. House 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. “ While the right continues “ is the only limitation in the section. It means that, so long as the Legislature of South Australia leaves that right to the aboriginal, he can exercise that right at State elections, and he will be able to vote at federal elections, quite irrespective of any provision in this Franchise Bill. Why go out of the way in our federal legislation to give rights to aboriginals which they do not possess to-day in certain of the States? South Australia is the only State in which such rights exist. Surely it is absolutely repugnant to the greater number of the people of the Commonwealth that an aboriginal man, or aboriginal lubra or gin - a horrible, degraded, dirty creature - should have the same rights, simply by virtue of being 21 years of age, that we have, after some debate to-day, decided to give to our wives and daughters. To me it is as repugnant and atrocious a legislative proposal as any one could suggest. The legislation which is passed by the Federal Parliament will be taken as a pattern by the State Legislatures. Our Constitution will be the pattern on which the State Constitutions will be remodelled by-and-by. The democratic party of each State is increasing in strength, and it will naturally turn to the most democratic Constitution when a new Constitution is being framed for the State. I propose to show that not only is it repugnant to the individual that such a legislative proposal should be suggested, but that it is absolutely repugnant to the Constitution. I hope to be able to prove that when it was framed its framers never for an instant contemplated, and I doubt whether they were aware, that in any State the right to vote should be given to the aboriginals. Section 127 says -
In reckoning the numbers of the people of the Commonwealth, or of a State, or other part of the Commonwealth, aboriginal natives shall not be counted.
The object of the counting to which allusion is made is the counting which takes place to settle the quota that is to say, the number of members in the first place and the number of electors in the second place. Nobody can for an instant maintain that the framers of the Constitution regarded it as in the least degree possible that a vote would be given in any State or in the Commonwealth to aboriginal natives.
– If that section excludes them from the right of representation, it does seem contradictory to talk of giving them a vote.
– What it does is to exclude the State from- the benefit of these people in assessing the number of its representatives in this Parliament. Its 60,000 aboriginals would have entitled Western Australia to an extra representation of one member in the House of Representatives, but it is distinctly barred by the Constitution from claiming that privilege. Why? Because its framers never for an instant contemplated that aboriginals would have a vote.
– It contemplates that they shall not be represented.
– Undoubtedly it contemplates that they shall not have a vote, and therefore the State cannot claim them as effective members of its community for the purpose of representation.
– In all the Statesthey have the right of representation - in two of them for property, and in most of them on the same basis as any other elector.
– I have pointed out that they have that right to vote under a property qualification.
– In two States under a property qualification, and in the rest in the ordinary way.
– It is not quite in the ordinary way. In all the States except two the aboriginals are in receipt of charitable relief, and therefore are barred by that section of the Constitution which prohibits any person in receipt of charitable relief from exercising the franchise. If anything further were needed to strengthen my contention it is to be found in section 25, which gives the’ reason why the people are not to be counted. Referring to the section which fixes the quota, it says -
For the purposes of the last section, if by the law of any State all persons of any race are disqualified from voting at elections for the more numerous House of the Parliament of a State, then, in reckoning the number of the people of the State or of the Commonwealth, persons of that race resident in that State shall not be counted.
All you have to do is to apply the reason given in that section to section 127, and you find logically the ground why the latter was inserted. Obviously the feeling of the draftsmen was that the aboriginal native was disqualified from voting. Take the reversecase - Why were they not to be counted? Because they were disqualified from voting, and in section 127 the Constitution says emphatically that in reckoning the numbers of the people of the Commonwealth aboriginal natives shall not be counted.
– la what States are they disqualified 1
– The Constitution deals not with States, but with general principles. In dealing with general principles it is sufficiently careful to recognise that there may be exceptions, and in dealing with those exceptions it safeguards their existence.
– By what State law are they disqualified ?
– We are not dealing with any State law, but with the Commonwealth law. We are not dealing with State law, but with Commonwealth law. I frankly admit that in some of the States the right to vote is given to aboriginals, but under restrictions so great that an aboriginal has rarely exercised the right. I say, without fear of contradiction, that in no State except South Australia is there any aboriginal on the roll. Why should this Parliament force a measure which is absolutely repugnant to the greater number of the people of the Commonwealth on those States which have hitherto kept themselves clear from this slur - because I consider it is a slur. Of course, the matter affects Victoria to a very small extent. It does not affect Tasmania at all. It affects New South Wales in a very modified degree, as there are only 3,000 aboriginals in that State, with 3,793 half-castes. But in the north-western district of Western Australia it is estimated that there are something like 60,000 aboriginal inhabitants. No reliable data can be obtained, but we know as a matter of fact that there are 5,000 odd aboriginals in actual touch with civilization, and it is estimated that there are in addition- 55,000 in a wild state. The whole of that western portion of the State is very sparsely populated with whites, it is in the hands of squatters, and even in the coastal towns the white population is exceedingly few. Every squatter maintains a gang or tribe of aboriginal natives. Sometimes there are forty or fifty people in a tribe. The squatter gives them what is vulgarly called in Australia “tucker,” and a few wads of tobacco, in return for which they chop his wood, look after his cattle, and perform all the other menial occupations about his station. In many cases no white labour is employed upon the station, not even to the extent of a white cook. What will be the position if this Bill becomes law as it stands ? Those squatters will be able - and undoubtedly they will do it - to put every one of these savages and their gins upon the federal rolls. We shall possibly have three ov four thousand aboriginals put upon the rolls instantly, and the entire representation of that part of the country in the Federal Parliament will be swamped by aboriginal votes. Does any honorable senator suppose that these blacks will vote on anything but the instructions they receive from their masters? These squatters are real old crusted conservatives, who have no idea of anything but the immediate matters which concern their own interests. They never regard anything from the point of view of public policy or of the advancement of the State or the Commonwealth. They simply consider how they may put the most money into their pockets by the sale of their fleeces and their beef, and how cheaply they can get their work done. If the Senate persists in maintaining the position which this Franchise Bill lays down, it will put into the hands of these men an incalculable power to do harm to the Commonwealth, and to the State of Western Australia ; because the effect of the mischief will undoubtedly be reflected upon the State. We shall have a position of affairs there which makes me absolutely tremble when I consider it. The electorates will be flooded with aboriginal voters. What I have said in respect to Western Australia applies with equal force to the northern district of Queensland, and to the Northern Territory. The Territory in its northern parts swarms with the most active aboriginals, who are employed upon the stations, and will undoubtedly be put upon the roll by the station owners. Their votes will be used for the most improper purposes at an election. But I cannot speak from absolute knowledge about Queensland and the Northern Territory. My absolute knowledge only applies to the effect of this Bill upon Western Australia.
– The South Australian law applies, I presume, to the Northern Territory.
– It applies to some extent, but that does not affect the question. Existing State rights, whatever they are, are safeguarded. The position in the Northern Territory is that no British Indians imported under1 a certain Act are qualified to vote, and all persons, except natural born British subjects and Europeans and Americans, who are naturalized British subjects, are disqualified from voting. So that as a matter of fact all Asiatics, all inhabitants of the Polynesian islands, all Africans, and people of many other races, are disqualified from voting whether they are naturalized or not. That is one of the most remarkable things in connexion with South Australian democracy and legislation. A Chinaman may be entitled to vote in Adelaide, but if his business takes him to Port Darwin, he is debarred from voting. The South Australians themselves do not pretend for an instant to apply a law which they consider good in the temperate regions to the more tropical districts of the Northern Territory. That materially strengthens the position I am endeavouring to put forth. Now I turn to the question of Asiatics, Africans, and inhabitants of the Polynesian Islands. It will be said that many of these people are British subjects, and should be given the right to vote if they are allowed to come in. But I wish to point out what the effect of that would be if applied generally. We are all opposed to the introduction of Chinese. If there is one race that is picked out for special abuse whenever two or three white men meet together in Australia it is the Chinese. There are in Hong Kong, which has been a British possestion since 1841, 240,000 British Chinese. Every one of them is a British subject from the point of view of theFederal Constitution.
– Have they votes in Hong Kong?
– They have not votes in Hong Kong, but, under this Constitution, if one of these Chinaman came into Australia he would be entitled to vote. It may be said that he could not obtain entrance. But we heard this morning of three Japanese of gentlemanly appearance and manners, and apparently of perfect education, who were allowed to land. We are told that they had no intention of remaining, but what proof have we of that? What I wish toemphasize is that the Chinese in Hong Kong, however beautifully apparelled or well educated they may be, have not the right to vote. They probably speak more languages than does any honorable senator. Nearly all of them can speak Spanish, every one of them can speak English and Chinese, and the chances are that a very large proportion of them speak French and German. With the exception of Russians, they are the most perfect linguists in the world. But they do not have a vote in Hong Kong. There is no representative Government there.
– It is a Crown colony.
– Yes, with a nominated council. Only a few merchants - the minority of the council - are there by nomination. Take again the case of Singapore. There are 572,000 people, mostly Chinese and Malays, in the population of Singapore. Many of these, although not in the same proportion as the Chinese of Hong Kong, are equally as well educated, but they do not possess the right to vote. They have no share either in the State or municipal Government. The Straits Settlements is a Crown colony, with a few independent people appointed by nomination to the council, in which they are in the minority. Yet we propose to give these people, if they comedown here, the right to vote after six months’ residence and provided they have attained the age of 21 years. We propose to do so simply for a fad ; simply because they happen to come under the classification - a misnomer - of British subjects. They are not British subjects ; they are the subjects of the British. Undeniably we govern them to their advantage, but we do not give them any right to interefere with matters of State, nor do we give the natives of India such a right.
– We are benevolent despots.
– Yes, and our despotism has been the most successful in the world. But that is no reason why we should call these natives British subjects, and under that misnomer allow them to come here and take a hand in governing us, the conquering ruling race. There is no doubt that it has been to the advantage of India, Hong Kong, and the Straits Settlements, that the native races have not been allowed to interfere in the Government of those countries. The position is shortly this : There are something like 80,000 of these coloured people in the Commonwealth, a very small proportion of whom are entitled to vote. If this Bill is passed in its present form there is no doubt that 50 per cent. or something like 40,000 of these people will immediately be able to obtain the franchise. I consider that the Senate would grossly neglect its duty if it permitted any such situation to arise.
– The honorable senator has made an interesting speech dealing with an important question, but it seems to me that the difficulty which has arisen cannot be settled in the off-hand and high and mighty way that he assumes! 1 would first of all ask the committee to remember that the question cannot be settled only from the point of view of the experience of Western Australia. We have to deal with Australia as a whole, and with the rights which exist already so far as these people are concerned. Although no one could be more staunch than I am in the maintenance of the policy of a white Australia, I think we ought to carry out that policy with a certain amount of reason, humanity, and common sense. We ought to leave out of consideration what I may describe as the jingoism of the music halls in regard to the greatness of the British Empire, the position of the servile races in India, our career in the Straits Settlements, and matters of that kind. We have to deal with a simple question : Certain persons being inhabitants of Australia, are we to grant or withhold from them the right to the franchise? The number of aboriginals that we have to deal with is a very important element. I find from the latest available statistics given by Coghlan, that at the census of 1891, only 38,789 aboriginals were enumerated, of whom 8,280 were in New South Wales. 565 in Victoria, 23,789 in South Australia, and 6,245 in Western Australia.
– How many are there who are not enumerated ?
– I said these were the enumerated aboriginals. I think it must be admitted that it is only to that extent that we can have any certainty about the number, for no doubt the whole of the aboriginals are not enumerated.
– How many aboriginals are there in Tasmania ?
– In Tasmania they are practically extinct. We may take it that, although there may be an excess beyond the numbers enumerated, that is not a matter worthy of very serious consideration. These figures enable us to give in a rough way the relative positions of the different States.
– Those were the figures in 1891.
– Yes. I have not the figures for the last census ; but we know that the aboriginal races are decreasing, so that the probabilities are that the figures at the last census were much smaller. It is well to point out that in” Western Australia the number of aboriginals as shown by these figures is comparatively trifling. The aboriginals in that State are not anything like so numerous as they are in New South Wales, and they represent only a fraction of the total in South Australia. How do we deal with these people ? In New South Wales, Victoria, South Australia, and Tasmania an aboriginal has the same right to vote as has any other inhabitant.
– But the Tasmanian aboriginals are extinct.
– The naturalized alien has the same right in Tasmania.
– Yes ; this is the policy in four States out of the six. In the. remaining States of Western Australia and Queensland, where the largest number of what are generally described as wild blacks exist, the right to vote is given to an aboriginal, provided that he is the owner of property to the value of £100. Why was that right given ? Every one was aware at the time that there were numbers of these aboriginals who, perhaps, would not understand very much about political questions. But I think it occurred to those who were framing these laws in the States, that it would be a monstrous thing, an unheard of piece of savagery on our part, to treat the aboriginals, whose land we were occupying, in such a manner as to deprive them absolutely of any right to vote in their own country, simply on the ground of their colour, and because they were aboriginals.
– They are left with all the rights they possessed before federation.
– I am pointing out why no distinction has been made between them and other native-born inhabitants of the different States. I say it was the right policy and it was a generous policy.
– They were all under charitable relief, and, therefore, could not exercise the right to vote.
– The honorable senator is utterly mistaken. Certainly in New South Wales and Victoria, and I believe in many places in South Australia, there were numbers of these men at work earning their living just as other persons earn their living, by labour. In several places also they were collected by Governments and benevolent institutions into what were called missions, not. for the purpose of administering any eleemosynary aid to them, but for the formation of little settlements in which they could be educated, and in which they paid over and over again for any .expense entailed in their education by providing produce which was sold by the institution in charge of the mission. There were scores of men in these institutions who, by reason of their intelligence and education, were quite as fit to exercise the right to vote as many white men. It is altogether a mistake to suppose that the aboriginal of Australia is to be classed in every State as being a person supplied by the Government with a blanket. No doubt a great number in all the States are aided by the Government, but many of them are earning their living as ordinary members of the community. The rights of those people are preserved for them under the Constitution. The right of every aboriginal native of New South Wales is to be put upon an electoral roll, and to “be able to record a vote, and nothing can take that right from him.
– Except the legislation of New South Wales.
– That is out of the question now, because we are dealing now with our own law, and, once we have passed our law, there can be no other beyond it. Therefore, I say that every aboriginal in New South Wales, in Tasmania if there are any there, in Victoria, and in South Australia has the right to vote just as any other inhabitant has, and we cannot take that right away from him. Senator Matheson admits that by his amendment. In the same way, every aboriginal in Western Australia and in Queensland who possesses £100 worth of property has the right to vote, and for his sake we shall be obliged to maintain that property qualification. But what does Senator Matheson propose to do no-w t He proposes to go back upon all that legislation, and to say that although in the past a blackfellow in New South Wales, Victoria, Tasmania, and South Australia had a light to vote, his sou shall not have a right to vote ; and that although in Western Australia and Queensland he had a right to vote if he had property, his son shall not have that right.
– I never said that.
– The honorable senator means that if he means anything.
– I mean to say that he shall not have the right to vote as an adult pure and simple.
– What other right can he have ?
– A right on the property qualification. The honorable and learned senator has alluded to it himself. I say we should not enlarge his electoral power.
– I hope the honorable senator will recognise that the right is not a right reserved to a family or a race, but an individual right. The individual who has this right at the time this Bill is passed cannot have it taken away from him. But it is not a right that he can transmit to his descendants.
– It is a right that the States-can transmit.
– The honorable senator must recognise that, once we have legislated, the States have nothing whatever to do with it.
– I do not recognise that. I recognise the Constitution.
– That ought to be recognised. Once we have legislated upon thi& question there is no further power in the States to legislate upon it. Surely it is plain enough that once we have brought about a uniform franchise, have taken this matter of legislation into our own hands under the section of the Constitution which enables us so to do, we cannot go back, and the States can have no further right or control over it.
– We cannot override the States under the Constitution.
– Surely it is not necessary for me to repeat that section 41 of the Constitution preserves certain rights. But what rights 1 The rights existing at the time.
– What is meant by the use of the words “ has or acquires “ in that section
– If that is the honorable senator’s difficulty I can easily explain it. That means that until we legis-late, the States have the power to pass any legislation upon the subject they like. They may have passed legislation, or they maypass legislation between the passing of the Constitution and the passing of this Bill, the electoral conditions throughout all the States, and any right acquired under such legislation’ is preserved under the Constitution.
– If New South Wales had carried an Adult Suffrage Bill, the rights acquired under it would be preserved.
– Exactly, but once we pass a law dealing with elections and electoral rights, it can be altered by no State legislation afterwards. It must be clear to honorable senators that it would be ridiculous if the Constitution were to give us the power to make a uniform franchise, and that then the States should have the power to alter that franchise in any way whatever.
– That is only for this Parliament.
– Of course I am referring only to this Parliament. With respect to their own affairs, the State Legislatures can do what they like. We must look into this question narrowly, and see that we are doing justice. Under the Constitution as it stands, the only right preserved is the individual right of the elector, and the aboriginals in New South Wales, Victoria, Tasmania, and South Australia, and those holding property in Western Australiaand in Queensland, cannot transmit their right to vote in any way whatever. Although the aboriginals in New South Wales, Victoria, Tasmania, and South Australia, had the right to vote through all these years, when they were more numerous and more savage, now under the Commonwealth, with the liberal views we are supposed to entertain and to bring into the legislative field, we are asked to take away from the sons of those, people for ever the right to vote. Why are we to do that ? Has Senator Matheson given any reason 1 The honorable senator has said that in Western Australia a number of these men are in the employ of the squatter, and he indulged in a diatribe against the squatting community in that particular State. I do not know anything about that, but I presume that the squatter looks to his own interest as the miner looks to his. I suppose it is by this conflict of interests that we get at what the real interest of the community is. I point out that we have had the same condition of things in Queensland and Western Australia and in other States for years past, and every one knows that the aboriginal vote, except in the case of the few aborinals sufficiently educated to use it properly, has been a negligeble quantity. That is probably because we have machinery which is put in force before any man can get upon an electoral roll, and be allowed to vote. He has to make - an application, and send in a claim which must be signed by himself. His name must be upon the roll, and it may be objected to, and he has to go through certain processes for the purpose of voting, and really when the matter is put into practice, it is found that all these things are so impossible and so inapplicable to the ordinary wondering blackfellow that he never comes within the purview of these Acts at all. I say that that is practically the way in which this question is working itself out. As we have in the past been liberal and jealous for those decaying races that owned this continent, and as at no time any harm or wrong has resulted from that liberality, surely we are not going to apply this doctrine to a white Australia, not only with irregularity but with a savagery which is quite unworthy of the beginnings of this federation ? What will be the position of things if Sector Matheson’s view is carried out ? In four of the States, New South Wales, Victoria, Tasmania, and South Australia, we will have a class of blackfellows who will have the franchise, and may exercise it.
– Until the State Parliament takes it away.
– I have pointed out already that the State Parliament cannot take it away. I am surprised to hear honorable senators, who have been proclaiming the rights of the Commonwealth, sometimes in an aggressive way, suggesting for a moment that the States will have anything to do with our franchise once we have dealt with it.
– Under section 41 of the Constitution, the rights are preserved so long as those rights exist in the States, and no longer.
– I have explained that.
– Not satisfactorily to my mind.
– The honorable senator has taken up this question and is evidently an enthusiast about it, and I do not expect to be able to satisfy him. I desire to satisfy the committee, and I say that if this amendment is carried it will bring about this condition of things that, in all the States to which I have alluded, we shall have a class of aboriginals who will be entitled to be put on the roll, and entitled to vote under the existing laws, and those very men will have to tell their sons who are becoming more civilized, and perhaps as civilized, and as worthy of the franchise as the white men among whom they are living - “Although your people owned this territory for centuries before the white man came here, although you are his equal in intelligence, it has been prescribed by the Commonwealth that you shall not have the right to vote at all.” I say it would be a monstrousand a savage application of this principle of a white Australia. I do not believe this committee will consent to go back upon what has been the policy of Australia ever since the white man came here. Now I come to the other question of the coloured races of Asia and Polynesia. In the first place I would call the attention of honorable senators to the fact that we have lately passed an Immigration Restriction Act, which, if administered as it is being administered now, and as it ought to be administered, will practically prohibit the entrance into Australia of any of these people. Some reference has been made in a rather bantering vein by Senator Matheson, to the three gentlemen who have been travelling here for a certain public purpose, for which they are accredited by the Japanese Government. I do not know if he remembers that a section of the Act excepts from its application person s travel! ing ona special mission and accredited by the Government of their country. This case seemed to the Government to come within that exception. Surely we are not going to degenerate into a condition in which we are not to allow any person to enter the Commonwealth who happens to have a black skin, no matter for what purpose he may come, or how he may be < accredited by his Government, or what the object of his mission may be ! If we are going to take up that attitude, I shall be exceedingly surprised. The Prime Minister’s explanation, which I gave to-day, shows that he acted within the law, and I feel quite certain that honorable senators generally .will recognise that there has been no departure from the determination to carry out the expressed intention of the Legislature, and that is to restrict and practically to prohibit the admitting of these Asiatics and coloured races into Australia. I have mentioned that to show that from this time out practically no persons coming under the definition which Senator Matheson has used will enter Australia. When he drew a picture of the few coloured British subjects who might come down here - the educated Chinaman from Hong Kong, who can speak a great many languages, and the educated’ Chinaman from the Straits Settlements - he seemed to forget all about the fact that we have an Immigration Restriction Act, which would prevent their entrance. The Immigration Restriction Act applies to British’ subjects as well as others ; therefore, all these persons from Hong Kong, the Straits Settlements, and any other part of the British dominions could be prohibited from entering, just as coloured aliens could be excluded. So far as the future is concerned, the number of persons who would come under the provision he suggests would be a negligible quantity, and therefore, it would apply to only those within the Commonwealth.
– About 60,000.
– A very large proportion of these aliens are Chinese. The others are made up of the different coloured races which come from India and other countries of the East, including, of course, the kanakas. In the first place, not one of these persons is entitled to vote unless h§ has been naturalized. Those who have the right to vote, because they have been naturalized here, cannot be deprived of that right. While they live they are entitled to vote. With regard to those naturalized persons who are here already the new clause will have no effect. With regard to the future, there will be none coming here to be dealt with, and that covers the whole ground.
– What about the exemptions in the Immigration Restriction Act?
– The exemptions are of such a nature that they cannot be considered in dealing with a question of this sort.
– The Minister is assuming one administration all the time.
– I am assuming an administration which Parliament will take care is carried out. I do not think there ever will be a - Parliament so neglectful of the policy of a white Australia, or so neglectful of Australia’s condition, as to relax in any way the administration of the Act as it is being carried out. The honorable senator need not be afraid of any reactionary Government getting into power, which will be likely to relax its administration in any way. From those persons who are here already no rights can be taken away, and as to those who are coming, their quantity is negligible.
– But you are giving them rights. You are saying that those who are British subjects shall be entitled to go upon the roll. Under the State law they are not entitled to go on the roll ; therefore you are giving a number here rights if they can prove that they are British subjects.
– The honorable senator is mistaken. He will find that by the electoral laws of most of the States the coloured people who are here, being British subjects, are entitled to the franchise. The Chinese are not.
– If naturalized.
– In many places the Chinese cannot by virtue of their coming here as British subjects be allowed to vote, and in other places they can, but by this Bill we do not give them the right to vote.
– But it says “or natural born.”
– It says “ who are natural-born or naturalized subjects of the King.” Those who are natural-born subjects of the’ King are those who are bom here or those who are subjects of the King elsewhere. Those who are naturalized are those who are naturalized by the law of some British territory, or by the law of Australia, or by the law of a State of the Commonwealth. The number who can claim the franchise as being natural-born subjects of the King in other parts of the British dominions who have got in here before the passing of the Immigration Restriction Act, is comparatively small. The number of those who are naturalized here is very small, because in very nearly all the States, since 18SS, Chinamen have not been naturalized. Since that year, in New South Wales, Victoria, and Western Australia, letters of naturalization have not been issued to Chinese. The influx of Chinese during that period has been very small, because the Chinese Restriction Acts have been rigidly administered.
– Except in the Northern Territory and Western Australia.
– There may be some there. The proposition which I laid down when I moved the second reading of the Bill, and which has been assented to by several honorable senators, seems to be unanswerable, namely, that if you grant letters of naturalization, you should give the whole rights of citizenship; that it would be altogether an untenable position to allow persons to have the right of holding property, of trading, of exercising every privilege of a citizen, and then to put him in an inferior position by depriving him of the right to vote. Therefore, in regard to these Chinese, or other aliens, the position is that there are comparatively few of them who have come here as naturalized subjects from other British territories. As to the others, there are very few who have been naturalized, and of Chinese very few indeed since 1888. It would be altogether unworthy of the broad and liberal policy of this Bill to take away the franchise from those comparatively few persons, to go back upon the liberal policy of the States hitherto in regard to the aboriginals, and take away their franchise. The only way of dealing with this matter consistently with existing rights, and with a due regard to our own position as a Commonwealth, is to give the right to vote to every natural-born or naturalized subject of the King, and to trust, as we are entitled to trust, to the operation of that law throughout the whole community to insure the best possible results in the forming of a Legislature. I hope that the amendment will be rejected.
Senator HARNEY (Western Australia). - A good many points which are worthy of consideration have been raised by Senator Matheson, and, although I cannot support his amendment, I consider that some of the observations he made from a constitutional point of view are worthy of comment. I agree with him that a great number of the aboriginals are entirely ignorant of our institutions, have no knowledge of our methods of thought, and are quite as incapable as idiots of exercising the franchise intelligently. But, on the other hand, we must remember that they will every day improve, and that this law is not made for the year 1902, but, as I hope, for 30 or 50 years to come. Personally, I’ agree with the - sentiments expressed by Senator O’Connor. All of us, however circumscribed our ideas may be with regard to the policy of a white Australia, must sympathize with the original owners of the soil of this country. It is their country. They are more familiar with its physical attributes than we are. It is little enough for us to say to them - “If you are able to join with us in the rights of citizenship we will cordially welcome you.” But apart from that view, there seems to bea constitutional point, and that is the matter to which I particularly rose to address myself. Section 127 of the Constitution very distinctly says that -
In reckoning the numbers of the people of the Commonwealth or ofa State or other part of the Commonwealth aboriginal natives shall not be counted.
In other words, in determining by population the quantity of our representation, we are to take no heed of aboriginals. Is it not anomalous, therefore, if in contradiction of the spirit of that section, we say to the aboriginals - “ You shall have no voice in determining the number of representatives, but you shall have a voice in determining the character of a particular representative.” Representation depends quite as much upon the number of persons who voice the opinions of the locality as upon the particular individuals chosen. “We are told that there are 60,000 aboriginals in Western Australia, and that if they were counted for the purpose of determining the number of members sent to the House of Representatives by that State, an additional member would be returned. When the Legislature says : “ You 60,000 aboriginals shall not be entitled to an additional member,” surely it intends also to say, “ The reason you are to be so disentitled is that we regard you as ineffective as parts of the political machine.” That is the only logical way of looking at it. Here I may say frankly that I shall support the Government, but I think it is only fair to Senator Matheson, who, not being a lawyer, has given us a very lucid and lawyer-like speech on the subject, that I should make these points clear. Section 25 of the Constitution says very distinctly -
For the purposes of the last section, which deals with how the quota is to be ascertained, if by the law of any State all persons of any race” are disqualified from voting at elections for the more numerous House of the Parliament of the State then in reckoning the number of the people of the State or of the Commonwealth, persons of that race resident in that State shall not be counted.
That section says unequivocally that those who are disqualified from voting shall not be taken into account in reckoning the number of representatives to be returned. Transpose the converse of those words - “Disqualified from voting” into section 127, and it reads in this way -
In reckoning the numbers of the people of the Commonwealth or of a State, or other part of the Commonwealth, aboriginal natives shall not be counted as persons who are qualified to vote.
That is the only way in which we can read the two sections. I feel sure that Senator O’Connor sees the force of this point, as not only the legal, but the common-sense interpretation of sections 25 and 127. We must read them as enacting that the Legislature declares that aboriginal natives shall not be taken into account, not merely in the calculation as to the number of persons to be returned, but as persons who are qualified to vote. What was the reason for inserting section 127? Why did the Legislature say that aboriginals should not be taken into account in the reckoning ? The reason is given in section 25. It says that they are not to be taken into account, because no persons are to be taken into account who are disqualified from voting. That brings me to another interesting point which was made by Senator Matheson. I am sorry to say that, notwithstanding the vehemence of theVice-President of the Executive Council, and the respect I have for his opinion, I prefer Senator Mathee son’s interpretation of section 41. Senator O’Connor has said that section 41 preserves the rights of aboriginals and other persons, but that from the moment this Bill becomes law it will be impossible for them to acquire similar State rights, or to continue in possession of the Staterights they have now. Senator Matheson says that the true meaning of the section is this - that, notwithstanding the passage of this Bill, any State can, for all time, unless some other Constitution is made, give any rights it thinks proper, for its own. State Parliament; and section 41 says that the rights given in respect of State Houses shall also be exercised in reference to the Commonwealth Parliament. The section is very distinct -
No adult person who has or acquires a right to vote at elections for the more numerous House of the Parliament of a State.
– So that a State Parliament would have it in its power absolutely to alter the franchise of theFederal Parliament. If so, what we are doing is mere wind.
– Clearly so, in one sense.
– Then I don’t agree.
– -What I maintain is that the passage of this Bill will, in no way, prevent a State from giving for its own State House, a more extended franchise than we now give ; and when a State gives a more extended franchise for its own Parliament, that franchise becomes operative for the Federal Parliament. Will any one deny that the opening words of section 41 refer to any person who has a right to vote for the Legislature of, say, South Australia or Western Australia 1 Let us insert words applying to a particular State, and read the section in this way -
No adult person who has now, or who at any time in the future is given a right to vote for the Legislative Assembly of South Australia shall, while that right continues, be prevented by any law from voting at elections for the Federal Parliament.
That is what the section means. The language of it is beyond controversy. I do not know whether it is a wise provision or not, but it is a provision that exists in fact. It is not a section that leaves anything in doubt. The propositions implied in it may be stated with absolute clearness. Proposition (a) - Any person who in the future acquires a right to vote for the Legislative Assembly of any of the States will be entitled to vote for the Commonwealth Parliament. If a person acquires such a right, what happens? If that right be more extended than the right given by this Franchise Bill, the individual possessing the right takes up section 41, and says : “ I claim the right to vote for the Commonwealth Parliament, although I am outside the Commonwealth Franchise Act, because your Constitution says that if I have a right to vote for the Parliament of the State of Western Australia or South Australia, nothing that the Commonwealth Parliament may do is to prevent me also from voting for elections for the Commonwealth Parliament.” It is said that the effect of the amendment would be to deprive sons of the rights that the fathers now possess. I maintain that that would not be the effect of it, because the same property qualification that gives the father the right to vote to-day, will continue to give the son the right to vote to-morrow. Section 4 1 of the Constitution says that all these persons shall have the right to vote for the Commonwealth Parliament.
– If the Convention had intended to give the Commonwealth exclusive jurisdiction in this matter, they would have provided for it in section 51 of the Constitution, which deals with subjects in regard to which we have sole jurisdiction.
– Yes. It is conceded by Senator O’Connor that if this Bill were narrowed down so as to provide only for universal franchise for men, the women of Western Australia and South Australia would continue to have the right to vote for the Commonwealth Parliament, because the laws of those States would override the Commonwealth franchise laws.
– Until the Commonwealth legislates.
– What is the meaning of the words in section 41 ? Why are we to give a different meaning to the word “ acquires “ than that which is ordinarily given to it ? What is there in the Constitution which says that the passing of a Franchise Act by the Commonwealth shall limit the operation of the word “ acquire “ ? We have to remember that we have two systems of franchise - the State and the federal franchise. The question is whether those persons who come within the Commonwealth Franchise Bill have alone the right to vote for the Commonwealth Parliament. The Constitution goes out of its way to say that persons shall have the right to vote, notwithstanding that they may be excluded from the Commonwealth franchise law. I think, therefore, that Senator Matheson’s amendment is not open to the criticism, that if it were passed it would prevent aboriginals who have now the right to vote from continuing to enjoy that right or prevent other aboriginals, who have, now no right, from acquiring subsequently the property qualification, which would give them that right. On the amendment itself, so far as aboriginals are concerned, I have no hesitation in saying, that I believe the true intent of the framers of the Constitution was that aboriginals should not have the right to vote. I believe also that if Senator Matheson’s amendment were carried, it would place aboriginals in the future in no worse position than they are to-day. But while I believe that, I have also to remember that it is desirable to have uniformity, and since the number ‘of aboriginals is so small, and since our sympathies in their favour are so great, it is just as well not to mar the general symmetry of the Bill by making an exception in their case. With reference to the other branch of this subject, I follow Senator O’Connor’s classification in dividing Asiatics and Africans into two classes : those who have not festered the Commonwealth and those who are here already. In regard to the former class, we certainly cannot forget that we have passed a very stringent Immigration Restriction Act. The effect of that measure is that the Custom-house officer who so to speak stands at the portals of the Commonwealth, can let in or keep out exactly whom he pleases. The only possible grounds upon which any person can pass through that narrow gate is that he has satisfied the gate-keeper - the Customs-house officer - that he is in every way worthy of associating with the citizens of Australia that he is proficient in their language ; that there can be no objection to him personally, and that he has all those qualifications and habits and methods of life which render him a fit companion for us. Why then, when we have this strict and stern scrutiny at the gates of the Commonwealth, should we disqualify one when he does get in? Very few will get in. Those who do will merit to the full the right to all the privileges that the Australian nation can confer. As to those who are here already, I must say that a different consideration arises. If it were not for my love of symmetry, and my desire for a uniform franchise, I should certainly be disposed to propose some amendment, or to cut down Senator Matheson’s amendment in such a way as more or less to disfranchise them. It would be anomalous, however, to say that those who come from outside in the future should be al lowed to obtain votes once they get in, and at the same time that those who are here already - who have been here, perhaps, for years, and who have all the advantages of greater experience in the country - should be excluded from the franchise. Although it may be answered that those who come in in future will have passed the test under the Immigration Restriction Act, and will have shown their fitness for citizenship, while those who are here already have not done so, still there would be something of injustice and cruelty in saying that the hundreds of Afghans, Indians, .Japanese, and other coloured people who have been here for years should be in a worse position than one who comes in to-morrow. 33 c 2
When we come to consider their numbers, we find that it is really a matter of very small moment. It is said there are some 70,000 or 80,000 of them ; but we must remember that they are not all entitled to vote. They must be naturalized or naturalborn British subjects. In many of the States those who are naturalized already have the right to vote, and the British subjects who are here and who have not been naturalized are certainly very few. The great race to be feared, and to which we most object, is, I think, the Chinese. Unless a Chinese is naturalized he will -have no right to vote, and the tendency in the past- has been not to extend the rights of British subjects to these people. Therefore all the objections to Chinese being given the right to vote under the Bill as it stands are narrowed down, because, perhaps, only two or three in every hundred will have that right.
– Hitherto the property qualification has prevented them from obtaining it.
– Be that as it may, my honorable friend overlooks the fact that they must be naturalized before they have the right to vote, and that very few of them are. Certainly British subjects from Hong Kong or Singapore would answer the description of “British subjects” in the Bill, and would be entitled to vote if they were here.
– There are hundreds of them here already, but they are barred by the property qualification.
– The logical direct inference from my remarks is this : that aboriginals should not have votes, and that British subjects from Hong Kong and Singapore and every other British possession who are in the Commonwealth already will be given under this measure a right that they ought not to possess. But I think that we should not destroy the completeness, the thoroughness, and the exhaustive character of this Bill merely for the sake of a few hundred residents who can have very little influence by the exercise of their votes. By doing so we should create very invidious distinctions. The aliens who are admitted in the future ought to be treated as citizens, and it would be unfair to those already within the Commonwealth to put them in a worse position than such persons occupy.
– Those who have read Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress will remember a character whom
Bunyan has called Mr. Facing-both ways. I think that if ever there was a gentleman in the world who could accomplish the feat which Bunyan supposes this character to have accomplished, it is the honorable and learned senator who has just spoken. He has unmistakably pointed out in the first place that it is utterly unconstitutional for us to give a vote to any aboriginal native.
– I pointed out nothing of the kind.
– Then the honorable and learned senator faces the other way, and he says that for the sake of symmetry, or something of the kind, he would give votes to the aboriginals against his own deliberate opinion that constitutionally they cannot be given votes.
– I rise to a point of order. I do not care to interrupt my honorable friend Senator Playford, but is he in order in stating that I said what I did not say ?
– That is not a point of order, but the honorable and learned senator will be entitled to make any explanation he may think necessary afterwards.
– I have no wish to exaggerate what Senator Harney has said, but I have given his statement, as it must have appeared to any ordinary senator who is not learned in the law, and who is not supposed to be able to follow the intricacies of a legal opinion upon a constitutional matter of this kind. I understood t,he honorable and learned senator clearly to prove to his own satisfaction, by elaborate references to the Constitution, that it was the evident intention of the framers of the Constitution that the unfortunate aboriginal, whose forefathers were here perhaps tens of thousands of years before we came here, should be excluded from the right to vote, although in all of the States he has that right at the present time. Senator Harney dealt with this celebrated section 41 of the Constitution, and proved to his own intense satisfaction that no matter how we may legislate in this Commonwealth, and no matter what franchise we lay down, it will be in the power of the various States to lower their franchise, as they may do in . a variety of ways, and then the inhabitants of those States can say, “ This is our Constitution; it gives us these rights, and we claim these rights to vote.”
– That is the law.
– I think it has only to be stated to show the hollow absurdity of it. It makes ducks and drakes of our legislation. Instead of our being the highest power in the land in the making of law it would subordinate us to the States. Yet there is another section in the Constitution, section 109, which says that if any law of a State shall conflict with a Commonwealth law, the State law must give place to the law of the Commonwealth. Senator Harney strained the meaning of the words “ has or acquires “ in section 41 of the Constitution, and suggested that the words “or acquires” means for all time, and that- the States are able at any time to ‘ give a special right, and it must then become the. law of the Commonwealth. The thing is absurd. What was intended by the framers of the Constitution is exactly what Senator O’Connor has told us, that in the interval between the enactment of the Constitution by the Parliament of Great Britain and the time when the Commonwealth Parliament deals with the subject, the States may alter their franchise and give greater franchise -facilities, and those facilities must then be taken into account up to the time when we, as a Commonwealth, deal with the matter. Directly we deal with it, and pass a uniform f franchisefor the whole of the Commonwealth, no State can interfere with it in an)’ way whatever. The only way in which the franchise can then be altered so far as the Commonwealth is concerned, is by the Commonwealth Parliament itself. Coming to Senator Matheson’s amendment, providing that no aboriginal native of Australia shall be entitled to a vote, I quite agree with the position taken up by the leader of the Senate. This Parliament can do no such thing so far as a majority of the States are concerned ; but I contend that it would be a heartless thing to do what Senator Matheson proposes, and it is absurd that we should say we are so frightened of the original inhabitants of this continent that we dare not allow them the right to vote. In the past the States have given that right, and to what extent have the)’ exercised it ? On) y to an exceedingly limited extent, and they are likely to exercise the right in future only when they come within the limits of the civilized portions of Australia where a white population is settled. What is the result of the contact between them and the white population 1 Disappearance and death. I suppose that when the 30,000 or 40,000 natives in Western Australia - they cannot be exactly enumerated - come into contact with the white civilization they will pass away as others have passed away before them in all the other States. In Tasmania, I believe, there is not one left. I recollect when I landed first in South Australia that we had there what was called the Adelaide tribe, which consisted of over 300 natives, and the last of them died ten or fifteen years ago. At Encounter Bay, where Flinders and the French navigator met, we know that the natives were at one time exceedingly troublesome. They committed many murders there, and we had to punish them very severely for a time. I do not think there is a single Encounter Bay native left north of Adelaide. An odd one may be seen here and there, but we must go to the wilds of Australia, where there is no white settlement, to find any number of them. We need not, therefore, fear any injurious results from following the practice of the majority of the States, and allowing the aboriginal natives to vote. Dealing with the next part of the amendment, there is a point that deserves consideration. Of the races mentioned, the only one that is likely to trouble us is the Chinese race. We have already passed a clause in this Bill which says that, subject to the disqualifications hereafter set out, all adults in the Commonwealth may be placed upon electoral rolls if they .are natural-born or naturalized subjects of the King. We have a considerable number of Chinese in various parts of the Commonwealth. In many of the States they have been prevented from voting, except in cases where they have been allowed to become naturalized. That has been allowed only to an extremely limited extent, and for many years it has practically been stopped altogether. We have a few naturalized Chinese in the Northern Territory of South Australia and a few in Adelaide, but we have never acknowledged as a State their right to vote if they happened to be natural-born subjects of His Majesty.
– There is nothing in the State laws of South Australia to prevent it. The South Australian Act gives them the right to vote if they are natural-born subjects of the King.
– Our Constitution gives them that right.
– It is a very singular thing that they have never been allowed the right. In many parts of Australia there are thousands of Chinamen who are undoubtedly natural-born subjects of His Majesty. In the Northern Territory there are 3,000 Chinamen and only 500 whites, and a great many of these Chinese are natives of Hong Kong, Singapore, Malacca, Penang, and the Straits Settlements. When I stopped at Port Darwin in 1890, there was a young Chinese boy, whose name was Toby, told off by the landlady of the hotel to wait upon Mrs. Playford and myself. I put a good many questions to him, as he was a highly-intelligent young man. I asked where he came from, and he said he came from Hong Kong, and was born in Hong Kong ; but I know that Toby had no vote.
– There was a special law disfranchising the Chinese of the Northern Territory.
– I know that there was this special law but under the Bill those Chinese will have the right to vote, and out of the 3,000 I believe that over 1,000 will be able to claim the right as British subjects. What will be the result if they do ? They are highly-intelligent and well-educated men, and if any hankypanky tricks are tried to prevent them getting upon the rolls, they will appeal to the courts, and the courts will give them the right. The result will be that the 500 whites in the district will be swamped by the Chinese. I suppose there are from 25,000 to 30,000 Chinese in Victoria, and, perhaps, the same number in New South Wales, and there are a considerable number in Queensland. Of these there is a certain percentage which it will be very difficult to estimate who will, under this Bill, claim the right to vote, and we shall not be able to prevent them from exercising that right, because on appeal the courts will see that the law is administered fairly, so long as the appellants can prove that they are naturalized subjects of the King. Now comes the question whether, for the sake of making the law uniform, it is wise to run this risk. In the Northern Territory the risk is unmistakable. What it is in Western Australia I do not know. A number of Malays are engaged in pearl fishing, and there are a number of Japanese and others in the State. Very few of them are British subjects - the Singapore Malay is a British subject- - but the result would be that to a certain extent we might be swamped by them. It is a serious question, requiring grave consideration, whether it is wise to pass such a law without any qualification. A large number of these Asiatic and alien races will enter if the door is left open, and in the Northern Territory they will become a very serious menace and a domineering faction at elections. I should like to hear Senator O’Connor say a little more on the subject. By interjection I tried to explain to him what I was driving at, and he discussed the point up to a certain extent. When he was speaking to the second reading of the Bill, I interjected that this clause would allow a nigger from Jamaica, if he were in the Commonwealth, to be registered as a voter. Since we can keep out the nigger from Jamaica under the Immigration Restriction Act, there is no danger from that source so far as the future is concerned. The dangeris to be apprehended from those whom we have here, and who are British- born subjects. To what extent they are I do not know, and I suppose we have no means of ascertaining. I should think that to a very considerable extent these Chinamen have been born on British soil. I do not like to vote for the amendment as it is. I am inclined to vote for the portion which relates to Asiatics, Africans, and Polynesians, but I shall not. vote for the portion relating to aboriginal natives.
Senator McGREGOR (South Australia). -Before Senator O’Connor replies to the remarks of Senator Playford, I should like to speak to the amendment, and to give my opinion on the constitutional aspect of the question. I entirely agree with the interpretation which Senator O’Connor puts on the Constitution. If Senator Harney and others who share his view, will refer to section 30, and also read the intention of the members of the Convention, in connexion with that and other provisions of the Constitution, they will see at once that Senator O’Connor was right. It is stated in that section that -
Until the Parliament otherwise provides, the qualification of electors of members of the House of Representatives shall be in each State that which is prescribed by the law of the State as the qualification of the electors of the more numerous! House of the’ Parliament of the State.
What did that provision mean at the time it was framed, or what does it mean now ? It means that if it were taken alone, this
Parliament would have the power to extend or to limit the franchise, in fact to enact household suffrage as regards both Houses. Some members of the Convention perceived a danger in leaving the provision by itself, and, therefore, being liberal men, they came to the conclusion that they should provide for the preservation of adult suffrage where it existed. The whole question at issue was to prevent women from being deprived of the suffrage by any law which might be passed in the Federal Parliament. It was not a question of the Chinamen or the aboriginals. It was simply a question of preserving the liberal franchise in South Australia, and its delegates took a most active part in providing in section 41 for its preservation. I should be very sorry indeed if it could ever be said of a British’ community that they went into a country like Australia, which was very sparsely populated by what might have been called at the time a savage race, but what was really a harmless race-
– In some parts of the continent there may have been cannibals. There is any amount of proof that in the far distant past our forefathers were cannibals, but we do not cast that up at one another now. Why should we cast it up at the unfortunate aborigines who may happen to possess the franchise? In the majority of the States those aborigines who have shown that they are intelligent enough to exercise the franchise are entitled to do so, but they have only availed themselves of the right to a very limited extent, and no evil consequences have resulted. None of the wicked squatters in New South Wales or South Australia, or even in Victoria, ever attempted to stuff the rolls with the names of aboriginals, because they knew very well that if there was no more tobacco or flour there would be no more votes. In Queensland and Western Australia such abhorrent practices have been carried out by some people in authority that the aborigines have every reason to be suspicious. They may have reason still to be suspicious, but in the future the Commonwealth will be able to protect all the States from such abuses. I should be very sorry if we took away a right from a declining race like the aborigines, but with respect to Chinese, Japanese, Africans, and other aliens, who are much more dangerous than the aborigines, I should be quite willing to take some step. What Senator Playford has said is absolutely correct with respect to a great many of the Chinese in Australia. In New South Wales, the senatorial party scarcely entered a hotel in which two or three Chinese were not knocking about the kitchen. That is the reason why there are nearly 8,000 Chinese and Japanese employed in that State. I do not wish that these aliens should be allowed to exercise power to the injury of the white population. I should like the amendment of Senator Matheson to be confined to all coloured races except the aborigines. Therefore, I move -
That the amendment be amended by the omission of the word “Australia.”
– On two or three occasions Senator Playford has called my attention to the position of the natural-born British subject who comes here. I admit that until this debate arose I did not full)’- realize the significance of his interjections. In all the State Acts except one, the words of enfranchisement are exactly those which are used in this Bill. The persons who are entitled to the franchise are natural-born and naturalized subjects of His Majesty. The expression is varied in different cases but the meaning is the same. In the South Australian Act an exception is made in the case of immigrants under the Indian Immigration Act of 1882. The Electoral Code of 1896 first of all gives the right to vote to all natural-born and naturalized British subjects and then it provides that -
In the Northern Territory, immigrants under the Indian Immigration Act .1882, and all persons except natural-born British subjects and Europeans or Americans naturalized as British subjects, are disqualified from voting.
That really reaffirms that every natural-born or naturalized subject - that is persons from countries other than those coming under the Indian Immigration Act - is allowed to vote. I have looked carefully through all the Chinese Restriction Acts, and there is no provision in any of them depriving a Chinaman who is a natural-born subject of His Majesty in any other part of the world from voting if he is here. There are a number of Acts which impose restrictions on Chinese coming here, but being here, there is no provision which deprives them of their right to vote. I have not only had the matter inquired into for me, but I have examined the Acts and that appears to me to be exactly what the position is.
We find that in all the States a naturalized British subject of His Majesty the King, whether he comes from Hong Kong, or the Straits Settlements, or anywhere else, has the right to vote now. In Queensland he can only vote with a property qualification. In South Australia he is deprived of the franchise if he comes in under a certain Act, but otherwise he can vote’. That being so, the present condition of things is that these natural - born and naturalized British subjects who are here now have the right, and we cannot take it away from them. This is a very important question, and can only be thoroughly understood by looking at the Acts. That I have done. The committee, I am sure, have no desire to pass this measure in a form which is unconstitutional, and will therefore remember that, as far as concerns persons who already have the vote, the only question really is that in Queensland and Western Australia that right is subject to a property qualification. Shall we remove that qualification from those persons? Is it worth while to put this exception in the Bill for the sake of altering the position of a few coloured aliens in Western Australia and South Australia who are now entitled to vote by virtue of property, and who, under this measure, will be entitled to vote without regard to property 1 It is not worth while to make a blot upon a liberal measure . of this kind for the sake of doing that.
– As a representative of Western Australia, I must ask the committee to adhere to Senator Matheson’s amendment. It is all very well to talk of liberalizing the franchise in regard to the aliens who are natural-born subjects of the King living in Western Australia and Queensland, but we must remember how this provision will affect those States which contain the greatest portion of such Asiatics. In Queensland and Western Australia there is a greater proportion of coloured naturalized British subjects of the King than in the other States.
– They have a right to vote now when they possess property.
– But that is practically a prohibitive law in Western Australia. Most of these men are pearl-divers or vegetable-growers in the north-west, and possess no property qualification. I can understand a representative of Tasmania not feeling any sympathy in regard to the matter, because there are practically- no coloured people in that State. But there are parts of Western Australia where there is more coloured than white labour. In Roebourne, Cossack, and Broome the coloured men outnumber the whites. It is the same in Cairns. Since the passage of the Pacific Island Labourers Act the coloured population of Cairns is absolutely boycotting the white population, and is likely to drive the whites out of the town. The white population in the northern portion of Queensland, therefore, do not want to enlarge the scope for voting to British subjects simply because they happen to have been born at Singapore or Hong Hong. Why give a vote to a Chinaman who happens to be born in Hong Kong and not to one who happens to be born in the interior of China ? The one man is quite as objectionable as the other. I trust that the Senate will recognise the desirability of passing the amendment.
Senator GLASSEY (Queensland).- This is a matter of very serious” moment, as far as Queensland is concerned. It is all very well for honorable senators to be benevolently inclined towards aboriginals and coloured aliens, but that policy means letting loose a large number of persons who will be able to affect our elections in Queensland in a manner that will be detrimental to the interests of that State and of the whole Commonwealth. Senator Playford says that it will be altogether wrong to deny the franchise to aboriginals, who were the original owners of the continent, and have been here for tens of thousands of years. But during the whole of that time what progress have the aboriginals made1?
– That is no reason why we should take away from them what is their right.
– Simply because they have been here for a number of years we are asked to enfranchise them. Queensland has not been so benevolent, although, on the whole, she has been, perhaps, just as careful of the interests of the aboriginals as any State. Coghlan has been referred to in the course of the discussion. It has been said that because there are not many of these people it is not worth while to quarrel about their enfranchisement. But Coghlan, on page 291, says -
It has been asserted that there are some 70,000- aboriginals in Queensland, but that is a very crude estimate, and may be far wide of the truth.
Assuming that there are not as many as 70,000 aboriginals in Queensland, it can readily be seen what a far-reaching effect their enfranchisement will have upon the representation of that State in the Federal Parliament. The passage of the Bill as it stands would be antagonistic to the sentiments of public opinion in the State I represent. We have inserted provisions in our Mining and Railway Acts and in other legislation providing that these persons shall not be employed in competition with white people. Yet the Government of the Commonwealth, against the wish of Queensland, proposes to enfranchise the aboriginals. What are the facts as to the other coloured races? There are something like 24,000 coloured people, including kanakas, Chinese, Cingalese, Japanese, and others, in Queensland. There are very few women and children amongst them. It has been shown that every possible device will be resorted to in order to naturalize these people with the view of keeping them in the State. Is not that a danger to be apprehended so far as Queensland is concerned ? Certainly it is, and a very serious danger, and therefore I cannot sit by and allow the proposal to be carried without entering my protest against it. It is a matter that deserves very serious attention, but I am afraid that at this late hour it will not receive that calm consideration which would be given to it if the matter were postponed until tomorrow. I shall certainly vote for Senator Matheson’s amendment, and I regret that the Government should have introduced a proposal such as this, which will undoubtedly create a hostile feeling in the minds of many people in the State from which I come.
Senator STEWART (Queensland).- I think we need not hurry the settlement of this matter. It is one of very great importance, at all events to Queensland, and those honorable senators who represent States which in a very great measure have got rid of the black evil, should have some sympathy with the people of that State whoare yet troubled with a very large number of these negroes. I do not believe that I am any more savage in my nature than is any ordinary Scotchman, but I am going to support what, according to the VicePresident, is the monstrous proposition put forward by Senator Matheson. Has Senator O’Connor ever met a blackfellow with sufficient intelligence to qualify him for the franchise ?
– Hundreds of them.
– Then the honorable and learned senator has been much more fortunate than I have been. I have lived in a State where the blackfellows are much more numerous than in New South Wales but I have never met one who took any interest in politics, or to whom I would give the franchise. What is to be gained by giving it to them 1 Do they understand English ? Do they know anything of our institutions? Have they any sympathy with our ideals of government? Do they know anything about government?
– Those who would ask for the right to vote certainly would know something about it.
– My experience compels me to come to the conclusion that not 1 per cent, of them would be qualified in the sense I have indicated. How will this measure operate in Queensland if it becomes law? There blacks are employed on a number of stations according to the size of the stations. A station-owner, like other people, is anxious, to get as much political power as possible, and he would take care to put on the rolls these opiumeating blacks, these ignorant aboriginals, these people who do not care two straws about the government of the country so long as they can get their daily tucker and their allowance of opium. He would muster them up at every election and they would inevitably vote for the squatters’ candidate. If the Government is going to expose the working people of Queensland to this sort of thing, I am not going tq be a party to it. The only conclusion I can come to is that the Government can know nothing about the aboriginal question in Australia. I am going to vote for Senator Matheson’s amendment, and I trust that the majority of honorable senators will support me in trying to save the people of Queensland from anything of this kind.
– In Western Australia, if Senator Matheson’s amendment is not passed, there will be half-a-dozen State electorates which will be controlled by the aboriginal and Chinese votes.
– Does the honorable and learned senator think there is any possibility of that ?
– We are going to guard against even the appearance of evil. We have honorable senators from Queensland and Western Australia, which are the States most seriously affected, unanimous on the point, and protesting strongly against aboriginals being permitted to vote. For that reason I appeal to honorable senators from other States to be guided by us in this matter. With regard to other coloured people we are in a most serious position in Queensland. ‘ Three out of every five adults in Northern Queensland are white, and two are coloured. If we give the coloured people the franchise in that part of the State we may alter the whole basis of representation, and instead of having democratic representatives in the Federal Parliament representing the’ ideals and desires of white men, we may have representatives whose whole concern will be to operate against the idea of a white Australia. Who would the Chinese vote for ? Does any one imagine that they would vote for a candidate, a plank in whose platform was a white Australia ? Then, again, Thursday Island is almost in the possession of the Japanese, Manilla men, and others from various parts of Asia. If these people had the right to vote, the whole character of Queensland’s representation might be altered. I am very glad that two of the States at all events have had the wisdom of limiting their rights. It appears to me that we are most generous. If a Chinaman went from Hong Kong to Great Britain, does any one imagine that he would be granted the franchise immediately, on the ground that he was a British subject? Do the millions of natives in India have a vote amongst them ? Yet, under this extremely liberal Constitution of ours, we would give them votes because they are British subjects. I consider I am as good a democrat as is any one, but lam not prepared to go that length. I do not allow any sentiment to govern me. when the preservation of our political institutions is at stake. I am opposed to these people coming here, and I am opposed to the franchise being extended to them. They know nothing about our institutions ; they have no sympathy with them ; they do not understand our language, and they cannot by any possibility assimilate with us. Therefore, I trust that the committee will support
Senator Matheson’s amendment without any qualification. I do not even believe in Senator McGregor’s proposal. I fail to see why we should make any exception with regard to an aboriginal Australian. If he were an intelligent man, I should be the last to refuse him the franchise, but he is not. We provide for the education of the white man, and presume that he has sufficient intelligence to vote. The blackfellow, however, does not avail himself of any such provision that has been made for him by the State, and he would only be used by employers as a tool.
– It is a little novel to see Senator Stewart assuming a role which we have been absolutely unaccustomed to regard him as filling. I have been quite surprised to find the honorable senator, instead of being the democrat we all believed . him to be, such an absolute conservative in a matter of this sort. He tells us that in certain parts of Queensland there are a number of coloured aliens who do not at present exercise the franchise. With a great deal of vehemence he asked us if they were enfranchised to-morrow, for whom we imagined they would vote. The attitude he takes up is that he would not like to see these men enfranchised, because he objects to their politics, and he is afraid they would not vote for him, or for the party to which he belongs. I agree with those who have already said that we are here to legislate for the Commonwealth as a whole. It may be argued that because in some of the States we have not so many aliens or aboriginals as they have in the western State, we do not approach this question in a proper spirit.
– Honorable senators do not see the danger so clearly.
– Senator Pearce has already referred to the comparatively few coloured aliens he saw in Tasmania, but we must look at the character of the legislation which has been in operation in these States for many years, and in Tasmania there are no restrictions imposed upon any naturalized subjects of the Crown other than those imposed on natural-born subjects of whatever colour they may be.
– The necessity for such a restriction has never been felt there.
– We have had numbers of coloured aliens in Tasmania, and probably at times far more proportionately to, the population than there was in the State of Western Australia. Our eastern mining fields have often been extensively populated by Chinese and others coming from Asia, and yet the only qualification for the position of a voter has been that the applicant shall be a natural-born or naturalized subject of the Crown, irrespective of his place of origin or his colour, and shall have been resident a certain time in Tasmania. So that, to put a hypothetical case, if any of those aboriginals of Western Australia, though disqualified to vote in that State for the members of the State Parliament, should leave that State and find themselves in Tasmania for a period of six months, it would be competent for them, being natural-born subjects of the King, to get upon the electoral roll in Tasmania. The same thing would apply in other States where there has been no restriction of the character now sought to be imposed. If the amendment is carried, it will destroy the symmetry and uniformity which characterize this measure. As we have decided to carry out the long contemplated project of having a federal franchise upon the basis of which this Parliament shall be elected, I hope that uniformity will not be destroyed by this amendment which has not been put forward in the interests of the Commonwealth regarded as a whole. For the reasons I have given, and in view of the fact that we have taken steps to prevent any further immigration into Australia, of those whom we consider undesirable aliens, I think that in passing this Bill, we should recognise, as we” have done, the necessity of establishing a uniform system of franchise covering the widest franchise existing in any of the States. It is upon that principle, as well as upon general principles, that I have supported the proposal for woman’s suffrage, and it is upon that principle that I support the proposal now put forward by the Government.
Question - That the word “Australia” proposed to be omitted stand part of the amendment - put.
The committee divided -
Ayes … … … 8
Noes … … … 12
Majority … … 4
Question so resolved in the negative.
Amendment of amendment agreed to.
Question - That the amendment, as amended, be agreed to - put. The committee, divided -
Ayes …. …. … 12
Noes … … … 8
Majority … … 4
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Amendment, as amended, agreed to.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clause 6 -
No person shall be entitled -
– I wish to move the omission of paragraph (b) of the clause. We threshed the question out before when we were discussing the Electoral Bill, and I now move -
That the words “ To vote at any election except in the electoral division for which he is enrolled,” be omitted.
– I would urge the honorable senator to withdraw the amendment. We have already tested the question. There is another Bill in course of transmission between this House and the House of Representatives in connexion with which it is possible the question may be raised, and we shall have a further opportunity of dealing with it. In the meantime I would ask Senator Stewart not to prejudice honorable senators on the question.
Clause agreed to.
Bill reported with amendments.
SenatorDRAKE laid upon the table the following paper -
Despatch from the Secretary of State for the Colonies with regard to the representation of the Commonwealth at the Coronation by a body of troops.
Ordered to be printed.
Senate adjourned at 10. 50 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 10 April 1902, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1902/19020410_senate_1_9/>.