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Tuesday, 31 August 1920

Mr BAMFORD (Herbert) .- Judging from the attitude of the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. Charlton), one can only come to the conclusion that he is afraid, to give the women a vote for fear that their influence at the ballot would be recorded against strikes. The honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Fenton) has just advanced the strongest possible arguments that no one in an industrial community is prepared to fight harder and longer under strike conditions than the women folk. It is fortunate for the women of the Commonwealth that the honorable member for Hunter was not a member of this Parliament when the Franchise Act was passed. If one may take a line from his attitude to-day, it would not be unfair to suggestthat he would not have voted to give the women the franchise.

Sir JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) (Treasurer) - They are not Democrats on that side.

Mr BAMFORD - Of course not; the Democrats are all congregated behind the Government, and I hope they will presently indorse that statement by their attitude in division. Surely the women whom we gave the right to assist in the selection of members to this Parliament should be entitled to vote in a matter of industrial trouble, which is far more important and more closely concerned with their lives than a Federal election. I have not the statistics at my hand, but could furnish figures to prove that since the Arbitration Act came into force there have been more strikes in Australia than during any previous period of' equal length. The Act has been practically a dead letter. What good has it accom- . plished? Yet, when I endeavour to introduce a proposal to make the Act, in some respects, at any rate, serviceable, the Minister (Mr. Groom), who is so optimistic about the Bill, indicates that he cannot accept it. He ought to know how matters are run in trade union circles nowadays. When there is trouble brewing in the part of Australia' from which I come, a meeting is called. The secretary and the organizers are on the platform, and a motion, which has been framed beforehand, is put to the meeting. The chairman says, "Now, you 'dinkum blokes,' get over to that side; and you bally scabs,' you get over to the other side." Of course, there are no " scabs " ; the resolution is unanimously agreed to. When the honorable member for Maribyrnong refers to the eagerness of girls to stand out in a strike, he forgets that they have no responsibilities ; they are not the mothers of families. I ask the honorable member for Hindmarsh how large is his family?

Mr Makin - I have a family.

Mr BAMFORD - As a sensible man, with comparatively light responsibilities, and a banking account, no doubt, to fall back upon, he prepares himself, in the event of trouble brewing in his union. But what about the position of men with large families; and what of their womenfolk? Why should honorable members object to State and Commonwealth electoral officers conducting a ballot? They are prepared to trust these officials to control an election for Parliament. And, why should they object to the President of the Arbitration Court being given the power to say that there shall be a secret ballot? Possibly, the phraseology of my amendment is not all that could be wished, from an experienced legal point of view; but the principle is there, and I have no objection to it being differently clothed.

Sir JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) (Treasurer) - It is the principle of adult suffrage.

Mr BAMFORD - The plural vote; just as there is plural voting for the election of members of the Federal Legislature.

Mr Brennan - Then, the honorable member would be favorable to the children also being given a vote?

Mr BAMFORD - No, for the reason that the fathers dominate the children, who would be afraid to vote other than at their parents' behest. I cannot help but admire the optimism of the Minister ; he expects great ' things of the Bill. I recall that the late Mr. Deakin delivered three magnificent speeches on the first Arbitration Bill. He spoke in the same optimistic tone; but is there industrial peace to-day? Has the Arbitration Act achieved what Mr. Deakin hoped and expected of it? Are we not now threatened by a strike of coalminers which is going to hold up every industry in the Commonwealth?

Mr Charlton - No.

Mr BAMFORD - Then, what is the purpose of the conference which has been called, and is to continue to sit further, with the avowed object of preventing such a strike? Strikes in the honorable member's electorate have not only held up the industries of the country in the past but have done serious damage in his own neighbourhood. The honorable member for Hunter should be prepared to welcome anything that would furnish opportunity for the people most closely concerned in a strike to have a full and complete say.

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