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Thursday, 17 November 1910


Senator READY (Tasmania) .- I cannot claim, like Senator W. Russell, to possess1 very great experience and a lengthy career in political life. No doubt I am one of those to whom the Deputy Leader of the Opposition alluded as being without experience. Although I have not the virtue of many years to my credit, still I wish to utter a few words in support of this important motion. In his criticism, the Deputy Leader of the Opposition did not dare to attack the principle of womanhood suffrage. On the contrary, he very carefully left that alone, and attempted, vainly I take it,, to pour ridicule on the fact that the Senate of the National Parliament of Australia intends to send, as I feel sure it does, a message to the great Mother Country on an important question like adult suffrage. I consider his remarks as somewhat of a reflection on this deliberative assembly. Surely if we happen to be a young nation of only 4,500,000 people, the opinion of this Senate on a public question must carry a good deal of weight with the Imperial authorities. Every honorable senator has heard the saying, " a little child shall lead them." So far as progressive legislation and advanced ideas are concerned, I do not see why we in Australia should not be able to put forward many propositions which would be worth following, even by a mighty nation like Great Britain.

We are part of the Empire, and I take it that any recommendation we may make will receive, not only full consideration in the Old Country, but also carry a good deal of weight. In his attempts to throw ridicule on the motion, the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, I repeat, did not dare to ridicule the principle.


Senator Walker - Why should he? We do not object to the principle.


Senator READY - I think that in the past the objections to the principle came, to a very great extent, from those who sit on the other side.


Senator Walker - Certainly not; the honorable senator is absolutely wrong.


Senator READY - In Tasmania, as in South Australia, the greatest opponents of womanhood suffrage have been the Conservatives.


Senator Walker - Who gave adult suffrage in Australia but the Federal Convention?


Senator O'Keefe - The only opposition to womanhood suffrage in the Senate came from the side' on which I am temporarily sitting.


Senator READY - We know that prominent members of the party which Senator Walker adorns opposed womanhood suffrage very largely and consistently in the past.


Senator Walker - I have never opposed it, from start to finish.


Senator READY - The honorable senator is a golden exception to prove the rule.


Senator Walker - The Federal Convention unanimously approved of womanhood suffrage.


Senator READY - In Tasmania, the , members of the Legislative Council, although they opposed womanhood suffrage very bitterly, do not dare to say anything about it now. In the portion of Tasmania in which I reside the women were told that their votes were worth having. Gatherings were organized, to which ladies who considered themselves superior to the common people invited the wives of working men. They also gave them social evenings, in order to win their votes. I heard of one instance in which ladies took cauliflowers and honey to the wives of the workers, and told them that they owed too much to their husbands to allow the Labour party to be put into power, for if this eventuated there would be no work for them, as capital would leave the country. The persons who took round these cauliflowers evidently had a large number to spare. Probably they were cheap. I know of another instance in which a meeting was held, at which the women folk were provided with coffee and buns. I do not know whether they were bath-buns. To the credit of a good many of the women, they rose in a body and walked out of the building. They refused to be bribed by these social favours. I am pleased to be able to say that, despite all these attempts to win the women's vote in Tasmania, the Labour party in that State captured six out of eight seats at the recent Federal elections. In Hobart the women evidenced a great deal more interest in politics than did the men. We must, further, remember that their brand of politics must be pure.

As the result of the advent of women into the political arena, politics have been purified to a large extent. At the recent elections some of the ladies of Hobart worked for the Labour candidates all day ; and I know of one lady who remained at the polling booth from early in the morning till 7 o'clock in the evening, with no interval for lunch. The adoption of women's suffrage has brought into the political field a band of earnest workers who have exercised a noble influence on the politics of Australia. Senator Rae deserves every credit for having brought forward this motion. We know that a number of honorable senators opposite will oppose anything of a progressive character. In the past they have condemned every progressive step by bell, book, and candle. But I trust that every representative of labour in this Chamber will vote for the motion, in order that the people of Great Britain may see how this great democratic country of Australia is desirous of helping those who are struggling for political freedom.







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