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Thursday, 17 November 1910

Senator DE LARGIE (Western Australia) . - When I saw this motion on the business-paper, I thought it would be sure to go through without opposition, and I have been surprised to find that in this "Senate, and in this enlightened year, we have a remnant of the old Conservative forces prepared to oppose this wellestablished principle. If we were living in some of the older countries in the world, that is what we might expect, but in a young country like this, that has already experienced the benefits of women's franchise, it is surprising to find that there is even one individual left who is hostile to the principle. Senator Gould, in discussing the motion, carefully avoided arguing whether the principle was right or wrong. He sheltered himself behind the question whether we have the right to advise the older countries of the world.-

Senator Walker - Have we?

Senator DE LARGIE - Yes, we have the best possible right. We have, in this matter, the right of our experience of womanhood suffrage. We know how this principle has operated in Australia, and in this respect, being politically older than the Old Country, we have the right to give this advice.

Senator Lt Colonel Sir Albert Gould - Does the honorable senator suggest that we should also advise South Africa, Canada, and New Zealand?

Senator DE LARGIE - Why not? Senator Gould will admit that the greatest difficulty which the parliamentarian is confronted with is that, when he is aware that a law has been enacted in a foreign coun- try which he thinks might be usefully applied here, he has no means of knowing how it has operated.

Senator Lt Colonel Sir Albert Gould -Why should we give this gratuitous advice ? There has been no request for it.

Senator DE LARGIE - Why should we not give advice when we know that we are on safe grounds iri giving it? By passing this motion, we shall be merely expressing an opinion on a matter on which we are able to speak dogmatically. We shall only be saying how a particular law has operated in Australia.

Senator Walker - It will be time enough to do that when we are asked to do it.

Senator DE LARGIE - I am not so sure that we have not been asked for this advice. I have yet to learn that we have not been asked for it very plainly by the people of the Old Country.

Senator Walker - Have they sent a cable message asking us for this advice?

Senator DE LARGIE - That is not the only way in which a request may be made. We know the disgraceful scenes which have occurred in the Old Country during recent years in connexion with the women's suffrage movement. I see no reason why we should not take notice of that movement. Let me remind honorable senators that this is not a party question in the Old Country. I am sorry, for the sake of the Liberals of the Old Country, that it is not. If they had been really Liberal in their views, they would have taken up this question years ago. As it is not a party question in the Old Country, we can claim, in giving this advice, that we are not taking sides in the matter. Having benefited by our experience of the operation of this great principle, we should, I think, be lacking in our duty if we fail to make the facts known. I hope that those who intend to oppose the motion will, give some more substantial grounds for their, opposition than that we are a younger people than the people we propose to advise. I hold that, politically speaking, and in political experience, we are not junior to any country in the world. As a matter of fact, we are, in politics, the pacemakers for the world. There is more experimenting going on in the political arena in Australia than in any other country, and how, therefore, can any one contend that we are politically the juniors of the other countries of the World? If it is length of years' only that gives . the right to advise, we should not be allowed to enter the Senate until we have reached the age of three-score and ten. In former years that was a qualification for a legislator, and men had to reach the age of dotage before they were considered able to pass laws. But that method of estimating knowledge and capacity is out of date. Knowledge and experience should be the qualifications for the right to advise, and not merely the number of years a man has lived. We are in every way fitted to advise in this matter, because we know how the principle has operated. There is nothing left for me to argue about, because the one opponent of the motion who has so far addressed the Senate has advanced no reason against it. If honorable senators opposite submit arguments against the principle, those who support the motion may have something to answer. As I have nothing to meet but prejudice, I shall not be justified in delaying the passage of. the motion, and will content myself with the few words I have said. I hope that it will be carried, and that it will assist the people in the Old Country. We should have some regard for them, and should be prepared to give them light when we know that in this matter they are in the darkness of the densest ignorance at the present time. As Senator Henderson has pointed out, the franchise has not yet been extended fully to men in the Old Country. I do not say that they have any better right to it than have women, but ordinarily it is given to men before it is given to women. In all the circumstances, there are good reasons why we should advise the Old Country in this matter, and I have, therefore, great pleasure in supporting the motion.

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