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Thursday, 17 November 1910

Senator W RUSSELL (SOUTH AUSTRALIA) . - I am glad to have the opportunity of supporting the motion. Surely Senator Gould will admit that I am not too young to express an opinion on a subject of this kind when I state that I was sixty-eight years old last month. Surely in the Senate I cannot be considered a youth ready to speak first and to think afterwards. In 1866 I left the Old Country. If I had had much veneration for the Old

Country and its politics, probably I would not be found on the side on which I am. to-day in politics. I saw how things were carried on there. There was Conservatism with a vengeance, and all the evils of landlordism. A poor farmer who dared to vote against the interest of his landlord was liable to lose his farm, and a man who shot a hare was sure to be turned out.

Senator de Largie - And transported.

Senator W RUSSELL (SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - Yes, and I. nearly got into trouble of that kind. Although that has no connexion with the question of the franchise, still it was one of the things which led me to see the evils of the Old Country in that respect, and since then I have been found on the other side of politics. When I was twenty-three years of age my employer gave me a gun and. said, " Willie, go across to the potato field and frighten the crows that are destroying the potatoes. " When I had got about 10 chains across ' a grass paddock I saw a hare behind a tussock, as near to me as is the Senate table now. I was sorely tempted to fire. 1 do not know whether it was the devil who was tempting me or not - I had the gun loaded and would have liked to fire, but my Scottish caution saved me. I recognised that if I fired at the hare I should kill it and get branded as a vagabond. Who would like to remain in a country of that sort? Shortly after I got into the potato field the gamekeeper came across to me and said, " Young man, what did you fire at?" I did not fire the gun at all in the grass paddock, but when I got to the potato paddock I fired at a sparrow, and the report, frightened away a crow. The gamekeeper then came across to me, and what would have been the result if I had fired at the hare? I should have been branded as a vagabond. When I remember that incident. I. do not look upon the Old Country in a political sense as a. guide to us in Australia. We are much in advance of it. If honorable senators want to know how I became such a Radical, in politics, there is my history. An act of Conservatism, of landlordism, in the: Old Country led mer to some extent to become, as I am happy to foe to-day-,, a member of the Labour party. Again, in 1894 I was elected to the Legislative Council of South Australia. The Kingston-Holder Government was in office, and one of the principal planks of its platform was adult suffrage for the House of Assembly. What a fight we had in both Houses ! Not a Conservative in either

House voted for the measure. Senator Gould's speech on this motion recalled the speeches of the Conservatives in the Legislative Council on that occasion. They urged that if the franchise were granted to women the poor children would be neglected, the father's dinner would not be ready when he came home, women would mix with drunken men at the poll, and awful disaster would take place because the husband would be found voting for one candidate and the wife for another. That has never happened in my case. I have never asked my wife whom she intended te vote for.

Senator Stewart - Did she vote for the honorable senator?

Senator W RUSSELL (SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - She had wisdom enough to do that. The Conservatives in both Houses of the State Parliament voted against the Bill, but we had just the desired number and won. I take this credit to myself, that had I not been returned at that election the women of the State would not have got the franchise then. What has happened since? The very party which cried down womanhood suffrage as a danger and as destructive to morals and' everything else - I refer to the ladies - instead of spurning the vote, go to the poll. They hold conferences from time to time. They held a conference lately in Adelaide. It is nice to see these things taking place. I have never been present, of course, .because I am not invited. When a general election is pending the ladies invite even the servant girls to take tea with them, in the hope of securing their votes. Instead of proving disastrous, womanhood suffrage in South Australia seems to have had a different effect altogether. It has had a moral effect. Some of the men who were not as good as they ought to be have been kept out of Parliament. Men who were fond of drink, and had other sins as well, have been marked, and left out on the day of election. What has been good for us ought to be good for others. Surely, as Mr. Justice. Gordon said, when he was Attorney-General in the Kingston Government, a person should not be deprived of the franchise on the ground of sex. The Conservative element urged then that only women with property should have votes, but our leader, Sir John Gordon, said that if it were right for a man without property to have a vote, it was also right that a woman should. It has been found right in our case, and even in Victoria the

Conservative element has knuckled down. I am very proud of our victory. It ought to have considerable influence on Home politics if we express our sympathy with the women who are fighting a battle for their just rights, and state that our experience is that the grant of female suffrage has had ' only a beneficial effect. It is nonsense for any member of the Senate to say that that is interfering with a matter which does not concern us. In the light of our experience, we can cordially recommend that the franchise should be granted to women in the Old Country. I thank the Senate for the patient hearing I have received.

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