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Thursday, 17 November 1910


Senator RAE (New South Wales) . - I have no desire to take up very much time in replying to the debate. It is unnecessary that I should do so, because there have been so few arguments advanced in opposition to the motion, and the excellent speeches that have been made by honorable senators who have supported it have effectually replied to the objections urged against it. Senator Gould raised a time-worn argument, which has very' little validity in it, by comparing the age df Great Britain with the age of the Commonwealth. It is a false line of argument to suggest that the age of a country is the test of its qualification to give advice or to carry political proposals into effect.


Senator McGregor - On that ground, Senator Gould's favorite would be China.


Senator RAE - As the Vice-President of the Executive Council suggests, China is the country which, above all others, we should take as an example if there were any force in the argument which Senator Gould has advanced. If the honorable :senator wished to argue from analogy it would have been better to have suggested that the Commonwealth is the up-to-date motor car, setting the pace for the oldfashioned stage-coach* Senator Walker indorsed Senator Gould's contention that it is an impertinence on our part to urge that Great Britain and other countries enjoying representative institutions would be well advised to act as we have done. I fail to see where the impertinence comes in. I know that in respect of many matters we have already set the pace for Great Britain. The old-age pensions system recently adopted in Great Britain is cast oh the lines of the system adopted in the Commonwealth. The fact that many years ago almost all the Colonies, as our States then were, passed legislation permitting the marriage of a man with his deceased wife's sister ultimately forced the hand of Great Britain in the adoption of similar legislation. That is another instance in which political views held in Australia were far in advance of those held iri the Old Country. I might mention the Real Property Act as another important case in point.


Senator Lt Colonel Sir Albert Gould - Is it not a remarkable thing that the State Legislatures did not consider it necessary to advise the Imperial Parliament in respect of these matters?


Senator RAE - Advice may be conveyed in many different ways, and we know that representations were made from time to time to the British Government in regard to the anomalous position in which the British law placed people who, under our laws, had contracted marriages with their deceased wives' sisters. Though under our legislation they were legally married, they found, when they got to the Old Country, that they were not regarded there as being legally married, and it was only_ after prolonged agitation that Great Britain removed this disability. The mere fact that other methods have been adopted to convey advice on other occasions does not prove that the method here proposed is wrong. I ask honorable senators opposite whether they opposed an expression of opinion by this Parliament in connexion with the unfortunate Dogger Bank incident during the Russo-Japanese war ? We know that expressions of Australian opinion were promptly cabled to the Old Country when Russian war vessels made an attack on British fishing vessels on the Dogger Bank.


Senator Lt Colonel Sir Albert Gould - I do not think we advised Great Britain as to the proper course to take in that matter.


Senator RAE - As no two things are exactly alike, I do not pretend that in- that case precisely the same thing was done as is proposed in this motion. Have honorable senators forgotten that only twelve months ago this Parliament expressed an opinion in a somewhat similar way? I cannot see what objections can be urged to our expressing the opinion that other nations enjoying representative institutions would be well advised in copying our example in this respect. There is nothing in that which should raise the storm of protest which has come from the few honorable senators at present representing the Opposition. I do not wish to traverse the ground followed by other speakers on the motion, but I should like to say that, just as we had occasion only this afternoon to debate at some length the inadequate way in which the views of Parliament are expressed through the press, and as many have had to complain of the way in which their utterances have been distorted and misrepresented, I am perfectly certain that the cable messages we have received as to the doings of the women suffragists in Great Britain have very rarely placed the facts before the people of this country. Later advices received by mail, giving fuller accounts, have placed the position of the women in that movement in a far better light than we might have been led to believe from the cable messages, and have shown what Senator Stewart has rightly described as the sheer barbarism exhibited by the men of Great Britain opposed to that movement. I believe that a majority of honorable senators will support the motion, but let me say, in conclusion, that my object in moving it is not in any way to bring myself under the limelight. Years ago, when this movement was not popular in my own State, I was one of those who took a foremost part in advocating it. I am proud to have been in a position at that time, as president ofthe largest union in Australia, to secure an enormous number of promises of support by moving that womanhood suffrage should be a plank of the Labour platform. By carrying it as a plank of the Labour platform, we were able to bring sufficient pressure to bear upon the State Government of the day to make them promise to make it the law of the State. Years before that, when a resident of New Zealand, I advocated the principle there before it became the law of that country. So it will be admitted that I am only consistent in the action I have taken in submitting this motion. I do so, because, while agreeing with Senator Henderson that probably Mr. Asquith will not be directly influenced by my opinion, or the opinion of the Senate, I hope and believe that the people of Great Britain will be influenced to some extent.

It may be a factor in increasing the force of public opinion making for the success of this righteous movement. I believe that a clear expression of the National Parliament of this young Democracy in favour of this reform, which places men in a higher and more dignified position, and gives women a nobler mission than they have had in the past, will have its influence, and that other countries enjoying representative institutions will not be slow to follow if Great Britain should take the advice which we, in all good faith, are offering her in the terms of this motion.


Senator ALBERT GOULD (NEW SOUTH WALES) -Colonel Sir AlbertGould. - I ask, sir, that the motion be put in parts.

 

 

Question - That paragraph1 be agreed to - resolved in the affirmative.







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