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Friday, 4 October 1912


Senator GIVENS (Queensland) . - We may congratulate ourselves that this debate has unearthed not one honest man, but two, in the persons of Senator Vardon and Senator Clemons.


Senator St Ledger - That is a nice reflection on the rest.


Senator GIVENS - If Senator St. Ledger will contain himself in patience, perhaps I may be able to satisfy even hiin before I am finished. Every one knows that when this proposal was first mooted, the party in opposition denounced it. Those in Parliament, as well as people outside, were loud and uncompromising in their opposition to the whole proposal. Yet we find now that both in another place and here most of those who originally opposed the policy, instead of being manly enough to maintain an attitude in accordance with their previous declarations, -as soon as they found that the tide of public opinion was not with them, commenced to shape their course accordingly. There are two honorable exceptions in the honorable senators whom I have mentioned. They have adhered to their wholesale condemnation, and intend to vote against the Bill. I have very much pleasure in congratulating both Senator Vardon and Senator Clemons upon the honest attitude which they have assumed. It is refreshing to see men who are manly enough to stand up for what they believe to be right apart altogether from any ulterior considerations. I have nothing but admiration for those who do that, although I may entirely disagree with them. What has been the main contention in regard to this Bill ? Senator St. Ledger went to all the bun-worries he could attend in Victoria to condemn this measure.


Senator St Ledger - That is not quite correct. I have attended only two meetings on the subject.


Senator GIVENS - I said that the honorable senator went to every one he could get to. If he could have gone to twentytwo he would have been there.


Senator St Ledger - I had time only to attend two, but I was asked to attend many.


Senator GIVENS - I have just said that the honorable senator went to as many as he could go to. He is so much in demand for these bun-worries and tea-fights that the Women's National League would like him to be able to make half-a-dozen of himself in order that he might attend them all. What has been his contribution to the discussion of this proposal? He has said that it is "a sop to profligacy."


Senator St Ledger - I said so, and I say it again.


Senator GIVENS - Will the honorable senator be candid enough to say what is the real meaning of the word " profligacy ?" After giving the real meaning to it, will he go on to any public platform and say that -the women who will accept the maternity allowance will accept a sop to profligacy ? Will he go to any woman who, on giving birth to a child, a future citizen of the Commonwealth, accepts the allowance of ^5 and say that she has accepted a sop to profligacy, and is one of the profligates £0 whom the Government intend to give this sop?


Senator St Ledger - I have heard that kind of stuff so often that I take no notice of it.


Senator GIVENS - The honorable senator cannot get away from the fact that he made the statement.


Senator St Ledger - I have admitted that I said so, and I say it again.


Senator GIVENS - But I wish to pin the honorable senator down to exactly what his statement means. Every one knows what the word "-profligacy " means. Will every woman who gives birth to a future citizen of the Commonwealth, and takes advantage of the maternity allowance, rest under the stigma of having accepted a sop to profligacy, and of being herself one of the profligates?


Senator St Ledger - Certainly not.


Senator GIVENS - That is what the honorable senator has said.


Senator St Ledger -I never said it, and never meant it in that sense.


Senator GIVENS - That is the only meaning that can be attached to what the honorable senator said.


Senator St Ledger - It is the old question of the penny and the image and superscription again.


Senator GIVENS - Let us deal with the hard facts. If the proposed allowance is a sop to profligacy any one who accepts it will accept a sop to profligacy, and must be recognised as one of the profligates.


Senator St Ledger - So the Pharisees said to One to whom the honorable senator and I bow down.


Senator GIVENS - I have not the slightest doubt that the honorable senator made the statement when he thought there would be a popular outcry against the proposal on the ground that the allowance is to be given to a mother in any circumstances. The Bill proposes to give every mother the allowance, irrespective of whether the maternity occurs 'in or out of wedlock. The Council of Churches, our friends on the opposite side, and their compatriots outside, thought they would get the Labour party in a cleft stick over this proposal. That is why Senator St. Ledger described the allowance as a sop to profligacy. That is why he sought to raise an outcry against the proposal by an appeal to the Pharisaical feelings of certain people outside. I have a greater sympathy for the woman who is engaged inmaternity out of wedlock than for the woman who becomes a mother in wedlock, and for the reason that she needs that sympathy more. What is the position of a young girl who, betrayed and deserted, becomes a mother out of wedlock ? Not only is she deserted by her betrayer who has caused her fall, but she is very often deserted by her own people. I have known young girls whose parents were well to do, and even wealthy, to be turned from their doors because they were about to become mothers in such circumstances. Fathers, mothers, sisters and brothers have refused to look at them, or recognise them. What is tobecome of a poor girl in such circumstances? Is she to be left entirely outside the pale? Is she, because, in a weak moment, she has fallen, owing to the. temptation of one of those very nice men whohave been referred to in the Senate sometimes, to be left absolutely to her own resources? Her friends and relatives turnfrom her, and the rest of the community ostracise her in the same way. It is for this reason that I say the girl who becomes a mother under such circumstances has more of my sympathy than the woman whose child is born in wedlock. It is simply because she needs sympathy and help more. A child born out of wedlock may be superior to any child born in wedlock. 1 go so far as to say that, from the natural point of view, no child is illegitimate. Nature has never given birth to an illegitimate child during the whole history of this earth. Every child is born in accordance with natural law, and, therefore, cannot be illegitimate. But because we have imposed certain conventions we say that any one who disobeys those conventional laws are to be condemned, and their children are illegitimate.


Senator Fraser - Countries that have adopted other rules have gone down very much.


Senator GIVENS - It is very questionable whether all of us religiously abide by the rules we have laid down.


Senator Fraser - We may keep it dark.


Senator GIVENS - We have to cover it up. I have no doubt that a multitude of sins are committed in the dark. I do not wish to treat this very serious subject lightly. I have pointed out that girls who become mothers under the circumstances I have referred to are in far greater need of help and sympathy than are women engaged in maternity in wedlock. In Australia we badly need a large population. No one will deny that the most desirable population we can have will be those born and reared here. Leaving the question of so-called illegitimacy for the time, let me refer to this aspect of the question. I am able to say, from my own knowledge, experience, and observation, that the birth rate of Australia is very considerably reduced because mothers are unable to get proper medical and nursing attention at the time of their first birth. These are aspects of the question which one cannot discuss fully in an assembly of this kind, but any honorable senator who doubts my statement has only to consult a medical man to have it borne out completely. It often happens that, owing to a lack of proper medical attention and nursing, a. woman at her first birth, or even at later births, is rendered incapable of bearing further children. Every married man of experience knows that. I say, therefore, that in giving assistance to women at such a time to secure proper medical attention and nursing, we shall be taking the most proper, necessary, and, I hope, effective step to increase the birth rate, and, consequently, the population of the Commonwealth.


Senator St Ledger - Not to increase the birth rate, but to prolong life. It is of no use to confuse the two things.


Senator GIVENS - I absolutely disagree with the honorable senator. I am explaining my own belief, and I think that most members of the Senate will recognise that I am competent to explain what I mean without any help from Senator St. Ledger.


Senator St Ledger - I think the honorable senator is labouring under a delusion.


Senator GIVENS - I confess that, at one time, I laboured under the delusion that Senator St. Ledger was a very promising young Labour candidate. I was subsequently disillusioned.


Senator St Ledger - If the honorable senator said that he would be a liar. I never was a Labour candidate.


Senator GIVENS - I know that several members of the Queensland Parliament were looking round to see if they could find a safe Labour seat for him. We did not succeed, and if I were a very religious man I should go down on . my knees ten times a day to thank God that we did not succeed.


Senator St Ledger - I say in answer to that, that if the honorable senator had said it he would have been a liar all the time.


Senator Needham - Does the honorable senator say that Senator Givens is a liar?


Senator St Ledger - I say that if he had dared to say it it would have been a lie, and I should characterize it as such.


Senator GIVENS - If I had said what? Will the honorable senator look round this way, and let me know what it is he has said?


Senator St Ledger - If the honorable senator had said anywhere that I had stood' as a Labour candidate, for any constituency, he would have been guilty of an atrocious and abominable lie. That is clear.


Senator GIVENS - This is a place which may be included in the honorable senator's word " anywhere," and I say here, and now, candidly and fearlessly, that Senator St. Ledger was coquetting with the Labour party to get a seat in the Queensland Parliament as a Labour man, for years. There is no man in Australia, Mr. President, who is better acquainted with that fact than yourself. Now, if the honorable senator will repeat that epithet, I shall take steps to deal with him in a way that will be absolutely effective. .


Senator St Ledger - What statement does the honorable senator make? Let him make it clearly.


Senator GIVENS - I have made it as clearly and emphatically as it can be made.


Senator St Ledger - The Standing Orders prevent me giving the honorable senator the answer.


Senator GIVENS - T am prepared to await an answer. All this is quite apart from the Bill, but I was led off the track by the honorable senator's interjection. He has said that the effect of this proposal will not be to increase the population or the birth *ate.


Senator St Ledger - I did not say so.


Senator GIVENS - By interjection the honorable senator said that it would prolong life, but would not increase the birth rate.


Senator St Ledger - I said the Bill might prolong life, but would not increase the birth rate.


Senator GIVENS - I am willing to accept that statement. If the grant of the proposed allowance will secure to a mother proper care and attention at this critical period of her life, it will insure that instead of her natural functions becoming disordered, as frequently happens, through lack of proper attention at such a time, she will have a successful birth, not only on that one occasion, but, it may be, on several subsequent occasions. Every one who has given any attention to the subject knows that, in many cases, women who lack the necessary care at such a time are never able to have a successful birth again. The honorable senator is, therefore, entirely wrong when he says that this Bill will not lead to an increase in the birth rate. If, as the result of the care which may be given through the proposed allowance, a woman is successful in giving birth to a child, we may reasonably hope that she will have several successful births later. In that way, I contend, the birth rate will be increased under the operation of this Bill. Unfortunately for myself, I have had to pay a heavy price for the experience I have gained. I know that what I am saying is absolutely true. If it had not been that I was in a position to spend hundreds of pounds for the necessary care of my wife at the birth of her first child, the probability is that I should never have had another. Now I have five, and I shall not regret if there are five to follow. I am giving my experience as a contribution to this debate, because I know it is an absolute fact that many women are unable to have subsequent successful births because of the lack of attention at such a critical time. If this Bill will enable tens of thousands of women to have that needful attention which otherwise they could not have, we can reasonably hope that it will very largely increase the effective birth rate of Australia, as well as ameliorate the suffering of thousands of women who could not otherwise get the necessary attention. The bulk of the people of Australia have to be content with an income of about £2 per week, or even less. Most workmen who are engaged in manual, or even clerical toil, cannot be sure of getting regularly much more than that income. I think it can be fairly, stated that if you allow for loss of time through the state of the weather, and other causes, the general average of the incomes of these people, on which they have to get married, maintain a house, and' bring up a family, does not exceed £100 or £120 a year. I know, of course, that there are plenty of artisans who get ,£400 or £500 a year, and I am aware that there are plenty of men in responsible positions who get £1,000, or even £2,000 a year, but I am speaking of the general average of the incomes. That being so, how is a man to make adequate provision so that his wife can be assured of receiving the necessary medical attention and nursing comforts at a critical time in her life ? Whether it is on economical or humanitarian grounds, or on the ground of broad Christian charity, this Bill can .be justified on any platform in Australia. Senator Millen, at any rate, had the grace to say he thought that it could be justified on' economical grounds, but he went a little further than that. He practically insinuated, that it was altogether disgraceful on the part of the Labour party that they should try to justify the measure on humanitarian grounds. I disagree with that view altogether. Even if the Bill could not be justified on economic grounds, there is ample justification for it on the grounds of humanitarianism. On the economic ground, I think we can all agree that if the Bill tends to very largely increase the effective population, that it will be ample justification for the expenditure of the money, whatever it may be. There are several other economic grounds on which it could be justified, but I know that the Government are anxious to get on with business, and I do not propose to go into them at all. Apart from that altogether, the relief of human suffering, the giving to a woman of a sufficient amount to insure to her the necessary care and attention when she is performing the highest function of womanhood, furnishes a ground on which alone the Bill could be more than justified. But we do not need any justification for the measure beyond the knowledge that it will be a blessing to tens of thousands of mothers who otherwise could not get the comforts and the attention which they need. We have been twitted with the fact that we propose to give the allowance to every mother whether she needs it or not. If my wife should ever present me with another baby, I shall not have the slightest hesitation in advising her to apply for, and accept, the money. We have been told by Senator Vardon, and others, that what is needed is a contributory scheme. In fact, they have harped so much on the word " contributory " that it seems to be like the blessed, word Measapotamia, which had such a comforting sound to the old lady's soul. One would think that the word " contributory " covers the whole ground. Our honorable friends opposite say that the Bill, because it does not provide for a contributory scheme, will destroy that manly or womanly self-reliance, that, habit of providence, which ought to be inculcated in the people, arid which they ought to be taught to pursue. What grander example of forethought, or of the principle of contribution, can you have than the whole people combining and contributing together in order to provide for a national need? Why, the very essence of schemes of this kind is that instead of relying upon the isolated, helpful efforts which may be put out by a few charitably disposed persons, instead of relying on this altogether unsatisfactory means, we get the whole people to join en masse to contribute to help the mothers of the nation. There is no grander principle of combining to provide for the future, no grander principle of self-help, no grander principle of selfreliance, than the whole of the people combining together and contributing every day of their lives to a scheme which will enable such a great object as this to be accomplished. Therefore, when honorable sena tors opposite talk about the special virtues of their so-called contributory schemes, when they talk of teaching the people to be self-reliant, and to adopt provident habits, and the rest of the flapdoodle we hear so often from that side, I reply that they are barking up the wrong tree, because they are forgetting that the grandest example you could have of that sort of thing is the whole of the people combining together toprovide for every case which occurs, and not relying upon the indiscriminate charity of a few well-meaning persons, who help a few cases, and leave the bulk to go unaided. We have been told also, as one of the faults of this proposal, that it is altogther unnecessary, that it is worthy of condemnation, and that we should propose to offer this maternity allowance, which has beendescribed by our friends opposite as a £5 dole, only to those who are in need of it. The beauty of this proposal is that it is nota dole at all. We do not propose to give a dole to anybody, but to give back to every mother what is her absolute right, and what is provided for by the whole nation. It will be her right to apply for it after she has fulfilled the necessary conditions, which are that she should give birth to a baby, and register the fact in the ordinary way. The Bill does not take any cognisance of whether she is rich' or poor. If our friendsopposite had their way, they would compel1 her to declare that she was in a conditionof poverty.


Senator Walker - Do not put into our mouths words which we did not use !


Senator GIVENS - I am glad that what has been said by other honorable senatorsis not indorsed by my honorable friend.


Senator Walker - You spoke as if we were all doing it.


Senator GIVENS - If any honorable senators are content to sit on that side, and allow such statements to pass uncontradicted, and subscribe to amendments which are moved for the purpose of carrying out the statements, they cannot blame us altogether if they suffer from their evil associations. Under this measure, no woman will be compelled to humiliate herself, and declare that she is a pauper, or in a necessitous state in order to get the grant. All that she will have to do will be to become a mother, and to register the fact in the ordinary way.


Senator Pearce - That is the troublewith some of the objectors.


Senator GIVENS - -They want women to be compelled to go cap in hand, and say, " We are miserable paupers, and we beg you to give us a dole." The Council of Churches said, " We would be content to give this relief to the mothers who give birth to children out of wedlock, provided that you give the money to us to distribute." It was quite a laudable proposal then ; but when the State proposes to give the money without question or qualification - simply because a woman has become a mother, and registered the fact - the proposal is altogether wrong. The deputation to the Prime Minister were quite content that the so-called illegitimate mother should get this £$, provided that the representatives of the Council of the Churches had the handling of the money, but when it is to be handled by the State, it is altogether wrong. I do not propose to further labour the question. The Bill can be amply justified whether it is on the economic, . the humanitarian, or the Christian ground. Christ, when he was asked to condemn the sinner, absolutely refused. I suppose that every honorable senator has read the book of the Rev. Charles Kingsley, in which one of the characters is made to read a poem, which falls, after he is captured by the gamekeeper, into the hands of the squire, who reads it. In this poem, the Rev. Charles Kingsley - I forget whether it occurs in Alton Locke, or another book - states that a poor girl is condemned because she, to use a colloquial phrase, has fallen, and that perhaps the squire's daughter would have done the same thing if she had been placed in the same position. It is quite likely that she would. We do not know the temptations to which these people are subjected. We do not know the lengths to which they are driven by their squalid surroundings, or their environment, and therefore we should not be too ready to condemn them. At . any rate, there is no single one of us who has obeyed all his lifetime the whole of the moral law. There is not one of us who has not, at some time or other, fallen away from the paths of strict rectitude. There is not one of us who can say that he is the righteous person who is entitled to cast the first stone. There is not one of us who has not sinned in company with all these people whom our friends opposite are so ready to condemn.


Senator Fraser - We all agree with that. »


Senator GIVENS - Why should any one adopt a self-righteous attitude, and say that this is a blot on the Bill, that the mother who needs help most should be denied it altogether, or that it should only be given to her vicariously, provided she is willing to proclaim her shame by entering a home of refuge. The very fact that this £s will be available to any unfortunate girl at the critical hour of her life, and perhaps enable her to pay her board, will assist to save thousands who would otherwise perish because pf the conventional punishment which has hitherto been meted out to them. I regret to say that women have been the most ready to condemn each other. Up to the present 'time, these unfortunate girls have been ostracised. But this Bill will place no such bar upon any mother ; and I hope that every mother in Australia will avail herself of its provisions to the utmost extent. If they do so, nothing but good' will result; and I am sure that the very persons who are opposed to it to-da}' will be absolutely in accord with it ten years hence. Indeed, I do not know that, before the lapse of that time, my honorable friends opposite will not be getting up on the public platform' and declaring that they were responsible for the introduction of the Bill, and that they would have accomplished a great deal more but for the opposition of the Labour party.







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