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Thursday, 15 July 1915

Senator MULLAN - Would you deprive them of a vote if they liked to exercise it?

Senator Lt Colonel Sir ALBERT GOULD - The honorable senator's party wants to deprive them of the opportunity to give proper consideration to these questions. We might just as well -send a letter to the men in the trenches, asking them what their views are, as send ballotpapers to them asking them to record their votes.

Senator Russell - Are YOU in favour of giving them a vote for the Upper Houses when .they return ?

Senator Lt Colonel Sir ALBERT GOULD - Unfortunately, that is .a matter which does not come within our powers.

Senator O'Keefe - Would it not help the sick men to know that the people -they left behind "them in Australia are getting a fair deal?

Senator Lt Colonel Sir ALBERT GOULD - They would not be made more comfortable or easy by being bothered with matters of this kind when risking their own lives.

Senator O'Keefe - Ninety per cent, of them would vote " Yes " if they were here.

Senator Lt Colonel Sir ALBERT GOULD - Then the honorable senator should not be so anxious to put the measures to the vote during their absence.

Senator Lynch - I thought it was part of the policy of your party to give votes to the sick and incapacitated ?

Senator ALBERT GOULD (NEW SOUTH WALES) - Of course it is. I am simply pointing out the unfairness of the position in which it is proposed to place these people. When we have an opportunity of considering the electoral law, the honorable senator will find that I am prepared to give men and women the fullest opportunity of recording a vote for or against any measure or candidate. The petition further points out -

That the very large sum of money required for the purpose of submitting the referendum proposals to the people could be used to very much better purpose in supplying arms, equipment, and munitions of war.

I have already referred to that aspect of the question. My reason for opposition to these proposals is that the time is utterly inopportune for their consideration. They are of great importance, and. may have a considerable influence on the future history of our country, but they should be considered only when the public mind is not disturbed by more pressing and vital questions. In quieter times I shall be perfectly prepared to admit the right of the majority of the members of both Houses to send matters of this kind to the people in accordance with the Constitution, although I shall not give my vote to send them there. In times like this we should not squander money, or spend more than is absolutely necessary. In view of the urgency of the war, and of many other considerations, we must be prudent in the expenditure of public money. We want to raise more money to carry on the war, and this is about the worst time the Government could possibly choose to put questions of this kind to the people. They should receive full, fair, calm, and, just consideration, and not be influenced by prejudice, waste, or hurry. So far as the merits of the Bills are concerned, I commend to the consideration of honorable senators the quiet and logical speech of Senator Keating. It would be well for honorable senators to pay attention to what Senator Keating said in opposition to the measure before they decide to vote for them,, or, if they are- carried, to go to the country urging the people to support them.

Senator Blakey - Do you. mean that this is the worst time for- the exploiters to. put the. Bills, to. the country '!

Senator Lt Colonel Sir ALBERT GOULD - The honorable senator should not talk nonsense. It is the worst time to put them to the country for the men who have a stake in the country, and whose liberties, and even lives, are at stake.

Senator Blakey - There is very little chance, of their getting much " steak " with the exploiters at work.

Senator Lt Colonel Sir ALBERT GOULD - The honorable senator repeats that cry like a parrot. I am not going to debate the merits of the Bills. My object has simply been to give reasons which would justify people, even if otherwise they would be in favour of them, in saying, " You have put them before us at an inopportune time, and we are not prepared to vote to put them on the statute-book."

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