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Thursday, 17 November 1910

Senator WALKER (New South Wales) . - It seems to me that our friends opposite are barking up the wrong tree. There is not a single member of the Opposition in this Chamber who is opposed to adult suffrage. The Federal Convention, of which I had the honour to be a member, declared in the Constitution which it drafted that no person in Australia who then enjoyed a vote should ever be deprived of it. At that time South Australia had adopted adult suffrage, and, consequently, it followed that every State had to extend the franchise to women. Senator Ready talks about honorable senators upon this side of die Chamber as Conservatives. Need I remind him that in the Federal Convention there were forty-nine so-called Conservatives, and only one Labour representative, and yet that body adopted the principle of adult suffrage.

Senator McGregor - There was no Labour representative.

Senator WALKER - The only Labour representative was Mr. Trenwith.

Senator McGregor - He was not a Labour representative.

Senator WALKER - The Federal Convention adopted the principle of adult suffrage in our Commonwealth Constitution.

Senator Guthrie - Because it could not help itself. That was the basis upon which the Convention was called together.

Senator WALKER - I was a supporter of female suffrage long before the Convention was held. Are honorable senators aware that even in the United Kingdom to-day adult male suffrage does not obtain ? [ repeat that members of the Opposition do not object to female suffrage; but they do object to the downright piece of impertinence which is contained in this motion, which affirms that a copy of it shall be cabled to the Prime Minister of Great Britain. How would we like the Imperial Parliament to send us a message, asking us why we refuse - to receive people into Australia unless they can pass a certain examination ?

Senator McGregor - We merely propose to tell the Imperial authorities the result of our experience.

Senator WALKER - It will be time enough to do that when we are asked to do it. 1 recognise that the influence of women is a good and God-fearing influence. It is nonsense for Senator Ready to suggest that honorable senators upon this side of the Chamber are opposed to female suffrage. The honorable senator was almost insulting in his remarks. If he wishes to talk to the electors, he is at liberty to do so; but I object to him declaring that those who sit with me in Opposition are opposed to what is at present the law of the land. How would we like the United States or Canada to tell us that if we desire immigration we ought to adhere to a freehold system of land tenure? We are invited to say that -

Because the reform has brought nothing but good, though disaster was freely prophesied, we respectfully urge that all nations enjoying representative government would be well advised in granting votes to women.

Ought the women in the harems of Turkey to be given votes ? Apparently Senator Ready has not thought of any place beyond Tasmania. To his mind that State is the hub of the universe. I always like to hear my old friend Senator W. Russell speak in this Chamber. But it was ridiculous for him to say that the whole of his political opinions had been changed merely because he was not permitted to shoot a hare. I recollect having a somewhat similar experience. My father had a farm in Midlothian, and I recollect shooting at some crows which settled in one of the fields. One day whilst I was shouldering my gun three black crows entered the field, and I inquired from the haymakers which one I ought to shoot. I was told that I ought to shoot the first one, and I did so. Consequently I was afterwards looked upon as a good shot when as a matter of fact I was a very bad one. But I never heard of a person having his whole political views changed simply because he was forbidden to shoot a hare. As a matter of fact, Senator W. Russell is a thorough Conservative, though he does not know it. I do beg of honorable senators to recollect that it is not becoming to the dignity of this Parliament to force its advice upon countries which have not asked for it.

Senator de Largie - Do not let us assume a virtue which we have not.

Senator WALKER - I am not prepared to recommend the Turkish Government to give the women in the harems a vote.

Senator Rae - Why not?

Senator WALKER - Because they have no knowledge of anything outside the four walls of the place in which they live. What is sauce for the goose is equally sauce for the gander. How would we like our friends in the United States or in Canada to say to us, " If you wish to acquire population cease advocating a leasehold system of land tenure. The very life blood of this country has been a. freehold tenure," When honorable senators upon this side of the Chamber vote against the motion it will not be because they object to adult suffrage, but because they do not think we are called upon to offer advice which has not been asked. It is too much like an attempt on the part of a child to teach his grandmother how to suck eggs.

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