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Tuesday, 15 March 1904

Mr FULLER (Illawarra) - I do not propose to refer to the speech of the honorable member for Capricornia, except to comment upon his remarks regarding the quantity of Opposition " gas " which has been introduced into the debate. The honorable member desired to know what the Opposition could have done if they had occupied the Ministerial benches. I would inform the honorable member and the country generally that if the Opposition had occupied the Ministerial benches and had come back from the country with a much reduced majority, they would have refused to hold office under the degrading circumstances in which the present Ministry now find themselves.

Mr DAVID THOMSON (CAPRICORNIA, QUEENSLAND) - What party would have filled the vacancy ?.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - The party to which the honorable member belongs.

Mr FULLER - As a result of the appeal to the country the Ministry sustained a defeat, and they now have a smaller number of supporters than during the last Parliament. I believe that this result was, in a large measure, due to the action of the Government in connexion with the electoral rolls, and their refusal to recognise the equal rights of all the men and women voters in the Commonwealth. The representatives of New South Wales, in the last Parliament, fought night after night in an endeavour to bring the Government to their senses and induce them to follow the basic principle of the platform of the Labour Party ever since it came into existence, namely, " one adult, one vote." What is the use of passing an Electoral Act embodying the principle of one adult one vote and at the same time distributing the electorates in such a way that, in some constituencies - mine amongst the number - three votes are equal to only one vote in others, such as the Darling electorate. The distribution of the electorates involved a gross violation of the basic principle upon which the Constitution is founded, and every representative of labour and every Liberal in this House should regard the action of the Government with absolute scorn. The Minister of Trade and Customs has boasted that he was responsible for the introduction of womanhood suffrage. But he was no more responsible for that, except that he was in charge of the Bill, than was any other honorable member. The Constitution provided that, when an Electoral Act was passed by the Commonwealth, uniformity with regard to the suffrage should be brought about, and that in no case should the suffrage in any State be reduced. Owing to the fact that womanhood suffrage had been in existence in South Australia for many years, and in view of the restriction placed upon us by the Constitution Act, under which the suffrage could not be reduced in any State, it was incumbent upon us to provide for the exercise of womanhood suffrage throughout Australia. Therefore, the Minister for Trade and Customs, although he had .charge of the Bill dealing with the subject, was in no sense responsible for conferring the franchise upon women.

Sir William Lyne - The honorable member knows very well that he is not stating the truth.

Mr FULLER - I direct your attention, Mr. Speaker, to the fact that the Minister has stated that I am not speaking the truth.

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