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Tuesday, 27 September 1904

Mr McLEAN (Gippsland) (Minister of Trade and Customs) . - As there have been so many personal explanations made in this debate, I desire to give another honorable member an opportunity to make one. When the honorable member for Kalgoorlie was addressing the House. last Friday, he referred to the action of the Prime Minister and the right honorable member for Swan in addressing women's meetings, and he asked what they had to do with extending the franchise to women. He said that they had taken no action to enfranchise women, but now that women had been enfranchised they were doing all they possibly could to secure their votes. And then, seeing me sitting on the Treasury bench, he asked what did . the Minister of Trade and Customs ever do in the way of giving the franchise to women. I interjected that I had been an advocate of women's suffrage before the honorable member was born.

Mr Frazer - But the honorable gentleman did not put a measure on the statutebook, though !

Mr McLEAN - Unless the honorable member is much older than he looks, that statement is absolutely true. He went on to say that when I was Premier of Victoria I had the opportunity of bringing in legislation to extend the franchise to women, but that I had never attempted to do so.

Mr Frazer - I said that the honorable member did not do so.

Mr McLEAN - That statement was lustily cheered by the honorable member for Melbourne, who, as an old member of the Victorian . Legislature, knew perfectly well that he was cheering a statement which had no foundation in fact.' I was taken back a little. I stated at the time that the extension of the franchise to women was one of the principal planks in the platform of my Government. The honorable member for Kalgoorlie then said that- 1 never attempted to introduce a measure for that purpose. I looked up the matter, and I found that I brought in a Bill, which I carried through all its stages in the Legislative Assembly by the necessary statutory majority, and sent on to the Legislative Council.

Mr Tudor - And asked . the Council to throw it out. .

Mr McLEAN - That statement is absolutely incorrect. The representatives .of my Government did all they possibly could to carry that Bill through the Legislative Council.

Mr Reid - They will stick at nothing over there now.

Mr McLEAN - The interjection is on a par with other statements which have emanated from that side. But that is not all. The reason given by a number of members in the Legislative Council for opposing the Bill was that they did not believe that the electors of Victoria were in accord with the members of the Legislative Assembly' in asking for its enactment. In order to test the matter, I then brought in a Bill to remit the question by way of referendum to the electors of Victoria., I carried that Bill through all its stages in the Legislative Assembly, and it also was lost in the Legislative Council. I can only tell my honorable friend, who is a young man of considerable promise, thai if he were a little older, I would say perhaps a good deal more.

Mr Frazer - Why did the honorable member not correct me at the time if I was misrepresenting him?

Mr McLEAN - Is that the best excuse which the honorable member can give?

Mr Frazer - No.

Mr McLEAN - Does the honorable member make random, statements ?

Mr Frazer - No, I shall make full and ample apology when I get an opportunity.

Mr McLEAN - I shall say no more about the matter if the honorable member acknowledges that he was wrong ; but it is most unfortunate that a reckless statement of that kind should be made.

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