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Thursday, 3 October 1912

Senator HENDERSON (Western Australia) . - For once, Senator St. Ledger has been somewhat candid, though I think that he was very involved as he endeavoured to tell us what he intended todo. I took it for granted that he intended to oppose this Bill at every stage. I believe that he will oppose it. I think that he will at least act consistently on this occasion if he has never done so previously. I intend to support the measure, for the very substantial reasons placed before the Senate by the Vice-President of the Executive Council. I think he made it quite clear that its main object is to assist those who really require help, to assist women in their hour of need, without regard to whether a child was born in wedlock or not. I think this measure, with a provision of that character, is one of the closest attempts to get to practical Christianity of which I know. I am not going to discuss whether the Council of Churches have lost their reason, or to debate whether they have lost their Christianity, or ever had any Christianity. As a man and a father, with the responsibilities and commitments of life on my shoulders, I believe this measure is an attempt to reach the highest principles inculcated by the Founder of Christianity when He used the expression quoted by the Vice-President of the Executive Council to-day. Senator St. Ledger did not quite make it clear whether he is prepared to shut out the child of the unfortunate girl ; but every man of spirit is as bitterly antagonistic to the " poltroon " who deceives a girl as Senator St. Ledger can be. Every man must regard with repugnance a cur of that character; but our antipathy to his ruthlessness will not assist the girl in her time of trouble. Senator St. Ledger apparently, however, wants, as a legislator, to escape the responsibility of relieving the necessities of. the poor girl because her child is not born in wedlock. Consequently he would leave her in infinitely worse case than she would be in under the provisions of this Bill. Every State has laws to deal with men of the character spoken of by the honorable senator ; but if the States do not administer their laws properly, that cannot have any effect upon the attempt of the Federal Government to do something for the relief of wemen who at a critical stage in their existence require all the help that it is possible for us to give them. 1 am somewhat sorry that' the allowance is not ten guineas. The proposal is quite as easily justified from an economical as from a humanitarian point of view. Every child born in the country is a valuable asset to it, and everything we can do for its preservation, nurture, and culture, adds to its value. Several people connected with the Churches have taken a very narrow and decrepit view of this measure, but in most cases the Churches are the very places where you will find narrow-minded men and even narrowminded women, who tuck up their skirts, and would make themselves appear to be angels of purity. Again the introductory remarks of the Vice-President of the Executive Council ought to come very forcibly to our minds. " Let him who is without sin among you cast the first stone." That is the best way to look at all these questions. While some of these ministers of religion have taken what "they probably think to be the right view, I think their attitude is entirely wrong from the humanitarian and economic points of view, and it is equally wrong from the point of view of that Christian spirit which ought to actuate every man in the land. There are others connected with the Churches who take a very sensible view of the position, and I want to put the opinion of one of them on record in ilansard, in order to show that everybody in the Churches has not lost his reason, and thai some men have retained the highest principles of Christianity. The following letter appeared in the Argus of 16th September, under the heading of " Maternity Bonus " - to the editor of the argus.

Sir, -The criticism levelled at the proposed bonus largely misses its mark through inattention to the object of the Government. It is not a bonus for babies, or for motherhood, at all, but an allowance for maternity towards the cost of nursing, &c, with a view to preserving the health of both mother and child. Moral considerations do not enter, for they are already provided for by the requirement to register the ex-nuptial child as such, and by the stigma on 4he parents that such registration implies. This allowance, like the grace of God in nature, descends upon the just and the unjust, not as obliterating moral distinctions, but as emphasizing human compassion on the basis of our common solidarity. - Yours, &c,


The Manse, Scarsdale, Sept. 16.

The writer puts in the most precise fashion the exact position of the Bill in regard to the women of Australia. The man who talks about the moral or immoral effect of the measure must have forgotten that his own mother was a woman. He has failed to recognise that in life's pathway, there are so many turns that lead to unsuspected spots that all our womanfolk are in danger at some period of their lives. It is because we rejoice and believe in the morality of our people, and are endeavouring at all times to teach the highest standards of morality of which we know, that we are so successful in avoiding these mistakes.

Senator O'Keefe - It is because we can rely on their morality that there is no need to make invidious distinctions.

Senator HENDERSON - Precisely. Nb one can persuade me that, for the sake of a paltry £5, the innocent are going to lose that which nature has given as her greatest gift. The man who suggests such a thing-

Senator McColl - No one has suggested it.

Senator HENDERSON - Arguments making suggestions in that direction have undoubtedly been raised. As a man and a father, I wish to repudiate the idea. Those who set up such a doctrine ought to be ashamed of themselves.

Senator Shannon - Why does the honorable senator make the suggestion?

Senator HENDERSON -^-1 have not made it. I am simply replying to a statement that has been made in the Senate this evening. It has been suggested that we are going by this Bill to do something that will add to the profligacy of our race and lead to the degeneracy of the womanhood of Australia. What we are endeavouring to do, and what I hope we shall succeed in doing, is to assist every woman who needs our assistance. Whether the required assistance be under the one condition or the other, I hope that we shall have but one broad view of human nature, and that every daughter of Australia will be equally the care of the Australian. people and their Government. .

Debate (on motion by Senator McColl) adjourned.

Senate adjourned at 10.39 P-m-

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