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Wednesday, 16 November 1910

Senator W RUSSELL (SOUTH AUSTRALIA) .- I rise with considerable pleasure to address myself to this question. I am very glad to be able to be present to record my vote in favour of this measure. I regret that, owing to ill-health, I have been unable to regularly attend to my parliamentary duties during the last two or three months.

Senator Givens - We are glad to see you here.

Senator W RUSSELL (SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - Notwithstanding that my medical adviser wrote to me twice and told me on no account to go near Melbourne, and, if I did, not to go near the Federal Parliament, I, in my anxiety to show which side I am on, took the bit in my teeth. I am here as a representative of South Australia to express my opinion strongly in favour of this measure, and to record my vote for its third reading, believing that it is necessary. I shall only be able to speak for a few minutes. Having regard to the legislation which has been passed during the present session, and to the way in which the legislation passed in former sessions has been treated by the High Court, what can we expect under the present Constitution? If the wish of the people is to be carried out, the Constitution must be amended.

Senator St Ledger - Are you reflecting on the High Court?

Senator W RUSSELL (SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - I am referring to the manner in which the Constitution has been interpreted by a majority of the Justices, and am casting no reflection on their honours. Senator Symon spoke eloquently in reference to the State powers and sovereignty. For six years I, in common with Senators Guthrie and McGregor, was a member of the Legislative Council of South Australia, and know what it is. If it were elected on the same franchise as the House of Assembly, it would be in a different position to-day, but only about one-third of the people are entitled to vote at the election of its members. '

Senator St Ledger - Do you want one Chamber ?

Senator W RUSSELL (SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - I want adult suffrage.

Senator St Ledger - Do you want one Chamber for the Federal Parliament?

Senator W RUSSELL (SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - No. I am not dealing with that.

Senator St Ledger - I think not.

Senator W RUSSELL (SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - Surely the honorable senator does not want to take advantage of me, when it is with the greatest difficulty that I can speak? I want this Bill to be passed to enable certain measures of the present session to become effective. We desire to appeal to the people who sent us here.What did the Legislative Council of South Australia do in 189 1 ? I am sorry that Senator Vardon is not present to hear my remarks. Industrial legislation was passed through both Houses of the State Parliament to benefit some of the workers, but the Legislative Council hung it up for four or five years by refusing to pass the regulations to bring it into force. It is constituted in the same way to-day as it was then, and it is blocking the creation of Wages Boards right and left. Are we to stand by and see that done? The people believe that every man and woman on reaching the age of maturity should have a vote.

The PRESIDENT - Order ! The question under consideration is not the franchise for the Legislative Council of South Australia.

Senator W RUSSELL (SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - I bow to your ruling, sir. The only way to remedy that state of things is, I contend, to hand the authority, over to another Parliament which is more in sympathy with the people. I feel confident that at the referendum the people of Australia will express themselves exactly as they did last April in New South Wales, Tasmania, and Queensland, and every State of the Commonwealth. Why should not the majority of the people prevail ? I came here to-day . at considerable risk, and, as I have said, against the advice of my doctor. I glory in having the power to be present and to speak in favour of this measure, so as to let the people know exactly where I stand and intend to stand. I support the motion.

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