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Thursday, 17 November 1910


Senator HENDERSON (Western Australia) . - I am somewhat surprised, that the honorable senator who is at present leading the Opposition should have, raised his voice against this motion. But I am less surprised when I remember that on nearly every previous occasion when a question has been brought " forward that was designed to influence movements in the direction of Liberal policies in older lands, the honorable senator has had the courage to rise in opposition. Of course, I shall support the motion, though I do not think that it will have a great deal of influence upon those who are at present in power in Great Britain. I believe that if Senator Rae had some weeks ago written' a letter to the Prime Minister of England personally advising him on this- question, it would have had quite as much influence upon his mind as would any motion passed by the Senate.


Senator W RUSSELL (SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - Nonsense!


Senator HENDERSON - I remind my honorable friend that I left England twenty years after he did, and I have perhaps a more vivid recollection of the density of the Conservatism of the Old Land. I know how powerful are the men in that country who favour a trend of politics that I am sure would be advocated by Senator Gould, if it were possible for such politics to be advanced in Australia. Those people have not only prevented the women of England from exercising the vote, but they have actually prevented a large portion of the male population from securing enfranchisement. How can Ave expect under such conditions that a resolution of the Senate will influence men such as Mr. Asquith, the present Prime Minister of England? But I am hopeful that the resolution will have a marked effect upon British public opinion. If it does it will have succeeded in doing something towards bringing about a state of things that most of us desire to see realized. There is no reason why the mere fact that we are a younger community should prevent us from sending an urgent message to Great Britain, informing her people that we believe that they would be acting in the best interests of their country by extending the franchise to women. Even if we are younger in point of years, it will be admitted that in very much of our legislation we are at least fifty years in advance of the Old Country. Certainly in respect of our franchise we are even more than that in advance of her. In order that young men in Great Britain may exercise the franchise, it is necessary that their very homes shall be rent asunder. A young man cannot enjoy the suffrage there unless he is prepared to leave his father's house, and board, say, with the next door neighbour. A man may have seven sons living under the one roof, all of them having attained to manhood's years, and yet not one of them can exercise the vote. His sons must leave their father's house before they can enjoy the privilege of enfranchised citizenship. Certainly we have got beyond that stage in Australia. We not only give the vote to the whole of our men, but we have had sufficient confidence in the calibre of our women to enfranchise our wives and sisters. The comprehensive motion submitted by Senator Rae affirms that in extending the franchise to women we have done nothing whatever to baulk the political aspirations of the people of Australia. Rather have we done something to better the condition of our people. We are entitled to say to Great Britain that we have tried the effects of this reform, as we have tried several other reforms that Great Britain has not yet ventured upon. It is quite fair that we should give the benefit of our experience to the country from which we come. We are surely quite capable of saying to Great Britain, " As we are part and parcel of your race, especially as we have relatives living in your land, we think it right to tell you that this constitutional reform has had excellent effects in Australia, and that you would not do wrong if you tried it in Great Britain." Personally, I believe that the adoption of the women's franchise there would assist in getting Great Britain out of that political mist and darkness in which she is living to-day







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