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Friday, 20 October 1911

The PRESIDENT - Order ! I must ask the honorable senator what the extract which he has quoted has to do with the question before the Senate ?

Senator WALKER - It has a great deal to do with the question, sir. This Bill is going to disfranchise 15,000 women at every election. They will be deprived of their right to vote by post, a right which they have hitherto enjoyed. _ Honorable senators opposite profess to believe these fine things about women, and yet they think they are unworthy to be afforded an opportunity "to vote. The next clause to which I wish to direct attention is that with relation to fixing Saturdays for election purposes, and closing the poll at 8 o'clock. The Sabbath of our Hebrew fellowcountrymen ends at sunset on Saturdays. The sunset in some parts of Australia is as late as a quarter past 7. The hour mentioned in the Bill is 8 o'clock. I suggest that if elections are to take place on Saturdays, the time be extended to 9 o'clock. Another section of the community which should be considered is that of the Seventh Day Baptists, who also observe Saturday as their Sabbath. That denomination has increased extensively in New South Wales. For their sake, too, I think we should make some allowance. In fact, I cannot see that it is altogether wise to choose Saturday as election day on all occasions. The next matter which I propose to mention has regard to canvassers. Senator Millen proved pretty clearly last night that the large industrial unions of this country have organizers who are practically paid political canvassers. I hope the Government will see their way to introduce a definition clause by which an organizer, whether of an industrial association or otherwise, shall be considered at the time of an election to be a paid canvasser. Otherwise, a great advantage will be conferred upon one section of the community over another.

Senator McGregor - Would it not be better to say that the canvasser of an organization shall not be considered an election canvasser?

Senator WALKER - The last remark that I have to make is that there is a broad distinction between a politician and a statesman. By the time this Bill gets through Parliament, people will be able to make up their minds whether the authors of it are statesmen or mere politicians. I propose to quote definitions of " Statesman " and "Politician" from Webster's and Chambers' dictionaries. Chambers' definition of a statesman is -

A man acquainted with the affairs of government ; one skilled in government.

Webstergives the following definition -

A man versed in the principles and art of government; especially one who shows unusual wisdom in treating Or directing great public matters; also, a man actually occupied with the affairs of Government and influential in shaping its policy.

Chambers'defines a politician as -

One versed in or devoted to politics; a man of artifice and cunning.

Websterdefines a politician as follows -

A politic person; a schemer; an intriguer. One versed or experienced in the science of government ; one devoted to politics ; a statesman. One addicted to, or actively engaged in, politics as managed by parties; often more or less disparagingly, one primarily interested in political offices or their profits; as, a mere politician. In modern usage politician commonly implies activity in party politics, especially with a suggestion of artifice or intrigue ; statesman now usually suggests broad-minded and far-seeing sagacity in affairs of State ; as, " What makes Burke stand out so splendidly among politicians is that he treats politics with his thought and imagination." " He has . . . a loose, shifty expression of face, and one which gives you the impression of a thorough politician in the bad sense of the word." " Theideas which began the new Germany were due to this quiet, strong, faithful, persistent, selfrespecting statesman."

When this Bill becomes law, the public of Australia will be able to judge whether it is. the work of politicians or of statesmen.:

Sitting suspended from 1 to 2.30 p.m.

Senator WALKER - I was saying before the suspension of the sitting that the people of Australia will be able to judge shortly whether this measure is one of a statesmanlike character or rather one tinged - not to say honeycombed - with party bias. If the Bill proves to be of the latter character, it will be the bounden duty of the successors of the present Government in office to amend such provisions as display an absence of statesmanship, and to place a more liberal measure upon the statute-book. I think- I have proved pretty clearly that, with the birthrate at present prevailing in Australia, about 15,000 women will be disfranchised by the abolition of voting by post.

Senator Givens - 15,000 in one week !

Senator WALKER - Certainly. I maintain that the mother of a new-born child ought to remain in her house at least a fortnight before, and a month or six weeks after, the event takes place. A great many women are ill from other causes. I calculate that at least 15,000 women are ill at any one time in Australia. I, therefore, believe I am within the mark in saying that at least that number will be deprived of the exercise of the franchise in consequence of the abolition of postal voting.

Senator Givens - If the honorable senator's crowd had not so shamefully misused the practice in the past it would not have been taken away.

Senator WALKER - The question arises in my mind as to whether it would not be well to reconsider the advisableness of issuing electors' rights.

Senator Rae - No New South Wales representative would agree to reinstate the elector's right system.

Senator WALKER - I understand that the principal objection to it is that people often lost their elector's right. Nevertheless the system has much to be said for it. It is all very well to say that irregularities have occurred under the postal voting system, but then there . will always be some irregularities whatever system is in operation. I stand for the principle of every adult person being entitled to vote, and being given the opportunity to do so, whether he or she be ill or well. As to the woman's vote, I have always supported the extension of the franchise to that sex, my opinion being that persons who pay taxes have the right to be represented in the Parliament that imposes them. My leader, Senator Millen, so ably and exhaustively criticised this Bill in detail last night that I need say no more than that I cordially coincide in the views which he expressed.

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