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Thursday, 16 November 1911

Senator McCOLL (Victoria) . - Senator McDougall is quite wrong in saying that Saturday is a holiday throughout Australia. That is not so. In many places, Wednesday is chosen as the halfholiday instead of Saturday. No doubt, it is a great convenience where Saturday is a half -holiday, to have elections on that' day; but we must give weight to the representations of those for whom Saturday is the Sabbath.

Senator Findley - We give consideration to them by extending the hour of polling to 8 o'clock.

Senator McCOLL - They say that that does not meet their case. I do not see why any other day in the week should not be chosen for election day. I have no doubt that the State Governments would fall in with our arrangement and make the day chosen a half-holiday. These people make it a matter of conscience, not to do any unnecessary work on Satur day. I dissent entirely from the last speaker, who said that many Jews are prepared to desecrate the Sabbath for the sake of a little money. That was not a right thing to say. Even if three-fourths of them did what the honorable member described, it would be no reason why we should trespass on the conscience of the others. Australia is supposed to be a land of liberty, where every man is free to worship God in his own way. These people consider it to be their duty to their God to keep Saturday holy. We have no right to trench upon their convictions, to come between them and their God. We are doing so by this provision. I find, according to the last census returns, that there are 15,239 Jews in the Commonwealth, of whom 6,447 reside in New South Wales, 5,847 in Victoria, 107 in Tasmania, 733 in Queensland, 1,259 in Western Australia, and 786 in South Australia.

Senator W RUSSELL (SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - Are they all adults ?

Senator McCOLL - These figures represent the total population. There are also 3,700 Seventh Day Adventists, who are very particular about their Sabbath. I know of servant girls belonging to that religious denomination who will not work on Saturday. We have no right, because we are in a majority, to flout their convictions. A petition has been presented to-day from two Jewish representatives, who tell us that this provision simply means disfranchisement for their people. We must take their statement as being correct.By taking away the postal vote we have already disfranchised between 20,000 and 30,000 persons. Now we are going to disfranchise more. I do not know whether Senator Gardiner's suggestion could be carried out. It certainly seems difficult. The best plan would be to leave the polling day an open question. If, in view of the circumstances of the time, it seemed desirable to declare Saturday "as polling day, that could be done. But do not let us fix it arbitrarily as an enactment. Let us have some regard for the scruples of our fellow citizens.

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