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Friday, 4 October 1912

Senator E J RUSSELL (VICTORIA) . - In approaching this question, I say at once that I do not think that it is one that ought to be considered in a light vein. I heartily wish that it had been possible to keep out of the controversy such expressions as have been referred to by Senator McColl this morning. I wish we could have approached the subject without introducing abuse and animosity. But whois responsible for the introduction of the personalities? Is it the Leader of the Labour party or those who are opposed to this policy? I am sorry that Senator McColl is leaving the chamber, because I wish to say one or two things about hiscriticism. I trust that it will not be considered ill-mannered on my part if I refer to what he has said in his absence. From the very first day that this proposal was made - when, as Senator McColl says, it was received with loud cheers in the Caucus - it has been unfairly criticised. He allegesthat it was received with cheers because the Labour party felt that they were going to their Sedan, as announced by one of our members, who has evidently successfully pulled the leg of such individuals as Senator McColl, who are inclined to take such things seriously. It is quite true that the moment the policy was announced1 it was accepted by the Labour party, because we have always believed in the principle of this measure, although it had not been previously defined within the four corners of a Bill. Who started the abuse in connexion with the question ? Within two days after the policy was declared. Senator McColl denounced it as " a low down political trick." The arguments that he has been using for months past he has repeated this morning, though I must admit that they were couched to-day in clearer and more gentlemanly language. What is the truth in regard to this being a political trick? Senator McColl states that in travelling- round the country he has met people belonging to all sections of society, some of whom recognise that the Bill is a political trick, though they intend to support it because they believe if will do a great deal of good. Now, I do not know of any claim that any party can have to occupy the Treasury bench and bring forward proposals in a democratic Parliament unless they manifest a desire and willingness to pass that legislation which the people wish to see carried. I do not know of any higher compliment that can be paid to us by our political opponents than to say that we are introducing popular measures. What could be said more favorable to the Labour party than that our legislation is good and that people intend to support it? Senator McColl might have gone further. That view of the matter is not confined merely to the man in the street. The bulk of the members of the Opposition in the Senate, and in another place, have adopted the same attitude. They denounced the measure, and abused those who introduced it, but, when they found that the people desired such legislation, and that it was popular, they lacked the courage of their convictions, and refused, in another place, to call for a division and register their votes against the Bill. I trust that a division will be called for in the Senate. Where has. the abuse come from? A few days after the proposal was announced in caucus, there was a political dinner given, at which Mr. Watt, the leader of the State Government of Victoria, described it as a political dodge brought forward merely with the idea of catching votes. He said that in Victoria the State has control over a number of institutions in which all that is necessary is provided for in the interests of mother and child. I have not the report of the speech by me, but I think I am quoting Mr. Watt fairly. He said that if the proposal were given effect, the allowance would not go to the mother of the child, or to the child ; that every one knew the medical profession, and they knew that the doctors would simply increase the maternity fees, with the result that the allowance would merely be a sop to the medical profession.

Senator St Ledger - It is probable that that will be the effect of it.

Senator E J RUSSELL (VICTORIA) - Does Senator St. Ledger indorse that statement ? If there is one class in the community which more than another has displayed a noble spirit of willingness to help those who are unable to help themselves, it is the medical profession. No public man, and no member of a State or the Federal Parliament, is entitled to abuse members of that profession, which has rendered such magnificent service to women. Such statements are unworthy of any public man, and they indicate the depths to which members of a political party can descend. Senator McColl, when speaking of the Labour Government and the proposal to pay a maternity allowance, made the statement that if a certain class of legislation submitted by the Labour Government is carried into effect, the day is not far distant when in this State a man will have to have two wives. If that is not abuse, I do not know what is. I regard it as one of the strongest statements ever made on a public platform. I do not believe that Senator McColl seriously advocated that a man should have two wives. I would not attribute that to him for a moment, but I do say that, in making that statement, he desired to suggest to the people that if the legislation of the Labour party be continued, it will be necessary for a man to have two wives if the ordinary work of his household is to be got through every day. -I regret the honorable senator's absence from the chamber. I believe that he made the statement referred to with the object only of throwing so much mud at the Labour party.

Senator Fraser - It is the last statement that Senator McColl could or would make.

Senator E J RUSSELL (VICTORIA) - The statement was made at Kerang, and I propose to quote it.

Senator Fraser - From what newspaper is the honorable senator about to quote ?

Senator E J RUSSELL (VICTORIA) - From the

Kerang Ntw Times,of Friday, 27th September. Possibly it is an abbreviated report, but I may inform Senator Fraser that the newspaper is not a Labour paper. Senator McColl is reported to have said -

What about the woman? A man would need two wives if women were to work only four hours a day. (Laughter.)

I wish to make it clear that I do not mean to say that Senator McColl advocated such a thing. His whole object in making the statement was to imply that we are carrying legislation which will make it necessary for a man to have two wives if the work of his household is to be got through. No more objectionable statement could have been made by a public man. In this matter, I cannot congratulate Senator St. Ledger as I am able to congratulate Senator McColl. The latter honorable senator has repeated here the statements to which he has been giving utterance for months past, and has announced his intention to vote against the Bill. On the other hand, Senator St. Ledger has gone round the country enunciating definite principles, and when he comes here he repeats only portions of the remarks he has made outside, and qualifies, or absolutely contradicts, some of the statements he has made at public meetings. I can refer to one case in support of what I say. In the course of his address yesterday, the honorable senator said that he did not believe that the monetary advantage of the proposed allowance would lead to any increase in illegitimacy.

Senator St Ledger - Certainly, I do not.

Senator E J RUSSELL (VICTORIA) - He went on to say rather dramatically that not £5, £10, or £20 would have that result. When I asked him why he had made a statement that in the Old Country, under the poor law, a certain allowance had had the effect of increasing illegitimacy, he was not prepared to answer. The honorable senator says here that not £5, £10, or £20 would have the effect of increasing illegitimacy, and I ask him now, and honorable senators will judge between us, what is the meaning of the following words -

That was where the sop to profligacy came in ; and, as he wrote to the Argus, from his knowledge of the history of the working of the poor law in Great Britain, the granting of a Government bonus indiscriminately to legitimate or illegitimate children tended towards a repetition of that which certain administration of the poor laws brought about in Great Britain.

Senator St Ledger - Let the honorable senator look at the Poor Law Report for 1832, and he will find that that is so.

Senator E J RUSSELL (VICTORIA) - Why did the honorable senator contradict that statement yesterday? I am not questioning the accuracy of his statement that what he said was an extract from a poor law report, but his statement at Hamilton that an allowance of the kind did increase illegitimacy.

Senator St Ledger - I said that it did, according to the Poor Law Report of 1832.

Senator E J RUSSELL (VICTORIA) - The question at issue between us is whether assistance of this kind will increase illegitimacy or not. The honorable senator said that it did increase it in the Old Country.

Senator St Ledger - I said, under poor law administration.

Senator E J RUSSELL (VICTORIA) - The natural! inference from the honorable senator's statement that it had that effect in the Old Country is that, if assistance of the kind were granted here, it would necessarily increase illegitimacy, or operate as an incentive thereto.

Senator St Ledger - That is an inference from the statement.

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