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III

It would be tedious to go through the more or less important achievements of various Premiers and public men with whom I was brought into contact during some thirty years' membership of the Western Australian Parliament. Besides, it is not my desire to deal with the more serious questions of state politics. In looking back my mind rests more upon individuals.

The Western Australian Parliament was the first Australian Legislature to include ladies amongst its members. Mrs. Cowan, the first lady member, was viewed at first as something of a curiosity. A charming white-haired lady, she was born in Western Australia, and took herself and her duties very seriously.

She devoted herself to social work. Her husband was a police magistrate at Perth. As illustrating how much she had to be away from home attending to her countless duties, she told me that when a lady called


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at her residence and, meeting Mr. Cowan outside in the garden and not knowing him, asked, “Does Mrs. Cowan live here?” “Well,” answered Mr. Cowan, “she sleeps here.”

Soon after Mrs. Cowan's election she was much concerned because ladies were not admitted to the Speaker's gallery. She could get her husband admission to it, but other members could not get their wives there. Finally she got this altered, but the ladies' gallery was made available for men.

When advocating on the floor of the House that ladies should be admitted to the Speaker's gallery, she reminded her hearers that not only did the Bible tell us that it was not a good thing for man to be alone, but that “male and female created He them and gave them dominion over all things.”

It is not always wise to quote Scripture. One of the members, Mr. Walker, cruelly pointed out that “He made woman out of a man's rib” and “brought her unto the man.” He added that St. Paul said that woman was created for man, and quoted the same authority as saying:

“Let your women keep silence, for it is not permitted unto them to speak, but they are commanded to be under obedience, as also saith the law. And if they will learn anything let them ask their husbands at home.”

Mr. Angelo appropriately remarked that St. Paul was an old bachelor.

Two remarkable members were Frederick Charles


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Burleigh Vosper and George Taylor, both of whom had served terms of imprisonment in Queensland in connection with a shearers' strike in the eighties and early nineties of the last century.

Vosper's appearance was striking. He was tall; his face was clean-shaved; his features were clear-cut—a well-formed prominent nose, a firm mouth, bright intelligent eyes, and he looked young; he was about thirty years of age. But what was most noticeable about him was that he wore his hair long like a woman. It was thick, glossy black and hung to his shoulders. He had kept it long since his imprisonment some years previously.

Originally Vosper came from St. Dominic, Cornwall. He was a polished speaker, cultured and well educated, and had a thorough scientific knowledge of mineralogy and geology. Highly intellectual, a deep student, a magnetic personality and a wonderful platform speaker, he had also brilliant qualifications as a parliamentarian. Had he not died about 1900, when but thirty-three years of age, he would have become a power in the public life of the Commonwealth. His political views were advanced, but what he advocated then is to-day universally accepted, and though he was amongst the radicals yet the bent of his mind was actually towards conservatism. His subsequent career would have tended towards hostility to violent change and strong support of Empire unity and imperialism.

His retorts were clever if at times somewhat rude. A Minister in Parliament in an endeavour to emphasise his remarks was in the habit of saying the same thing over and over again. The Minister happened


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to say “History repeats itself.” “Yes,” interjected Vosper, “but not so often as you.”

When Vosper was speaking on wheat growing a member interrupted with the remark, “You don't know what you are talking about. You never ploughed an acre in your life.” Quick came the retort from Vosper: “It is strange you ever had a chance to be anything but a ploughman.”

Once he told a persistent interjector in Parliament that he was a “tergiversating, tantalising troglodyte.” The member thus described rose to leave the chamber. “Why run away like that?” remarked a colleague. “He's not running away,” said another member, “he's going to get a dictionary to see the meaning of the names he has been called.”

Of a somewhat different type, George Taylor was self-educated, a rough diamond, original and possessed of a keen sense of humour. He was one of a small batch of Labour members who were returned to the State Parliament early in 1901. A few months later there was a by-election consequent on the acceptance of the Attorney-Generalship by a lawyer of exceptional ability and of high standing at the Bar. He was opposed by a Labour candidate, a barber by trade, without parliamentary experience or qualifications. To the surprise of the public, the lawyer was defeated, and Taylor exultantly declared, “We, the Labour Party, put up a barber, and had we put up his poll it would have been elected.”

Taylor was in the habit of entertaining parliamentarians in the lobbies of Parliament House with stories of his prison experiences. One story that he asserted was true was of two Queensland policemen bringing


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a Chinese to jail to be tried for murder. They stayed at a wayside inn, the policemen got drunk, and during the night the Chinese escaped. The constables left the inn before the innkeeper knew of the escape; they went to where there were some Chinese working in a garden, seized one who could not speak a word of English, and, despite his evident indignation and anger, rode off with him. He was found guilty, sentenced to death, but the penalty was commuted to penal servitude for life. The Chinese nearly went mad and was viewed as a lunatic. Some years later the truth was discovered, and he was released and compensated.

Both in speech and appearance George Taylor when he was first elected was “the wild man” of Parliament. He did not mind what he said, and he was rugged and fierce-looking, with a great growth of hair. His beard was full and wide and long and thick. It was said birds might build their nests in it with perfect safety. The strange grotesque and fantastic scrub tree was likened to him, and not inappropriately he was called “Mulga.”

Time showed he was adaptable to his environment. He was more than three years in Parliament when Labour came into office, and he became Colonial Secretary. It was not long before he had his hair cut; his beard was shortened and trimmed to a point of exceptional smartness. He occasionally appeared in Parliament in all the glory of a well-fitted dress suit; his manner became suave, and when the judges of the High Court sat in Perth it was his duty to preside at a dinner given by the State Government to them. The Chief Justice, Sir Samuel Griffiths, sat on the


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right of the man whom as a Queensland judge he had sent to prison for five years.

Whilst Colonial Secretary, Taylor asked the Queensland Government to grant leave to the superintendent of the jail in which he had been imprisoned to visit Western Australia and recommend improvements in the conduct of the state's prisons. Leave was granted, and the recommendations made were adopted. Taylor was in fact responsible for the drafting of reformatory principles for first and second time offenders that have been embodied since in the penal systems of most of the Australian states.

The Great War brought about a split in the Labour Party over the question of conscription. Taylor sided with those who favoured conscription and thus parted from many of his old political comrades. For twenty-three years he was a member of the Legislative Assembly, and during the last seven years he filled the position of Speaker. In that office he was no longer the rough, uncouth “Mulga” of former days, but a white-haired, carefully dressed, alert and charming old gentleman, who as Speaker was fair, correct and consistent with the best parliamentary traditions. He was universally respected and popular.

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