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Wednesday, 6 December 1905
Page: 6358


Mr HIGGINS (Northern Melbourne) - I support the amendment, and in doing so I wish to explain why I do not intend to. submit the proposal of which I have already given notice.


Mr Deakin - I drafted this amendment after reading the proposal of the honorable and learned member.


Mr HIGGINS - I felt that there was great danger in the Bill in the form in which it was introduced. It is admitted that the whole of this legislation simply resolves itself into a question of administration. If it were seen that the law prevented Australian Ministers from prescribing any but an European language, a foreign Power could not lay the blame at their doors.But if it saw that the law permitted Ministers to prescribe what language they chose in the case of coloured immigrants, it might well have cause for anger if Ministers did not exercise their discretion. Upon constitutional grounds, therefore. I feel that it would be very inexpedient to vest an uncontrolled power in

Ministers. The amendment which I tabled read as follows: -

No language other than European shall be prescribed except in pursuance of a resolution passed by both Houses of Parliament.

The Prime Minister has discovered that the word "European" is offensive, and I have no intention of adhering to the language of my proposal if I can secure in substance what I desire. The Prime Minister has suggested that all the European languages which are at present authorized shall be deemed to be " prescribed " in the meantime.


Mr Crouch - Is that an addition to the honorable and learned member's proposal ?


Mr HIGGINS - No. I am speaking of the Prime Minister's amendment. At the present time the only languages authorized are European languages. Consequently we start right. Another clause provides that no regulation prescribing a language shall have any force until it has been laid upon the table of the House for thirty days. Then, if any honorable member moved to disagree with a regulation prescribing a certain language, it would not become operative unless with the indorsement of Parliament.


Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - How long would that take?


Mr HIGGINS - I cannot tell. All I can say is that the procedure I have described is necessary before any departure can be made from that policy which is dearest to the hearts of the people of Australia.


Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I agree with the honorable and learned member as to the policy, but not as to the manner of giving effect to it.


Mr HIGGINS - I assume that the honorable member is as strongly in favour of a White Australia as is the honorable and learned member for Parkes.


Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I voted for the principle which that policy embodies before the honorable and learned member for Northern Melbourne did so.


Mr HIGGINS - I do not regard the amendmentproposedas one which deprives Ministers of their proper responsibility. They must declare their opinions beforethey consult the House. They must commit themselves to a certain course of action by making a particular recommendation. We are then asked to declare that, unless the House objects, their decision shall become law. I do not think it is giving the House too much power to enable it to interpose before any departure is made from the policy of a White Australia. This Bill only serves to show how unwise was the educational test which we imposed under the principal Act, at Mr. Chamberlain's request. There is no legislative provision upon our statutebook which has caused so much friction, or which has tended more to make Australia unpopular than have the sections of the Immigration Restriction, Act which relate to that test. I opposed it at the time, and my opposition has been perfectly justified by events.

Oh, what a tangled web we weave,

When first we practise to deceive.

I wish, in conclusion, while urging the acceptance of the amendments to clause 3, proposed by the Prime Minister, to ask him whether he still adheres to his determination to accept the amendment of clause 4A that I suggested?


Mr Deakin - Certainly.


Mr HIGGINS - The one bears upon the other.


Mr Deakin - They certainly go together.


Mr HIGGINS - And, therefore,I could not deal with the one without dealing with the other. I think this is a case in which we have to take the best that wecan obtain, inasmuch as we cannot secure exactly the legislation which we should like to have.







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