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Wednesday, 14 August 1901

The CHAIRMAN - I call the honorable, member's attention to the fact, that underthe standing orders he cannot quote from or allude to any debate which has taken placein the Senate.

Mr HUGHES - Am I to understand, that the objection is that I cannot refer to. the Senate or to a Senator by name ?

The CHAIRMAN - The honorable- member can neither quote from a debate in the Senate nor allude to the Senate.

Mr HUGHES - It was said elsewhere, that one reason why this proviso should beinserted was that it was an admirable proposal. It was said elsewhere also by a representative of the Government that the one reason why it should not be accepted was that although it was very admirable, it would be very unfortunate in its. effects, that it would be a highly unfortunate thing to enforce it; and what is more, that if it were in force it would have no practical effect. It was asserted by nearly all who opposed- the proposal elsewhere, that the British race, so far as they were employed at sea, were deteriorating and dying out. It was urged with all the force of a gentleman who had discovered one of the primal laws of nature, that the lascar is a British subject. If a man had suddenly discovered a sixth sense, or had tumbled upon the fourth dimension, he could not have announced the fact more triumphantly than these honorable gentlemen announced that the lascar was a British subject. But something more was wanted, in refutation of such an amendment as this, than the bald assertion that India is part of the British Empire. We know that it is. I understand that one honorable member, of another place, said that we in Australia, and our fellow British subjects in India, are on precisely the same footing. I utterly deny that. If any honorable member is impatient of achieving at once an eternal glory and a life-long exclusion from the walls of this gilded chamber, let him go outside and make that statement. Let him point out that the gentlemen who comes round with a vocabulary of from sixteen to 22 words, and asks us to buy anything from a bottle of pickles to a highlyembroidered petticoat is on the same footing with us. Let him tell that to the highlyintelligent elector, and although he may be broad-minded, yet so surely as he makes that statement will the elector relegate him to where such statements deserve to place him. An honorable member of another place said he regretted that there had been intruded into this debate an amendment which threatened to disrupt the British Empire. It was mentioned by these gentlemen, as one of the arguments against such a proposal, that the British Empire would totter to its fall if this proposal were incorporated in the Bill. I want to urge some reasons against such a contention. I have pointed out on several occasions - and, indeed, when before my constituents, I was at some pains to show that it was essential, if we were to have any sort of defence force by sea in time of danger - that our mercantile marine should be recruited from the white nations of the world, and if possible, from the British race. Lord Brassey has pointed out the melancholy, but undeniable, fact that the British mercantile white marine has decreased 50 per cent. in the last 25 years. Twenty-five years ago there were 200,000; their number is now 1 00,000. We do not propose now to compel any company to employ white labour. All that we ask is that when we ourselves subsidize a shipping company that that company shall employ only white labour. Even if the British Government refuses to enter into an arrangement with us in these circumstances, we shall be no worse off than we are now, because every steamer is compelled to carry mails. The only thing that the contract does is to provide that the mails shall be carried within a specified time. We can send our mails by any steamer we like.

Mr Thomson - But not from the other end. We cannot compel the companies at the other end to carry our letters.

Mr HUGHES - The honorable member does not see what I intended to infer, namely, that the mere fact of signing a contract with the Postmaster-General of the United Kingdom does not open up any new avenue along which our mails can be sent, but simply provides that along one of these existing avenues they shall be carried at a certain rate of speed. It has been pointed out that if this proviso were inserted in the Bill it would not be at all mandatory ; that mails could still be carried on other lines whether they employed coloured labour or not. It is only the line which we subsidize that will not be able to employ coloured labour. I do not think it is necessary to advance reasons why we should replace the lascar by the white sailor. It is true that the lascar is a British subject, but that is a poor consolation to the white mariner of Australia or Great Britain whose avocation is taken away from him, whose wages are reduced, and his whole industry threatened, by his fellow subject in India. I do not see the force of such an argument. It may he urged that if such a proviso is inserted in the Bill it will be vetoed. I understand thatthe Queensland Sugar Works Guarantee Bill, which provided that no Japanese should be employed in the mills, was vetoed. I think that we should understand what the limits of this power of veto are. We were told before federation that if we federated we should become a nation, with one flag and one destiny. But now it would appear that we are to be much in the position of a kitten which is allowed to gambol at the end of a piece of ribbon, and permitted to go a certain length and no further. If wo pass legislation which is to be vetoed, wo waste our time, and therefore I should like to know, with regard to this propo'sal, whether the British Government will veto it. I admit that the Iascar is a British subject, and I accept the doctrine of the brotherhood of man. But, in the domestic circle, there is sometimes a brother whom one regards regretfully in that relationship ; and that is very much the position of the Iascar. The British Empire has not been built up by the aid of the people of India. India is a dependency of the Empire, although her people are allowed a certain amount of self-government ; but we should not be prepared to permit the pruning down of our powers of government on their account. In everything but name we are an independent nation, though we choose, for the purpose of mutual benefit, to remain part of the British Empire. We have, therefore, a perfect right to demand that conditions which we regard as essential, and which do not affect the British born subjects of Great Britain, shall be so regarded by the Home Government. If one goes on board the steamers of the Messageries Maritimes, he will not find, with the exception of the West Africans in the stokehold, any but Frenchmen there, and if one goes on to the steamers of the Norddeutscher Lloyd, he will find that the men are all Germans, and so with all foreign subsidized lines. It is a matter of common knowledge that we are the only nation in the world that employs men .without regard to their nationality. ' I have this much patriotism, that I wish to restrict my patronage, when it is synonymous with the expenditure of my money, to the employment of my white fellow-countrymen. It may be argued that my proposal, if carried into effect, would disarrange the existing conditions regarding the methods of conveying mails to and from the Commonwealth. But, when we subsidize lines of steamers, we have a right to make what conditions we please in regard to the service, and, no doubt, if we asked the directors of the Messageries Maritimes or Norddeutscher Lloyd to carry our mails, and to employ white labour only, they would cheerfully accept the contract. While every other nation is providing against the hour of danger, we are acting what is certainly not the part of wise men. We know the Iascar seamen to be unreliable in time of danger, and there is on record an outrage committed by lascars after the wreck of the Quetta on the coast of Australia, some few years ago, which was of so atrocious a character that it cannot even be mentioned. I admit that they are more biddable than British seamen, but we must remember that the virtues which have made the achievements of our race possible are inseparably bound up with the obstinacy and the restlessness under discipline which mark, and sometimes disfigure, the members of it. But the steamships which ply between Liverpool and New York are manned by white labour, and no complaints are made against their discipline; while, as a proof of the endurance of our race, I would point out that the British men-of-war are stoked through the tropical belt by white stokers, and, as every one knows, the task of stoking a man-of-war is worse than that of stoking a merchant steamer, because the ventilation is not so good, and other conditions make it more arduous.

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