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Wednesday, 4 September 1901


Mr HUGHES (West Sydney) - The Attorney-General has, in a very thorough fashion, set before us the two methods to be pursued. One method is surrounded by difficulties, or, let us rather say, by dangers the nature of which he has indicated only by illustration and innuendo. I do not know what other honorable members may think, but I want no time in which to- consider this proposal. He suggested that some more ingenious person than himself might suggest a still more ingenious method, but I do not know that a more ingenious method could be discovered. I was rather astonished to learn that no particular end is to be gained by adopting the honorable and learned member's suggestion. Mr. Chamberlain is not to be hoodwinked. The Imperial authorities were to see on the very face of it the reason for the subterfuge, which was to effect by a side wind only what could be better obtained by an open attack. The AttorneyGeneral did not contend that his method was iia good as the other. He said that it would nl most do what the other would do. Why should we pause at the "almost," when the " actual " and the " quite" can be obtained by an open method which will enable us to know where we are 1 The objections and dangers at which the Attorney-General hinted are that the Imperial Government may veto the Bill because it may conflict with their ideas as to their world-wide responsibilities, and that, this Parliament would have to subordinate its wishes to the requirements and the exigencies of the Imperial Government. I venture to say that there is not a scintilla of argument or a shadow of reason to be brought forward in support of such an opinion. There is no reason to believe that the Imperial Government would veto this or any other Bill of the Commonwealth Parliament. The only evidence which the Attorney-General had to offer was that the Home Government had vetoed a Queensland Bill. But is it not one of the reasons why we have set up tins costly and cumbrous federal machine that by it we may have a wider influence and an extended sphere of national life? Yet at the very threshold, when we propose to expend our money as we please, we are told that the Home Government will not allow us to do so ! That is an absurd and si dangerous statement. It is absurd, because there is no precedent to warrant it, and it is dangerous, because, if we once establish such a precedent, the Home Government will not be slow to follow it up. If we admit that in our legislation we are to be hampered and embarrassed by any considerations of what the Home Government may do before they have given us any clear and unmistakable indications of their intentions, we give them an open invitation to inter-, fere. Any Government in the circumstances in which the Home Government finds itself, hampered on the one side by foreign treaties and on the other side by the necessities of an expanding trade, would veto any measure that in the slightest degree might embarrass its relations with foreign nations. But we are not to consider that. We have been sent here with the clear and unmistakable mandate that we are to secure a white Australia, and if we cannot do that when we have the money in our hands to expend upon a service which is to be carried out for our benefit, we cannot , do. it at all. The Attorney-General says that there is an analogy between what he proposes and the treatment to be extended to coloured immigrants under the Immigration Restriction Bill which has yet to be discussed. I do not admit, and there is no need to admit, that the method adopted by the Government in that Bill is a good one ; we have yet to decide that. But there is no such analogy as the Attorney-General speaks of. It is proposed in the Immigration Restriction Bill to pass certain regulations in regard to the immigration of coloured persons or persons possessing a certain degree of education, but what we propose in the clause now before us is to expend some £70,000 a year upon the carriage of our mails to and from other places under certain conditions as to the labour to be employed. "We are going to pay for this labour. It has always been the proud boast of the English Commons that having the control of the purse they controlled the policy of the country. This is a matter which touches the control of the purse, and yet we are told that we are not to determine who shall earn the money we pay. The Attorney-General said that the end we. have in view can be brought about by regulations. If the regulations, are to be passed by both Houses of Parliament they differ in no essential from a law. They cannot be repealed except by a process similar to that by which they are enacted ; no departure from them can be legally permitted ; the Home Government will know all about them ; and foreign nations who may be affected will be in a position to protest against the regulations through their ambassadors and diplomatic agents. In what do the processes differ ? They differ only as a plain blunt statement differs from a roundabout one. Another Parliament may be called upon to' decide as to the terms upon which we shall enter into this contract with Great Britain. It may be that this Parliament will be sent about its business in another six months or twelve months, and the contract under which the mails will be carried after the expiration of the present contract, or the correspondence relating thereto, may be laid upon the table in another Parliament. Therefore this Parliament, which -is authorized directly by the people of Australia, may not have an opportunity of settling the new contract upon such -terms as they know to be in accord with the general will. I will not say that another Parliament may not be equally competent to do this with ourselves, but no Parliament can be more competent. We come fresh from the people; we are impressed by no petty political cries, but we are seized with the whole of the facts, 1 and we were sent here in an overwhelming majority. It would be a difficult thing to find six men in this chamber who would cast their votes against this proposal, and I therefore ask why there should be any delay? There can be only one reason, and putting aside the ingenuity of the AttorneyGeneral it appears that that reason is the fear that the Bill may be delayed by some action on the part of the Home Government. I do not know that the GovernorGeneral would refuse the Royal assent to this Bill, and I do not suppose for one moment that the Attorney-General has any special knowledge on the subject, or any reason for suggesting a possible difficulty, because it would be utterly unconstitutional to approach the Governor-General upon such a point. Either the Governor-General has extended powers beyond those of an ordinary State Governor, or he has not. If he has no extended powers beyond those given to the ordinary State Governor where is the ground for all this bombast about a nation and a destiny, and an enlarged sphere of usefulness. If the Governor-General is to be tied down within those limitations set for the State Governors why should we have a GovernorGeneral? Is not the GovernorGeneral superior to a State Governor - are not his powers more extensive ? Is the exercise of his discretion to be hampered by such comparatively petty restrictions as those which apply to a State Governor? We know nothing of these things of course, but, judging by analogy, and reasoning on common-sense lines, there is no doubt that a unanimous demand on the part of this new Parliament in respect to a measure upon which the people of this country have made up their minds - not ina hurry orin a moment of passion, but as the result of years of bitter experience in some parts of this continent, and with the experience of other nations which have been still more unfortunate staring us in the face - will be received with befitting respect. This nation has made up its mind that it will have a white Australia, and that it will not pay one penny of subsidy in connexion with a contract which is carried on by means of anything but white labour. Such a demand in the name of such a nation could not be treated as the demand of a petty State of this continent. If we are going to receive the same treatment as the State of Queensland received in respect to its sugar mills, we shall have expended all our time and energy, have raised this magnificent edi Hee, and have unfurled the banner of this* Commonwealth in vain. Federation will be a mere chimera, and there will be nothing solid, and no substantial basis on which to erect our national structure. I do not believe that any of these fears are well founded. I believe that the Governor-General would assent to this Bill, and that if it should be reserved for the Crown, the Royal

Assent would be given. I believe that if it were known, as it must become known, "that this Parliament, not by a catch vote, but by an overwhelming majority, demanded that these conditions should be carried out in connexion with the mail contracts, no British Government, in the face of the experience of the past - which has taught the British Empire what it needed to be taught in respect to the government of its colonies - - would ever dare to veto such a provision. Now, as to this regulation, which the Attorney-General proposes, what would its effect be 1 He, its author, and its advocate - or rather its apologist-.says.it is a nice, entertaining, ingenious, and insidious method, by which we can nearly obtain an object that can be wholly obtained here and now by a plain, blunt statement. As to what will happen in another place, the difficulty will be at least as great in one case as in the other. I do not wall t this matter postponed, because we have already wasted too much valuable time. Let us have "the matter put plainly before the committee and come to a decision. It is very clear that the Government are prepared to deal sensibly and thoroughly with the question, and I believe that this alternative proposal that they have put forward will find no favour with the committee. Because of that, and because there seems, even according to the statement of the AttorneyGeneral, no good and sufficient reason why the amendment as proposed by me should not be adopted, I, for my part, do npt care to postpone the matter, and I, therefore, move -

That the following word's be added as a proviso to clause 14 : - "Provided that no contract or arrangement shall be entered into with any person or corporation that directly or indirectly employs other than white British subjects in the carrying out of such contract or arrangement."


Sir Langdon Bonython - I would like to ask the honorable member whether he intends that his motion shall apply to coolies employed for coaling purposes ?


Mr HUGHES - I would not like to express any opinion about that.


Sir Langdon Bonython - I am asking what the honorable member really intends.


Mr HUGHES - As to the question of law, I do not know anything about it, but I do not intend the amendment to apply to coaling.







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