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- Start of Business
- PROTEST AGAINST IMMIGRATION RESTRICTION BILL
- SELECT COMMITTEE ON COINAGE
- IMMIGRATION RESTRICTION BILL
Friday, 6 September 1901
Sir WILLIAM MCMILLAN (Wentworth) - When the Prime Minister moved the second reading of this Bill, he very justly remarked that it was not like one of the machinery Bills which have been engaging the attention of the House during the last few months, but a measure of high national importance. 1 think we will all agree with him in that sentiment. This measure marks the first step we are taking as a legislative body in dealing with, questions which must touch upon Imperial interests, and must affect the international relations of Australia with therest of the world. The right honorable gentleman said, that this was not a. machinery Bill, .and it is not - it might be more correctly described as an infernal machine Bill. And, as the honorable and gallant member for Maranoa is aware, with regard to real torpedoes, these political torpedoes or shells, which are constructed to hit in one direction, when once they burst, have very little discrimination with regard to individuals. The only plea for this Bill, which is certainly one of the most crooked measures that it was ever attempted to place on the statute-book, is that by wise and judicious administration it will at all. times be properly directed. I confess that in my experience of the Government in many minor matters which require ordinary judgment and ordinary discretion, I have not been so impressed with their administrative intelligence that I am willing to agree to a measure giving such enormous powers, and with such far-reaching effects. With regard to the position we occupy at the present time, it is well, in connexion with this great measure, to consider our relations with the mother country. We are beginning an experiment in government which I venture to say has had no parallel in the history of the civilized world. I put on one side altogether, in any parallel that might be drawn, the position 'of South Africa and the position of Canada, foi- although we have in these countries two great integral parts of the British Empire, one federated and the other probably about to be federated, their local surroundings are absolutely different from those of Australia. In each case there are foreign people on the borders, and it is absolutely necessary .to South Africa and Canada in the working out of their political salvation that under no circumstances shall they break the tie with the mother country. Australia, however, occupies a unique position. We are an island continent, and we are different from almost every other offshoot of the British Empire. Here we have ingredients of population which, with the exception of a small percentage, are practically the same in proportion to numbers, as those in the United Kingdom. The whole of this great I continent has been peopled almost entirely " with a purely British stock. But we have a certain position with regard to the Empire, and we are beginning a practically independent course of Government and national life, and we must be very careful "to keep clearly before us the two facts that by this Commonwealth institution that we "have inaugurated we have become one of the civilized peoples of the world and that, whether we will or not, whether united with Great Britain or as an independent people, we must mix with the peoples of the world, and must consider international relations. ]f we were an independent people we might take many courses, especially if we were an independent people of greater development than at present, with every part of our foreshores inhabited by a brave and enterprising people, instead of having, as at present, a mere handful of people in this enormous continent. We must undoubtedly see that we should do nothing to wilfully interfere with that union between ourselves and the country from which we have sprung, which is not merely one of affection or one of race, but one also of mutual interest. On the other hand we must recollect the great and impressive fact that we are a people situated practically in the eastern seas, and that we have a continent of such enormous proportions that whilst the southern parts have a climate suitable to the British people, one-half of our territory is either tropical or sub-tropical. We must also recollect that the-northern portion of our continent lies in close proximity to millions and millions of people of an alien and servile character. Further, when we go a little north of Port Darwin we find in the Malay Peninsula, in all parts, either under the protection or within the sphere of influence of the British Empire, hundreds of thousands of Chinese and people of kindred nationalities practically carrying on the commerce and forming the most industrious element in the populations of these countries- Now, the question that naturally arises in dealing with a Bill like this is what is the object we have in view. Our desire is to prevent any alien or servile races from so occupying large territories in Australia . as to mix and interfuse, not merely among themselves, but with our own people. We have heard a great many definitions, almost ad nauseam, with regard to what is called a white Australia, but it is necessary for us to repeat what we mean. I must confess that some years ago I looked I with less apprehension than I do to-day upon the possibilities of the future, and I still think that there is an unnecessary amount of alarm raised in reference to this question. I cannot, however, shut my eyes to the fact that the large majority of the people of Australia, backed up by nearly all the representatives of the people of Queensland, have given it as their unfaltering opinion that, no matter what measures are necessary, Australia must be kept pure for the British race who have begun to inhabit it. We have to deal here with a very difficult question. We have to consider it as a people forming a part of the British Empire, an empire which is so large and so comprehensive that it contains amongst its citizens men of all colours and of all classes. Our difficulty, therefore, whilst part of the British Empire - or even if we were an independent State - in dealing with a question so serious and so real is to arrange so that we can keep out the undesirable elements without doing injury to those international interests, without which no great country can live and trade. This Bil), however, seeks to do in a crooked and indirect way what we ought to do straightforwardly and honestly, and while I admit the difficulty, and whilst I know the history of similar legislation in the States during recent years, I do not admit that this Commonwealth Parliament, if it is to reach a certain goal, should be in any way hampered or hindered by the precedents of other States. I hold that if we are perfectly sure that a certain policy is necessary to uphold the purity of the race of Australia - if a certain policy is necessary in order that the civilization of a purely British character implanted on our shores shall be continued as the population increases, until we become in the future a great populous country - I do not think we should hesitate, for one moment, under the peculiar circumstances of the case - with our position in these south-eastern seas, open to millions of these servile and alien people - to say to Great Britain, "Tin's is a problem which you and we have to face, and the more straightforwardly, and the more honestly we face it the better for the future." Every one of us, no matter what our individual views may be, must feel, especially belonging as we do to the race which has been more broad-minded, more cosmopolitan, and more adventurous than any other race the world has known, that in attempting to shut out any human beings from our shores and from the privileges of .British freedom, we are doing a very extreme act. It was once our boast that if the negro set his foot on our shores, from that moment he was free. We are, no doubt, under peculiar exigencies and under special local circumstances, reversing that great principle of British freedom and British refuge. But, having had the experience ' of the last twenty or thirty years, I think I am right in saying that public opinion in Australia, almost to a man, is determined that this country shall be free from what has been the curse of many other civilized countries. I do not think that any honorable member will charge me with trimming my sails to meet the current breeze when I know that the current breeze will not bring me in the right direction. But I confess that, while I do not feel so extremely on this subject as others, I am imbued with quite as strong opinions as to the necessity of reaching this goal as any honorable member in the Chamber can be. I hope that during the ages to come this country will always look to Britain as its fatherland. I hope -we shall never lose that proud distinction, which I hold to be a distinction greater than any in the world - "I am a British citizen." But if I thought that we had to put in the scales, on the one side, the British connexion with certain restrictions on our autonomous government, and the populating with South Carolinas many portions of the northern parts of the continent, and on the other side a disjointed empire, I would unreservedly make my choice. But this Bill is an absolute fraud.
Mr Wilks - That is rough on the Government.
Mr Deakin - Not in the least. The honorable member for Wentworth is talking nonsense.
Sir WILLIAM McMILLAN - I am not inclined, in debating a subject, to shut out from myself the whole purview of that subject. We are told we must cover up our real intentions in this Bill, and must trust to refined diplomatic administration on the part of the (Executive Government. I have had sufficient experience of the flabby character of Executive Governments in Australia during the last ten years to know that a Government is strong, determined, and lion-hearted in the extreme, so long as it is sure of a majority. But when Parliament meets, and when a section - and' I do not refer invidiously to any section of the House, because in this matter the extremist belongs to all parties - but if, in view of this Bill being a comparative failure, as I believe it will be, there is an amount of agitation created by any section of the existing Parliament, on which depends the majority and life of the Government, then good-bye to firmness and courage, and we have the Government as flabby as a jellyfish. It seems to me, especially in the case of a Government which extends its influence over such an enormous area, to be absolutely impossible, apart from what I have said, to administer this measure with sufficient judiciousness and sufficient firmness. We must recollect that we have not State Governments within moderate localities looking after State Bills of this kind, but that we have a country 8,000 miles round. In the administration of a Bill of this kind we have to trust to the executive authority exercised, not only by high-class men, but by inferior under-strappers ; and it will be impossible to exercise that judiciousness of mind which is so necessary in such a very delicate matter. Therefore, I say most distinctly that it is better for us, if we are to deal with this question at all, to put in an Act of Parliament exactly what we mean. What we mean, in the view of all Australia at the present time, is that we will prevent any large infiltration of alien elements into the component parts of our national life, and that we will preserve pure- for all time the British element with which we started. There are two modes by which this population may become infiltrated by alien elements, and one is almost as dangerous as the other. No matter what one's opinion may be on this subject, either in general or in detail, we all agree that there is an inherent power in the Government to keep out hordes of undesirable citizens. To take a very extreme illustration, if a shipload of lepers were attempted to be landed on any part of the Australian shores, the Government would have a perfect right to say - " Clear away from our coasts." In the same way, if there were arriving large numbers of Japanese, Chinese, Malays, or others coming in the particular mode to which I have referred, the Government would have a perfect right, as a Government, to say, " You must not touch our shores." That is an obvious danger which can be dealt with almost under any circumstances. But the danger which has developed itself of late years is the slow infiltration of people in small numbers, which have become larger of late, and these people are gradually taking up positions in the midst of our civilized life. That process, if it goes on for a certain number of years - and what are a few years in the life of this nation 1 - will undoubtedly create a marked difference in the component parts of our people in Australia. I must confess that I was not so apprehensive of this a few years ago as I have lately become. With all my cosmopolitan views, I must say that many of these aliens are not nice people to be seen in the lonely bush of Australia. But we are asked to pass a Bill which gives the most drastic powers in one direction, but which, if it be workable at all, must be worked under the judicial ideas of an executive. The only way to meet this danger is not by compromise or half measures, but absolutely and boldly, and to say that these people shall not come at all.
Mr Mauger - Will the honorable member support that ?
Sir WILLIAM MCMILLAN - I will support it.
Mr Mauger - The honorable member will get the chance.
Sir WILLIAM MCMILLAN - My principle is - and ! do not generally play to the gallery - that the large majority of the people of Australia have said absolutely that these alien races must not enter our territory. In New South Wales a polltax of £100 was put on Chinamen. That was practically prohibition ; and when we regard this question at all, we regard it as one of prohibition. Let us consider for a moment, after these general remarks, the details of the Bill. What does the Bill say We are to do ? The Bill is not merely drastic in one respect, but it is absolutely unfair and unpatriotic in other respects. It says, forsooth, that every man, not a regular resident, who comes to these shores may be asked to write out in .the English language a sentence or paragraph of 50 words. In the first place, we have British subjects, within 200 miles of London, who have never spoken a word of English in their lives - Welshmen. We have also a similar population in Ireland, but only to a small extent. Then we have the French Canadians, who are some of the best citizens, of the British Empire. But- the Bill will allow the educated negroof South Carolina to come in, while we shut out our own fellow-citizens from Canada. How futile this will' be? We want to keep out the Japanese labourerWhy, Japan is becoming at present a highly-educated nation. English is being; taught in the schools there, and in a few years there will not be a Japanese labourer who will not be able to fulfil this test. Itis not the educational test that is required: - and that is the dishonesty of the Bill - but it is the avoidance of race taint. Whatis the good of our saying anything else - saying one thing and meaning another ? . I, of course, feel that the work we have to dois a very unpleasant work, lt is a work which every man must feel is only a matterof stern necessity, as is capital punishment in the case of a murderer. But if it is tobe done, let us do it thoroughly, completely, and honestly.
Sir John FORREST - How would thehonorable member deal with our IndianBritish subjects?
Sir WILLIAM MCMILLAN - I said in my opening remarks - and nobody can bemore seized of the difficulties and dangers of the position than I am - that -Ave are a component part of the British Empire, which ismade up of all sorts of races and classes of men. But the fact that. these difficulties, arise, and that we are a part of the British Empire renders it all the more necessary at. this initial stage of our Commonwealth lifethat we should meet these difficulties straightout, face to face, and that we should tell the-' Imperial Government that although we desire to cling to the British connexion for all time we must not be hampered by these conditions which arise out of our union with theEmpire. Furthermore," I deny that we have a right to put ourselves on the sameplane as either the Crown colonies or thedependencies of Great Britain. GreatBritain has two functions to perform in a world-wide empire. She has one destiny in sending out her surplus population - people of her own grit and blood - to populatethe uncovered portions of the earth. Shehas another destiny, by Providence placed in her hands, of rendering possible, order, good government, and humanity in the great empire of India, - which for centuries was wrecked and knocked topieces by , every usurper and tyrant in the eastern part of the. world. She has. these two great destinies. Many of the things which have come to Great Britain have not been sought by herself or her people. They have been the result of political and imperial evolution. To-day, if Great Britain as a Christian country which has led the way in humanitarianism all over the world, could without cowardice safely get rid of many of her responsibilities she would do so. But those responsibilities are there, and the British race will never shirk them. We have an empire created under conditions never before known in the civilized world. Whoever heard of selfgoverning colonies connected with an imperial centre 12,000 or 14,000 miles away? Whoever heard of four millions of people at that distance connected with the parent country and having all the independence of autonomous government ? Here let me say that some reflections and remarks which were made the other night with regard to Mr. Chamberlain were absolutely unfair and uncalled for. In one of the deputations which Mr. Chamberlain received he said - " Gentlemen, we recognise the fact above all others that this is a voluntary union." To-morrow, if these four millions of people in a constitutional way said to Great Britain - " We want to delete from our Constitution the glorious words under the Crown,' " Great Britain would say - " You can go. You are our own people, and we wish you godspeed in your destiny, though we are sorry to part from you."
Mr Knox - Is the honorable gentleman quoting Mr. Chamberlain ?
Sir william mcmillan - i am practically quoting what Mr. Chamberlain said, and what requires no quotation, because it has been the thorough understanding of that principle by the statesmen of England during the last 30 years, which has made possible the union of the British Empire. If it had not been for the slack hand, and the desire that the same self-government which Englishmen enjoy should be enjoyed by us within our own domain, if there had ' been any attempt to interfere with it, Australia might not to-day be united with the British Empire. What I want particularly, and without any unnecessary repetition, to impress upon honorable members is that we have come to one question so enormously critical, so enormously far-reaching, that it must be settled in some way or other. It must not be settled by a crooked Bill of this kind, but in some way b}T which the almost unanimous wish of the Australian people will be fully carried out, because upon this question we are not speaking with an uncertain voice. Upon this matter all party spirit is dead, and Australia speaks with practically one voice. Therefore, I say, let us face thisquestion. Let us throw on the British Government the necessity of saying whetherit is possible for us to deal with it in thisway or not.
Mr Knox - Let us hit out straight from, the shoulder.
Sir WILLIAM McMILLAN - The circumstances and conditions under which local, measures have been drat ted and passed have no parallel with the position of this great Commonwealth Government to-day. Let us tell the British Government that we are confronted with a great difficulty, not arisingout of our connexion with the Empire somuch as out of our position in these southern seas. Let us tell them that we do .not wantto do anything which will create international difficulties, and that we are strong to the death for our union with the old mothercountry ; but that this is a difficulty whichwe have, and which every man to-day in England, if he became an Australian subject, would also have to face. We have to faceit deliberately. It is a matter of life and. death to the purity of our race and the future of our nation. We want to know straightforwardly and honestly the r61e we- are to pursue, ' and to ask the Imperial i authorities if they cannot with that practical wisdom which has taken them out of thousands of difficulties in the days gone by, bring about some solution of this question, which whilst giving us the desired result sofar as the servile nations of the world are concerned, will not put us in opposition to all those elements of European greatness and European virility which we welcome toour shores, which we know will never comprise more than a certain percentage of our population, which may create an industrial, life which we would thankfully welcome, and which may become a part of the citizenship of Australia without in any wayimpairing the purity of the nation.
Mr Mauger - To whom is the honorable member alluding ?
Sir WILLIAM MCMILLAN - I an* alluding to Frenchmen, Germans, and others,, who, we may be sure, will never come here in very great numbers - certainly never in numbers sufficient to in any way interfere with the original British stock - but who if this Bill is carried out as it may have to be carried out in order to secure its object, will be absolutely shut out. I am glad that the Prime Minister is present, because I took down a remark of his the other day in which I must say he forgot the statesman and descended rather to the role of special pleader. In order to justify this absolutely impossible clause, which requires that every immigrant must be able to write in English, the right honorable gentleman said -
The reason foi: this provision is that if :i man wants to come into tin English speaking country to pursue his avocation there, the language which that people is concerned in his knowing, is the language which will enable them to do business with him.
Surely that would be a retrograde movement on the part of the British people. The idea of our saying to every German, Frenchman, or other person of u civilized country that the reason we keep him from our shores is that we expect everybody on all occasions to speak our language, and that a man is not fit to become a citizen unless he can speak the English language, is very much like asking a man to swim before he gets into the water. How are these people to know our language before they come amongst us ? How are the thousands of industrial people who carry on vine-growing and other avocations wellknown in Europe to come here if they have first to learn the English language? But this very test will be absolutely useless amongst some of the eastern people. Every J apanese who comes here will soon be able to successfully pass this test in the English language. Let us look at what this provision leads us to. We have in our Constitution obtained power to enlarge the functions of government, but it seems to me that, in connexion with many of the Bills going through this House, our particular function is to restrict the powers of other people. This Bill contains a clause by which, if a single undesirable immigrant is allowed to leave a ship which comes into one of our harbors, the master of that ship is either to lie bailed up to the detriment of his business or to pay a fine of £100. All this bears upon my point that if we are going to restrict the immigration of undesirable aliens we ought to do so straightforwardly, and to aim at the people whom we propose to hit. How can any one know who is an undesirable immigrant under this Bill? How can the captain of a ship know whether a person can write fifty words in English or not1? The measure throws the onus on the shipowner of mustering his crew, and if there be a single person missing - and we know how impossible it is to exercise any surveillance over men on board ship in certain places - it practically says to the captain - "Your ship must not leave this harbor, and if you do not get securities or pay the fine you will be sold off, lock, stock, and barrel.1' This is another instance in which we shall be doing an enormous detriment to the shipping and international relations of Australia. Let us go straight to our goal. We have to deal with the question, which is not one of our own seeking. It is one which depends upon our surroundings in this part of the Pacific. Let us tell the British Government that we do not intend under any circumstances to let these people come into Australia. Let us tell them that it is not for us by superfine arrangements in a Bill leaving everything to administrative control to pass a practically dishonest measure which means one thing and says another. Let us say not only that we are perfectly aware that our union with the British Government creates a difficulty that it is very hard to get over ; but that we trust to the British Government to give us fair consideration in this difficulty. I may say this is not the first difficulty that will arise under the peculiar relationship that we have with the mother country. This is only the first of a series, and what I want to prevent is this : I want to prevent any Bill going before the Home Government which does not fully, honestly, and completely tell that Government what we mean.