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Wednesday, 9 October 1901

Mr REID (East Sydney) - I made some reference to this Bill this afternoon. First of all I wish to say, with reference to the policy of the measure, that I am thoroughly in favour of the principle which is aimed at. I feel absolved from any difficulty in reference to the Bill, by the simple fact that the principle it involves was the burning question in the great State of Queensland at the time of the Federal elections this year. The result was to show that an enormous majority of the people of that State are in favour of the stoppage of this kanaka traffic. Since the people of Queensland have placed on record in unmistakable terms their wish that this sort of legislation should be applied to their State, I think that honorable members representing other States need have no hesitation in supporting the Bill. The Government have gone to the furthest length to which any Government can consistently go in the way of consideration for this traffic. The feelings of the people of Australia, with regard to these coloured aliens, are well known. Outside of Queensland the views of the people of Australiagenerallyareclearly, unmistakably, and absolutely against the continuance of any such traffic. We have also the special verdict of the people of Queensland on this very point. Since the verdict of the people of Australia outside of Queensland has been almost unanimously against the traffic, and since the special finding of Queensland is also against it, there is no need for honorable members to hesitate about supporting the Bill. I gathered the other night from the speech of the honorable member for Darling Downs, who has been most recently elected, that there has been no change of feeling on this subject in Queensland. We had the deliberate verdict of that State in March last. We also had an election which tested this question only a few days ago - the election of the honorable member for Darling Downs - which afforded another proof that the people of Queensland are unmistakably opposed to this traffic. All Australia having expressed this opinion, I think that the Government are justified in bringing forward this legislation. A remarkable difficulty - and one of their own making - faces us in connexion with this Bill. It is not a difficulty to myself or other honorable members who voted in a certain way upon another measure, because we have our principle recognised in the Bill. There is no foolery about putting a kanaka through the educational test, but the Ministry have gone straight to the point. They say in clause 3 that no Pacific Islands labourer shall enter Australia on or after the 3 1st day of March, 1901. That is a prohibition on account of race and colour - a totally plain, straightforward prohibition to all eternity of the Pacific Islands labourer. That is the sort of legislation that some of us are in favour of.

Mr Higgins - Are there not some British subjects among the Pacific Islands labourers ?

Mr REID - That scarcely touches the point I am dealing with. We were told that the educational test was because of the tendencies and susceptibilities of the Japanese. I have never heard yet that the course adopted in the other Bill was owing to the sensibilities of the kanakas or the South Sea Islanders. That is a new aspect of the matter which we have not had presented yet, but which may be put before us. We have to deal with the broad fact that the Government had before them a despatch from Mr. Chamberlain based on these terms. The despatch said -

In the first place it (the Bill) embodies a disqualification based on the place of origin - that is practically a distinction of race and colour. Any attempt - " Any," mind you ; it is not limited - to impose disqualifications on the basis of such distinctions, besides being offensive to a friendly power is contrary to the general conceptions of equality which have been the guiding principle of British rule throughout the Empire.

To those principles and to that policy the Federal Ministry have said - "Yes, Mr. Chamberlain." The Ministry have adopted the language of Mr. Chamberlain, and have gone further, and said - "We are notlikely to propose any legislation that will conflict with these views." Where will the Colonial Office be when it gets this Pacific Islands Labourers Bill ? The Colonial Office will get the Japanese Bill, and find that it bears across it, not conspicuously, but in a way that can be read between the lines - "Yes, Mr. Chamberlain." This Bill will go back with the water line - "No, Mr. Chamberlain."

Mr Barton - "Yes-No" is the right honorable gentleman's monopoly.

Mr REID - I can assure the Prime Minister that among all the exploits of politicians in the way of " yes-no," this legislation of the Federal Ministry is pre-eminent. Now, I want to point out the extraordinary position into which the Federal Government are dragging this most subservient House. Mr. Chamberlain has been assured that any distinctions based on race and colour are not only contrary to the conceptions of the British Empire, which the present Federal Ministry have developed, but that the Ministry are not likely to submit any legislation conflicting with Mr. Chamberlain's views. Therefore, in order to exclude races of a yellow colour, a Custom - house officer is to be appointed to dodge them with various living languages of Europe. Whites of any nation in Europe can walk past the Custom-house officer and tread on his corns while he dare not look at them because he has received instructions that he is to let Germans and Frenchmen pass. But when the yellow -skinned gentleman comes on deck all the languages of Europe are brought out of the box, and the question is - " What language shall we try this unfortunate heathen with - what shall we stump him with?" It may have been heard that the yellow-skinned gentleman can do the test in English or in French, or that owing to his remarkable training he can speak English, French, German, Italian, and Spanish. But the Government are equal to the occasion, and they will try this learned pundit with Turkish or some language from a little corner of Europe. That is the statesmanlike policy of an enlightened Christian Government in reference to the yellow-skinned Japanese ! There is an extraordinary position into which to drag this Parliament ! The European language test is something new, and was never in the Bills proposed four years ago. But the policy of the Goverment is, and is deliberately intended by them to be, that if a Japanese or a Chinaman comes along the deck he is to be dodged by the Customs-office and floored in some language he has not learned. That is a statesmanlike way for Australia to deal with theseunfortunate people ! Why should not the same principle be applied to the kanakas of the South Sea Islands? They are persons with human susceptibilities, and many of them have probably as much sense of self-respect as have people of a different colour. But there is not the slightest attempt to deal withthem in this indirectmethod.

Mr Higgins - Theremay be British subjects among them.

Mr REID -The clause may include British subjects. Theexpression used in clause 3 isthat no Pacific Islands labourer shall enter Australia after the 31st March, 1904, The definition of " Pacific Islands labourer " is that the words include " all natives "-that is whether labourers or..not.

Mr Higgins - And whether British subjects or not ?

Mr REID - Yes ; the definition will include any British subjects. We are told that the words " Pacific Islands labourer " includes all natives not of European extraction " from any island except the Island of New Zealand, situated in the Pacific Ocean." I hope I am not wrong, but I have an idea that Japan is an island in the Pacific Ocean. I may be wrong in my geography, but I think I learned at school that Japan was an island in the Pacific Ocean. If that be correct, we must take care that we do not get into trouble. This is a matter I commend to the earnest attention of the Prime Minister, after all he has gone through, in order to let the Mikado alone. Surely the Prime Minister will be careful in committee to have inserted the words "of any island except Japan," or "all the islands in the Southern Pacific except Japan," or something to that effect.

Mr Barton - I will chance it.

Mr REID - I have no doubt the Prime Minister will chance anything ; but what will Mr. Chamberlain think of that t Here is a Federal Government who have represented in the strongest terms that their principles are opposed to any legislation excluding on the basis of race and colour, and another Bill goes ahead in accordance with that minute. Then within perhaps a week there comes : a Bill in which appears the stigma and disqualification on account of race and colour, and which provides that no human being not of European extraction born in the islands of the Pacific Ocean shall enter Australia after the 31st March, 1904. In this Bill we have the amendment of the honorable member for Bland accepted and adopted by the Federal Ministry. I hope the Ministry will pay some attention to this, because, in view of the arrangement -I do not say it is abinding contract - or of the understanding which has been voluntarily entered into between the two Governments in respect to this matter, this Bill presents a flagrant breach, seeing that it excludes men on account of race , and colour. It is an impudent, bare-faced outrage on the Pacific Islanders. But the Pacific Islanders have no Mikado,no ironclads, and no large army, and they are not in a position to be of some use in connexion with the Chinese question, or in stopping the aggressive march of Russia. Surely this Government of humanity and toleration will not descend to these methods of legislation simply because the islanders of the Pacific are friendless, or because they have no material strength or resources behind them to avenge this outrage on their colour and nationality 1 This Bill seems to me a fitting ending to the hypocritical beginning which was made with the other measure, after all the professions of consideration for humanity and the adoption of the basic principles on which the British Empire is built. One of those principles is that when a man of any colour gets beneath the British flag he is safe. Now, however, we must add the proviso - except he be black and bornin the South Seas. The basic principles to which I have referred are infringed by this Bill. Could we have a better revenge on the inconsistency of the Government and of the House, who have adopted the Immigration Restriction Bill, than this Bill which is to follow it ? The poor kanaka is to be branded with a race disqualification. He is to be singled out from among the peoples of the earth for this insulting legislation. There might have been some consideration for the kanaka. Surely the ingenuity of the Government is great enough to discover some other test for him. I should say that a physical test would floor most of the kanakas. "Why should not the Government provide that no kanaka who cannot cany 2 cwt. on his shoulders shall be admitted to the Commonwealth ? That would exclude every kanaka in the South Seas, and the provision would not be offensive to them, their fathers, their mothers, or their "sisters, and their cousins, and their aunts." Or why not put them on a diet of Scotch oatmeal for a month, which would kill them off under the guise of hospitality?

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