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Wednesday, 6 December 1905

Mr WATKINS - I point out that the proposed amendment means either that we are prepared to let the Japanese come into Australia, or that we think they are a very simple people. Certainly if we contend that they will be pleased by an alteration to words which mean exactly the same thing, the suggestion is that we think them very foolish people indeed. During the controversy which was raised in connexion with this legislation, we were informed by Japanese Consuls, and others having authority to speak for the Japanese people, that there was never a danger of any considerable incursion of Japanese into Australia; but, while those statements were made, we have now the statement made by an honorable member of this House, who has recently made a trip to America, that thousands of Japanese are at present endeavouring to get into that country. If that be so, and if the statement made by the honorable member for Hindmarsh as to the increase in the number of Japanese in Hawaii be correct, the contention that the Japanese had an ample field for the occupation of thousands of emigrants in the new territories over which they had obtained control must fall to the ground. I desire to say a word or two with respect to the administration of the Immigration Restriction Act in the past. We have heard it stated that it has been administered as the people of Australia desired, -but I can prove that prohibited immigrants are finding their way into the Commonwealth, and that, when, they are not kept on board ship, and are allowed to land, they are being kept by the States Governments until the ship leaves the port at which she has called. There is nothing in the Bill now before us which, so far as I can discern, will alter that state of affairs. If it is to> be passed as it stands, I believe that shipmasters coming here with prohibited immigrants will be able to evade its provisions whenever they choose. One case which, amongst others, I could recite to< show how easily this can be done, is that of a Chinaman who was allowed toleave a vessel. He was practically. " crimped " ashore, and the course usually adopted was followed in that case. Theshipmaster immediately offered a reward of*. £5 for the man's apprehension. As hewas not apprehended, the shipmaster, before leaving the port with his ship, had todeposit £100 with the Customs authorities.. As he left the port without the prohibited' immigrant, the agents of the vessel weresummoned, and fined £10. They immediately afterwards secured the refund of" the ^100 deposit, and. the £5 put up asa reward for the apprehension of the prohibited immigrant, with the result that this; Chinaman was landed in Australia at acost to the agents of the vessel of £10 ; and, as it was afterwards established thatthey owed the Chinaman ^25 in wages,, they made £15 out of the transaction.

Mr Deakin - The honorable memberwill find that that is met in this Bill.

Mr WATKINS - I find that the Bill' contains a clause imposing a fine of £tooon any shipmaster who allows a prohibited immigrant to land contrary to the provisions of the Bill, but the provision whichexempts the masters and crews of vesselsremains unaltered, and the new provision- is effective only where the shipmaster allows a prohibited immigrant- to land.

Mr Deakin - Under the Bill, the captain who, under any circumstances, whether wilfully or not, lands a prohibited immigrant, is liable to a fine. The honorablemember very properly called my attentionto the flaw in the Act, and I think that weshall succeed in remedying it.

Mr WATKINS - I wish to make certain that the Act does not require furtheralteration to put a stop to the practices to which I have referred. In any case, I doubt whether the imposition of a. fine of" ^100 will place us in a better position thanthe States were in under their laws.

Mr Deakin - The New South Waleslaw imposed a penalty of £100.

Mr WATKINS - Even if a fine of £100 had been exacted in the case which I have just mentioned, the Chinamanwould practically have been permitted to- enter the Commonwealth at a cost of only £75 to the owners of the vessel by which he came. Possibly he may have stayed here against his own wish, because it is a common thing, when a ship arrives in port with a big wages bill to pay, for those interested to try to get the sailors to desert, in order to effect a saving. Where it can be proved that foreign sailors who are prohibited immigrants have been allowed to land by the connivance of the shipowners, or captain, or any person on shore, a fine of ,£100 is inadequate. Then, too, it sometimes happens, when a captain has among his crew prohibited immigrants, and the ship is remaining in port for any length of time, that he will allow them to go ashore, and then cause them to be arrested for desertion, when they are' taken before a magistrate and sent to gaol, being kept there at the expense of the Government of the State until the ship is ready to proceed to sea, when they are put on board again. That sort of thing frequently happens in nearly every port of Australia. Does the Prime Minister think it fair that the Governments of the States should have to bear the expense of keeping such men during the stay of the vessel in port, which, in places like Newcastle, ls sometimes as long as two or three months? Why should not the interests of the foreign sailors themselves be studied? The ship's officers should not be allowed to get rid of the responsibility of looking after the men on board, and should be prevented from practically causing them to become criminals in the way I have described. I view any proposed amendment of the Aliens Restriction Act with concern, and in Committee shall watch very carefully to see that the measure is not made less stringent, while I shall also endeavour to have remedied certain defects in it, so that it may be perfected as an instrument for maintaining the policy in which every member of this Parliament has affirmed his belief - that of a White Australia.

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