Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
Wednesday, 6 December 1905


Mr WEBSTER (Gwydir) - Every true Australian, whether by birth or adoption, should seriously consider the proposal now submitted to us. We are asked to amend an Act of Parliament which has occupied a more prominent place in the public attention than perhaps any other measure passed by an Australian Parliament. I believe that the Prime Minister is sincere in his desire to preserve a White Australia, bub it is human to err, and I think that the honorable gentleman is now taking a course which I think he will have cause to regret.


Mr Deakin - The Bill is intended to close up the loop-holes that now exist.


Mr WEBSTER - Yes, but whilst some of the provisions of the Bill are intended to operate in that direction, others will have the effect of opening the back door more widely than ever, and, under the administration of a Government not fully sympathetic with the White Australia policy, of permitting a wholesale influx of coloured aliens.


Mr Deakin - I think not.


Mr WEBSTER - I take the opposite view. In view of the extent to which coloured aliens are monopolizing trade and industry, particularly in the country districts of the various States, we should be careful to refrain from adopting any course that would lead to the augmentation of their numbers. At Wellington, one of the most prosperous towns in New South Wales - and it is the most prosper ous settlements that are chosen by coloured aliens for the pursuit of their operations- - the Assyrians, who, of all foreigners, are the most objectionable to the housewives of the bush, are taking possession of the whole of the business. In other towns the Chinese are predominant among the traders. In the Tumut district the tobacco-growing industry is practically wholly in the hands of the Chinese, and in Queensland the sugar industry is gradually drifting in the same direction. I am afraid that the substitution of the words, " in any prescribed language," for the words " European language," would afford a loop-hole which would be taken advantage of by unscrupulous administrators to defeat the purpose for which the Act was passed.


Mr Deakin - No other language but European can be added without the consent of Parliament.


Mr WEBSTER - I am quite aware of that, but the mere fact that any other than a European language could be used under certain conditions would lead to agitation from time to time in favour of making concessions to various peoples with whom Great Britain may enter into alliances. Throughout the last election members of the Opposition practically lived upontheir abuse of the administration of the Immigration. Restriction Act, and they will be prompted to continue their agitation with unabated vigour if the slightest opportunity presents itself. The present. Act is much less stringent than the measure which was proposed in NewSouth Wales, with the object of excluding; coloured Asiatics, when the right honorable and learned member for East Sydney was Premier of that State. It was reported by the authorities in Dowling-street that the Bill in its original form was not in accordance with the treaties into which Great Britain had entered with other countries, and it was suggested that the language test should be adopted. That course was followed. We have also listened to similar representations on the part of the Imperial authorities, and, so far as I am aware, no objection has been raised by them to the present Act. I do not see any reason why we should, on our own motion, relax those conditions which are intended to, as far as possible, guard us against an influx of undesirable immigrants. Why should we pay any respect to the clamourings of members of the

Opposition, who have filled the newspapers with their declamations against the Act ? The right honorable and learned member for East Sydney, in the course of an interview, which was accorded by him by a representative of one of the Sydney newspapers, charged the Prime Minister with having deceived him in connexion with this Bill. He adopted the most insulting tone towards the Prime Minister, and pretended to feel much aggrieved at the way in which he had been treated. But, knowing the right honorable gentleman as we do, we must find it difficult to believe in his sincerity. "We know that he is not above adopting any means in order to obtain his ends. My suspicions in this direction are borne out by the attitude honorable members of the Opposition are adopting towards the Bill. The right honorable member was merely throwing dust in the eyes of the people, and was endeavouring to disarm those who have fought all through the piece for a White Australia. Any one would suppose that we were attempting to impose restrictions more severe than ' any hitherto adopted by other countries. But I would point out that in the United States immigrants are subjected to a very much more searching examination than are persons desirous of entering the Commonwealth. The Americans do not clamour for a White America, but they desire to protect their people from the degrading influences to which they would be subjected if immigrants of a low type were admitted to their dominion. I find by reference to a document issued by the Oceanic Steam-ship Company that immigrants have to supply answers to no less than twenty-one questions. In the first place, they are required to supply their name in full, and to state their age and sex, and whether they are married or single. They are then called upon to describe their occupation, and to state whether they are able to read or write. The nationality has to be given, and also the last place of residence. Further, they are required to name the seaport in the United States at which they intend to land, and also the State, city, or town which is their final destination. A question is also directed as to whether they have a ticket which will enable them to reach that destination. They have to state bv whom their passage was paid, and whether they are in possession of any money, and, if so, whether more than $30, and how much, if it amounts to $30 or less. They have to state, further, whether they have ever previously been in the United States, and, if so, where; whether they are going to join relatives, and,, if* so, what relatives; whether they have ever been in prison or almshouses, or supported by charity, whether they are polygamists ; whether they are under contract, expressed or implied, to labour in the United States. They have to furnish particulars as to their condition of health, mental and physical, and as to whether they are deformed or crippled. The Americans do not entertain the same ideas in regard to a White America as we do concerning a White Australia. We all recollect the letter which was written by the honorable member for Oxley to a friend of his in Wales. That communication contained statements which were not in accordance with fact, and was of a character which should not have emanated from an ordinary citizen, much less from a public man. The honorable member informed his correspondent that, if he came to Australia, he would in all probability be required to return to his native hills.


Mr R EDWARDS (OXLEY, QUEENSLAND) - Why does not the honorable member agree to excise paragraph a of section 3 of the principal Act?


Mr WEBSTER - The honorable member knows perfectly well that the Act has never been applied in the way that he suggests. Yet he did something which would have reflected discredit even upon an ignorant citizen of the Common wealth.


Mr R EDWARDS (OXLEY, QUEENSLAND) - I am afraid that the honorable member does not know what he is talking about.


Mr WEBSTER - I should like to think that the honorable member did not know what he was writing about.


Mr R EDWARDS (OXLEY, QUEENSLAND) - Honorable members opposite did not allow me to finish my say. They were too angry.


Mr WEBSTER - Even- when members address themselves to a question as calmly as I do, they are accused of being angry. Personally, I have never known what anger meant. I admit that, perhaps, I am a little more in earnest than are most honorable members who address the House, but, as a rule, I believe, what I am saying. If I can be accused of exhibiting anger, what can be said of the deputy leader of the Opposition, who, upon almost every occasion he speaks, is absolutely savage?


Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I vent my savagery upon honorable members, and not upon a poor innocent stationmaster.


Mr WEBSTER - If the honorable member experienced two or three, trips similar to that to which I had to submit, we should get rid of his1 presence in this Chamber very quickly. When I was tempted to digress, I was referring to the leakages that might occur under existing legislation. lt is well known that undesirable immigrants gain admission to the Commonwealth in the way that has been described by the honorable member for Newcastle ; and, despite the strictest administration of the Act by a sympathetic Government. That being so, what will happen if this Bill be passed ? Why is not the honorable member for Parramatta declaiming against it in the same way that he denounced the Trade Marks Bill ? Is it because he sees in the measure some means of gratifying his masters, by allowing them to bring in contract labour without any supervision whatever?


Mr SPEAKER - I do not think that, I ought to allow the honorable member to speak of any other honorable member as doing the work of his masters. I do not consider that it is a proper expression, and I suggest to the honorable member that he should withdraw it.


Mr WEBSTER - I think I am perfectly in order in saying that the honorable member is doing the work of his constituents.


Mr SPEAKER - If the honorable member had used the phrase in that sense, no objection could have been taken to his words. But he must see that he used it in another sense, because he intended to imply something which was not proper.


Mr WEBSTER - I. withdraw the expression, sir, but I do not understand your ruling.


Mr SPEAKER - Whilst I am pleased to hear the honorable member's retraction, I desire that his withdrawal should be made in a full knowledge of all the circumstances. The honorable member, in speaking of the deputy leader of the Opposition, said that he was desirous of doing the bidding of " his masters." ' If the honorable member intended the words " his masters " to refer to the constituents of the honorable member for Parramatta, I cannot understand why he used the expression at all. He must have intended something else, and in so far as that expression applied to any body other than the constituents of the honorable member for Parramatta - to the capitalists to> whom he seemed to be referring - I ask. him to withdraw it.


Mr WEBSTER - I withdraw the statement in obedience to your ruling. I know the view which is entertained by the majority of the constituents of the honorable member for Parramatta.


Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I happen to be with' the honorable member's leader upon this Bill. Is that wrong?


Mr WEBSTER - That fact in itself constitutes a warning to me. I do not like such alliances upon matters of this: kind. I do not consider it is necessary for me to detain the House any further. I shall vote against1 the second reading' of the Bill, and if it be carried, I shall endeavour in Committee so to amend it as to remove its objectionable features.







Suggest corrections