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Wednesday, 6 December 1905


Mr HUGHES (West Sydney) - Although it may not be intended to enforce the provisions of the Bill, as would on the face of them appear to be contemplated, I cannot altogether agree with the proposal1 now made by the Government. I refer more particularly to the clause which deals with the language test to be applied to immigrants, and in which it is intended to substitute a prescribed language for a European language. It appears to me that this is an extremely dangerous innovation, which would really deprive us of any safeguard that the Act gives against a people whose virtues have of late been trumpeted all over the world, and against whom the Act was particularly directed in the first case. I know of no reason why the Act, which was considered a good one when it was introduced, should now be regarded as defective. We all know that since it was passed therehas been a great war, and we are told that Japan has now entered the family of first-class nations; further, that she is knocking in a very polite but insistent way at the door of the Commonwealth, and that, if we like to open the door, well and good, but that, if we do not, she will knock later on in a more peremptory fashion. If the Bill has been introduced for such a reason, it may havemuch to commend it. If the door is to be battered down, we may as well open it. If, on the other hand, the measure has been introduced because Japan has claims to be regarded as a civilized nation, and becauseher people areregarded as desirable persons for us to consort with, I ask for some proofs of these assertions that were not in existence when the Act was placed on the statute-book. Japan was then, as she is now, a nation singularlyapt to copy the methods of Western nations. No one can deny her credit for the most amazing strides that she has made in the arts of both peace and war. Nevertheless, so far as those who believe in this legislation are concerned, her people are as little desirable as immigrants now, as they were when the Act was passed. Clause 3 provides for the substitution of the following paragraph for paragraph a in the principal Act: -

Any person who fails to pass the dictation test : that is to say, who, when an officer dictates to him notmore than fifty words in any prescribed language, fails to write them out in that language in the presence of the officer.

To this the Prime Minister proposes to add the following provision : -

No regulation prescribing any language shall have any force until it has been laid before both Houses of the Parliament for thirty days or if within that time a resolution has been proposed in cither House of the Parliament to disapprove of the regulation until the motion has been disposed of.

Until some language has been prescribed the language authorized by the Principal Act shall be deemed to be prescribed within the meaning of this Act.

I ask what language it is contemplated to prescribe? It is obviously intended to prescribe one language, and one only, namely, such a one as will enable Japanese to come here. If, at the insistent demand of the Japanese for admission to the Commonwealth - an insistent demand cloaked, if you like, in the most diplomatic language - but showing beneath the gloved hand of the diplomat the mailed fist of the conqueror - we are to prescribe a language which will present opportunities for the admission of Japanese only, the whole proposal is a farce, and the Bill is. really intended to present opportunities for the admission into this countryof all the Japanese who choose to come here. If, on the other hand, we are to regard the present proposal as an indication that the Government are of opinion that the Act has been too rigidly framed, and that it is desirable that all men of suitable character who have attained a certain standard of education shall come in, well and good. We shall then know where we are. We shall then estimate the value of an immigrant by the amount of education he has received, and not by the standard of those other virtues which we have hitherto been accustomed to regard as of the foremost importance. Thousands of Europeans could not pass a dictation test in any language.


Mr McWILLIAMS (FRANKLIN, TASMANIA) - Sometimes they cannot pass the test now applied to them.


Mr HUGHES - The Bill could be so enforced as to exclude nine out of every ten persons of European birth who would be regarded as most desirable immigrants. When the Act was under discussion, I said that it would exclude my own countrymen - I was speaking of men who had a speech alien to that of Englishmen - that it would exclude Welshmen, Irishmen, Frenchmen, and hundreds of the most desirable persons. Therefore, the test is in itself but a means by which we can exclude all those persons whom it is desired to keep out of the Commonwealth. If, therefore, we alter the language test, we may open the door to personswhom we are all agreed should be excluded.


Mr McWilliams - Who is to be the judge as to desirability?


Mr HUGHES - If we specify those nations, the peoples of which we regard as undesirable immigrants, the remainder of the peoples beyond our borders must be regarded as desirable. I regard as undesirable those persons who, from their habits, their traditions, their racial peculiarities, or their code of morality, are unfit to mix with us on terms of industrial, moral, and social equality. That is a very wide definition, and would exclude a very large proportion of the inhabitants of the earth, but it has been adopted by this House in the most emphatic way. I remember when the present Act was under discussion, there were practically but two sections of honorable members. There was, indeed, a small party led by the honorable member for Kooyong, but there were only two sections of any importance, namely, one in favour of direct exclusion by prohibition, and the other in favour of exclusion by some test such as that now adopted. So far as I know, those honorable members who desired to admit all sorts and conditions of men were few in numbers, and their opposition of small account. Now, we understand that after the experience of some years, and after much agitation in the press, and elsewhere, it is desired to amend the Act in certain particulars - although very few persons have urged that it should be amended in this particular direction, unless in' others at the same time. It is now proposed to permit of the admission of Japanese, and Japanese only. The Prime Minister, in reply to aquestion addressed to him by the honorable and learned member for Corio, stated that Chinese, Hindoos, and others are to be entitled to the benefit of the proposed provisions; but I would ask honorable members to look at paragraph a of clause 3, and the proposed addition that I have already quoted. According to these proposals the languages now prescribed will stand unless altered by regulation, which will have to lay upon the table for thirtydays. That) leaves to the House at some future time the settlement of a question of a troublesome character. It will have to determine what language or languages shall be prescribed. It will be useless to think of prescribing any Asiatic language. The Prime Minister would not dream of permitting Malays or Javanese to enter here. Would he permit the inhabitants of the South Sea Islands to enter the Commonwealth ? Does he contemplate the admission of the more barbarous or the lesserknown tribes of Asia? I think not. Obviously this Bill is only introduced for the purpose of admitting the people of three great races, namely, the Japanese, the Chinese, and the Hindoos. It is primarily intended to benefit only the Japanese. It leaves to the House the task of deciding what language test shall be imposed. Will the House say to the Ministry - as it ought to do - " You prescribe the test, and accept the responsibility." Assuming that honorable members decide that a test in an Asia tic language, which may from time to time be prescribed by the Minister, shall be imposed, what will be the position ? Effect could not be given to the Bill without further legislation, because no regulation can be enforced until it has lain upon the table of the House for thirty days. Let us suppose that under such circumstances a number of Japanese are desirous of entering Australia. Are they to be kept waiting at our outports until the thirty days have expired, or is their arrival to be anticipated by that period?


Mr Mcwilliams - What would be the effect of a debate upon such a question in this House?


Mr HUGHES - I do not know. I leave that question to be answered by other honorable members. I am chiefly concerned with the consideration that this measure is intended to placate the Japanese Government, and renders them noservice, or that it is designed to placate them, and renders them a very great service ; or that it is intended to leave things exactly as they are. In its present form the Bill is indefinite. It postpones the evil day. It expresses our readiness to do something, and leaves the House todo it at some future time. It createsmachinery which is cumbersome, and I venture to think, ineffective. It proposes to enable the Minister todo something " thirty days after date." For instance, there may be Chinese, Hindoos, Japanese, and others, who are desirous of gaining admission to Australia. What language test will be prescribed intheir case? If Japanese, obviously the Japanese alone can benefit ; or are we, then, to declare that a person who passesany test in the Japanese, Chinese, or any language used by the natives of India may enter the Commonwealth? If so, since the Bill can only apply to educated Japanese,. Chinese, and Hindoos, the arrangement which it is now proposed to make a part of our statute law would be sufficient.. The clause which it is proposed to insert in the Act as 4a reads -

If the Minister notifies by notice in the Gazette that an arrangement has been made with the Government of any country regulating the admission to the Commonwealth of the subjects or citizens of that country, the subjects or citizens of that country shall not, while the notice continues to have effect, be required to pass the dictation test.

It is well known that an arrangement was initiated by the present Prime Minister, and carried out during the regime of the Watson Government, whereby certain classes of citizens of India and Japan are permitted to enter the Commonwealth without being called upon to pass any educational test. That in itself is sufficient. If it is proposed to subject the Japanese and the Chinese to any test at all, only educated Japanese and Chinese can pass it. But I am bound to confess that the possibility of allowing persons who are not so educated to enter the Commonwealth fills me with apprehension. I am strongly opposed to any measure which can have that effect. If it is proposed to allow only educated immigrants to enter Australia, I venture to say that nothing can be said in favour of this Bill at all, because already the educated Japanese -an be admitted, if they are students, merchants, or tourists. They may come in under a passport system which has been already approved. And, under clause 4A, it is proposed to make that arrangement statutory., and to enable the citizens of any country with which a treaty has been entered into to enter the Commonwealth. I venture to say that this Bill is one that ought to be opposed. It is indefinite; it promises much, and will accomplish little or nothing that is good, but may prove dangerous. It will disturb a law which has been upon our statutebook for some years. That law may have many defects, but it does not number amongst them any which this Bill seeks to amend. I am opposed now, as I was when the original Bill was submitted, to the admission of Japanese into Australia. I believe that they should not come here to compete with us industrially, and that their admission can serve no useful purpose. I do not believe that there is in this country a public opinion in favour of an amendment of the law in this direction ; but, if there is, I most emphatically maintain that this Bill will not give effect to that opinion. At the best, it cuts into a vital part of the Immigration Restriction Act, and seeks to differentiate in favour of the Japanese, because they have acquired, in one of the most bloody wars on record, a reputation which it would have been well for them and the world if they had never had an opportunity to gain. But is that any reason why we should unbar our doors at the behest of the conqueror ? Rather is it not a reason why we should set up our barriers in triple brass, and prepare against that day when they will no longer ask admission from us in the language of diplomacy, but will thunder at our doors with the arms of an invader? I do not think that the Bill is called for. I do not believe it is a measure which will reflect any credit upon the Government. It leaves too much to the House to do hereafter. It speaks of some " prescribed " language. What does that mean? Obviously it can only mean the Japanese language. If it means other languages, the whole Bill becomes a farce. If it means that an immigrant may pass the educational test in any language, why not say so? But I would point out that that test has never been applied with a view to finding out what a man knows, but rather with the object of ascertaining what he does not know. To apply a test in Greek to a German is not to ascertain what he knows, but what he does not know. Such a test would exclude every honorable member in this Chamber. I am certain that it would exclude me. I could impose such a test even in English that I venture to say would exclude everybody present, and it would be very easy to frame an examination "which would accomplish that result if it provided for a test in a foreign language. The present Act has excluded undesirable immigrants just as effectually as if a direct prohibition had been imposed upon them. If it is merely proposed to strike- out the word "European" and to insert " prescribed," for the purpose of enabling the Customs officers to continue to exclude these persons, what is there in the Bill ? If, on the other hand, it is intended to be an instrument under which anybody may be admitted to the Commonwealth, it constitutes a danger of a more serious character than any of which I have yet heard, so far as the ideal of a White Australia is concerned. I shall oppose the second reading of the Bill, because I conceive it to be both unnecessary and faulty. It proposes, but it does not dispose. It proposes to do something, but it leaves to the House the difficult and delicate task of deciding what' language test shall be applied. For that reason I consider it unworthy of our attention, and I shall give it my opposition.







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