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Wednesday, 6 December 1905


Mr DEAKIN (Ballarat) (Minister of External Affairs) . - I move -

That after the word "officer," line 10, the following words be inserted : - " 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 either House of the Parliament to disapprove of the regulation until the motion has been disposed of." " Until some language has been prescribed the languages authorized by the Principal Act shall be deemed to beprescribed within the meaning of this Act."

Thefirst paragraph of the amendment has been borrowed from sub-section 3 of section11 of the Representation Act. If the clause is agreed to as I propose to amend it, the law with respect to the language which may be employed in administering the test will remain as it is at present, but this, or any future Parliament, may, if if thinks fit, sanction the use of other than European languages. " Prescribed," as honorable members know, means prescribed by regulation, and an ordinary regulation, when made, takes effect from the date of notification, but is laid before Parliament for thirty days, inorder that honorable members may have an opportunity to consider, and, if necessary, disallow it. I propose that in this case Parliament shall be given more direct and effective control of the administration of the law. Honorable members asked, during the second-reading debate, what advantage will be gained by this alteration of the Act. Exceptionhas been taken to the use of the word "European," not only by distinguished representatives of Japan, but also by leading statesmen associated with the Government of India, and prominent members of the Hindoo race. It is said,in effect, by the Governments of Japan and India, "We do not ask Australia to alter its domestic legislation, restricting the admission of our peoples, but we desire that country not to discriminate against them on the ground of colour or any similar ground. Let them exclude us, if they will ; but let them exclude us on the same terms as those on which the peoples of other nations are excluded. The Government of Japan has had no communication, either direct or indirect, with the Commonwealth Government on the subject, but the Japanese Ambassador in London, Count Hayashi, and other leading Japanese, have asked, " Why should Australia place a stigma on Oriental peoples. Cannot she so frame her legislation that it will exclude all on the same terms? We do not claim any right to say what she shall do in the matter of excluding, or admitting immigrants; but why should she unnecessarily offend Oriental peoples when her object can be secured in another way " ?


Mr Higgins - Has the correspondence on the subject been laid on the table?


Mr DEAKIN - Most of it has been published, and is included among our records. Some of it goes back as far as 1 901 and 1902.


Mr Higgins - I refer to the later cor- respondence.


Mr DEAKIN - We have had no communication with the Japanese Government on the subject, though we were in communication with the Consul -General for Japan in Australia, who, as the honorable and learned member, knows, is a commercial, and not a diplomatic, officer.


Mr Mcwilliams - It is the wording, and not the operation, of our legislation to which the Japanese object.


Mr DEAKIN - I dare say that, if they were asked, they would say that they object to its operation. But they recognise that their opinions on that subject cannot claim to be followed by us. In passing the clause as I propose to amend it, we sha.ll retain the existing law, but will make it possible to apply other than European languages in the education test. It must not be thought that there has been any hostile knocking at the door. There has been no communication from Japan which could be interpreted in that way.


Mr Fisher - Any threat would have been resented.


Mr DEAKIN - No concession could be made until a threat, if ever made, had been withdrawn. We would not propose this alteration had there been any threat. But, although no request on the subject has been made by the Japanese Government, the Japanese Ambassador in England, only a few weeks ago, when speaking to a newspaper interviewer, and other distinguished Japanese, have said that they feel that we should not discriminate against their people on the ground , of colour, or for any similar reason.


Mr Mcdonald - Is there not this discrimination in the administration of the law?


Mr DEAKIN - Nevertheless, it need not be shown on the face of our Statutes.


Mr Watson - We have the right by international law to exclude foreigners.


Mr DEAKIN - It was held in the Ah Toy case that noperson who is not a British subject can claim the right to enter Australia.


Mr Poynton - Will Indian British subjects be exempted from the operation of the Immigration Restriction Act?


Mr DEAKIN - We are not proposing to exempt any one. All we propose is that Japanese, Hindustani, and other languages may be added to the European languages for the purposes of' the education test, if Parliament consents to that being done. This amendment of the law will not alter its principle or policy. The language test is administered, not to discover the knowledge of an intending applicant, but to give effect to. a policy of exclusion in the way thought to be least offensive to the peoples excluded. We adopted the language test on strong representations from the mother country. We were told that we might exclude whom we pleased, and might make our conditions as stringent as we thought right. Mr. Chamberlain admitted that the influx of aliens which was feared here should be prevented at all hazards, and said that we were quite entitled to take any steps which would amply protect us, but he asked us to adopt the education test as a means of exclusion. The charge of hypocrisy could be rightly made against us, only if we had at any time pretended that the test would be applied to discover the measure of education possessed by those presenting themselves for admission into the Commonwealth. It was never so pretended. It was stated from the first that the test would be used as a means of excluding those whom it was desired to shut out, without offending them by discriminating against them by name or nationality. There was no hypocrisy about the provision when its purpose was announced. If all the Eastern languages were added under the present proposal, the policy would remain the same, and the administration would be unaltered. The needs of the future will be met explicitly by this Parliament, or its successors, after due consideration. Even if we desired to do so, we could not tie the hands of future Parliaments. We are making no alteration in our present policy, or in the law, beyond removing the word "European," which is regarded by certain peoples in the East as conveying an unnecessary reflection on them. It has been plainly stated that they would accept it as a tribute to them if they were not discriminated against merely because they were Japanese or Chinese, or whatever they might be. They do not mind being excluded, so long as they are excluded with the rest of the world.

Mr. JOSEPHCOOK (Parramatta).The Prime Minister has told us that the object of this Bill is to remove from the present Act an offensive word, which is calculated to wound the susceptibilities of an Eastern nation, which is on particularly friendly terms and in treaty relationship with the Empire of which we form a part. It occurs to me, however, that by the amendment, whilst removing the offensive word, the Prime Minister does not propose to remove the offensive thing which the word represents. It is the very essence of hypocrisy to pretend to do a thing, and in reality not to do it.


Mr Fisher - What does the honorable member propose?







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