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Thursday, 7 December 1905

Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I intend presently to move an amendment to this effect -

That the following words be added to subclause c : - " Provided that this clause shall not apply to immigrants who are citizens of the United Kingdom."

Ishall not add more than a word or two to the arguments I used when speaking on the. second readingto show the necessity for a provision of this kind. Throughout this Bill, foreigners and citizens of Great Britain are treated exactly alike; but surely there ought to be some exception made in favour of our own fellowcountrymen. The least we can do, in our own interests, is to remove the cause of the complaint by the press of Great Britain, that we apply conditions which Great Britain does not apply to Australians - that we are treating them absolutely as foreigners - by placing some such exemption as I propose in the measure. I do not go so far as to ask that there shall be any exception which will allow British citizens to be engaged so as to interfere with industrial disputes in Australia, or to reduce wages and impair the conditions which prevail here. I propose this amendment in order that the press of Great Britain shall have no excuse for informing their readers that a Britisher is unable to obtain employment in Australia until a Minister, who depends on the votes of Australians, has taken care that preferential employment is given to every man in this country able and willing to take the position. I have already pointed out that, with the restrictions in regard to wages and other conditions of labour, there is no likelihood of any contract being entered into unless an employer is of opinion that he is unable to obtain here the skill which he requires. Why should the employer pay passage money, submit to delay, and incur the risk of men turning out unsatisfactory, if he can obtain on the spot the skill desired. Under the circumstances, there is no fear that contracts will be made except in cases of absolute necessity. That being so, why should we say that, so long as there is a man disengaged in a. particular industry in Australia, he must be given employment before any of our British fellow-subjects are admitted? I hope that the Government will accept the amendment, and thus, instead of making a declaration to the effect I have indicated, will make it known to the press and public of Great Britain that Australia re cognises some difference between the people of the mother land, who have given us our constitution and country, and the most desirable or undesirable of foreigners. Thatis all I have to say upon the matter. I desire the Ministry and their supporters to make it clear whether they are determined to rigidly exclude our fellowcountrymen in Great Britain from admission to the Commonwealth under contract unless the employer seeking to engage them is satisfied that he cannot get locally the skilled labour that he requires for his industry. That is the situation which will be created if we pass the present provisions of the Bill. Simply because, in the opinion of the Minister - who may know little or nothing about the matter - there are two or three men in the Commonwealth who are capable of filling the position for which an immigrant has been imported, are we to deliberately exclude our fellow-countrymen and to retard the development of our industries"? These, I think, constitute the best reasons why we should adopt the amendment.

Mr Webster - What is the amendment?

Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I proposed to insert at the end of the sub-clause the words "provided that paragraph b of this sub-clause shall not apply to citizens of the United Kingdom."

Mr Watson - Would that proposal cover Hindoos?

Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - We can specify " white " citizens if we choose 10 do so.

Mr Mahon - Why exclude Canadians?

Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I am quite willing to widen my amendment so as to include them.

Mr Watson - Let us say "white British subjects."

Mr Deakin - That would constitute a colour discrimination.

Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I admit that my proposal is open to that objection. I recognise the difficulty that we might experience by inserting the word " white." 1 think that an exception should be made in the case of citizens of the United Kingdom . ,

Mr Batchelor - We block Asiatics from coming to the Commonwealth in the principal Act.

Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I do not know whether the Prime Minister would consider that the insertion of the words "citizens of the British Empire" would cover Asiatics.

Mr Deakin - They are not citizens in the same sense as are residents ofthe United Kingdom, although they are subjects of the King.

Mr Crouch - The words British subjects, unless otherwise provided by law " might meet the case.

Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I thank the honorable and learned member for his suggestion. Has the Prime Minister any objection to accepting the amendment with the proviso which is now in the Bill ?

Mr Deakin - At the present time, British subjects are only prohibited from entering the Commonwealth to the extent that the educational test is applicable to them. I suppose that the suggestion of the honorable member would meet the situation.

Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I quite recognise that there is no reason why Canadians should be excluded.

Mr Crouch - What about the Maoris ; they are closer to us than anybody else?


That at the end of sub-clause 2 the following words be inserted : - " Provided that paragraph b of this sub-clause shall not apply to British subjects."

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