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Thursday, 7 December 1905


Mr WATKINS (Newcastle) - If I recollect rightly, during the debates on the Immigration Restriction Bil] in this Chamber, something more was considered than the points which have been touched upon bv the honorable member for Bland. Great stress was laid upon the fact that labour should not be brought here under contract in connexion with trades or callings in which there was already a sufficiency in the Commonwealth.


Mr Crouch - That is not so. If that had been pointed out, a great many would have voted against the provision.


Mr WATKINS - That was a consideration then, and should be a consideration now. I cannot understand the desire to take this provision out of the Bill. All it does is to prohibit the introduction of labour under contract, unless there is a difficulty in getting workmen in Australia. No one objects to the importation of labourers or artisans belonging to trades in which there is now an insufficiency of workers. But these restrictions are justified when it is proposed to import labour in trades which are now full. The argument which we hear from members of the Opposition, in reference to the American law, is that America imposes restrictions on immigrationbecause she has plenty of artisans.


Mr Hutchison - Against whom the employers are conspiring.


Mr WATKINS - Whenever employers wish to reduce wages, they try to create a surplus of labour. I have given a case to-night in which men were brought from America to work in a mine in a district which I represent, and I venture to say that they are now not being employed half their time. I admit that it could not be proved that they were brought here under contract, but it is not likely that they would come from America unless they had a contract, express or implied. Was there any need to bring those men to Australia, seeing that the coal miners already here are not working half their time? Would the deputy leader of the Opposition favour the importation of men from England or elsewhere when men here were not fully employed ?


Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I should rebel against it.


Mr Lee - Would not the miners rebel against it by striking?


Mr WATKINS - They cannot help themselves, and in New South Wales they cannot strike.


Mr Lee - They have struck in the honorable member's electorate.


Mr WATKINS - The action of which I am complaining resulted in the stoppage of a colliery in the electorate adjoining my own. No harm will be done by leaving the provision in the Bill. It offers no affront to any Britisher, or to any one else, and it is necessary in order to prohibit the importation of labour at a time when the market is already fully supplied. There will never be a strike when there are two men looking for any job that is offering, and employers always try to create that position before attempting to bring down wages. I am very disappointed that the Government propose to accept the amendment.







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