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Wednesday, 13 November 1912

Mr THOMAS (Barrier) (Minister of External Affairs) . - We believe that there has been a considerable leakage under the Immigration Restriction Act, and. we fear that it has been due to a very great extent to stowaways coming in by the boats. They seem to have been able to defeat the efforts put forward by our officers. We sent a special officer to Hong Kong, and apparently he was able to- follow the very elaborate system by which Chinese were being schooled into certain answers by means of which they would be able to enter the Commonwealth.

Mr Groom - Is there not a. statute at Hong Kong by which you can- get at the offenders ?

Mr THOMAS - Decidedly. It is only fair to say that the Government of Hong Kong and the police there gave our officer every possible facility to pursue his inquiries. We have- received- some reports from the officer with which I am dealing confidentially, and which any honorable member is at liberty to see if he wishes. We believe that; as the outcome of the officer's work at Hong Kong, we shall be able to prevent a great many of the stowaways from coming: in. As regards the- admission of students, when I took charge- of the Department I found that so far as Chinese students were concerned it- was. carrying out the policy laid down by the honorable member, for Darling Downs-;, and also the late Mr.. Batchelor, by which; iona- -fide- studentscould come in. It appeared to me that ad!vantage was being taken- of the concession, and, therefore, I substituted another concession, and that was that- students were to be deemed young men 'who were over 17 years of age, and who were to go to one of the High Schools. We have practically restricted the concession to those who are legitimate students. They have to report themselves to the Department at least once in every 12 -months. This arrangement has only just been instituted, and, of course^ I do not know how it will work. I had a long consultation with the Consul -General for China, and endeavoured along these lines to meet him.

Mr Groom - Can you say whether many students are making applications to come in?

Mr THOMAS - I do not know that under my new system any applications have been made, but under the old system a good many were made. In fact, students were coming in pretty rapidly until I turned down the old concession. As regards the meat ring, I saw a statement in a newspaper that the meat monopoly at Port Darwin had been broken up on account of our being: able to put up a refrigerator and provide- cold storage there.

Mr Groom - What was the nature of the monopoly?

Mr THOMAS - I understand that one butcher had sole control of the meat, supply, and that the erection of a refrigerator has enabled a second butcher to enter the trade. I have seen the figures to which the honorable member for Moreton has referred.,, but I cannot understand how Chinese could come in unless they had' already been naturalized, and, having been away, were admitted on production of their naturalization papers.

Mr Groom - Is- it correct, that there are any leakages through the northern part of Australia ?

Mr THOMAS - We have an idea that there is a leakage, but we cannot trace any.

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