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Wednesday, 13 November 1912


Mr HEDGES (Fremantle) (7:47 AM) . - There cannot be better proof that we require immigrants in Australia than is afforded by the figures supplied to us by the Commonwealth Statistician. He points out that the total increase in the population of the Commonwealth for the year 1910-11 was only 1/13,624. That is a very small increase indeed. But the most astonishing figures are those which record the increase in the coloured and Asiatic population of Australia. I find that during the month of August the increase in the number of departures of Asiatics was 165, whilst the increase in the number of arrivals during the same month was 199. The increase in the number of departures for eight months was 740, and in the number of arrivals for the same period it was 926, These figures have been an eye-opener to me, because I was under the impression that we were gradually reducing the numbers of our Asiatic population. I had no idea that the number of these people in Australia would increase under a Labour Government. A fair question to ask is, Why has there been this increase under the Labour Government? The honorable member for Perth has suggested that we might make more comfortable the immigrants who come here from the Old Country, but they have not the harsh conditions to which those who emigrate to the United States of America and to Canada are subjected. These are crowded together on the Atlantic steamers, and herded together in trains for journeys of 3,000 or 4,000 miles. I cannot understand why, in view of what we can offer, more people do not come to Australia. In 1910 our increase of population, excluding aboriginals, was only 143,624, and when I was in Canada the immigrants numbered over 40,000 a month. We cannot hold this country without population, and if we do not treat the matter seriously our children will be worked in harness by Asiatic invaders as the Chinese employed on the construction of the Pine Creek railway were. We have no hope of holding "this country unless the question of filling it up is taken seriously. People with special knowledge acquired in other countries should be encouraged to come here to help us to develop our vacant spaces. We shall never be able to develop the Northern Territory with the knowledge gained in the south. Our imports are increasing, and our exports are decreasing. I would stop that kind of thing by giving bonuses for the production of commodities which we are not at present putting upon the market.


Mr Tudor - Would the honorable member increase the Tariff?


Mr HEDGES - I am not suggesting anything of the kind, but we should attract to Australia people who are specialists, and who would be able to open up new industries. It is a remarkable fact that the population of the Northern Territory has decreased during the last twelve months. In 1910 there were 3,301 people there; in 191 1 there were 3,248. There was also an increase in the coloured population of the whole Commonwealth. Still more extraordinary is it that there has been a decrease in the population of Tasmania.


Mr Groom - Since the growth of the Labour party there.


Mr HEDGES - There is no country on earth where people have better opportunities than Australia. We are not doing enough to attract population from parts of Europe where the people lead a hard and often miserable existence. In Western Australia, between Albany and the Leeuwin, there is room for a million people. At present there are not enough there to cultivate 20,000 acres. That is the sort of place where we should settle good workers. The climate is temperate, and industrious folks could earn a competency there. I have recently been through Canada, and am satisfied that there is no comparison between that country and this. In Italy and the south of France you can see people carrying soil up the hill-sides in baskets and putting it on the hill-tops, where they cultivate. Surely it would not require much inducement to persuade them to come to the Commonwealth, where there are splendid opportunities for industrious agriculturists.


Mr Webster - What would they grow under such conditions?


Mr HEDGES - Everything that is grown in Italy and the South of France can be produced here, and of the finest quality. I saw tons of olives being grown in Italy, but I never saw an olive tree there that grew as well as the olive trees in Australia. Yet the amount of labour which these Europeans have to devote to induce their trees to produce is enormous. Why cannot the advantages of Australia be pointed out to these people? I am sure that if honorable members opposite could see men toiling as -I have seen them toiling in Italy for a mere pittance, it would appeal to them as it appealed to me. They cannot realize the facilities afforded them in Australia, and do not know that with much less labour they could earn a comfortable living, and put by something for old age. If the actual facts regarding this country were supplied to them, they would be attracted in thousands.







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