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Thursday, 3 October 1901

Senator PULSFORD (New South Wales) -I congratulate the Postmaster-General upon finding it necessary to offer these wide apologies for this provision, and to do his best to explain away its operation. He has told us that it will not apply here and that it will not apply there, and he even has had doubts as to whether it would apply to the contracts with the great foreign going mail steamers. There can be no doubt that the clause has been drafted to apply not only to the contracts with the ocean going steamers, but to stop the conveyance of a letter on any vessel on which a coloured person is employed. At this time, especially when we are about to pass very drastic measures to conserve what we call a white Australia, we should be very careful indeed that we do not take any course calculated to bring ridicule and disgrace upon Australia.

Senator Higgs - Surely the honorable senator is not speaking on behalf of a white Australia.

Senator PULSFORD - I am, and' have been, an advocate of the retention of Australia for the white race under proper conditions.

Senator Walker - Hear, hear ! " Under proper conditions."

Senator PULSFORD - I do not agree with the opinions which Senator Walker is known to hold. I do not believe in the division of Australia between the white and coloured races, and I hope the majority of the committee are at one with me in holding that the maintenance of the conditions we require for the inhabitants of Australia are very different from the conditions it is necessary that we should require in those with whom we are pleased to trade or have any business connexions. If we take it upon ourselves to say - " We shall -ot allow any letter to be carried on a vessel in which coloured labour is employed," surely it will gradually come about that we shall say - " We shall neither eat nor drink any food which has been prepared by coloured labour in any part of the world. We shall not allow any tea to come in from China, India, or any other country where coloured labour exists. We shall have no sugar, no product at all admitted which has been denied by the touch of coloured 'labour." That is the natural result of such a clause as we have here. I desire honorable senators to see clearly the position to which it commits Australia. Australia is part of the Empire, which is committed to a certain course. There are hundreds of millions of the coloured races under the Crown of Great Britain, and it ill becomes us to throw a slur upon them. What possible good can result to Australia from this provision ? The insult to 200,000,000 coloured people would be ill compensated by any paltry employment such as might arise. Why should we have it, when the object to be gained is so paltry ? The advantages to be gained from it are most trifling, and the disadvantages, which are great, from the point of view of the Government of Great Britain, do not warrant us in taking upon ourselves the adoption of so drastic a provision. Surely it is driving it home in a most absurd way to say that not only contracts but any arrangements are to be avoided. In all sorts of ways our mail contracts would be affected. The forwarding of letters to the South Sea Islands, to all parts of Oceania, and many foreign countries, would be affected by the adoption of the word "arrangement." I object not only to the word " arrangement," but to the whole clause. I object to the whole policy indicated in the clause which we are asked to accept. I do honestly ask the members of the Senate to look at the question in all its lights. They should look at it, not only from the point of view of Australia, but from the point of view of the Empire of which we are a part, and certainly hy no means an insignificant part. If we claim to share in the glories and prestige of the Empire, let us also be willing to share, to some extent, in its responsibilities, and, therefore, do not let us take the course indicated in this amendment, which will do us no good whatever, but will cast a slur upon hundreds of millions of our fellow subjects.

Senator MACFARLANE(Tasmania).I would direct the attention of the committee to the fact that this question was debated at great length on the 10th July, and on that occasion the Government declared for and voted in favour of the clause as it stood, before the amendment was made by the House of Representatives. By a majority of 17 to 8 the committee then negatived the amendment proposed by Senator' Glassey. A reference to Hansard, page 2223, will show that the amendment proposed by Senator Glassey was to add to the clause the following words -

In all such contracts for the carriage of mails by sea there shall be inserted a term stipulating that the crew of any vessel employed in such carriage shall be white" men.

The Postmaster-General has endeavoured to show that the amendment of the House of Representatives, though it says, " No contract or arrangement shall be entered into," will not debar a black man who is a native of this country from being employed in connexion with horses used for the carriage of mails. I must ask the honorable and learned senator, in view of his previous expression of opinion, to be a little consistent in this matter. Nothing really new has turned up to warrant a change of opinion on his part. I shall not repeat what I said before upon this question, but I would point out to the committee that if no contract is to be entered into for the carriage of mails unless such a condition is included in it, the consequence is likely to be that there will be no regularity in the delivery of mails. The very fact of our being able to put mails on a vessel regularly is of great advantage to the commercial community. No such arrangement will be able to be made with a ship employing even a black cook. Nearly all sea-going vessels have mora or less coloured labour on board. I do not think that the stoke-hole of .a steamer in the Red Sea is a proper place for a white man, and if we debar black labour from being employed we shall debar some of the best and fastest vessels from coming here* It has been shown by Sir Thomas Sutherland, the chairman of the P. and O. Company, that the employment of white men only will not benefit the English-speaking race, because in the majority of cases the companies .will employ foreign seamen. Sir Thomas Sutherland also says that the giving up of black labour by the companies will" not really injure the companies. He spoke from knowledge as an expert.

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