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Thursday, 9 July 1903

Senator DOBSON (Tasmania) - I think it lies with our honorable friends who are in favour of this amendment to show that we shall not be placed in the humiliating position in which we were placed by the administration of the Immigration

Restriction Act iu connexion with thesix hatters case.

Senator Pearce - Which means that wemust not trust the Ministry.

Senator DOBSON - It is not a question of trusting the Ministry. The Bill before us proposes that we should trust the Ministry, because it gives them a discretionary power to receive the application of every person, and to decline every application without assigning any reason. The amendmentabsolutely takes away that discretion. Whether we have one of our own British subjects from India coming here to run his racehorses at Flemington, or a Prince from some outlandish place, who might bea desirable immigrant, Senator Higgs is. proposing that there shall be no discretion given to the Government, and that under - no possible circumstances shall such persons-, receive naturalization papers. Is that in accordance with the legislation of the past, . or in accordance with the principles upon which we desire to legislate ? Is it in accordance with the principles of Imperialism?' Senator McGregor groans, but I do notthink the honorable senator's groaning will affect the Empire. But legislation of this . kind will affect the Empire. When wehave aliens and subjects of the Empire of black and yellow colour, it seems tome a monstrous thing to place in our Act, without the slightest occasion for it, a restrictive provision which may makeus look ridiculous, which may make us false to the principles of Imperialism, and which under no conceivable 'circumstancescan do any good. Why cannot honorable senators in the labour corner, who have said so much about trusting Ministers, accept this Bill as proposed, giving the Government discretion in this matter? I haveheard no answer 'to that question. I would point out that the Bill as proposed is on thelines of the Immigration Restriction Act, in giving Ministers a discretion which they certainly ought to have. I have al waysposed, and I hope I shall live and die, as an Imperialist, and I trust honorable senators will not commit the fatal blunder of imagining that we can keep our Empire intact and yet absolutely disown British subjects. We must be consistent and logical, and we must have some continuity of policy. I cannot lend myself" to the passing of legislation which may makeus absolutely ridiculous in the eyes of the< civilized world.

Senator DRAKE - Some remarks have been made by Senator Higgs with regard to cases of double allegiance. I understand the honorable senator's argument to be that we should accept this amendment, because persons coming here from Japan will still retain their allegiance to their own country, and, should trouble arise, we might possibly find them in arms against the Commonwealth. That might be so, but it is a very strange thing that, apparently, that argument was not thought of when honorable senators were speaking of extending the rights of citizenship to the peoples of European countries. The argument is manifestly applicable to them. People coming from Germany,France, Russia, and other European countries do not renounce their allegiance to their native country. In fact, their native country will not allow them to give up their allegiance, and they are liable to be called upon to serve their native country at any time. So that if this were an argument in favour of accepting the amendment, it would be equally strong as an argument in favour of refusing letters of naturalization to people coming from Germany, France, and other European countries. I point out again that it is not proposed to make things equal all round, as some one has suggested. We are proposing to grant certain rights to British subjects which have nothing whatever. to do with voting. We are told that we should not admit certain people to naturalization because we do not allow them to participate in our elections. That, to my mind, is no argument at all. The very fact that we have carefully safeguarded the franchise in this Bill, by saying that it shall be entirely subject to our electoral law, is a strong reason why we should not hesitate to make a liberal provision in this respect. By accepting this amendment we shall be tying our hands, and we shall achieve no good purpose. In the Immigration Restriction Act we have adopted a certain means of excluding undesirable immigrants. Under that.Act a power is left in the hands of the Government, and it has been admitted that the Government have exercised a wise discretion in the administration of the Act. Why should not the same power be reposed in the Ministry for the administration of this Bill, and let each case be decided upon its own merits ? It must be admitted by every honorable senator that it is possible to imagine cases in which it would be extremely undesirable not to have the power to give letters of naturalization to persons who have settled in Australia. Why should not the Governor-General in Council be allowed to exercise that power of discretion in connexion with this Bill, instead of putting in a hard-and-fast provision which will absolutely prevent the naturalization of persons who may have settled here definitely, and who may in every respect be desirable citizens of the Commonwealth ? The principal purpose for which citizenship would be desired by these people would be that they might be enabled to hold land. It has been pointed out that in some of the States aliens are permitted to hold land, and in others they are not, though they may be naturalized British subjects. Why should we, in making a general law for the whole of Australia, discriminate between one class of aliens and another? I protest against this distinction being introduced in the Bill. It can effect no good purpose, and it will only make a discrimination with regard to colour and race, which is not desirable.

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