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Friday, 11 December 1908

Senator CHATAWAY (Queensland) . - I shall support this Bill, and in doing so am simply following a course which I have pursued for many years past in connexion with such matters as the unauthorized immigration of coloured aliens. The suggestion of Senator Macfarlane that the Bill would not do any particular harm conveys also the contrary idea that it will not do much good. But I point out the attitude of the Senate towards the Bill. At the present time those who are accused of being the advocates of black labour in every shape and form are in attendance and keeping a House for the Government, whilst there is a beggarly array of empty benches opposite in the places usually occupied by those enthusiastic patriots who are always proclaiming that they are the fervent champions of white labour as against black. In no hostile sense, I direct the attention of the Government to the fact that the real question at issue is not going to be settled by means of this Bill. When I was last up in the north, I made inquiries amongst officers in connexion with the steamers trading with Manilla and Singapore. I learnt that up to about 1904 there was a constant stream of junks, feluccas, and other such vessels passing between the northern part of Australia, enst of Port Darwin, and the Malay Archipelago. In 1904, or thereabouts, consequent upon the attention directed to the danger by those supposed to desire the introduction of coloured labour to Queensland, the Government arranged that a certain amount of patrol work should be done with regard to such vessels. When I was in the Northern Territory last year, I found that, from the date mentioned, this constant intercourse between the Malay Archipelago and Australia had ceased to be directed to the cast of Port Darwin, and was now carried west of Port Darwin. An officer told me that only a few weeks before, coming across from Manilla, he saw quite a large number of these feluccas making for the north-west portion of Australia.

Senator Guthrie - It shows the need of an Australian navy.

Senator CHATAWAY - I am with the honorable senator to a greater extent than he is probably aware. Meanwhile, I point out that this Bill deals only with one very small and almost trifling source of leakage in reference to the unauthorized importation of coloured aliens.

Senator Guthrie - It is not trifling.

Senator CHATAWAY - I am not saying that it is not well to stop a small leak, but I believe the matter under consideration to be comparatively unimportant. I warn the Government that they must not sit down on their haunches, as Commonwealth Governments have done for years past, refusing to listen to those who have warned them, and saying that the importation of coloured aliens does not and cannot happen ; that the blacks in the north of Australia are so savage that they would keep out the Chinese, and all that sort of nonsense. The Government should remember that there is an immense danger of coloured aliens entering Australia at points where we imagine that they would not think for a single moment of coming in. I will give the Senate an interesting little bit of history affecting this subject. In the early part of 1904 the managers of a number of the sugar mills in Queensland were circularised by a firm which proposed to place at their disposal 5,000 Chinese coolies for the purpose of working in the mills. Certain conditions were stated, which I need not mention. I stated this fact in Townsville in 1904. Notwithstanding the Immigration Restriction Act, our other laws, and the temper of Australia, this firm actually offered to supply 5,000 Chinese coolies. Do honorable senators believe that a firm of financial standing would make such an offer unless it was satisfied that it could carry out any contract that it made?

Senator Pearce - Was it a local firm?

Senator CHATAWAY - It was not a Brisbane or a Melbourne firm, but it was a firm in Australia. I do not know whether the firm was acting as agent for some one else, but the fact remains that this offer was made. It may surprise honorable senators opposite to learn that not one of the people connected with the sugar industry, although they are supposed to be ardent advocates of black labour, accepted the offer. They refused it point blank. If they had accepted it, this firm would either have had to produce the 5,000 Chinese coolies or would have been involved in heavy penalties sufficient to ruin it. I give this illustration to show that there is good ground for my belief that there is a mode of getting these Asiatics into Australia. I have not discovered what that mode is, but since 1904 nothing has been done to prevent Asiatics from coming in. A Bill of this sort deals with a paltry feature of the situation, but does not meet the whole case. We should adopt the measure, but I warn the Government that they must not sit down and think that they have settled the whole question. It is of no use saying to Australia, "We have passed a Bill to stop the Chinese influx," when there is a serious danger of these people coming over in some way or other that we do not at present understand.

Senator Guthrie - We want a coastguard service.

Question resolved in the affirmative.

Bill read a second time.

In Committee :

Clause 1 agreed to.

Clause 2 (Citation).

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