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Friday, 9 July 1926


Senator DUNCAN - Where is the Asiatic nation that has that common nationality and that common view-point necessary to enable it to attempt the invasion of this country? The invasion of Australia would be an undertaking which could not be regarded lightly by any nation. To seize a portion of our territory and to hold and develop it would require a large army, a strong navy, and huge sums of money. When we consider the composition of the Asiatic nations, we must conclude that the fears of many people to-day regarding the probability of Australia being invaded by them are unfounded. It is true that China is a nation comprising over 400,000,000 people; but China's people have not a common nationality or a common purpose. Whatever may be possible in the future, China to-day is unable to take concerted action in any direction. China has no disciplined army, and no effective navy, so that Australia has nothing to fear from that source. Like China, India is a country whose population runs into millions: but India's millions have no common nationality or common purpose. Moreover, India does not possess the means by which Australia could be invaded. There remains one other Asiatic nation which might possibly attempt the invasion of Australia. I refer to Japan. I have, however, yet to be convinced .that there is any desire on the part of Japan to invade Australia and to hold it for her own purposes. While it is true that Japan has a large surplus population, there is more than the possibility of that surplus population finding an outlet in Korea and other places adjacent toJapan. Moreover, Japan's financial position is such that we need not fear aggression from that source, for some time at least. I suggest, therefore, that the fears of those people who think that Australia is in danger of being invaded are almost entirely groundless. Yet, because of their fears of an Asiatic invasion, some are prepared to throw the doors wide open to the admission to Australia of white people of any nationality. Australia is only a small nation, whose capacity for absorption is limited. God forbid that the experience of the United States of America should be ours! That nation has carried out a policy of migration until it has almost entirely lost its capacity for absorption. In the United States of America there are large numbers of foreigners, not only in the great cities, but also in certain States, who defy absorption by the rest of the people.


Senator Thompson - The trouble with the United States of America is not so much its inability to absorb a greater population, but to fulfil the desire to improve the race.


Senator DUNCAN - These blocks of foreigners defy absorption. They have their own press, their own institutions, and their own language. They are nations within a nation. Their existence in the United States of America causes great difficulty in administration. Our experience would be the same, particularly in the event of international trouble arising. During the early years of the great war the United States of America was severely handicapped because of its large foreign population. It was impossible for the nation to arrive at a common purpose during those early years. In spite of repeated and severe blows at her national prestige and the fact that her national sentiment was outraged time after time by the German nation, the United States of America found it impossible for some years to take a definite stand regarding her entry into the conflict. That was due to the existence within her borders of a large foreign population. Eventually she was able to overcome her difficulties. We in Australia were similarly situated, although to a lesser extent. We had here a number of centres where the population was almost entirely German. Most of them were excellent citizens, who were assisting in a magnificent way to develop this country, particularly in regard to its primary production; but they were torn between conflicting emotions - the love of their Fatherland and their duty to this country, which had given them a home. Australia was faced with grave difficulties because of the existence of those Germans - an enemy population - within her borders. Drastic steps were taken to deal with the situation, and as a result great bitterness was occasioned. Unfortunately, that bitterness still exists. We saw it exemplified recently in the Hume electorate and a few other places in connexion with the last Federal election. It will, therefore, be seen that in these matters we must be . exceedingly careful. To-day, there are in Australia, particularly in Queensland, large numbers of people of Italian origin who have taken up land. They may be admirable citizens, working hard to produce sugar and other things, but to a great extent they have so far resisted absorption in the rest of the population. They retain their own language, their own institutions, and, I am informed, their own schools also.


Senator Crawford - No; they shave no schools of their own, but one or two clubs only.


Senator DUNCAN - I have been informed that they have their own schools; but if they have not, so much the better. Nevertheless, it will be many years before these Italians are completely absorbed into the population. Already considerable discussion has taken place regarding these Italian settlements, and difficulties have confronted the administration. That being so, it is evident that a largely-increased flow of Italian migrants would increase the difficulties, particularly in the event of complications arising with Italy. Already there is a possibility of international trouble with Italy. Recently the Mackay branch of the Australian Workers Union took a definite stand towards Italian canegrowers that is calculated to cause inter national complications. That branch resolved that no Italian-grown sugar should be crushed at the Plain Creek Mill, and that its members should not handle cane grown by Italians who have purchased farms within the last nine months. The object, of course, is to crush out Italian sugar-cane growers in the Mackay district.


Senator Crawford - Of 400 farmers supplying cane to that mill, only ten or twelve are Italians.


Senator DUNCAN - That makes the position worse.


Senator Guthrie - It is a form of tyranny.


Senator DUNCAN - If the Australian Workers Union members refuse to handle cane grown by Italian farmers, those men will be unable to continue as producers. If this attitude is persisted in to any extent - and when once this business starts heaven only knows where it willend - it will be impossible to say what may happen.


Senator Thompson - Certainly it is likely to create an international situation.


Senator DUNCAN - That is the point I am making. I see in this action by the Mackay branch of the Australian Workers Union the germ of grave international difficulties. We must recognize the danger that confronts Australia if, as has been urged, we throw open wide our doors to immigrants from Europe, and if at the same time labour organizations by their attitude towards migrants create difficulties of this nature. I am aware, of course, that the attitude of the Mackay branch of the Australian Workers Union is not generally endorsed by the Labour party. Recently Mr. Brennan, a Labour representative in another place, declared - and his statement has never been denied in the press - that a good Italian was better than the average Englishman we are getting under present migration schemes. I cite Mr. Brennan's published utterance to show that the attitude of the Australian Workers Union branch referred to is not shared by all sections of labour thought. Mr. Brennan is a gentleman of Irish extraction; but it is not held, even by all Irishmen, that Italians are better immigrants than Britishers. Recently I read an interesting little story in a book which I obtained from the Parliamentary Library, entitled, " Some More Memoirs," by G. B. Bergin. I should like to tell the story without in any way identifying myself with it, because it is the opinion of an Irishman, and 1 think it is worth while to put it on record. It appears that on one occasion six Italian labourers were trying to move a heavy steel rail in' New York. Their united efforts being unsuccessful, the Irish foreman directed two of his own countrymen to attempt the task, and they carried the rail away with the greatest of ease. The foreman, so the story runs, looked contemptuously at the puny Italians, and then said, " Them's the dam things they make popes out of in their own country." So much for that. I say that we cannot afford to take the risk of encouraging a considerable influx of people from Italy or any other European country. We are justly proud of our Anglo-Saxon heritage, and I am pleased to know that the Government proposes to restrict its immigration activities under this bill to migrants of the British race. From what I have said, it will be seen that it is highly desirable to tighten up the restrictions with .regard to the admission of people of other nations, so that we may be able' to give British migrants under this scheme a better deal. I realize, of course, that this policy bristles with difficulties, chief amongst which is the pride of other nations. There is another matter which should not be lost sight of. I refer to the socialistic propaganda, which must also be considered when we are discussing the restriction of immigration from other countries. We have heard a great deal about the universal brotherhood of man, and of the slogan " Workers of the world unite." Those things have all to be reckoned with. Some members of the Labour party, at all events, find themselves in an anomalous position in regard to immigration, because many of their supporters preach the universal brotherhood of man,and many who are responsible for the maintenance of labour organizations do not believe in discrimination against the people of other countries. They argue that they are all workers of the world, and that one is as good as another. As proof of this, I need only recall the discussion that took place at the recent Labour conference in London. That gathering was attended by representatives of labour organizations from practically all the countries of Europe, and when migration was under review they challenged the right, of Australia to restrict migration. To their, credit be it said, the delegates from Australia promptly accepted the challenge, and defended Australia's right to prohibit the introduction of any people, who, it is believed, will not make good citizens. I mention these incidents to show how careful we should be in all migration schemes. I turn now to the agreement itself, and I find it difficult to interpret its provisions. I am not alone in this. Other honorable senators, including members of the legal fraternity, are in much the same position. It is almost impossible to say what it means and how it will work out. Why was the agreement couched in such ambiguous language? Surely it was possible to draw up an agreement in language so simple as to be understood by every one. I can see great trouble in this matter before we have gone very far. However, the proposal is to restrict the scheme to British migrants, and we may take it that there will be considerable increase in the stream of British immigrants during the next few years.


Senator Guthrie - That is very much to be desired.


Senator DUNCAN - It is almost certain that there will be a considerable increase of migrants from the Mother Country. Whether it will be so great that we shall lose our Australian national identity,, it is difficult to say, but figures relating to the natural increase and the increase due to immigration in the years 1920 to 1925 inclusive will give us some indication of what may happen.- They are as follow : -

Natural increase- 1920, 80,117; 1921, 82,122; 1922, 86,185; 1923, 78,988; 1924, 79,947; 1925, 81,224.

Net immigration- 1920, 27,606; 1921, 15,654; 1022, 38,023; 1923, 37,540; 1924, 43,749; 1935, 37,357.

Total increases - 1920, 107,723: 1921, 97,776; 1922, 124,208; 1923, 116,656; 1924, 123,696; 1925, 118,581.

These figures show that if the net immigration figures are' trebled the increase in population due to migration will be very much greater than the growth of population due to our natural increase. This prospect cannot be regarded with complete equanimity by any true Australian.


Senator Guthrie - The migrants will be our own kith and kin.


Senator DUNCAN - Perhaps they will, but we are rather proud of our Australian national identity, and we do not wish to lose it entirely.


Senator Guthrie - Does the honorable senator think that British migrants will lower our standard?


Senator DUNCAN - No, but my point is that for many years we have been building up a distinct Australian nationality. Its outstanding characteristics were discernible in the men of the Australian Imperial Force, and we should endeavour by every means to preserve it.


Senator Thompson - I hope we shall never forget from whence we sprang.


Senator DUNCAN - I hope so, too. It is undoubtedly true that there is a very large reservoir of British immigration for Australia to draw upon. I take the following from a speech delivered by Mr. Bankes Amery, the British Government representative for migration, as published in the press of the 2nd July: -

It is not, perhaps, generally realized that no less than 303,000 (net) citizens of the United Kingdom elected to leave for overseas during the year 1913, i.e., the last complete year before the war. During this year there was practically no unemployment at Home; but the population of Great Britain, having been accustomed for centuries to migrate to parts of the world where opportunities are greater, continued that process right up to the time at which the war broke out. Ofthe 303,000 citizens, 44,500 (net) came to Australia. During the war, no migration could naturally take place; and in post-war years, owing to economic and other difficulties, the rate of migration from Great Britain has never even approached pre-war levels. For instance, in the year 1924 the net migration only amounted to 91,000, and in 1925 to 84,000. Of these, 30,000 came to Australia in 1924, and 27,000 in 1925.

It will be seen from those figures that; roughly, 331/3 per cent. of the immigrants that have arrived in Australia during the last few years have come from Great Britain. I have said that it is difficult to estimate what the increase will be under this new agreement, because the Imperial Government has entered into a similar agreement with Canada, New Zea land, and Rhodesia, and doubtless a large number of British migrants will prefer to go to those countries. But there can be no doubt that the increase in our case will be fairly considerable. I shall now deal with the class of migrant that Australia desires, and the type that we are likely to get under this agreement, unless we exercise' extreme care. I think it will be agreed that we do not want men who will remain in our already overcrowded cities. We need men who will engage in the work of primary production and allied industries. The supply of migrants who are suitable for that class of work is strictly limited. It can, therefore, be asserted with justification that that is not the class of which Great Britain is anxious to rid herself. She is faced with the problem of grappling with the decline in her agricultural industry.


Senator McLachlan - The agreement indicates that this is the very phase to which we shall direct our attention.


Senator DUNCAN - It does.But Great Britain cannot assent to a large number of those who possess a knowledge of the principles of primary production emigrating to Australia or some other country. On the other hand, she has to handle the much more pressing problem of unemployment,which to-day exists almost from one end of Great Britain to the other. Millions of her people are unemployed.


Senator Guthrie - I question that. The latest figures show that the number is only a little over 1,000,000.


Senator Reid - The number is 1,500,000.


Senator DUNCAN - The latest figures that I have seen show that over 1,000,000 are receivinga dole, and the whole of the unemployed are not included in that number. I believe that I am correct in saying that in Great Britain millions of people are at present unemployed to a greater or less extent. Our sympathies go out to those who are in that position. That is the class of person which the British Overseas Settlement Committee is anxious to send to Australia.


Senator Foll - The fact that they are unemployed does not necessarily imply that they are unsuitable.


Senator DUNCAN - In some respects, unfortunately, it does. Many poor, hap- less individuals have been, more or less, unemployed since the termination of the war, during which period, as honorable senators are aware, an acute depression has existed in Great Britain.


Senator Guthrie - Because she shouldered the burden of the war.


Senator DUNCAN - Of course she did. It is a natural consequence of the war. Many men and women who have been living upon the dole have lost, not only the power, but also the desire to work. We witnessed a similar spectacle in Australia,. I am not attempting to slight in any way those who are unemployed in Britain ; I am sorry for them.


Senator THOMAS (NEW SOUTH WALES) - Cannot those who have come out work as well as the honorable senator or I?


Senator DUNCAN - Some of them can; but that is not the type of man who will come out under this scheme.


Senator Guthrie - Why not?


Senator DUNCAN - They came out either as nominated immigrants or because they preferred the wider opportunities which Australia offered. Many of them were not out of work. Proof of that is furnished by the fact that they had to contribute a certain sum towards their passage money.


Senator THOMAS (NEW SOUTH WALES) - The other day I met a man who had been out of work for two years in England, and I should not care to pit my capacity for work against his.


Senator DUNCAN - I know that there are exceptions. I agree that the majority of those who come to Australia would make admirable citizens in any country to which they went.


Senator Guthrie - Is the honorable senator opposed to the bill?


Senator DUNCAN - No. I am supporting it.


Senator Chapman - The honorable senator appears to think that we are likely to get a poor class of migrant.


Senator DUNCAN - I am afraid that unless proper supervision is exercised we shall get the type of man that we do not want, because it is that type that the British Government desires to have taken off its hands.


Senator Crawford - Every migrant has to be approved by a representative of the Australian Government.


Senator DUNCAN - The Minister has frequently told us that the system of selecting migrants is all right, and that only in individual cases are unsuitable persons sent to Australia. I wish that I could believe it. I have seen evidence that proves to me that many migrants of an inferior type have come to Australia.I do not contend that they represent a large perecentage of the total number. In my opinion, the great majority will prove a credit to Australia, as they were a credit to the country from which they came. But if it is possible for what I have complained of to occur under our present system, what is likely to be the result if the supervision is not tightened up?


Senator THOMAS (NEW SOUTH WALES) - Some persons ought not to be members of Parliament. Does the honorable senator, on that account, condemn Parliament?


Senator DUNCAN - No; but the electors ought to be condemned for not having exercised a better supervision. It is evident,in spite of the protests of the Minister and the Government, that a certain amount of laxity has been displayed in the administration of our immigration policy.


Senator Guthrie - Where does the fault lie?


Senator DUNCAN - In the system of inspection. Probably the officials in Great Britain are more largely to blame than are those at this end.


Senator Guthrie - I understand that the inspection has been very strict.


Senator DUNCAN - I have drawn my conclusions from the results.


Senator THOMAS (NEW SOUTH WALES) - Only two in every 1,000 migrants are unsuitable.


Senator DUNCAN - The proportion is higher than that. There are many cases of which we do not hear. I am prepared to admit that perhaps 90 per cent. of those who come to Australia are everything that they should be. But the fact that a small proportion of our migrants ought not to have been sent out here proves that there has been lax supervision, which it ought to be possible to remedy.


Senator Cox - That can be rectified. Unsuitable migrants can, under the law, be sent back to the country from which they came.


Senator DUNCAN - I admit that it is possible to rectify it. The necessity for returning certain " migrants is a proof that there has not been a proper supervision.


Senator McLachlan - What will bc the total liability of the Commonwealth under this agreement?


Senator DUNCAN - I do not know. Oan the honorable senator inform me?


Senator McLachlan - I do not think that anybody can.


Senator DUNCAN - It is impossible to tell. With an agreement drawn up in such ambiguous terms, Heaven alone knows to what expenditure wc shall be committed. It is for that reason that I urge that care be exercised in its administration, and that a more strict and effective supervision be put into operation, because the men of whom Great Britain is anxious to rid herself are not likely to prove an asset to Australia.


Senator Guthrie - It is to the advantage of Great Britain to distribute the population of the Empire upon as even a basis as possible.


Senator DUNCAN - I hope so; but it is certain that Great Britain will not send to Australia the best of her sons nor the class of man who is likely to prove beneficial to her.


Senator Crawford - The selection will be made by representatives of this, and not of the Imperial Government.


Senator DUNCAN - Will the Minister deny that the Australian Government will, under this agreement, act in cooperation with the Imperial authorities, and will he affirm that the British authorities will have no say in the selection of men. who are sent to Australia?


Senator Guthrie - The honorable senator is insinuating that the Imperial Government is desirous of taking advantage of us by sending out " culls." That is not correct, and it is a most unfair statement to make.


Senator DUNCAN - I do not lay that charge against the Imperial Government. I am speaking generally of the class of migrant that we are likely to get under the agreement.


Senator Guthrie - The class is a good one.


Senator DUNCAN - It may be. What I am arguing is that Ave are likely to have sent to us those who cannot make any headway in Great Britain. We want men who will engage in primary production and not remain in the city. Those who are sent out here_ under the agreement will come from the cities of Great Britain. It is proposed that centres in which they can be trained in primary production shall be established. Without wishing to reflect in any way upon these unfortunate individuals, I say that, for all practical purposes, many of them are un trainable.


Senator Sir William Glasgow - The bulk of the migrants who come to Australia go into the country.


Senator DUNCAN - That may be the case now ; but we are proposing a largely augmented scheme. Does the Minister suggest that the whole of those who will come out under this agreement will go into the country?


Senator Sir William Glasgow - I do not suggest that foi* a moment. It is not possible under any scheme.


Senator DUNCAN - A scheme should be evolved for tightening up the supervision. It is necessary to-day, and it will be even more necessary when this scheme is put into operation. That statement may be resented by some honorable sena-, tors, but I contend that it is a wise policy. I am not suggesting that the Government will not take steps to have the methods of supervision tightened up. I believe that it will.


Senator Sir William Glasgow - Of the assisted immigrants who have arrived this year only 15 per cent, were unemployed at the date of selection.


Senator DUNCAN - If we can continue on those lines everything will be all right, but we are likely to have a largely augmented stream of immigration. A minister assures "me, by interjection, that everything will be all right under the terms of the agreement; but I have read it, and I cannot interpret it to my satisfaction in certain respects. Neither can Senator McLachlan, who is a leading light in the legal world. Other honorable senators are in exactly the same position. Therefore I urge upon the Government the need for extreme care in the selection of migrants. I believe it will recognize that necessity. I have already referred to the Overseas Settlement Committee of Great Britain. It_ has been found possible in Great

Britain to remove migration from the arena of party politics, and secure in the British House of Parliament the formation of a committee representative of all parties to deal with the question. One of its most prominent members is Mr. William Lunn, who was Minister in charge of emigration during the regime of the MacDonald Government. The negotiations for the £34,000,000 loan were for the most part conducted by him. Mr. Thomas, M.P., and other prominent members of the British Labour party, such as Mr. Clyne, Mr. Sydney Webb, and Dr. Haden Guest are also on the committee. It should be possible for us in this Parliament to secure an agreement between all parties for the formation of a committee representative of all parties similar to the British parliamentary committee -dealing with emigration. We should then have working, in cooperation with the Minister dealing with immigration matters, a committee of members of this Parliament considering any phases of the question that might arise from time to time, and giving at the same time a guarantee to all sections of the community that the business is being conducted on the right lines, and that the dangers, which some of us foresee in the application of this scheme, are being avoided as far as possible. Such a committee would remove the whole question of immigration out of the arena of party politics. I believe that the suggestion is worthy of acceptance by the Government. Certainly it is worth trying. We are not too proud to be guided by the experience of Great Britain, and I think it is well- worth trying here something that has been found to work successfully in the British Parliament. I have always taken an active interest in immigration affairs, and I should like to' see the Government appoint a committee on the lines I have suggested. In fact, so strongly do I feel on the matter that in committee I am willing to move for the insertion of a clause to provide for the appointment of an advisory committee representative of all parties in this Parliament to act in co-operation with the Minister.


Senator Needham - Would the honorable senator suggest the appointment of that committee in addition to the commission ?


Senator DUNCAN - Yes. The commission proposed in the bill will be a small commission of about four. That small body of men will be entrusted with the task of surveying the whole field of Australia, summarizing its resources and potentialities, and showing where opportunities exist for the employment of immigrants. I am afraid the task will be too big for them. Therefore, I am anxious to have another body created dealing, not sp much with the question of the settlement of immigrants when they come here, but with the generalproblem from the stand-point of Parliament and the Minister himself. It will also be too big a problem for a minister to handle, acting without advice other than that of his responsible officers. I think it would be well worth while lifting this question out of the arena of party politics by creating a parliamentary committee like that in Great Britain, which does not touch the work that the commission proposed to be appointed by this bill will carry on, but is merely an advisory committee to the British 5linistry. As I .have said, I am prepared in committee to give the Senate an opportunity to see whether or not my suggestion is worth accepting, but in the meantime I have much pleasure in giving my support to the second reading of the bill.


Senator Guthrie - I am pleased that the honorable senator is supporting the bill.


Senator DUNCAN - I have been Supporting it all along, but I am not one of those who give an unqualified support to a measure in which they may see dangers. I have pointed out what I consider are the dangers in this bill, as it is my duty to. While I urge on the Government the need for taking steps to remove the difficulties and dangers to which I have drawn attention, I can give my general support to the bill. I hope that the second reading will be carried.







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