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Friday, 9 July 1926

Senator KINGSMILL (Western Australia) . - I feel sure that most honorable senators who listened to the speech that Senator Duncan has just delivered, for some little time misunderstood him. I could see plainly enough the object of the honorable senator in pointing out the dangers with which .immigration is attended, and which this bill is devised to correct.

Senator Duncan - But will it do so?

Senator KINGSMILL - I think that the Government has taken the most effective means of correcting the dangers attaching to the selection of suitable immigrants for Australia, by the appointment of a commission. That is the gist of the whole business. I do not share the puzzlement of the honorable senator in regard to the agreement itself. Although it is a long time since I have seen the agreement, the State which I help to represent was the first to sign it. I am proud to say that Western Australia has always held a foremost place in regard to immigration, and still holds that place. It is naturally keener than the other States to introduce immigrants, because it has a good deal more to offer intending immigrants on more reasonable terms than can be offered by the more thickly populated States. These States already do not look upon their overcrowded cities with too favorable an eye, and their rural land is very much harder and more expensive to obtain than is rural land in Western Australia.

Senator Duncan - Western Australia is in a better position in thatrespect than the other States.

Senator KINGSMILL - Exactly ; and so far it has made very good use of its advantage in that respect. . The only fault I have heard found with the agreement in Western Australia is that, contrary to most agreements we have made with the Mother Country, this is a very businesslike one, under which Great Britain does not incur any liability or accept any risk until the goods have been delivered. But that is only a fair and reasonable condition which, if we are in earnest in this matter, we shall not fail to honour. I am not going to say very much about the part of the bill that deals with immigration. It appeals to me very much, but the development part of the measure appeals to me still more. All J have to say about immigration is that I dread the artificial aspect with which it is being surrounded. We can realize this when we remember the class of immigration in the early days. The people who came here then did so because they had a love of adventure and a desire for a- wider scope in life:

Senator McLachlan - They were attracted here.

Senator KINGSMILL - They were not attracted here in anything like the way in which they are being attracted at the present time. I am frightened that, if immigration is made much more generous there is a possibility of its being exploited. I hold the same apprehension of danger in that respect, as Senator Duncan holds, but I have such confidence in the commonsense of the authorities in the country which is sending the immigrants, andin the country which is appointing a body to select those immigrants and look after them, that I believe no great danger can be feared in that direction. The only thing I am frightened of is that too many inducements may be held out so that people may take up a new profession, that of being immigrants. I can speak of an experience we had in Western Australia under the operations of the Industries Assistance Board, which was appointed to foster and finance settlers. That board was most generous. It paid the full value of all improvements' effected on a farm, a thing which no financial institution would do, and it paid practically current rates of wages to the men who were working their farms. The result was that, to a certain extent, a class of persons arose who were, as was known in the country districts of Western Australia at the time, living on the board. If things turned out all right after they had developed their farms, and being well paid for doing so, they could sell out. If things went the other way - if they reached an impasse beyond which they could go no further, and if they could not repay the advances made by the board. they could simply say, " There is your old farm, take it. We are done with it." Then they could walk out, with no anchor to hold them. We must always have some little hold on a person we are benefiting, and, therefore, I look to the commission to be appointed to see that proper terms are imposed in the case of the immigrants we have to attract. I think it would be unwise and undiplomatic to place in this bill any restriction in regard to nationalities. That is a question which is much wider than immigration. It is an international question which must be dealt with in a diplomatic manner by the Government of the Commonwealth. If any difficulty arises in that connexion I should certainly not empower the commission to deal with it. I do not think it would be right to do so. It is a question as between Australia, the Motherland, and the allegedly aggrieved country. But I do not expect that, for years to come, any difficulty of the kind will arise. It is always a great pleasure to me to take the opportunities, which are not too frequent, of supporting bills for developmental purposes as against the restrictive legislation of which recently we have had so much. We get too many bills telling us what we may do, or what we may not do, and too few which have a decided effect upon the development of the industries, and population of this country. Therefore, I welcome this bill very heartily. Although I have merely touched on the fringe of the subject, I have said all I wish to say in regard to immigration, except to add that' the details are to be left, subject to the approval of the Government, to the decision of the commission to be appointed under the bill. If honorable senators will permit me, I should like to again mount a hobby I have ridden, here before, and refer to some of the industries which might well engage the attention of that commission. We in Australia are really one of the most conservative peoples that inhabit the earth. We are so satisfied in doing what our fathers did before us, without any regard to the creation of new industries in Australia, that we overlook their existence in other countries. Sometimes this conservative view is so strongly held that those who advocate the establishment of new industries in Australia, although successfully operating in other parts of the world, gain the reputation of being faddists, .and may be accused of being monomaniacs in certain .directions. I have incurred that risk, and have achieved as much of that reputation as it is possible for me to carry. If more is thrust upon me, it will fall ofl of its own weight, but will still leave me with the quantity of faddism that I have already accumulated. There are many industries that we might well endeavour to foster in Australia, and I trust that when the proposed commission is appointed it will do its best to create in Australia a series of what I have already alluded to as domestic industries. The experience of the world has shown that the prosperity of any country depends upon the small holder who is wedded to his, country by the natural anchor to which I have already alluded. We have only to consider the peasantry of France and what it has done in that country. We have only to study the wonderful results obtained, not only in France, but also in other European countries, especially Italy, to see that the small holder is a great asset to any country. In Australia we are too much wedded to the idea of large open spaces, whilst other countries adopt a policy of intense culture. "Victorians particularly will remember the great task of one of the world's greatest irrigationists, who was for some years in this country, Mr. Elwood Mead. Having completed his irrigation scheme, he could not obtain the necessary number of settlers to occupy the land it was proposed to irrigate. He had to scour the world for those people, and only with the greatest difficulty succeeded in securing a sufficient number. Honorable senators are aware of what is being done in New South Wales, where the huge irrigation settlements there afford one of the best examples of domestic industry we have seen. I do not think any one can gainsay the merits of domestic industries, and I hope the commission, when appointed, may tackle this problem. The fruit-growing industry has been hampered by the difficulties and dangers of marketing, which have, in consequence df the activities of the Government, been to some extent overcome, but similar disadvantages exist in connexion with almost any industry. Difficulties, however, only exist to be overcome, and they can be overcome if tackled in a business-like way. There are certain industries to which I have alluded on other occasions, and to which I have no compunction in referring again. I ask the Government if the persons to be appointed to the commission will give some thought to the cheapening of . the food supplies of this country. Is it not worth while giving further attention to the fishing industry of Australia? I am sorry that Senator Findley is temporarily absent, because he has accused me of thinking more about fish than blowflies. Although he is not present I reiterate the statements I have made on other occasions in spite of his buzzing. In connexion with the fishing industry there is an enormous field for improvement, and, as I have already informed honorable senators - not without some little knowledge of the subject, as it is one iti which I have taken interest for many years - our methods are years, aye generations, behind those of other countries. The price of fish, which is normal in other countries, is abnormal here, and it would redound to the credit of any government to remedy this crying evil.When I speak of the development of our fisheries, I refer also to the development of the maritime industries of Australia. In America for many years not only the edible but non-edible fish have been treated, and fertilizers leather, and oils are produced from this source. Hundreds of boats and thousands of people are employed in this industry, and the policy of that country is one we could well emulate. We have immense numbers of non-edible fish in Australian waters which could be used for the manufacture of fertilizers, leather, and oils, all of which commodities are urgently needed here. The attention of the commissioners' to be appointed should be directed to the necessity of exploiting this and other avenues of occupation instead of devoting too much attention to the industries already well established. Years ago, and to a greater extent in recent times the Scottish fisheries were seeking an outlet for their skilled men, who could not find sufficient employment in Scotland. Such men would be ready to come here if it could be shown that they could be provided with profitable employment. We should not expect Scottish fishermen to come to Australia, to them a strange country, to deal with unaccustomed species of fish in order to establish the industry. The least we can do is to have a stocktaking of our resources, have a rough survey made, in order to determine the cost of operating this industry. If the industry were given assistance, it would not be long before there would be an additional 60,000 to 100,000 persons on our coast, profitably employed in supplying a commodity urgently needed in this country.

Senator Guthrie - How does the honorable senator suggest that the industry should be encouraged?

Senator KINGSMILL - In the first place, by prospecting trawlers.

Senator Guthrie - Through the agency of the Government?

Senator KINGSMILL - Through the same agency as is employed in other civilized countries.

Senator THOMAS (NEW SOUTH WALES) - Only by trawling?

Senator KINGSMILL - No ; also in other investigation. We know nothing whatever concerning the possibilities of the fishing industry on the Australian coast, as our fishermen do not go beyond the bays and estuaries, where the supplies are already depleted. The fishing industry in Australia should be organized, and the Government, through its various agencies, should conduct the necessary investigations, in order to find out what we have to offer. The fishing industry is, I consider, one of the most necessary for the welfare of our people. In offering a special opportunity to a special class of migrants, we need not go beyond the Empire. On the coast of Scotland we could get thousands of men to whom the conditions in Australia as compared with those under which they had been working would be a paradise. Usually, the conditions in the North Sea, and also the temperature, are against them. Surely it is reasonable to expect that some consideration be given to an industry such as this, which calls aloud for encouragement. There is another important industry which I have not mentioned very often, but which is of equal importance. I refer to the production of tobacco. There are three classes of tobacco, viz., cigar tobacco, which is grown almost exclusively in the tropics; pipe tobacco, produced in more or less temperate zones at a comparatively low price-

Senator Findley - There are only two kinds of tobacco -good and bad.

Senator KINGSMILL - I am submitting a different classification. The third type, and one which has grown in favour, particularly in recent years, is cigarette tobacco. For many years Greece was largely a wheat-producing country, but the Greeks found, to their benefit-, that land which was suitable to the production of wheat was equally suitable to the growing of cigarette tobacco. In that country, the production of cigarette tobacco has become a national industry. The Morea, the main portion of Greece from which the other portions radiate, has now ceased to become a wheat-producing country, as those who were profitably producing that cereal have turned their attention to the production of cigarette tobacco. This tobacco can be profitably grown on wheat lands, and more especially on land that is too wet for wheat. Honorable senators will therefore realize the immense opportunities awaiting us in years to come - wheat will not always be the price it is to-day - in the production, at all events, of tobacco of this particular type, for which there is a big demand in Australia.. This is another industry to which the commissioners should devote their attention. I have had a good deal of experience of immigration generally. First, as the administrator of a department which for a good many years controlled immigration in Western Australia, when I found that there were two circumstances which controlled successful immigration. The first is that the immigration agents employed abroad should tell the truth about the country to which the immigrants are coming; and, secondly - which is even more important - that immigrants intending to come to Australia should tell the truth about themselves. There is often a change of character and of intention between the time that the migrant leaves the shores of Britain and' his arrival in Australia. People who come out with the declared intention of settling on the land frequently find positions in our big city emporiums. In this connexion, I have frequently been greatly disappointed. Some years ago, in an endeavour to establish the cork-growing industry in Western Australia, I arranged for the introduction to that State of five or six families of Spaniards from the cork-growing districts of Spain. They were Spanish enough when they arrived. Not one of the party could speak a word of English, and instead of hats the ladies of the party wore mantillas. When I looked upon, these immigrants I could, in imagination, see groves of cork oaks growing in Western Australia in a district which I knew was well suited for the purpose. But, alas, instead of growing cork oaks, they established fish shops, and the industry which I hoped to establish in Western Australia was lost. It is now probably too late to start the cork-growing industry in Australia, because a number of substitutes for cork have been found in the meantime; but had it been started then, it would to-day be flourishing, and the people engaged in it, chiefly by rea son of the high prices paid for cork during and since the war, would be distributed among our prosperous settlers. I do not know whether it is possible to guard against the change of intention to which I have referred. All that we can do is to be careful as to the migrants who are selected. There is another class of migrant to which no reference has yet been made during this debate, but which I regard as most valuable to Australia. I refer to boy and girl migrants. For twelve or fourteen years I have been connected with the Fairbridge Farm School in Western Australia which, despite great difficulties and very little encouragement, has been eminently successful. Many boys who entered that institution at the age of eight or ten years, now own their own farms and work them well. When they are able to take a holiday, many of them return to the school where they were reared and do their best to encourage the boys and girls there now to follow in their footsteps. An adult migrant has much to unlearn. It is a. difficult matter to get him to forget things; it is more difficult to teach him the things that he has to learn. Those difficulties do not exist in the case of boys who come to this country at the age of eight or ten years, and are reared among Australians until they reach the age when they are no longer compelled to attend school. By that time, the young Britisher has grown into an Australian possessing a knowledge of Australia, and knowing what he is about to undertake when he settles on the land. Senator Barwell, when Premier of South Australia, inaugurated a similar scheme there.

Senator Duncan - Does the honorable senator think that that type of migrant will be brought out under this scheme?

Senator KINGSMILL - I hope that a fair proportion of such migrants will be brought out.

Senator Guthrie - Does the honorable senator approve of families being brought out ? That, in my opinion, is the .best immigration policy.

Senator KINGSMILL - Yes. I want to bring out people who will be anchored here, not only for their own benefit, but also for the benefit of Australia. I agree with the Leader of the Senate that no country in the world - in the temperate zone at least - presents such opportunities to men with little capital as does Australia. We have the open spaces and the glorious climate; all that we need is the producer. I regret that it is necessary to go outside our own borders to get this country settled. There is, unfortunately, a tendency, not only in Australia but throughout the world, for people to flock to the cities. That is one of the curses of the world.

Senator Guthrie - That tendency is greater in Australia than elsewhere.

Senator KINGSMILL - The fictitious attractions of the city are too great for some to withstand. In my opinion, most city occupations do not tend to make a country great. I am, as honorable members may have recognized from my attitude during a recent debate in this Chamber, a strong believer in the country life of Australia. I do not think that any country can ever be made great solely by men depending upon wages. This country, and indeed every country, can only be made great by individual efforts of persons working for themselves. I realize that we must have a certain proportion of our population employed as wage earners, but the ambition of every man should be to do something for himself. Employment as a wage earner should be used as a stepping stone towards independence and prosperity. I should like to think that Australians regarded employment under wages more as a stepping stone to higher things than as an objective to be reached. Holding those sentiments, I have no hesitation in supporting this bill. I can see the dangers which Senator Duncan has pointed out as clearly as he can; but, being more of an optimist than he is, I look upon this legislation, if administered properly, as a means of accomplishing much.

Senator Duncan - The honorable senator has made an important qualification.

Senator KINGSMILL - A great deal depends on the proper administration of any legislation. The honorable senator knows that, although we may pass legislation with the best of intentions, it frequently happens that it no sooner becomes law than other people pick holes in it, until it resembles a fishing net more than anything else. That is true, particularly of restrictive legislation. I believe that all sections in this Chamber desire to approach this legislation in the right spirit, and that the gentlemen to be appointed to administer it will do their best to carry out its spirit, and to overcome those obstacles to which reference has been made. Development and population are inseparable. We cannot, have migration without development, although we can have development without migration. Australia is badly in need of development, in order that employment may be found for those already here who are at a loose end, and do not know in which direction to turn. If only to relieve unemployment, that portion of the bill dealing with development is justified. I have no hesitation in supporting the bill, the results from which I hope will be equal to the expectations of the most confirmed optimists.

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