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Wednesday, 5 October 1927

Senator NEEDHAM (Western Australia) . - I desire to refer briefly to the menace of foreign migration, which is causing considerable alarm throughout Australia, and has already been mentioned by Senator Graham. It appears to me that, notwithstanding the strong protests made against this rapidly growing and evil system, we cannot get any satisfaction from the Government. Southern Europeans in large numbers are permitted te land in Australia apparently without restriction; if there are any regulations governing foreign immigration, they are not being enforced. A firm protest is being voiced in nearly every State of the Commonwealth, particularly in Western Australia and South Australia, where the position is very acute. The large influx of foreign migrants is not only a menace to Australian industrial conditions, but their .presence in one State was nearly the cause of civil war on a small scale. Many of these people come from countries where the social conditions are vastly different from those obtaining in the Commonwealth. They form little communities, of their own; they have nothing in common with the ideals, social or otherwise, of the people of the Commonwealth, and their standard of living is much lower than that to which we are accustomed.

Senator Thompson - That is not so of all of them.

Senator NEEDHAM - I am speaking particularly of Southern Europeans, and am not making a comprehensive charge. I submit, however, that most of those in our midst are willing to accept social conditions that Australians will not tolerate. The party to which I have the honor to belong has been the means of improving the industrial conditions of the workers, and naturally does not wish the standard of living to be lowered by these people.

Senator Crawford - The Southern Europeans in northern Queensland live up to our standard.

Senator NEEDHAM - Despite the assurance of the Minister, I maintain that unless a greater check is placed upon foreign migration, the social conditions Which we now enjoy will be seriously endangered.

Senator Reid - There are as many Italians in Western Australia as there are in Queensland.

Senator NEEDHAM - I have said that the menace is prevalent throughout the Commonwealth, particularly in Western Australia and South Australia.

Senator Crawford - There have been no protests by Queensland.

Senator Thompson - Neither have there been by South Australia.

Senator NEEDHAM - There have been protests by Western Australia and South Australia.

Senator Sir Henry Barwell - By certain members of the Labour party in South Australia.

Senator NEEDHAM - And by supporters of the present Government in that State. It is easy for honorable senators opposite to say that these men must be paid the award rates, but in many instances the award rates are not being paid.

Senator Reid - The award provides for penalties in such cases.

Senator NEEDHAM - If necessary the law should be amended to enable a proper check to be placed upon them. A case was brought under my notice by the secretary of the Jewellers' Union in Melbourne, who mentioned a foreigner - I think he was an Italian - who complained that he had been paid less than the minimum wage. He was employed, in the first instance, by a certain firm for three weeks at the award rate of £5, but after three weeks' service was told that he could be paid only £4 per week. His services were retained for another fifteen weeks at the lower rate, and then, owing to slackness of work, he was put off. He interviewed the secretary of the union, and endeavoured to get the extra £1 per week to which he was entitled under the award, and without which he was prepared to work so long as he was employed. He could not speak a word of English, and had to bring an interpreter with him. I quote also the case of another foreigner who could not speak English, and who visited jewellers' shops in an endeavour to get work in repairing watches. There are different prices for repairing different parts of watches; the turning of a staff of a watch, I understand, costs about 7s. 6d., and cleaning about 3s. 6d. This man visited the shops, and used the word. " clean," which was all the English he could speak, and did the work of turning the staff and cleaning for 3s. 6d., which was considerably less than the ruling rate. The agent of an Italian employment bureau inWest Melbourne stated recently that nearly all the Italians in Victoria were at present in work - I wish we could say the same of all Australians - and that some were working for a good deal less than the living wage. It will, therefore, be seen that industrial conditions in Victoria are . endangered by foreign migrants of this class. He went on to say: "Their aim, in the first place, is to get work where they are paid the maximum rate. If that is not available they will work for less." . That shows that they will work for less than the minimum wage. He further said, "If the worst comes to the worst, they will work for their keep until something better turns up." The Italian Consul in Sydney, in an article sent to the Italian Bulletin of Australia, said : -

The new publication should make it clear to all Italians in Australia, especially those who have long resided here, that it is absolutely necessary to use Italian products, because they are as good as the others when they are not actually far superior, and because true patriotism to-day cannot consist only in easy participation in balls and banquets on the occasion of the national celebrations.

What does that mean? By working for lower wages they prevent Australians from obtaining employment, and are then told not to buy Australian goods. According to the Chief Secretary of Western Australia, the Honorable J. M. Drew, there are 132 insane aliens in the Western Australian Hospitals for the Insane. Who is to meet the cost of maintaining these patients? It shows that the selection is indifferent.

Senator Crawford - There is no system of selection.

Senator NEEDHAM - Then the system is wrong.

Senator Foll - The Commonwealth does not assist those people to come here.

Senator NEEDHAM - Why should any State be called upon to meet the cost of maintaining 132 foreign patients in a hospital for the insane? I could quote cases from different newspapers in the Commonwealth showing that these migrants have used knives, and shot at each other. In two instances they have shot at Australians, one of whom was a policeman. In reply to the Prime Minister's statement that there is no occasion for alarm concerning the influx of foreigners, I quote the following figures, showing the excess of arrivals over departures of migrants - from foreign countries : - 1919, 1,274; 1920, 1,756; 1921, 530; 1922, 4,191; 1923, 3,933; 1924, 10,684; 1925, 8,192, and 1926, 6,795, or a total of 37,356 in eight years.

Senator Reid - Where did the honorable senator obtain those figures ?

Senator NEEDHAM - From the Commonwealth Year-book.

Senator Sir William Glasgow - They are not all Southern Europeans?

Senator NEEDHAM - No.

Senator Sir William Glasgow - What percentage of the total consisted of Southern Europeans ?

Senator NEEDHAM - These figures, I repeat, do not relate solely to Southern Europeans. They cover migrants from foreign countries, and the total in eight years was 37,356. It will be noted that, since the formation of the Bruce-Page Government, the number of foreign migrants has increased. If we examine the position more closely, we find that the majority came from Italy. The figures relating to net Italian migrants during the same period are: - 1919, minus 581; 1920, 25; 1921, 1,192; 1922, 3,312; 1923, 1,633; 1924, 4,971; 1925, 5,762; 1926, 3,921. In 1919 the excess of departures over arrivals was 581, but for the three years 1924-26 inclusive, the excess of arrivals over departures averaged 4,885 per annum. This requires the serious attention of the Government. Prompt measures should be taken to lessen the number of migrants from Italy. The Prime Minister has suggested that any interference from this end might cause serious international complications. I fail to see where the danger lies. The Prime Minister of Italy does not give much thought to the possibility of international' complications when he is dealing with legislation affecting his own people. I mention, this matter in the hope that the Government will at once take . steps to lessen the number of foreign migrants that are coming to Australia.

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