Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
Thursday, 24 November 1927


Senator NEEDHAM (Western Australia) . - In accordance with the letter which I have forwarded to the, President, I move -

That the Senate at its rising adjourn till 11 a.m. on Monday, 28th November.

I make no apology for submitting the motion to direct public attention to the influx of Southern Europeans into Australia. Instead of the numbers becoming fewer, as was stated by the Minister a few weeks ago, in reply to a question which I addressed to him, they are increasing. The Government appears to take the stand (1) that the influx of these migrants in no way affects the employment market or the economic conditions of Australia; (2) that the excess arrivals does not in any way materially affect the preponderance of Southern

Europeans in our population; and (3) that owing to the probability of a delicate international situation arising, the Government would not dare, even if it desired, to curtail the further influx of Southern Europeans into this country. Let me examine the first point put by the Minister. The Prime Minister, (Mr. Bruce) in reply to previous criticisms on this subject, stated definitely that the migration of Southern Europeans did not affect employment in Australia as the percentage of unemployed last year was only 7.1. I question if that can be taken as a correct guide, because the figures quoted by the right honorable gentleman were based on returns from trade unions. It is well known that all members of trade unions do not register themselves as unemployed when they are out of work ; and further, many men and women workers are not members of trade unions. My view of the position is borne out by the unemployment figures supplied by the statistician for 1921. In that year the percentage of unemployed was 11.4, and the total number of unemployed was given as 40,500. In April, 1921, a census was taken and it was reported that the result of such census showed that there were 159,188 people out of employment. I feel sure that if a census were taken to-day it would be found that the number of unemployed in Australia is much greater than it has been for some years. To further buttress my contention that the statistical figures do not give a true indication of the number of unemployed in our midst, I would point out that in 1925 the number out of employment, according to the Commonwealth Statistician, was 34,620, or 8.8' per cent. ; and yet in September of that year, a committee representing the Trades' Hall, the Employers' Federation, the Socialist party and various churches and charity organizations, placed the number at between 40,000 and 45,000. The Government further contends that the arrival of these people in Australia is not in any way interfering with our economic conditions. In answer to that, I submit that the employment of a given number of Southern Europeans in this country displaces a similar number of Australian citizens. In his well-known work " The Case for Labour ", published several years ago, the Right Honorable W. M. Hughes, states -

Nothing can be more inconsistent with the advocacy of immigration, than to neglect to utilize the whole of the available labour in the community. To cry for more men and to decline to employ those already here is folly, ov worse.

This Government's indifference with regard to the increasing flow of Southern Europeans into Australia, is folly of the worst kind.


Senator Duncan - What is the extent of that flow?


Senator NEEDHAM - I shall come to that in a moment. It might be argued for the Government that the responsibility for finding work rests with State Governments. The Commonwealth Government cannot, however, escape its share of blame, because it controls migration. The Development and Migration Commission has been appointed and has spent thousands of pounds; but so far as we know, nothing has been done by it to assist in overcoming the problem of unemployment. I cannot imagine that the stream of foreign migrants into Australia is haphazard. When I last referred to this matter, Senator Reid was loud in his praise of the Italian worker, and gave the Senate the impression that, in his opinion, the Italian was a better workman than the Australian. On this point I shall quote the Melbourne Herald of 20th October last -

Reviewing the operations of the Sugar Agreement before the Constitution Commission, Mr. A. JR. Townsend, accountant in the Customs Department, stated that the White Australian cane-cutter was the best in the world.

He stated that they cut 5 tons a day and stated also that in 1924, 23 per cent, of the labour employed in the cane fields in Queensland were Italians.

These men do not conform to the Australian standards of living, and their presence amongst us goes a long way towards endangering, those standards. Labour has long agitated to secure the best possible conditions for our workers, and it is not alone in its fear of the steady influx of Southern Europeans. According to the Melbourne Sun of 18th November last, the immigration committee of the Methodist Church declared - _

The influx of foreigners, many of whom had ideals and standards lower than our own, was viewed with concern.

Aweek or two ago the Returned Sailors' and Soldiers' Imperial League, at its interstate conference in Brisbane, unanimously condemned the influx of Southern Europeans. It declared that it was preventing Australians from procuring employment, and adding to the number of unemployed. I have shown that the matter is of vital concern, and is seriously agitating the public mind. Italians will work for lower wages than Australians, and in some cases they are prepared to give their services in return for their food.


Senator Duncan - Do they not observe our industrial awards?


Senator NEEDHAM - Many of them do not. I have quoted one instance of an Italian being paid about . 50 per cent. less than union rates, and it is not an isolated case. While I have no desire to reflect upon other nationals, we have ample evidence that the calibre of the Italians now coming to Australia is not high. In their mode of life they do not set a good example to others. The Government contends that the influx can in no way affect the preponderance of British in the community. I shall quote figures showing the excess of arrivals over departures, and the excess of foreign over British immigrants -

 

Those figures indicate definitely that there is a large influx of Southern Europeans, particularly Italians. Since 1924 the average annual influx of Italians has been over 4,000, and Southern Europeans have numbered 6,000. Those 6,000 Southern Europeans have taken the place of 6,000 Australians.


Senator Hebert Hays - Not necessarily.


Senator NEEDHAM - They have, because in New South Wales and Victoria more than 6,000 Australian citizens are clamouring for work. The foreigners have obtained work that Australians should be doing. The following figures give an indication how the percentage of Southern Europeans has increased, while the percentage of British migrants has decreased -

 

In 1925 the migrants from Southern Europe represented 20 per cent., and the British migrants 76 per cent. In 1926 the Southern Europeans dropped to 8 per cent., while the number of British migrants increased to 87 per cent. In that year, there was an increase of 3,600 in the number of immigrants. In 1927, however, the percentage of Southrn Europeans has in creased to. 20 per cent., and the number of British migrants has dropped te 73 per cent., showing that the preponderance of Britishers is not being maintained, because although the number of migrants has increased the percentage from Britain decreased. The Government declines to check the influx of Southern Europeans. "It is suggested that, if it did, delicate international complications might arise. Why should we bother about that phase of the matter? Italy is not troubling itself about it. Mussolini is busy taxing bachelors. Not long ago he said that Italy could not feed her own people, and she must either spread or explode. Is Australia to sit quietly by, whilst Italy dumps the residue of its population on these shores to the detriment of our own people? I realize that if all Australians were in employment, there might be some justification for the admittance of Italian migrants; but under present conditions they should be excluded. No ground exists for the fear of international complications. Signor Nitti has said thai Italy must choose between its own people and coloured races. Are we to bi dictated to by Italy as to what we shall do in this regard? I have an extract from the Western Australian Worker, which states that, when giving evidence in a law suit in Melbourne, Senator "Pearce had said -

If the people of the Northern Territory do not appreciate their opportuities, I will introduce a colony. of Italians to work the place.


Senator Sir George Pearce - That is typical of that newspaper.


Senator NEEDHAM - It is a very reliable journal. The Minister has an opportunity to refute the statement if he so. desires. One would be inclined to think that the steady influx of Italians is not haphazard. I do not say that it is intentional; hut at least it reveals indifference on the part of the Government. I have here a letter from the secretary .of the Labour party in Western Australia, dated 12th November, 1927, which reads -

A short time ago I forwarded to the Prime Minister's Department a request that something should be done to reduce the influx of Southern Europeans into Australia, and among other tilings that were mentioned I supplied him with a copy of a sworn declaration, which reads as follows: - " I was at work on my block of land digging potatoes, when a man came up and asked me if I wanted any clearing done. He said he was a Bulgarian living at Amphion, his name sounding something like Derick. He said he had had fifteen of his countrymen sent to him to place in positions, and as he was not in a position to keep them all himself he was seeking work for them. None of them could speak English, and they were all without means. He offered to let me have two or three of them on the same terms that he had already placed two of them on Morgan's farm in this district, namely, three weeks work without pay, only their food; after that 10s. per week and keep. No conditions were to be made as to hours to be worked or living conditions that were to be provided. I declined the offer. " (Signed) Wm. Watson, Timber Worker."

In reply thereto I received a communication from the Prime Minister's Department, copy of which you will find attached. In addition, Mr. Bruce asked the State Government if it would allow the Criminal Investigation Department of this State to make inquiries concerning the statements contained in the sworn declaration. This was acceded to, the result being that an officer of the Criminal Investi-gabion Department in this State submitted a report on the matter, which is appended hereto.

I am sending this for your information, as it will probably be of use in other parts of Australia as well as here.

A letter received from the secretary of the Prime Minister's Department hears out the statement that the Government is afraid of causing delicate international complications if it interferes in this matter.


Senator Duncan - What was the report of the officer of the criminal investigation branch?


Senator NEEDHAM - It bears out the statement contained in the sworn declaration. There is no doubt that the increase in the number of Southern Europeans entering Australia is having a detrimental effect on Australians so far as employment is concerned. The Government should impose further restrictions on their entry; indeed, it should entirely prohibit them from entering this country. When two bodies such as the Migration Committee of the Methodist Church of Australasia and the Returned Sailors' and Soldiers' Imperial League point out the danger of an influx of Southern Europeans, it is time for the Government to realize that the people of Australia regard this matter seriously. I hope that the Minister will indicate the Government's willingness to reduce the number of Southern Europeans who may enter this country.







Suggest corrections