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Thursday, 24 November 1927

Senator FINDLEY (Victoria) . - This motion deserves the serious consideration of honorable senators. It is a protest, not against Italians ;is such, but against the introduction of large, numbers of Southern Europeans at a time when unemployment is acute in the various States of the Commonwealth. The Leader of the Senate declared that in the discussion of this delicate international question, we should proceed with measured steps lest complications arise. He said it was true that migration was regarded by the League of Nations as a domestic matter, but that if other countries took a different stand in regard to it they might make the position awkward for Australia. I do not accept that view. If we endorse it what will become of our White Australia policy, to which the people of this country are pledged ? For many years now we have been absolutely excluding people from certain countries. We do this by means of a test which it is impossible for them to pass, and in respect of which we have the approval of the Imperial authorities. In this way we shut out migrants from countries with teeming millions of people. If there was anything in the point raised by Senator Pearce, and if those countries came together for common action, we should not be able to maintain our White Australia policy. But the facts are the other way. We have declared our policy and we are enforcing it.

Senator THOMAS (NEW SOUTH WALES) - Does the honorable senator believe that we could enforce it without the protection of the British navy ?

Senator FINDLEY - We have enforced it ever since the inception of federation. Senator Thomas, I believe, has always been a warm supporter of that policy.

Senator THOMAS (NEW SOUTH WALES) - Without the protection of the British navy we could not for 24 hours.

Senator FINDLEY - I do not agree with the honorable senator. Even if what he has said were correct, would that be a reason why we should cease to protest against the introduction of unduly large numbers of people from any country, unless Australia is_ in a position to absorb them?

Senator McLachlan - The honorable senator believes in keeping them all out of Australia?

Senator FINDLEY - I do not. That is not the policy of the Labour party. "A fellow feeling makes one wondrous kind." I endeavour always to put myself in the position of the other fellow. Would honorable senators care to be without employment and without a shilling with which to provide the necessaries of life?

Senator Sir George Pearce - It is not because of migration that any person is in that position.

Senator FINDLEY - The migration policy of the Government is a contributing factor. If people continue to come to Australia from other countries at a time like the present, when there arevast numbers of unemployment in every State, is it not true that they will interfere seriously with the employment of our own people? The Leader of the Senate has told us that, as the result of representations made by the Commonwealth Government, the Italian authorities are now exercising strict oversight of migrants from that country to Australia, the object being to ensure that those who come here shall have a reasonable prospect of being absorbed in useful employment. I believe that statement is correct. I understand that the new regulations governing the migration of Italians provide that all intending migrants must be nominated by close relatives in Australia, or else have a definite promise of employment when they reach these shores. The Minister also told us that under our migration law, no persons can enter Australia under contract except with the approval of the Minister. It is obvious, from what we see around us, that numbers of Italians coming to Australia are assured of definite employment. It is remarkable that foreigners, many of whom are unable to speak the English language, and the majority of whom are totally unacquainted with Australian conditions can be placed in employment immediately after their arrival.

Senator Sampson - They come out to friends, who employ them.

Senator FINDLEY - In what industry are they employed?

Senator Sampson - On land which has been taken up by their countrymen.

Senator FINDLEY - The honorable senator is wrong. There are large numbers of Italians on the land in different parts of Australia, but not many of them employ their own countrymen.

Senator Payne - Who employs them?

Senator FINDLEY - People who are not patriotic enough to give Australian or British migrants a fair chance. They appear to prefer Italians. That is why so many Southern European migrants are so quickly absorbed. Not long ago, when I was in a country district of Victoria, I heard the tramping of many feet, as though a small army of men was on the march. As they came nearer I found that they were a band of Italians, in charge of one of their countrymen, who was instructing them in certain duties and telling them how to take care of themselves. All those men, so I was informed, were in full employment, although at the time I knew for certain that there were good Australian workmen, in every way suited for that class of work, without employment.

Senator Payne - What was the nature of that employment?

Senator FINDLEY - It was on a watershed area in Victoria. For many years that class of work has been done by Australian and British migrants. I wish it to be clearly understood that I am not finding fault with the employment of Italians. I and other members of the Labour party take the stand, however, that our first duty is to our own people. We say that the Government should take some action to prevent the present heavy influx of Southern Europeans into this country. In this way the Government could do something to improve the lot of Australians who are out of work. The Leader of the Senate said just now that the way to ensure progress and prosperity was to increase production and population. I have heard that hackneyed expression over and over again. Shortly after the war the then Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) urged Australia to adopt as its slogan - "Produce, produce, produce." The people followed his advice, and production was increased enormously, but the markets of the world were unable to absorb our exportable products at profitable prices.

Senator Sir George Pearce - If the honorable senator's line of reasoning is sound Victoria should have a glorious timethis year, because wheat production in that State will be 20,000,000 bushels less than last year!

Senator FINDLEY - The right honorable the Minister knows very well that there are other reasons governing prosperity that should be taken into account. The present depression throughout Australia is world-wide. It is due largely to financial stringency. The prosperity of Australia depends not so much upon increased production as upon the stabilization of credit in Europe.

Senator THOMAS (NEW SOUTH WALES) - I thought it depended upon the high tariff.

Senator FINDLEY - When that credit is re-established there will be a profitable world market for our exportable surplus products. The Leader of the Senate knows that our present unsatisfactory position is largely due to the chaotic state of finance in Europe, and that until conditions improve we shall not find a ready market for our products. I do not accuse the Government of being anxious to see an increasing flow of Southern Europeans to Australia to the detriment of our own people ; but I think it should take some steps to check it, for some time at least because from the point of view of employment, Australia is undoubtedly in a bad way. We often have unemployment in the winter months, but never have we experienced it to such a.n extent in the spring and summer as we have this year. In all the capitals there are hungry men. And a hungry man is an angry man. These mcn are angry not because they bear any ill feeling towards Italians or other Southern Europeans, but because the Government will not provide employment for them.

Senator Sampson - Why does not the Hogan Government get busy on their behalf?

Senator FINDLEY - The Victorian Government has done, and is doing, much to relieve the situation, and so have other State governments; but it is not satisfactory from their point of view when the Commonwealth Government encourages the influx of migrants in great numbers, thus adding to the unemployment. It should assist to provide work.

Senator Sir George Pearce - How are the unemployed carpenters to get work unless there is a demand for more houses ?

Senator FINDLEY - Hundreds of houses are for sale or to let in Melbourne, and hundreds of men in the building trade are out of employment.

Senator Sir George Pearce - Then more people are needed to occupy those houses.

Senator FINDLEY - At the present time increased immigration would mean greater unemployment and men out of work for any time are not in a position to pay rent much less purchase houses. What class are we lacking to-day?

Senator Sir George Pearce - The class required to fill the empty houses.

Senator FINDLEY - They would be filled quickly enough if employment were provided so that the people could find the money with which to purchase or rent them. If the Minister will tell me where the unemployed can find work, I can provide tenants for the empty houses.

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