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Wednesday, 6 December 1905
Page: 6313

Mr WATSON (Bland) - The honorable member for Hindmarsh has complained that the proposals contained in the Bill are hypocritical.

Mr Deakin - No; that statement was made by a member of the Opposition, who interjected. In speaking in that way honorable members are attacking the British Government - whose advice we are following.

Mr WATSON - In my view, the charge to which I have referred might have been levelled justly at the original measure, which was drafted in accordance with the wishes of the British Government.

Mr Deakin - And also because of its public insistence that the Bill should take a particular form.

Mr WATSON - It was drafted with a desire to make the position of the British Government, in relation to foreign Powers, and particularly with those of the East, aseasy as possible.

Mr Batchelor - The fault did not liewith the White Australia party.

Mr. WATSON.No. In common with a considerable number of other honorablemembers, I endeavoured to so shape the Bill that it would clearly and candidlystate our intentions. However, another form was adopted ; and I must admit that, putting aside the question of policy as to the statement of our meaning, which, I think, should have been as candid as possible, the administration as a whole has been satisfactory. There has been a diminution of the coloured aliens ' within the Commonwealth. After making allowance for State permits that were issued prior to our law coming into existence, and which in a measure had willy-nilly to be honoured by the Federal Government - considerations which I should take it are a fast-expiring quantity - we cannot but be fairly satisfied with the administration of the Act. I should like to direct the attention of the honorable member for Hind- marsh to the fact that in this measure there arequite a number of provisions that would be of material advantage in the administration of the main principle, from a White Australia stand-point. While the honorable member appears to think that the whole Bill consists of a proposal to placate the feelings of the Japanese, as a matter of fact there are provisions in it which will close up a number of loop-holes a.nd increase the possibility of effective administration. From that stand-point, therefore, 1 think the honorable member should hesitate before dubbing the Bill a. sham. When we come to the main features - outside of the corrections to which I have referred - there are, it seems to me, two points involved. One is that the form of the dictation test is to be varied, by making it possible to omit insistence upon a European language.

Mr Mcwilliams - Is not that a sham, inasmuch as the immigrant can still be tested in an European language?

Mr Deakin - It is a proposition of the Imperial Government which the honorable member calls a sham.

Mr WATSON - I am inclined to think that such a provision will not be taken advantage of very frequently. I do not imagine that any Government that we are likely to have in Australia for some time will omit an examination in an European language, and insist upon an examination in an Oriental language. I hope, for my own part, that the feeling of Parliament will always beevinced against any such suggestion.

Mr Mcwilliams - Does not that show that this Bill is really a sham?

Mr WATSON - The honorable member appears to overlook the fact that there is more in this Bill than that one particular provision. If he wishes to insist that the dictation test is a sham, there is no reason why he should apply the term to the whole Bill. For myself, I admit that I have no sympathy with this method of approaching the question. I expressed that opinion long ago in this Chamber, when the subject was first brought under consideration; and I have not altered it in the slightest degree. But I do not see that this proposal, especially with the safeguard that the Prime Minister has put forward since, is likely to make the provision one whit worse, so far as concerns the admission of coloured aliens. Under the principal Act. at the present time, a Minister sympathetic towards the admission of coloured aliens could practically allow in asmany as he liked.

Mr Hutchison - That should have been stopped under this Bill.

Mr WATSON - The honorable member is, getting away from the point to which I am trying to get back - that this Bill puts us in no worse position than does the original Act, so far as concerns the admission of coloured aliens. The whole principle underlying the Immigration Restriction Act is dependent upon stringent administration. The principle of the education test is, I think, wrong; but I say emphatically that this Bill puts us in no worse position than the original Act did; because under the principal Act you have to depend upon the bona fides of, or upon the strong attitude that is assumed by, the administrator. If the administrator to-day cared to do so, he could allow the examination of Japanese to take place in the English language, and there is a very large proportion of the Japanese who, according to what we read, could pass such an examination. If that be so, it is evident that a sympathetic administrator could facilitate the admission ot thousands of coloured aliens.

Mr Hutchison - When we are altering the original Act, why not stop that sort of thing bv amending it properly?

Mr WATSON - I do not know that the House is prepared to reverse the whole policy that has been in operation ; and I do not think that at this stage of the session it is worth our while to enter upon such a consideration. I must say, speaking for myself, that with the safeguard which the Prime Minister has introduced - in the amendment suggested - under which no regulation prescribing any language will have any force until it has been laid before both Houses of the Parliament for thirty days, or. if within that time a motion has been proposed in either House of the Parliament, until the motion has been disposed of - I think that it is clearly placed within the power of Parliament to consider any alteration of the prescribed test, and that, therefore, everything necessary has been provided for. With that reservation, it does not seem to me that those in favour of the White Australia policy run any. greater risk under this new proposal than we have been running for the last three or four years. In view of those considerations, therefore, I do not think that it is necessary to take any steps to secure the rejection of the measure. I trust that the Prime Minister will agree to apply to clause 6 a provision similar to thatof which he has given notice in respect of clause 3 - that is, to insure thatParliament shall be consulted in some form or other before any binding arrangement is entered into with the Government of any country with respect to the admission of its subjects.

Mr Deakin - I have no objection to that.

Mr WATSON - I think the position would be fairly met if such an amendment were made. With respect to the principle involved in it, I may say that we are already working under an arrangement with the Japanese Government, so far as regards touristsand business visitors from their country to this.

Mr McWilliams - No one surely objects to tourists coming to Australia.

Mr WATSON - Honorable members will see that, in the absence of some arrangement of that sort, every Japanese coming to Australia, whether he was a tourist or a commercial man, would be compelled to go through the examination test. I do not think that any one desires to see that'. Therefore, when, on coming into office, I found that such an arrangement had practically been entered into though not finally completed, I was very glad to bring it to its completion, and have the matter amicably fixed up with the Government of Japan.

Mr Mauger - Even under that arrangement, of course, lax administration could do a lot of harm.

Mr WATSON - Quite so. I admit that it has to be very carefully watched to see that ostensible tourists, people whose intention really is to settle here, are not admitted. We require careful administration, even of an arrangement of that character; but. we were compelled to take the responsibility of making such an arrangement, because there was no provision for the purpose under the law, by which Parliament would, ordinarily speaking, require to be consulted before any coloured alien could be admitted. Clause 6, with the addendum I have suggested, will bring any such arrangement within the purview of Parliament, which might, if it thought necessary, take action in regard to it. That being so, I do not see any strong objections to passing the Bill.

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