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Wednesday, 6 December 1905
Page: 6330

Mr CARPENTER (Fremantle) - I have no desire to delay the second reading of this measure, but I cannot give a silent vote upon it. In submitting it for our consideration, the Prime Minister gave a masterly exposition of the White Australia policy, and I do not intend to accuse him of weakening upon that policy, or of attempting to depart from it in any degree. I believe that both he and his colleagues are in close touch with Australian sentiment, and that even if they wished to do so they would not dare to act contrary to the general opinion upon this question. But I am not convinced that the Government are justified in asking the House to agree to the proposal that is embodied in clause 4 of the Bill. We have had no official intimation that either Great Britain or Japan has made any specific request for an amendment of the existing, law.

Mr Deakin - That is correct.

Mr CARPENTER - Butthe understanding is that in some way or other are intimation has been received that the passing of a measure such as this would remove some of the causes of irritation that exist, more particularly among the officials of the Japanese nation, with whom England has recently renewed her alliance.. That raises the important question as to how far we, in our legislation for Australia, should be affected by Imperial considerations. I shall not attempt to discuss that question at length, but merely say that I am loyal to the Empire, and recognise Australia's dependence, to some extent, onGreat Britain for our defence for some time to come. I think it would not be advisable for a Government to ask the people to approve of legislation of this kind, not because we ourselves desire it, but because the Colonial Office have asked us to pass it in the interests of the Empire. The people of Australia have aspirations for a national life of their own, and, while loyal to the Empire, would resent any attempt at interference with our domestic or national policy. My fear is that if we pass these amendments we may open the door to similar intimations, which may be more farreaching in their effects.

Mr McWilliams - We have interfered with British legislation.

Mr Conroy - What about the Transvaal resolution?

Mr CARPENTER - We simply expressed an opinion, which is a very different matter from an official intimation that we desired the Imperial Parliament to pass certain legislation. I shall reserve what I have to say further, until the Committee stage is reached : but my chief objection to the clause, to which particular reference has been made, is that it contemplates the abolition of European languages as a test.

Mr Deakin - Not the abolition of European languages.

Mr CARPENTER - In some cases, yes.

Mr Deakin - The power lies with Parliament, if it thinks fit, to add other languages to the European languages.

Mr CARPENTER - We cannot get away from the fact that with the amendments contemplated it is possible or probable that European languages, as a test, may be abolished.

Mr McWilliams - If that is not the object what is the meaning of the Bill ?

Mr CARPENTER - That is the view I take. At certain times waves of feeling, take possession of the public mind and their effects are felt within these walls. It is almost impossible, as we know, for a majority of this or any other Parliament to withstand a passing wave of public opinion or public clamour in favour of certain legislation. For that reason, I would much rather see the legislation made definite, than that it should be left to a resolution of the House at a time, when, perhaps, the pressure of popular opinion may lead to a step we shall regret. I support the second reading of theBill, with the object of endeavouring to secure amendments in some of the clauses. But I shall be found strongly opposed to the passing of clause 4.

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