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Wednesday, 6 December 1905
Page: 6356

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I propose to vote against the amendment.

Mr Watkins - Then the honorable member is favorable to the admission of the Japanese?

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Nothing of the kind. I am prepared to trust the Government to prescribe a test that will exclude them. That is stated to be the specific purpose of this Bill, and the only difference between the honorable member and myself is that he is not prepared to trust the Government to earn' out a specific in,struction of Parliament, whereas I am.

Mr Watkins - I would rather trust the Parliament.

Mr Glynn - Honorable members are prepared to trust a future Parliament, but not to trust themselves.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - When I set out to assist the Government to remove the cause of complaint, and, at the same time, to make the exclusion of "aliens as complete as ever, I was thoroughly in earnest. It appears to me, however, that the Government were not. They are preparing to remove a cause of offence to the Japanese and the Hindoos, and to immediately withdraw it again. Either we are in earnest about this matter or. we are not. We must take the Japanese to be very simpleminded people, if we think that they will see any concession in this Bill. They will not be fooled. They will see that matters are a little worse than before, so far as they are concerned. They will realize that present conditions are to be perpetuated until they are altered by some future act of the Parliament, and they will not be humbugged by any such pretence as that now being made. The Prime Minister should have made it plain to the Japanese that he was not prepared to legislate in the matter.

Mr Deakin - I told the Consul-General of Japan precisely what I intended to do - to remove the word " European," but not to alter our policy in any respect.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - But whilst the Prime Minister has removed the word, he has not removed that which the word represents.

Mr Deakin - I said that I could not do so.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - The Prime Minister is merely emphasizing the offensiveness of the whole proposal, so far as the Japanese are concerned.

Mr Watson - The course that the honorable member suggests is not one whit better in essence.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I propose to complete the concession at once, and have done with it.

Mr Watson - Do I understand that the honorable member would allow the Japanese to be examined in their own language - because that is the alternative?

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - No, it is not. The alternative is to leave the matter in the hands of the Government of the day, and not to depend upon parliamentary action.

Mr Batchelor - Is not that just asmuch hypocrisy?

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I do not think so. In that case, we should remove the offensive word, and should do all that is asked for by the Japanese. Under the Government proposal, however, whilst removing the offensive word, good care is taken that the amendment shall not operate except as the result of some further action on the part of the Parliament. That appears to me to be " rubbing it in," rather than removing the cause of offence. Then again, it seems to me that the Government are entirely abdicating their responsibilities. Surely Ministers can be trusted to administer an Act of Parliament, and to interpret the intentions of Parliament. The Government are weakly surrendering their responsibilities, and throwing them upon the House. If that course is to be pursued, the sooner we resort to the plan of elective Ministries, advocated by the honorable member for South Sydney, the better it will be.

Mr HUME COOK (BOURKE, VICTORIA) - Did not the late PostmasterGeneral submit the English mail contract for the approval of the House?

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - That is a very different matter. There is nothing in a business arrangement that may not appropriately be brought before Parliament, but in matters of delicate negotiation between nation and nation, it is of the very highest importance to have a Government in whom the fullest confidence can be reposed.

Mr Watson - Does not the honorable member recollect when the PostmasterGeneral of New South Wales entered into an agreement with the Eastern Extension Company ?

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - That was quite a different case. All mail contracts are submitted to the House of Commons. But treaties are not submitted before they are ratified.

Mr Watson - This is not a treaty

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - No, "but it stands on the same footing. It belongs to the same class of subject, and has to do with an international arrangement. All civilized Governments treat these questions as matters of supreme Ministerial responsibility,, and not, until completed, as subjects which are to be ma'de the sport and playthings of a public assembly, like this. Therefore the Government are, in my judgment, abjectly abdicating their supreme responsibility, and are doing it in a way that is bound to give greater offence to the Japanese. What would the Government do supposing that a case arose that required to be dealt with within a week? Would they have to wait for thirty days - until Parliament had been consulted ? Ministers should- be careful to retain their full responsibility in all matters of negotiation, with which Parliament, owing to its party constitution, is unable to treat as fairly as desired. All such matters should be removed from the area of party warfare.

Mr Higgins - Hear, hear; that is what we say.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - No, it is not. Before any prescribed language can operate, there must be a party conflict m this Chamber. No civilized Government could carry on its affairs if it adopted any such course as that proposed. The British Government never consults the House of Commons before it concludes its treaties. The honorable member for Hindmarsh thinks that if too much power is given to Ministers, a_ Government might come into power which would play ducks and drakes with the administration of the Act. He said he would not trust the leader of the Opposition to administer the Act.

Mr Poynton - I would not do so if he had the numbers behind him.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - The attitude of the honorable member has changed within a very short time. He can find no reason in support of his statement. I challenge him to look into the history of the right honorable member for East Sydney, particularly in relation to these matters, and to find a scintilla of basis for the insinuations he has made. When the honorable member for Hindmarsh has done as much to keep Australia, white as has the right honorable and learned member for East Sydney, he will have some excuse for talking.

Mr Hutchison - The honorable member is misrepresenting what I said. I say that if the right honorable member for East Sydney were in office he would be at liberty to administer the Act in accordance with his own views.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - He would only have the right to interpret the wish of this Parliament. Does the honorable member suggest that the only dutv of a member of the Executive is to interpret Acts according to his desires?

Mr Hutchison - In the form in which the Bill at present stands, could not the right honorable member for East Sydney, if he were in power, prescribe a test in the Japanese language?

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - The honorable member is only trifling with words when he talks like that. No member of a Government would dare to interpret the Act in such a loose way as he suggests.

Mr Hutchison - It is not loose at all. The Bill leaves it open to the Minister to prescribe a test in Japanese.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Any Executive might do just as it pleased, if there were no Parliament behind it.

Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Under the present Act, the French language test might be applied to coloured French subjects.

Mr Watkins - Why not adopt the language of the ancient Britons?

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - That is precisely what the honorable member for Franklin asked to-day. May I remind the honorable member for Hindmarsh that when we desired to do what is being suggested upon all sides to-day, the Government in which he has such implicit confidence would not consent. When the honorable member has done as much towards keeping Australia white as has the right honorable member for East Sydney, he will have very much more reason to be suspicious than he has at the present time. It is only a piece of canting humbug for him to suggest that we are actuated by any other motive.

Mr Poynton - The leader of the Opposition stated, on the public platform, that he wished to get into office in order that he might alter the law relating to the maintenance of a White Australia.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - That is one of those sweeping statements which certain honorable members are accustomed to make, and which do not contain even a tittle of truth. I shall oppose this amendment, because it does not make the Bill one whit more effective than it is. It is of no use for practical purposes, and may prove a great hindrance in the administration of the legislation which we have already enacted, and so defeat the very ends for which that legislation was introduced.

Mr. DEAKIN(Ballarat - Minister of External Affairs). - Inreply to the honorable member, I wish to make it perfectly clear that this Bill can occasion no disappointment, because at no time have I held out the hope that we could do anything more than comply with the suggestion that the wording of the Immigration Restriction Act should be altered but that thepolicy which it embodied should be continued.

Ministers accept their responsibility, and cannot avoid or evade it. But the Government has not a responsibility for the choice of a language. That is a proper thing to be determined by Parliament. Under this Bill Ministers have unlimited power to grant exemptions, and if a case suddenly arose which called for action, it would be for them to use that power of exemption, and take the responsibility for so doing. By adopting the proposed amendment, we neither limit nor increase Ministerial responsibility in any way. We merely leave it to Parliament to dictate the languages which shall be prescribed.

Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - It does not dictate them now.

Mr DEAKIN - Yes, it does; because in the principal Act the words, " an European language " are used.

Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - But it does not specify the languages which shall be applied to particular races.

Mr DEAKIN - Neither does this Bill. At the present time we can apply to coloured immigrants a test in any European language, and we shall be able to do so in future. We cannot use any language other than European until a change has been made. This Bill does not diminish Ministerial responsibility, which remains absolutely adequate to cover all the urgent cases to which reference has been made.

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