Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
 Download Full Day's HansardDownload Full Day's Hansard    View Or Save XMLView/Save XML

Previous Fragment    Next Fragment
Thursday, 15 July 1926

Senator REID (Queensland) .- It is generally admitted that our open spaces are a menace to Australia. In Queensland, as well as in some of the other States, there are thousands of square miles of unoccupied country which, although the climatic conditions are satisfactory, is not being put to any practical use. Last year I visited India, a country with a population of 320,000,000, and I realized then more than I had ever before the necessity of increasing our population. The question of migration is of the utmost importance to Australia, and I cannot understand members of the Labour party, who say they believe in migration, opposing this measure. India could carry its own population comfortably, and provide its people with all the necessaries of life, but for the misgovernment that has arisen through British interference. It is one of the richest countries in the world. It had a system of land tenure and a. civilization when the people in the British Isles were savages, and there was no poverty there until the advent of the British. I know something about the unemployment referred to by honorable senators opposite. It is most degrading that a man in full health and strength, and willing to serve in the development of his country, should be compelled to roam about begging a living. But the problem of unemployment must be faced in a proper way. Our friends opposite, who prefer to face it in an intolerant and unbrotherly way, should take a lesson from the Labour party in Great Britain, which looks upon it from an Imperial stand-point. Dr. Haden Guest, M.P., addressing a meeting of the Independent Labour party, said -

Every penny we spend on migration is investment; every penny we spend on poor relief or mere unemployment relief is only maintenance money, and is consumed once and for all. We have the man-power and the capital; the dominions have the land and the natural resources - in the name of common sense let us take up vigorously the task of bringing these two things together.

That is a statesmanlike utterance. Dr. Haden Guest is a prominent member of the British Labour party, and he has. done good service to Australia. On his return from a visit to Greece, Turkey, and the Smyrna district of Asia Minor, his public condemnation of the filthy conditions under which the dried fruit industry is carried on in the Eastern Mediterranean countries induced thousands of people in Great Britain to buy Australian dried fruits whose existence on the London market was previously almost unknown to them. Miss Margaret Bondfield, who was a member of the MacDonald Ministry in Great Britain, also spoke at the same meeting of the Independent Labour party. She said -

The settler who is of the right type, who goes out under proper safeguards and settles under the right conditions, will find ampler opportunities overseas than if he remained in this country. He can be assured of employment under healthy conditions, with the reasonable prospect of becoming a farmer on his own account, and he will be at least sure of a sturdy independence and comfortable livelihood for himself and his family, with wider opportunities for his children.

The British Labour party is not anxious that Great Britain should lose any of its people, but it recognizes that the country is over-crowded, and that help should bc extended to those who are anxious to emigrate. In fact, it recognizes, in the words of Dr. Haden Guest, that it is n " good investment " from the point of view of the Empire and the race. I bless the day when I landed in Australia with my family, and I have always been willing to leave the door open to people of my own race to come here and enjoy the privileges and benefits I found awaiting me. In the past the Labour party might have had good cause for objecting to wholesale immigration, but the argument that capitalists, by introducing a surplus population, might bring down wages in Australia, cannot hold good now that arbitration courts fix certain rates oi wages, hours of labour, and conditions of working. No matter what numbers may be brought to Australia, our standards of work and rates of pay cannot be altered. The only danger is that there may be unemployment.

Senator HOARE - Is not that a grave danger J

Senator REID - My friends opposite take a very narrow view. They speak about brotherhood, comradeship, and internationalism, but it is only so much talk on their part. Their efforts are all directed towards shutting out those who were not fortunate enough to be born in Australia, and they raise all sorts of unreasonable objections to immigration. They say that they are afraid of bringing down the standard of Australian _ comforts. To my mind, it is unbrotherly for those who enjoy the benefits obtainable in Australia" to prevent people of our own race from coming here to help us in developing our country. A great deal has been said about the uselessness of appointing a commission. I am not in the least afraid that this country will be run by commissions. Whilst I believe that Parliament should fulfil its own functions, I also realize that there are many things that it cannot do without creating a great deal of prejudice. Development and migration are matters that ought to be lifted out of the field of party politics, and the Government has done wisely in placing them in the hands of a non-party commission. Let us realize what would happen if that were not. done. We cannot shut our eyes to the fact that while we have five Labour Governments in the States and a National Government in the Federal arena, anything done by any Government is judged from a party aspect. Every State Labour Government is more or less controlled by outside influences, and even if a State Ministry attempted to associate itself with the Commonwealth Government in doing something practical, it would bring a great deal of trouble upon itself. If we have capable men on the proposed commission, they ought to be able so to deal with the State Governments that the party aspect will not enter into the question at all. Each member of the commission will become a specialist. If the commissioners devote the whole of their time, as is proposed, to to the question of bringing migrants here to fill our open spaces - the most important that tho people of Australia have before them at the present time - they ought, in consultation with the State Governments, to work out a system by which immigrants, instead of being thrown on the streets, will be distributed just exactly where they are required. A Government department could undertake this task, and if the Government had proposed to entrust this work to such a department, under, a permanent head, I should have felt inclined to support it for the reason that the men who would be engaged in the work, would become specialists and would be likely to make a success of it. But J. think a commission should undertake the duty. It is useless to contend that a commission will be more costly than a Government department. If we gave the work to a Government department,' which would deal with nothing but these matters, we would have to increase the Public Service. I take it for granted that the officers of the public departments are already fully occupied with the tasks entrusted to them, and that if any extra work has to be done, it means the appointment of additional officers. The creation of a special Government department would, therefore, be just as costly as the appointment of a commission, and it is quite possible that the officers of such a department would not have the ability possessed by the members of a commission. In any case, if " the commission does its work effectively, the cost will not be worth speaking of. We have heard a good deal of talk about bringing out the right class of immigrants. Some people are very anxious to confine our immigration to British people. It is quite natural that we should think that the people of our own race are the best, but the British race to-day is a mixture of Saxons, Danes, Normans, and Romans. The Anglo-Saxon race, which dominates the world, is a mixed race, but it has not yet reached its apex of development. Other characteristics are being developed that I and my forefathers did not possess. The introduction of different races might effect an improvement in the character of the Australian. During the persecution of the Huguenots a large number of Frenchmen left their native country and went to England, where they established industries, and played a large part in directing England's steps along the way that has led to its present industrial position. Although I am strongly in favour of my own race, I am not so race blind as to think that we are the only people who should populate Australia. We should encourage other races to come here and blend with ours, thus supplying the characteristics that we lack. The British race does not possess all the virtues of humanity. By mixing with other races we shall secure those characteristics that are so necessary for the complete development of our race. We should open our doors to people whom we can assimilate. I am intensely British and imperialistic. I believe in the future destiny of the British race ; but I cannot shut my eyes to the virtues that are possessed by other races.Consider the case of the Italians. I have seen them in Queensland and Western Australia, and I have inspected them quite impersonally. In nearly every case I have found them to be a credit to the country from which they come, and I have had to acknowledge that they are the right stamp of migrant for Australia. We should allow them to mix with our own race to the extent that they can be assimilated.

Senator Hoare - The honorable senator is treading on dangerous ground.

Senator REID - I do not care how dangerous it is. I am expressing an honest opinion, which some honorable senators opposite dare not do. Why are the Italians taking the places of Australians on sugar farms and other lands? It is because the Australians dispose of their properties to them, realizing that in that way they derive a greater financial advantage than they would by continuing to work their properties. The Italians do not compel them to sell. Why have those migrants done so well in North Queensland? The secret of their success is cooperation. Why cannot Australians become imbued with that spirit? The foundation of democracy is co-operation, and that policy must be adopted if we wish to build up a democratic people.

Senator Hoare - Would the honorable senator care to have an Italian marry into his family?

Senator REID - If a female member of my family wishes to marry an Italian she is welcome to do so; it is more her business than mine.

Senator Hoare - The honorable senator would strongly disapprove of such a union.

Senator REID - I should not. I cannot understand racial prejudice. I may be peculiarly built, but it has no appeal to me. Although I am a Scotsman, I have never in my life been associated with Scotchmen. In my early days I spent ten years in London; and I have been in Australia for 40 years. I have nothing to say against Scotchmen; they are my countrymen, but I think that the members of other nations are at least as good as I am. If we isolate ourselves, we shall never develop Australia. Mention has been made of the influx of foreigners into America. What is the result to-day 1 The Americans are a race with which very few other races can compare. The typical American is superior to the majority of other people, because he is the product of several other races. At bottom he is Anglo-Saxon, because he believes in constitutional government and development by constitutional means. Those who have studied races, and know their particular virtues, recognize that Australia is developing along similar lines. Certain types are growing up that are proving to be excellent citizens. So long as we continue to develop in that direction we shall be on safe ground. I have no time for any person who adopts a dog-in-the-manger attitude. The British Government is acting very generously towards Australia under this agreement. There have been repeated complaints that Australians will be prevented from going on the land. I point out that the British Government is permitting a portion of its loan to be used for the settlement of Australians on the land. I ask the Leader of the Senate if that is not true.

Senator PEARCE - That is so.

Senator REID - Honorable senators of the Opposition say that there is not sufficient land for Australians, let alone migrants from Great Britain. If an Australian goes on the land, his place can be filled by a migrant. We cannot shut our eyes to the fact that, in every State, the sons of farmers are crowding into the cities as fast as they can. It is, therefore, necessary to find other persons who will take their places in. the country, because Australia must be developed. If a boy who has been born in the country can do better work in the city, let him obtain employment there, and fill his place with a city dweller. In Queensland blocks are balloted for. Hundreds of persons enter the ballot with the object of obtaining the first selection of the block, and when they do they sell it to somebody else. It is purely a matter of speculation. Efforts have for years been made to stop that practice, but they have not proved successful. The consequence is that many Australians have to pay high prices for land which they desire to cultivate. With that state of affairs existing, it is idle to say that, if migrants are brought to Australia, they will prevent Australians from going on the land. Considerable stress has been laid upon the necessity to provide markets for primary products. I have inspected the River Murray irrigation scheme, and have read an account of the Leeton undertaking. In Queensland there is a big scheme known as the Dawson Valley irrigation scheme. Those two settlements, together with a third in New South Wales, are capable of absorbing hundreds of people if markets can be provided. The best market that any nation can have is the home market. By increasing our population,, a market within Australia will be found for many of our products. We must face the fact that because of the high cost of production in Australia, even some of our primary products cannot compete with those of other countries in the world's markets. The finding of markets is essential to success. That is a matter which would come within the scope of the commission, and to which it would do well to devote its energies. Ministers have not the time to do that work. Men accustomed to handling big schemes, possessing great business ability, and able to devote their whole, energies to the work, should be given the task. The commission should also endeavour to induce men with capital to establish new industries in Australia. The woollen mills now operating in this country have all been founded by men brought from England. The same is true of our cotton industry. We must have experienced men to guide any industry in its early stages. It has been said that our vast empty spaces constitute a danger from the defence point of view. I am not afraid that any foreign nation will attempt the invasion of this country, although I believe that other nations resent the many indiscreet remarks, which are made from time to time by some Australians. In my opinion, some unwise sentiments bave been ex- . pressed, even during this debate. With Shakespeare, I agree that -

There's a divinity that shapes our ends, Bough hew them how we will.

Australia was not discovered by Britishers, but it was left to the British race to people it and to make it a part of the great British Empire. That was not an accident or coincidence. I firmly believe that in accordance with the divine plan, Australia was left to be developed by the British nation. Although not born in this country, I am as patriotic as any Australian. I love Australia. I recognize, however, that Australia is safe only because of the strength of the British Navy. I have every confidence in the future of Australia and of the British Empire. The British commonwealth of nations has, I believe, a mission to fulfil in the evolution of humanity and the betterment of the world. Reform by constitutional methods is a principle ingrained in the British race. Adherence to that principle will enable us to do more in the future than we have done in the past. We frequently hear of Australia's liability to invasion by Asiatic nations. History contains many examples of civilizations which have been overcome from the outside. Improvements of communication has done much to bring the different nations together. In that direction alone the Anglo-Saxon race has done much. Australia's safety is within the Empire. I am a firm believer in granting self-government to India. India is the mother of Asia. Her population is equal to one-fifth of the population of the world. The granting of selfgovernment to India would mean safety to Australia, because the whole of the resources of India would then be at the disposal of the British Empire. That Empire will never achieve its purpose, or occupy its proper place in the world, until India is given a dominion status and the right of selfgovernment within the Empire. Australia could then proceed to her great destiny. It is a wonderful country, and I have the utmost faith in its future. The only real problem confronting us is that of the conservation of water. Every other problem will be solved by science and the determination of the people. I trust that the problem of water conservation will be tackled in a proper manner. Australia's losses from the periodic droughts to which she is subject are tremendous. Such losses are irrecoverable. Queensland, at present, is losing millions of pounds.

Senator Foll - The honorable senator has advanced good reasons for the construction of a railway from Bourke to Camooweal.

Senator REID - By increasing our population, many of our difficulties will be solved. The British race has always developed best where it has been subjected to hardship and suffering. I do not want any one to suffer. Carpets, lounges, and limousines are all right in their place; but my experience is that development follows those who are prepared to work and to tackle the various problems with which they are confronted. Australia has progressed because men have been prepared to tackle the forest as it stood. In days gone by, men lived in "humpies," and worked long hours in moleskin trousers, yet they were happy, and contented. Now the people all seem to want pianos, gramophones, and motor cars. I do not object to those things; they are signs that we are progressing; but hard work never yet killed any man. The future of Australia is in the hands of her own people, and 99 per cent, of them, if left alone, would do their best. Only by recognizing the necessity for hard work and by increasing our population will this country be developed. For that reason I intend to vote for the second reading of this bill.

Suggest corrections