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Thursday, 12 September 1901
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Mr HUGHES (West Sydney) - I feel that to endeavour to offer any kind of criticism on the most admirable speech delivered by the Attorney-General would be not only ungrateful but entirely uncalled for. No man could have put the question, considered from every conceivable aspect, better - few could have put it as well - as the honorable and learned gentleman. I am sure that every honorable member and every one outside who reads his words will re-echo their sentiment with reference to the necessity of maintaining the purity of our race. I realize thoroughly that the

Attorney-General, in putting forward such a defence - I will not say of the provisions underlying this Bill, but of the spirit which animated it - did so because it may be necessary to show those elsewhere that the honorable and learned gentleman speaks not for himself or for his Government, but for all Australia in this matter. I am very certain that no Government could possibly afford to palter with this question. Certainly the Bill brought forward is one which cannot be held, judged by the standand of previous Bills in the same direction, to fall short of what one would desire. While agreeing entirely with all that the Attorney-General said as to the necessity of exclusion, while admiring the honorable and learned gentleman's argument in favour of pursuing one course rather than another, yet I venture to think that he did not make his reasons clear for adopting this particular course, rather than that outlined by the honorable members for Wentworth and Bland. Let us see for a moment what objection the Attorney-General had to urge against the thorough-going attitude assumed by the honorable member for Wentworth.


Mr Wilks - - The honorable and learned gentleman called him a red raw republican.


Mr HUGHES - I pass over that aspersion of the honorable gentleman's loyalty.


Mr Deakin - I did not asperse it.


Mr HUGHES - If the honorable and learned gentleman did not it is well. No one would accuse the honorable member for Wentworth of disloyalty, but as to the attitude adopted by the honorable member for Wentworth and the honorable member for Bland, I desire to offer one or two remarks. It has been urged by the Attorney-General, as a reason why a prohibition of coloured aliens should not be substituted for the educational test in this Bill, that in the despatches that have passed and that in the general negotiations that have taken place between the Home Government and the colonies, the Home Government has stated that although it would not, if pressed, carry its objection any further, still it would pain her Majesty to have to assent to a measure which would give offence to her Majesty's Indian subjects and to foreign nations. I desire to deal with that point for a moment, because that is the crux of the whole question. My honorable and learned friend says that the Natal Act met with no objection on the part of Her Majesty's Government, and that the Natal Act, as adopted in these States, has been successful.


Mr Deakin - Fairly successful.


Mr HUGHES - The Attorney-General said that it might be reasonably presumed that the Natal Act would be successful if applied to the whole continent. That is the position taken up. We have no guarantee, however, that His Majesty's Government would consent to the Bill now under consideration. The honorable and learned gentleman said, as we know, that Her Majesty's Government did assent to the Natal Act and' the Acts based upon it in these States. Those Acts adopted any European language as the test. Surely that is a very different thing from the adoption of the English language as an educational test in these matters. I want to point out that, if it be- a source of offence to discriminate between coloured and white people, if it be a source of Offence to the Japanese nation to be included amongst the Polynesians and the degenerate people of the Archipelago, then how much more will it be a source of offence to the European nations to be forbidden entry under this Bill unless they speak the English language. There has never yet been any attempt to adopt a test of this rigorous character as applied to Europeans, and I venture to say, excepting in the case of America, where such a thing may be occasionally done, that the English test-


Mr Deakin - A provision of this kind has been passed in Western Australia and accepted.


Mr HUGHES - I would point out that even if it were accepted in reference to a State, it by no means follows that a measure of this kind would receive the assent of the Government when applied to a nation. For my own part, I see absolutely no evidence adduced by the Attorney-General to show that we should stop short at this Bill instead of going on to a complete and satisfactory measure for the prohibition of undesirable coloured aliens. Let us see what the AttorneyGeneral says. He puts forward as an argument that these aliens who come here are uneducated and ignorant ; that the educated and higher classes of coloured aliens do not come here. Then the honorable and learned gentleman delivers a eulogy of the Japanese ; of their adaptability, their readiness to accept the teachings of civilization, their pride, and their success. All these things are undeniable, and if this measure is aimed at the Japanese it will prove a failure. I do not believe there is a nation more capable of acquiring a knowledge of foreign languages - certainly no Eastern nation - than the Japanese, and I say that a German would as readily be prevented by this Bill from entering Australia as a Japanese. A Russian certainly would. What difficulty is there in the way of a Japanese acquiring a knowledge of 50 words of English 1 Who is to apply the test ? The test as applied in New South Wales in many cases is a farce. It is notorious amongst people, whose credibility can hardly be doubted, that the men appointed to make the test supply the information. I do not say that they do so upon receipt of a consideration, but they supply the information, and the candidate gets through. If a person has to write or read 50 words in the English language, and a complaisant official supplies the necessary interpretation, what difficulty is there in the way ? Absolutely none. As a matter of fact, I am assured, by information received from the Custom-house, that this is done, at least in New South Wales, if not elsewhere. The aliens can avoid the test by the simple expedient of getting the Custom-house official to supply the information.


Mr Deakin - That reflects upon the administration.


Mr HUGHES - This provision is to be largely- -if not entirely - subject to executive discrimination. The Executive may apply it to one person and not to another. Of course, the test of the English language is an excellent one. I admit the greatness of the English language, whether as a vehicle for the conveyance of the gems of English literature, or as a medium for commercial intercourse. I would remind the Attorney-General that, as a matter of fact, there are a very large number of people in the British Isles who cannot speak a word of English. At least 20 per cent, of the people in the country from which I come would be unable to pass this test. Until I was about eight years of age I could not speak one solitary word of the language which is required to be written under the test provided for in this Bill. Not only will many Irishmen and Gaelic Scotch be excluded by this test, but also the inhabitants of the

Channel Islands, whose loyalty, as compared with the average Englishman, is most effusive. The same thing would apply to the French Canadian, who, although he may occasionally entertain some doubts as to the wisdom of his allegiance to the Empire, has, taking him all in all, been a loyal subject during this last century. We are asked to pass provisions which would exclude a number of amiable, industrious, and desirable people, but there is nothing in this Bill to keep out the people we want to keep out. The provisions in the Bill would, I admit, keep out the Andaman Islander or the low caste Hindoo, but the}' would not keep out the Japanese, and I doubt whether they would exclude the Chinese. I do not think they Would do anything more than shut out the very lowest type of coloured Asiatic. As to excluding the Assyrians, I doubt whether they would have that effect. The Assyrian is a very intelligent man, who engages in commercial relations with white people, and in some cases achieves no paltry success in business, and surely he may be assumed to be able to pass this test. Apart from all thi3, it is clear, from the Attorney-General's own admission, that there is no certainty that this Bill will do what it is alleged it will do. The figures supplied to the House are inconclusive. They do not supply, as far as New South Wales is concerned, any record for 1896 and 1897, the two years previous to the imposition of the Natal Act. During those years they kept no record of the arrival or departure of any aliens, except Chinese, who, of course, have been unaffected by the Natal Act. In Victoria no record has been kept of the arrival or departure of people of any nationalities other than Chinese, either before or after 1898. In Queensland no record has been kept other than which was kept before, and we find that, in spite of the non-imposition of the Natal Act in that State, there has been a falling off of immigration of coloured aliens into that State. The falling off has not been much short of the falling off proportionately in New South Wales under the Natal Act. For instance, in 1S99, 44 Assyrians came into New South Wales, whilst in 1901, two years afterwards, the total fell to 24, or a reduction of some 50 per cent. The falling off under the Natal Act in New South Wales has been very little more, proportionately, than the falling off in Queensland without a Natal

Act ; and in the other States little or no difference can be noticed, the immigration having been very slight. In Queensland there has been a large increase of Chinese, who represent a steadily increasing quantity in that State. We may readily understand that if the Natal Act, which has been applied principally in those latitudes where little or no temptation is offered to the coloured races to immigrate, had been extended to Queensland, and a substantial reduction had resulted therefrom, some evidence would have been available to guide us. No evidence, however, is furnished by the statistics quoted by the AttorneyGeneral, and the honorable member's own attitude when quoting the statistics was sufficient to show that he was not at all satisfied in his own mind that this Bill would do all that is required. That attitude on the part of the Attorney-General and of the Government generally is rather extraordinary. The Attorney-General says that this is the beginning of a series of Bills - a series which is to end, probably, in the total prohibition of coloured aliens. If we are not to end there, where are we to end ? And if we are to end there, why should we not begin there? Why should we hesitate? I can understand the attitude assumed by Her Majesty's Government when it is very well known that her late Majesty the Queen entertained a personal affection for her Hindoo subjects which grew on her with advancing years, and caused her to have a personal antipathy to signing anything that would have the effect of excluding them as a race from a part of her dominions. But I have yet to learn that even the personal likes or dislikes of a sovereign of the realm is to guide the destinies of a free people. And further, I have yet to learn that His Majesty the King entertains the same disinclination as did her late Majesty the Queen. This, however, is merely a theoretical way of looking at the question of a refusal to give the Royal assent. As a matter of fact it is the disinclination of His Majesty's Ministers to recommend the giving of the Royal assent, because it might involve European and general difficulties. That is at the bottom of the whole thing. It is notorious that to-day Great Britain stands almost without an ally. She is now driven into a corner, and she is dependent upon the support, tardy and reluctant, of Japan. Amongst all the nations of the world Japan is the only one to support Great Britain - that is what I understand, although I do not venture to enter upon a discussion of foreign politics the end of which is labyrinthine and chaotic. I would point out that His Majesty's Ministers are reluctant to assent to such a Bill as that desired by the honorable member for 'Wentworth and the honorable member for Bland, not because it will offend His Majesty's subjects in India, and not because it will offend the fine susceptibilities or tender feeling of our brothers in Japan, but because it will rob Great Britain of an ally of which in the future she may stand dearly in need. I admit that that is a point which requires consideration. But I say, too, that we are to regard this matter not altogether from the stand-point that the Attorney-General put forward. that is to say, that we may offend somebody at home by pressing this matter to a conclusion, or that we may offend the nice and tender susceptibilities of the Japanese, or that we may annoy the Eastern nations generally; but we are to consider the question as to how it will affect us as a free people on the very threshold of our national career. We are here. according to the honorable member's own statement, clothed with supreme authority as far as this particular question is concerned ; we are here speaking with one voice. The Attorney-General says that those who oppose this principle are a negligeable quantity, and that whatever their opinions may be they speak them in faint and unintelligible tones. A little while ago there were men who spoke against the exclusion of our coloured brethren from this country, but these are now either dead or have been converted, or are suffering from some affection of the vocal organs, and are dumb as far as this community is concerned. We hear them not,' and therefore we are speaking as one people ; and the Attorney-General has well voiced the aspirations of this nation in what he has said this afternoon. Why, however, does he stop short? The only argument in favour of our stopping short is that if we go on we shall offend the Japanese or annoy and embarrass His Majesty's Ministers. Although the Attorney-General has not proved it. We know very well that it will offend the Japanese - we may take that for granted - but the Attorney-General has not proved that His Majesty's Ministers will be embarrassed, although that is pretty clear. These things, however, are not to be considered when opposed to the great principle that the Attorney-General himself has so well and admirably voiced this afternoon. We want a white Australia, and are we to be denied it because we shall offend the Japanese or embarrass His Majesty's Ministers? I think not. The honorable member for Wentworth wished to disclaim any wish - as do we all - -to consider the question of what would happen if the Government of Great Britain refused to agree to such a measure as we desire. For my part I do not desire, and I do not think there are 5 per cent, of the people of this country who desire separation from Great Britain, but while I do not wish it, I do not fear it. If it is to come it is to come from no act of mine, and it is to come from no act on the part of those who think as we do ; but it is to come because we are denied that which we have an inalienable right to have. We are to work out our destiny unaffected by that terrible blot referred to by the Attorney-General as affecting America, without the leprous curse that is spreading its sway through Queensland unhampered and unhindered, and which threatens to make it a country no longer fit for a white man, because it will shortly be a country where no white man can compete with our cheap, industrious, and virtuous, but undesirable Japanese and Chinese friends. The Attorney-General has said that we object to these people, because of their very virtues. I do not object to their virtues, but I say many of their virtues, when weighed in the economic scale, become vices. For a man to work for a wage of 2d. a day is a vice which, if it became general amongst white men; would reduce society to chaos. Where would our manufacturers and merchants and storekeepers be ? Where would that noble and palatial enterprise, which was honoured by a visit from some honorable members of this House to-day, be if men only earned and spent 2d. a day? There is no vice, and I say it advisedly, like the vice of small expenditure when carried to a ridiculous and un-European length, and as- this alien competition aims a blow at the very basis of our industrial system we oppose it. We are to try this matter not by the standard of some faddist, who writes of how to cure the unemployed difficulty by teaching people how to live upon 6d. a day, but from the stand-point that it is only by maintaining a certain standard of living that wages are kept up to a decent level. Reduce the standard of comfort and immediately the wages go down. If a horse could live upon a straw a day, then a straw a day would be the keep of the horse. Similarly, if I could live on a penny a day, a penny a day would be the amount of my wage. We object to these people because of their vices, and of their immorality, and because of a hundred things which we can only hint at, and our objections are not to be met by the declaration that the Imperial Government will be embarrassed by them. We must approach this question as the Americans did the question of the right to govern themselves - in a calm and deliberate spirit. The Attorney-General has obtruded into this debate nothing of a personal character - there is no necessity to be personal. This is a matter upon which we may have legitimate differences of opinion. I am an Englishman, and I claim to be as loyal to the Empire as is any man in it. I should be sorry indeed if any act of mine, or of any other person, severed the ties which bind us to the Empire. But, just as one may have an undesirable relation whom one would hesitate to consign either to a lunatic asylum or to gaol, and yet be compelled to do so, so occasions may arise when it may be necessary to be cruel to be just, or even to be kind. My honorable friend has put forward an illustration of what this Bill will accomplish. He says it will keep out undesirable aliens of a certain kind. But even he admits that it will allow the educated Japanese to gain admission to our shores, and it is the educated Japanese that we fear. Do honorable members who are protectionists realize that it would be possible without contracting for a solitary Japanese to introduce men here who could pass this test, and who would readily consent to work for ls. a day in Victoria? The Factories Act might be strained in vain to control these men who would work for a minimum wage, and quickly make that minimum our maximum. There is no conceivable method by which the Japanese, if they once got a fair hold in competition with our own people, could be coped with. There is no social legislation by which we could sufficiently handicap them. We must face this matter whilst there is yet time. We have talked about their peddling - about alien hawkers. But these are merely the advance guard of the great army of coloured men who, when they go back to their country as the advance guard of the Israelites did of old, will tell their compatriots of the splendid opportunities which await them in the promised land. Then the higher classes of coloured men will come in, and the educational test will be swept aside by men who can learn any trade in half the tune which it takes a European to acquire it, and who in their own land will erect factories - and who are now making intricate machinery, manufacturing rifles and other things, which are equal to anything produced by the European. And we propose to stop such men by the educational test. Though such a test will not stop them, it will prevent the admission of our own fellow countrymen. A fellow countryman of mine, for example, upon being asked to spell accurately 50 words in English, would find the task absolutely impossible. The intelligent, educated, sensitive Japanese would gain admission, .whilst my fellow countrymen would be turned back. This is the kind of policy which is not to annoy His Majesty's Ministers. I think it can be readily proved that it will annoy them. It will annoy them, because although the European nations might not have their attention directed to so small a matter as the exclusion of their subjects from Western Australia, when a nation in embryo, such as we are, and upon whom the limelight is concentrated just now, enacts legislation of the character proposed, they will speedily wake up to the fact that we wish to exclude persons who cannot speak English. Are Germany, France, Russia, and Italy to endure without protest such ignominy ? Here is an Empire, whose watchword has always been freedom, which has hitherto imposed no embargo of colour, race, creed, or language, but which now proposes to impose an embargo so rigid as to exclude the whole of the inhabitants of Europe, save under exceptional circumstances, from coming within our shores. Are we to suppose that that will not embarrass His Majesty's Ministers ? I think it will. I prefer to risk the embarrassment hinted at by the AttorneyGeneral, and to press home this matter in thorough fashion now, and not later. The Attorney-General spoke of this measure as if it were the beginning of a long series of Bills having a similar object in view. This then is the beginning. Next week we are to have the Pacific Islands Labourers Bill, and the week after, or the year after, or next century, we are to have another Bill which will go still further. So we are to go on, and doubtless by some discovery which unhappily is now in the womb of futurity, conferring immortality upon us, we may yet live to see the time when this Government shall deem it to be opportune to introduce such a measure as I speak of. In the meantime, however, vested interests will arise. In the meantime our coloured educated brothers from Japan will have arrived in such numbers that it may be necessary to extend the franchise to them, because we could not in decency refuse them that privilege. "We who have fought, and are still pursuing a great war for that very purpose, must extend the franchise to all. And, when in the future some gentleman representing a constituency almost exclusively composed of our intelligent and supersensitive friends from Japan shall rise in this Chamber and oppose the thunder of his eloquence to the timidity of the honorable gentleman who introduces this measure, I venture to Say that, whether it be this cen.tury or the next, there will still be a hesitation to go on with such legislation. I prefer to go on now, because our whole national course is to be shaped by our initial movements. If we are to go on making things smooth for His Majesty's Governmentif our first and only desire is to shape our policy to fit the ends of the Imperial Government - then ours is not a hopeful future. -But if we are to shape a policy to suit our own ends, then we know where we are. We have come, it appears to me, to the parting of the ways. We are to decide now, at the beginning of our new national life, whether we are to go on inspired by the victories which our forefathers have won in this country, in America, and in England. We have to decide whether, warned by the lessons of other men, we shall say that we will have a white Australia by the only possible and sure way of getting it, namely, by absolutely prohibiting the introduction of undesirable aliens. The amendment of the honorable member for Bland, which aims at that, should receive the support of every honorable member. I shall listen with the keenest interest to any arguments that may be adduced to show that such a course will be fraught with danger. For we are told in so many words that there is no danger of a veto. To secure the passage of the Bill, we are assured it needs only to be pressed on with a whole-souled effort. If I know the temper of this House and of this country we shall press it on. If it needs pressing on more than once or twice, I believe that we shall have the courage, as I am sure we have the desire, to do it. But the Attorney-General says prohibition may mean delay, and that it is an undesirable thing to delay, because delay brings with it a hundred dangers. But what danger is there in delay if what the Attorney-General says is true, namely, that all over Australia the influx of coloured aliens is diminishing1! If that be a fact where is the honorable and learned gentleman's argument that there is danger in delay. Obviously, the longer we delay the better off we shall be.


Mr Barton - Because there are three States in Australia where there are no such Acts.


Mr HUGHES - I find that in Queensland the Japanese arrivals in 1900 numbered 52, in 1899 they totalled 154, and in 1901 they had dropped to 98. Accordingto the statistics of the Attorney-General the Japanese influx is diminishing in Queensland. Therefore we shall lose nothing by delay. The same remark applies, to the other States. In any case, what delay can there be, when on the one hand we have an earnest House and a united country, whilst on the other we have a determined Government? If the Government be as determined as the admirablespeech of the Attorney-General led us tobelieve, there can be no delay other than that involved by a few months. The only delay involved would be that caused by the transmission of the Bill to the Imperial authorities. There does not appear to be any immediate prospect of the completion, of the present session, so that there seems to be no reason why the argument as to delay should be considered for a moment. Summed up, the arguments in favour of the measure are first, that it would meet with the approval of His Majesty's. Ministers. That has not been proved. Secondly, that it would involve no European, Asiatic, or other foreign complications. That has not been proved. My honorable friend rests on the calm assurance of mere statement. I, for my part, am inclined to believe that European protest will follow the passage of such a measure. Whether the British Government will take any serious notice of such a protest remains to be seen. Still, to suppose that a powerful nation like, that of Prance or Germany will sit down under the imputation that the whole of Australia is closed to its subjects -without even a protest on the part of their diplomatic agents, is to suppose that such agents are very negligent of their country's interests. The other argument is that there may be delay, but I have already dealt with that, and 1 have said that I think there will be none. The Attorney-General has stated that there will be no veto, and there is no question of separation. Certain alarmist articles appearing in the press, which are very likely inspired, predict as a result of putting forward such a Bill as we desire, that we should have to separate from Great Britain, and should shortly have to meet a Japanese or Chinese invasion - not a mere immigration, but a hostile and armed invasion. But I think we may relegate such predictions, not to the limbo of Hades, but to the Minister for Defence, under whose caro, with the admirable and very comprehensive defence measure he has introduced, all these difficulties will pass happily and readily away. AH these objections may be put on one side, and then what do the Attorney-General's arguments amount to? He has put forward the most admirable reasons for prohibition, and stopped short of introducing it. He has shown in his speech what was shown to be necessary in the speeches of the honorable members for Wentworth and Bland, and, having done that, he proposes to rest on this flimsy, and, according to his own statement, unsatisfactory measure now before the House. He has, with the eloquence of an orator, put before the House and the country reasons which will echo and be re-echoed in the mind of every man in the country, why these aliens should be kept out, not in fifty years time, but to-day, and having shown that, he tells tis that he does not propose to keep out these people, because that may embarrass the Home Government. And while I am unable to see any reason at all why the amendment of the honorable member for Bland should not be incorporated in the measure, [ am unable to understand the attitude of the Government. I do not know whether the Government are prepared to accept the amendment of the honorable member for

Bland or not, and I venture to say that nobody else knows. If honorable members only knew to what length the Government were prepared to go - whether they were prepared to accept the amendment or reject it - we should know where we were. If the Government were prepared to accept the amendment, we should not waste our eloquence, and the time of the country, and the House by discussing the proposal. But if the Government are not prepared to accept the amendment, do they regard this as a vital question ? If they do not regard this as a vital question, what would they regard as a vital question ? If they do not regard this as a vital question, why do they not make a declaration to the House in so many words ? We should then know whether the Government are prepared to stand on any flimsy statement about embarrassing the Home Government, the displeasure of the Crown, or anything of that kind. We should know what the intentions of the Government are. They have the option of taking one of two courses. They can either stand by the Bill, or they can accept the amendment of the honorable member for Bland. If they stand by the' Bill they must take the whole responsibility on their own shoulders, and if they are defeated, I presume something will happen. If, on the other hand, they are prepared merely to take the sense of the House, let us come to a division, so that the Government may know what to do. I should have been glad if in the admirable dissertation of the AttorneyGeneral, we had been favoured with ever so slight a hint as to the Government's intentions. For myself, I gathered nothing excepting that the Government are in earnest about excluding the coloured man, but that they are not in earnest about the way of doing it. Of course, a man may be in earnest about earni g his own living, but if he is not in earnest about the particular way of getting that living, nothing happens. No words could have better conveyed the desire we have at heart, than the opening words of my honorable friend's speech, but all that he finally gave forth to the House and the country was the declaration that these aliens are undesirable and ought to be kept out. As to how they are to be kept out, it might be done in one way or in some other way. As to what way, I am at a total loss to understand how the Government stand, and I want to know. It appears to me that when one of two methods is certain, and involves no danger of veto, and the only objection that can be urged against it is, that it may embarrass the Home Government, and when another method may or may not do something, but will certainly have to be followed in time to come by a more restrictive or harsher measure, then, I say, that on the threshold of our career as a young nation, there seems nothing for us to do but to take our stand boldly with one voice, and have placed before the Home Government our real desires. We were told by the AttorneyGeneral that we ought to adopt the Government's proposal out of gratitude to the Imperial Parliament for giving us the freest Constitution in the world. Are we showing our gratitude to them by bartering this right, which is given to us under the Constitution, of having whom we please as citizens, out of gratitude to the Home Government, or are we to prove ourselves worthy of it by regarding this instrument and great heritage, given to us at the request of the people of the country by the Imperial Parliament, as a means by which we shall here and now have a " white Australia" uncontaminated, providing for that uncontamination by a measure which, on the face of it, prohibits the importation of a single coloured alien?







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