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Thursday, 12 September 1901
Page: 4837

Mr CAMERON (Tasmania) - A few months ago, just before the Federal elections were held, two of the most prominent questions that were invariably asked by the electors of all the candidates were - " Are you in favour of old-age pensions?" and, " Are you in favour of a white Australia?" In the course of the meetings which I had the pleasure of addressing, I was invariably asked those questions. My answer in regard to old-age pensions was - " I am not in favour of them." When I was asked - " Are you in favour of a white Australia? I invariably asked my questioner what he meant by the words, and the answer usually was - "A country inhabited by white people." I then pointed out that, inasmuch as the continent contained a large number of aboriginal inhabitants, and there were also a large number of persons belonging to coloured races who had been allowed to come in and settle, it was a matter of impossibility . to have a white Australia, unless those men, women, and children were sent out of the place, and I was not in favour of that. I can understand why certain working men are in favour of a white Australia, as they term it. They are afraid of the competition of persons of coloured races, who, they hold, are able to work for lower wages than those upon which they can subsist. But I cannot understand why some of the most intelligent and well educated members of this House should have stated that they also are in favour of a white Australia, and that rather than not have . a white Australia, they would sever the link which now binds us to old England. At the present time it is we, the people of Australia, who are receiving all the benefits of the connexion with old England. Old England is receiving no benefit from us.

Mr Watson - The benefit is mutual.

Mr CAMERON - It is not mutual. England maintains a fleet in Australian waters.

Mr Page - Who pays for it?

Mr CAMERON - The taxpayers of England.

Mr Page - And the taxpayers of Australia.

Mr CAMERON - The fleet that is maintained in our waters costs somewhere about £3,000,000, and between £800,000 and £900,000 per annum are required to maintain the vessels in a state of efficiency, and to pay the wages of the sailors and officers. To that expense Australia contributes the paltry sum of £125,000. Do honorable members mean that that is a fair contribution towards a fleet for the protection of Australia? .

Mr Page - It is too much.

Mr CAMERON -It seems to me that the honorable member has a very little mind. I contend that England is bestowing benefits upon us, but we are not benefiting her. Some of our prominent legislators have said that it is a standing menace to the people of Australia to have New Caledonia in the possession of the French, and Samoa in the possession of the Germans, and I ask them to think what would happen if the English fleet were removed from our waters, and we had to depend upon our own defences. We have a few cannon, but we have no gunpowder and no means of manufacturing any. We are in. a state of absolute unprepared ness to take the defence of Australia upon our shoulders, and we must look to England to do it for us. Further, England has always shown a desire to protect her children, and since she shows such a noble spirit we should surely be prepared to meet her in the same manner. We did our best when we thought she wanted assistance in South Africa.

Mr Page - We saved the Empire.

Mr CAMERON - I do not think we did.

I have always held the view that England could have saved the Empire without our assistance, but there is no doubt that we have a great conceit of ourselves because of the bravery which our sons displayed in South Africa. I ask honorable members to remember, however, in dealing with the South African war, that England had an army of from 220,000 to 240,000 men there fighting against from 35,000 to 40,000 Boers. When the people of Australia commence to talk about being able to defend themselves without the assistance of England, I would ask them to remember that the Boers themselves were unable to meet England in a pitched battle. They had to abandon Pretoria, Johannesburg, and all their large towns, and, though we might eventually maintain our independence if we had munitions of war, we are not in a position to defend our larger towns against any warlike nation such as Russia, Germany, or even France. Therefore, it seems to me suicidal in the extreme to talk of paddling our own canoe. A good deal has been said about the inhabitants of Japan. Japan is the sole nation with whom England is at the present time on terms of friendship. I would ask honorable members to remember that she. is so, because she wants an ally against Russia. Russia has lately occupied a large portion of Manchuria, and we know that she never goes back. Japan is on terms of friendship with England, and prepared to go to war with Russia, as she was prepared to do only a few years ago if England had concurred, but if England had not the assistance of Japan, she would have very little chance against Russia in Eastern waters. Are we, who are the sons of Britons, or at any rate, their descendants, to do anything which is likely to offend the power upon whose good will we may want to depend in the future? It seems to me that, taking a calm and dispassionate view, we ought to do everything that will make the people of Japan friendly towards England, and prevent a feeling of ill will being created. There is another race on the borders of India whose assistance has always been of great use to England - the Afghans. But within the last 48 hours a number of Afghans were refused permission to land in Australia. Afghanistan is the buffer State that protects India against Russia. If Russia were on good terms with Afghanistan, nothing would prevent her at a favorable moment from sweeping down on to the plains of India. Why should we who are British do anything to cause a feeling of animosity or distrust to arise in the minds of the people of these two races who are our natural friends against our enemy, Russia ?

Mr Higgins - Ought we not to ask the Afghans to stay in Afghanistan to fight against the Russians ?

Mr CAMERON - If we show the people of Afghanistan that we in Australia recognise the friendly feeling they have shown towards England we are likely to cement their friendship with Great Britain, while, by turning them back as if they are a bale of goods of no value, we must arouse their animosity. I have always held that it is a physical impossibility to thoroughly develop this country, and especially the tropical portions of it, without the assistance of coolie or other alien labour.

Mr Piesse - Then we must do without that development.

Mr CAMERON - I do not think we can, and to prove my assertion, I call the attention of honorable members to the fact that, although the Northern Territory has belonged to South Australia for some 40 years, the white population there amounts to only some 2,000 inhabitants.

Sir John Forrest - Not so many.

Mr CAMERON - Those people are unable to develop that territory, although it contains some of the best pastoral and mineral lands on the continent. Why is that ? Because of the tropical climate. No matter what may be said to the contrary, Europeans are not able to work there.

Mr McDonald - Nearly all the people In the territory are coloured people, and yet they have not developed the country.

Mr CAMERON - The total population there does not exceed 4,000 persons, of whom about 1,500 are whites.

Mr Page - Why do they not develop the territory?

Mr CAMERON - Because the coloured population is not sufficiently large. They have a railway from Pine Creek to Port Darwin, a distance of 150 miles, and they run one train each way every week. They do not run more trains, because the country is not developed, and there is nothing to carry. There can be no question in the minds of those who have been there that the Northern Territory contains some of the most valuable land in Australia, within the tropics, but this cannot be developed without coloured labour. There is another question of much more importance, to which I wish to direct the attention of the House. I believe that all honorable members are imbued with the spirit of fair play, that whatever they give they are prepared to receive, and that all they want is equal rights for all. I would like to ask honorable members what treatment the Chinese have received from the English people as a race ? I say without fear of contradiction that no race on the face of this earth has been" treated in a more shameful manner than have the Chinese. They are about the most conservative race in the world, and up to late years they had no desire whatever for any intercourse with what they called the outer barbarians, but they were forced at the point of the bayonet to admit Englishmen and other Europeans into China. Now if we compel them to admit our people into their land, why in the name of justice should we refuse to receive them here?

Mr Higgins - We have not compelled them to receive us.

Mr CAMERON - No, but the honorable member's forefathers did. This is an extremely religious House, and we know that honorable members are very well acquainted with the Bible, in which we are told that the sins of the fathers shall be visited upon the children. Therefore I say most emphatically that we are responsible to a certain extent for forcing an entrance into China, and that we should, in a spirit of fair play, allow the Chinese to come into Australia in reasonable numbers. I am not prepared to see any large invasion, but I do not think we should take up this cry of a white Australia-more particularly when we know that if we abandon England we shall not be in a position to maintain it. We should show a spirit of fair play, and extend to the Chinese the same privileges that we have exacted from them. A few months ago the European nations declared war against China, and these States, particularly New South Wales, Victoria, and South Australia immediately offered their services to the Empire to assist in thrashing China.

Mr Watson - Only to protect the people of our own race who were in danger.

Mr CAMERON - Well, assuming that we intended to protect our own people who were settled there, the position is much the same. There is a large number of missionaries in China, some of whom have been sent from Australia, and I would ask how honorable members would like it if the Chinese were to send missionaries here to preach the doctrines of Confucius and endeavour to convert our people. We should poll-tax them to start with, and would probably try to charter a leaky vessel in which to send them back to China, in the hope that they might be drowned on the way - at least that is what I judge from the way in which some people are advocating a white Australia. In speaking on behalf of the Chinese, I am actuated simply and solely by a spirit of fair play, and if I were going to China I would ask no more from the Chinese than I would be prepared as an individual to give them when they come here. It appears that two thirds of the honorable members of this House really object to the Chinese, not so much on the ground of the possible contamination of the white race, as because they fear that if they are allowed to come into Australia the rate of wages will go down.

Mr Fowler - Is that not a fair thing to resist ?

Mr CAMERON - No, I do not think so. Some honorable members have urged against the Chinese the fact that they are prepared to work for a shilling a day, but I would ask honorable members to look at the latest statistics relating to Italy. They will find that in Sicily and in the southern portions of Italy men are working for the bare means of subsistence - at the rate of 5d. per day. I honestly believe that if 2,000 or 3,000 Italians, or a similar number of Hungarians or Austrians were to come here at once and offer their services at a lower rate of wage than is now prevailing, the same howl would be raised throughout Australia as is at present directed against what are termed the alien races.

Mr McDonald - Hear, hear.

Mr CAMERON - I have tolerably good grounds for my opinion. About two years ago a number of Hungarians went to New Zealand to work on the kauri gum fields, and the same howl was at once raised against them, although they were white people. I am perfectly well aware that no words of mine will convince men whose minds have been already made up, but I have never been afraid to express my opinions fearlessly, or before any body of men, and I am not afraid to express them now. In my opinion the treatment the Chinese and the various alien races have received, and are going to receive if the people of this Commonwealth can prevail upon England to agree to this Bill, is unworthy of the so-called white race of Australia.

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