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Thursday, 12 September 1901
Page: 4841

Mr McCAY (Corinella) - On a matter of the importance of this Bill, both directly and indirectly, no apology, I think, is needed for any honorable member occupying a few minutes in an expression of his views. It is fraught with immense and important consequences for us as a nation, and it may also have important results in regard to our relations with the Empire of which we form a part. It seems to me that if- there is one subject on w'hich the Australian people have been for some time, and are practically, unanimous, it is the question of what is commonly known as a white Australia. It is the only matter to my knowledge on which the whole people of the Commonwealth speak with one voice. We know the danger with which we are menaced - it I is not an imaginary danger. Consequently it becomes our duty as the representatives of the people to do what we can to meet that danger. If the matter ended there, only one course would be open to us, namely, the adoption of a direct, clear, and completely effective method of securing our freedom from the coloured taint. That is the proposal submitted by the honorable member for Bland, who favours the course of specifically stating who are the people that we intend to keep out of Australia. If, I repeat, the. matter ended there, only one course would be open to us. The House are unanimously in sympathy with what, practically, the whole of Australia desires, and the Ministry and the House alike would be bound, if there were no other considerations arising, to give effect to the desires of Australia in a distinct and practically final method. But it seems to me that there are other considerations. We have always been not only proud to acknowledge our connexion with the Empire, but glad to reap the benefits which that connexion gives to us. Although it may sound paradoxical to say so, the very cause of the difficulty which has now arisen is also the cause of enabling that difficulty to arise. If it were not for our connexion with the Empire we should think twice before introducing a proposal to absolutely debar all Asiatic and African aboriginals from entering Australia. Our relations, as an independent nation, with Japan would not take the haughty "don't care" sort of attitude which some honorable members would now have us assume. We should not be utterly regardless of any consequences or hostility that might be aroused elsewhere, and that probably would be aroused, were it not that we rely on the strength of the Imperial connexion. I feel strongly that it is our duty, in common decency, I might also say, to recognise that the source from which we draw our strength in these very matters---

Mr Higgins - And our quarrels also?

Mr McCAY - That is perfectly true. But some honorable members, it seems to me, want to reap all the benefits of the Imperial connexion without having to submit to any of the disabilities connected therewith. We cannot at the same time affirm and deny. If we wish to enjoy the benefits of the connexion we must also share its burdens. I have not the slightest doubt that if we pushed this matter to an issue, and insisted that we must have the Bill as it is proposed to amend it, the Imperial authorities would ultimately agree to our desires. What would be happening in the meantime it would be very difficult to say. It is not within the bounds of reasonable possibility that, if we passed the Bill as it is proposed to amend it, it would receive the Royal assent forthwith. The Governor-General, it is practically certain, would withhold his assent. It is also practically certain that the Imperial authorities would negotiate with us upon the matter, and . that delay would inevitably arise. We must remember that it is not Downing-street with which we are having this dispute, neither is it Mr. Chamberlain nor the Imperial Government. It is the Empire, of which we form a part; which we have to consider as well as ourselves. I take it that the House would require some extraordinary emergency to arise, to induce it to consider even the possibility of severing the tie which binds us to the mother country. But let us suppose that the Imperial Government says. - " We cannot, in view of Imperial considerations, which affect you as well as us, accept the Bill in this form." What are we to do, then, when we know that there is another course open to us which will achieve, if not the whole, a large part of that which we desire ? We know that the maintenance of the Imperial strength in the Pacific ocean is perhaps the most immediately important factor to the security of Australia, so far as. international politics are concerned. We have already expressly decided within the last two years that we will take part in those Imperial quarrels to which the honorable member for North Melbourne refers. I a.m. perfectly satisfied with our action in that respect. But we cannot blow hot and cold in the matter, and we must continue to take our share of Imperial responsibility, unless wo are prepared to take the other course.

Sir William McMillan - Who is attempting to repudiate all this ?

Mr McCAY - When honorable members argue half way in the matter they might as well go the other half and see the logical effect of the position which they take up. Personally, I believe that if we said to the Imperial authorities - " We want a Bill specifically forbidding the aboriginal inhabitants of Asia and Africa from gaining admission to Australia, " the Imperial authorities would, in the long run, yield to our desires. But if the Imperial authorities can show reasonable grounds for asking us to adopt a course which will not hurt them and which will accomplish the greater part of what we desire, it is our business, if we have any gratitude in us, to follow the course suggested, and to meet the rest of the Empire as far as we possibly can. We must remember that we are not a sovereign power and that, consequently, our actions are not free and unfettered. Although the Constitution in terms gives us unrestricted power to deal with the subjects set out therein, we know perfectly well that it is subject to the fact that we are a portion of the Empire, and that our desires may, at times, conflict with Imperial necessities. It is only when our desires become necessities absolutely, and necessities which are vital to our existence, that we are compelled to take up the attitude of hostility that is suggested. No one can say that Downingstreet, Mr. Chamberlain,ov the Imperial authorities have shown any desire to take up an unnecessarily hostile attitude to us in regard to this matter. Their attitude has been one of conciliation from first to last. But they say that there are reasons why it is desirable, not necessarily in the interests of Australia alone, but in the interests of the Empire as a whole, that we should take this other course, unless it is obviously an ineffective one. Now, is it ineffective? The proposal of the Bill is to require intending immigrants to be able to write out a certain number of words in the English language, or, as it may prove to be, in some other European language. We have been told about the high intellectual standard of many of the Indian subjects of. the King, and of the high attainments of many of the .Japanese. But I would like to ask honorable members who have used this argument whether they are serious in urging that under present conditions - I will not refer to the future for the moment - any appreciable percentage of objectionable immigrants who come to our shores, will be able to pass this test. It is perfectly true that the Universities of the old country have Japanese and Hindoo graduates but these are not the people who come to Australia. We see very few of those University graduates visiting us, and there are very few aliens here who are able to pass even such a modest educational test as that proposed. Surely when discussing this bill, practically, as a question of immediate and pressing urgency, we should discuss it in view of existing facts. We know perfectly well that the vast majority - I venture to say 95 per cent. - of those coloured immigrants whom we want to keep out, are people who are not able to pass the test proposed in the Bill ; and the test can be made more severe if that be considered advisable. The second fact is that every month we delay in' this matter means an increase of the number of those immigrants to Australia. They come here in considerable numbers,and the knowledge of the likelihood of legislation will cause them to come faster than they otherwise would.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - They ought to be stopped without the Bill.

Mr McCAY - We cannot stop British subjects by an act of State.

Mr Barton - There are three colonies, without any such measure as this.

Mr McCAY - We can, of course, by an. act of State prevent say, Japanese, from coming in, but Japan could if she chose regard that act of State as an act of hostility on our part. Japan as well as Australia has an option.

Mr Higgins - The United States are careful to prohibit Chinese subjects from entering.

Mr McCAY - The United States of America are a sovereign power, whereas we are not. I do not want to be involved in a legal argument with the honorable, and learned member for Northern Melbourne.

Mr Higgins - There is nothing inconsistent in Great Britain excluding from some part of her territory British subjects?

Mr McCAY - I dare say Great Britain, could do that, but I do not want to enter, into a legal argument. As I understand? the matter, a sovereign power takes the re-1 reresponsibility, and the exercise of this act of State may be regarded as an act of hostility or act of war.

Mr Isaacs - There cannot be an act of State against a State's own subjects.

Mr O'Malley - Then the whole of India, may come in.

Mr Barton - That is so, unless this -Bill be passed.

Mr McCAY - At any rate, seeing that we are approached in a conciliatory way, and have been all along - seeing the cheerfulness and generosity which Britain ha* always displayed in meeting our wishes in every possible way - now that we have come into existence as a Commonwealth, it is only reasonable on our part to see whether it is not possible to show some consideration, and make some concession to those who have made so Many concessions and shown so much consideration to us. If it be found that the educational test, simple or severe, be insufficient, we -shall be in a position. to say - "Now, we have done what you asked us to do, in view of the necessities or requirements of Imperial policy; but we -find that the concession is not producing the desired result, and is not as effective as it ought to be, and, therefore, we must ask you to go the rest of the way -and . agree to our proposal." But the threat to trail the tail of our coat. before the Imperial authorities in this unnecessary way-:--


Mr McCAY - The honorable member for Parramatta is the best authority on nonsense in the Commonwealth, and therefore I greatly respect his opinion.

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