Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
Thursday, 12 September 1901
Page: 0


Mr F E McLEAN (LANG, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Fortunately for those who come late in this discussion, it has now resolved itself very largely into a question of whether the method proposed in the Bill by the Government or that proposed by the honorable member for Bland in his suggested amendment, is the better one. It appears that the discussion has practically narrowed itself down to the desirability of accepting one of the two methods. Incidentally the question of loyalty to the Empire, and of the difficulties that will attach to the Imperial Government in giving or withholding their assent from whatever legislation we may pass, has come into the discussion. I am afraid that rather too much importance has been attached to this so-called question of loyalty to the Empire. I do not think there is an honorable member in this House - I do not think there are very many men in this country - who have any other feelings than those of strong loyalty to the British Empire. There may have been a time in the history of these States when there was some strong feeling amongst certain sections of the people, which found vent in wild expressions in regard to cutting the painter and that sort of nonsense. But we have lived that kind of thing down long ago, and there is certainly a growing feeling, which is just as well responded to amongst the most extreme democrats in the community as it is by those who call themselves conservatives, in favour of attachment and loyalty to the British Empire. I do not think questions of that kind need be brought very seriously into a debate like this. While I am inclined to support the amendment foreshadowed by the honorable member for Bland, and while I feel that the Government have not brought forward so drastic and perfect a measure as might have been introduced into this Chamber, I am not unaware of the difficulty that surrounds a question of this kind, nor would I advocate any extreme amendment if I thought it was likely to involve any difficulty between the Commonwealth Government and the Imperial

Government. I think those who have spoken in that strain are assuming that these difficulties would arise when there is no solid ground for such a belief. We know perfectly well that the Commonwealth has been called into existence, and this Parliament and the Commonwealth Government have been charged with very grave responsibilities, for the purpose of workingout the destiny of Australia in regard to these very important matters. I could recall from memory, and had I time I could quote scores of speeches delivered during the federal campaign by honorable gentlemen who now hold office in the Commonwealth Government, in which they declared that one of the strongest reasons for federating was that as a Commonwealth we should be able to talk with a very much more emphatic voice, and be heard to much greater advantage in Downing-street. What, after all, is going to be the advantage of federation - what is going to be the advantage of this achievement of Australian unity, so far as the great masses of the people are concerned, if we do not secure immunity from the dangers of invasion of alien races, especially of those classes that are likely to depress wages and degrade the social tone of the community? I believe one of the very strongest reasons that led most of the people of Australia to accept federation was the belief that it would become an effective weapon for defending ourselves against this alien invasion. Holding that belief, I regret to think that we are bound to adopt legislation calculated to cause any misapprehension as to what our intentions are in regard to this very important question. This afternoon the Attorney-General devoted a very large part of his speech to an effort to convince the House that he was as strongly in favour of utterly stopping Japanese immigration and the immigration of all Asiatic races, as those who are advocating a more radical measure. But if the Bill is really intended to keep out these races, can any good reason be shown why that should not appear on the very face of it, and why our intention should not be expressed in an Act of legislation ? Surely the mere form of the Bill is not going to create difficulty with the British Government.


Mr Deakin - I have read to the House what they say.

Mr.F. E. McLEAN.- I know that, and I am prepared to believe that as a mere matter of official etiquette, they would prefer to receive the Bill which has been submitted to us by the Government. I do not think, however, that their objection to extreme legislation is of such a definite and emphatic character as to lead to any strained relations between the Commonwealth and the Imperial Government.


Sir William McMillan - Opinion has strengthened since the conference took place.

Mr.F. E. McLEAN - Very much so.


Mr Deakin - The despatch relating to the Queensland Sugar Bill is only three months old.


Sir William McMillan - But I am referring to the negotiations between the Home Government and the Premiers, to which reference was made by the AttorneyGeneral.


Mr Deakin - The despatch with regard to the Sugar Bill repeats the objection then taken.

Mr.F. E. McLEAN. - I am convinced that we shall not gain anything by approaching the Imperial Government in any timid attitude on a question of this kind. They know perfectly well the loyalty of the people of Australia. We do not want to prove our loyalty by any mere timidity in a matter of this kind. Our loyalty has been proved, and can be proved again if it is ever put to the test. I believe that it is our loyalty to the Empire, and the supreme conviction that it is the destiny of the British Empire to rule in these southern seas that has prompted us to this drastic kind of legislation. It is the strong conviction of the people of these States that we are to hold this continent for the British people - it is that strong feeling of Imperial loyalty that has led to this kind of legislation. Of course we cannot ignore the importance of the social question, as we all recognise that the competing Asiatic is a dangerous foe to our artisans and labourers, and we have the right to protect them from degrading competition of that kind. This, however, is recognised by the Imperial Government, who are sufficiently aware of our difficulties in connexion with these matters, and must sympathize with us in every effort we make to maintain a high social standard for our people. I am convinced that we shall gain nothing by passing any half measures, but that we shall hasten the work we desire to accomplish by placing on the face of the Bill a very clear expression of our intentions. I do not wish to labour the question, but I cannot help expressing my feeling that we shall be doing the wisest and best thing for the people of this Commonwealth if we act straightforwardly in this matter. I do not for one moment doubt the sincerity of the Government, but, on the other hand, give them every credit for voicing the aspirations of the people of Australia and- their desire to restrict the influx of these undesirable immigrants. I regard the Bill as an evidence of their intention to stop such immigration, and I am sure it would be administered with that view; but I cannot disguise the fact that, as drawn, it would not effect the object desired, but would lead to a great many more difficulties than would be brought about by more drastic legislation. It has been pointed out that the educational test would really prevent the immigration of desirable people, whilst, on the other hand, there is no absolute guarantee that it would prohibit the introduction of those people whom we desire to prevent from landing here. But if a straight course is taken - I do not say an honest course, because I do not wish to imply that there is anything but an honest desire on the part of the Government - to express in the Bill what we mean, I Iia ve no fear but that the Imperial Government will respect our wishes. The honorable member for North Sydney spoke as though we, being under so many obligations to the Imperial Government, should approach them with a great deal of consideration, and with a desire to give them as little difficulty in connexion with this matter as possible. "We all appreciate that feeling, and we all desire to create as little difficulty for the Imperial Government as possible; but the question is - are we creating a difficulty when we express in plain language what is intended to be expressed by the roundabout educational test proposed in the Bill t In the administration of the Bill, it would probably be found as time rolled on that distinctions would be made between the Asiatic and European races, and we should probably have complaints made by the Japanese Government that their people were being treated differently in regard to the educational test for Europeans. This would raise no end of difficulty for the Imperial Government - far more difficulty than is likely to arise from a plain and unmistakable expression of our desires on the face of the Bill. The honorable member for Kennedy has quoted from the treaty that has been entered into with Japan, and which so far as we are aware has not yet been annulled. Under that treaty special provision is made for these particular States of Australia, in consequence of the laws that we have passed from time to time to restrict the influx of Asiatic peoples, and, as the Imperial Government have to some extent safeguarded our rights in the drafting of their treaties with other countries, is it likely that any serious complications will arise from the passing of the Bill in the form suggested by the honorable ' member for Wentworth and the honorable member for Bland 1 I believe we should state clearly what we mean, and not leave too much to the administration. I think that one very serious fault in connexion with recent legislation is that we are leaving far too much to those who are to administer the laws, that we are casting undue responsibilities upon them, whereas we ought to take the responsibilities upon ourselves by putting upon the face of the Bill what we intend to do, and indicating how far we wish to go in the direction of excluding undesirable immigrants. I give the Government credit for the utmost sincerity. I know they intend to do the best they can for the Commonwealth, but I believe that their method will prove ineffective, and that the amendment proposed will afford a more effectual means of attaining our ends, without causing any trouble.







Suggest corrections