Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
Tuesday, 8 March 1904

Mr FRAZER (Kalgoorlie) - In rising to address my first remarks to the honorable members of this House, I desire to say that I have listened very attentively to the right honorable gentleman who occupies the position of leader of the Opposition to the Prime Minister, and to those who have subsequently spoken to this address. I look to the honorable and learned gentleman who is privileged to lead the present Government, and to the right honorable gentleman who is leader of the Oppostion in particular, for those grains of political knowledge which will enable me to more worthily fill the position to which my countrymen have elected me. I listened with great attention to the criticism of the leader of the Opposition upon the position in which the Government find their party ; but I noticed that he was very careful to exclude all reference to the hopeless dry rot which has set in. so far as the position of his own party is concerned. I could not but notice the fact that, although I frankly agree that the Government Party is not in a good position, the Opposition Party is in a very bad position. I think that, under all the circumstances, it is peculiar that it should be so, when we consider that the members of the Opposition Party have always had the assistance of able journals in the whole of the States of the Commonwealth. As one who has had some little experience in fighting an Opposition press, I wish to place it upon record in my first public utterance in this Chamber that I am not an admirer of the free-trade press. It appears to me that when the members of the free-trade party find themselves in their present hopeless position, despite the assistance of a press capable of stooping to anything to gain their ends, there must be something wrong with their policy, and the people of Australia are beginning to find them out. Looking over the returns, it appears to me that although the Opposition Party is returned in a better position than the Government Party, the Labour Party is undoubtedly placed in a better position than the Opposition Party. In view of the fact that we have had all the influence exercised by the great journals in the great cities of the Commonwealth against us, it seems to me that the great mass of the people in this country must be rising, and have determined that in future they, and not the press, are going to mould the political destinies of the Commonwealth. This statement is, I think, justified by the fact that labour men were returned by such a great majority at the last .elections. Personally, I have not very strong feelings of regret for the position which political affairs is likely to assume in the near future. I refer now to the peculiar position in which honorable members of this House find themselves. ' We have, as most honorable members have said, three parties in this House - the Government, the. Opposition, and the Labour Party ; and, I say, that, so far as I am personally concerned, I am not particular which honorable gentlemen may place good legislation upon the statute-book of Australia, so long as it gets there. If the present Government are prepared to give me the legislation that will carry into effect the principles I have enunciated on the platform, they can continue to hold office, so far as I am concerned. I desire to refer to a compliment the right honorable gentleman who leads the Opposition was pleased to place on record in support of the Labour Party. He stated that the Labour Party have this merit : they put their principles and their platform in black and white, and when returned are loyal to those principles. I say that is the reason why honorable members of that party are placed in the position in which they find themselves to-day. The people were treated fairly when they returned our predecessors to this House, and so long as they are treated in that fashion, they will continue to trust us. Whilst the statement made by the leader of the Opposition is satisfactory from my point of view, I should like to say that it is not altogether consistent with the opinion which the right honorable gentleman expressed in Sydney on the 26th February last - that is always presuming that he has been correctly reported. In the Sydney Daily Telegraph of that date, he is reported to have said -

He did not want to be unkind, but the difference was, that labour worked, and the Labour Party did not.

The Sydney Morning Herald, on the same occasion, reported the right honorable gentleman as having said -

It would be well for them to make a note that there was all the difference in the world between labour and the Labour Party, and it was that, whilst labour laboured, the Labour Party did not.

I refer to this in order to contrast it with the statement which the right honorable gentleman made in speaking to the Address in Reply, that we had political principles and endeavoured to put them in force as soon as we were returned to Parliament. Another matter to which I should like to refer, is the argument advanced concerning, class legislation. There appears to be a very strong feeling amongst honorable members sitting in a certain portion of this Chamber, that another section of the members of the House intend to go in for class legislation. I say that, so far as I know, until the advent of the Labour Party we never had anything else but class legislation in Australia. Whilst this was the case, and whilst there was every prospect of its continuing, a certain section of the community had no desire to alter the existing state of affairs; but as soon as the voice of the people has begun to make itself felt in this Chamber we find a certain section of honorable members rising to denounce class legislation. They do not want it. They believe that the 'Labour Party are going to run this Commonwealth for themselves. As one member of that party, I say it is nonsense ; it is ridiculous for any honorable member of this House to say that we desire to get anything for ourselves that we are not prepared to give to every one else in the community. Our policy has been simply to demand justice for all parties and privileges for none, and so far as class legislation is concerned, though it has. existed in the past, if we can alter it, it is not going to exist in the future. Another statement which dropped from the lips of the leader of the Opposition was the expression of his absolute contempt for the Employers' Federation and their representatives at the Sydney conference. I have read a few of the speeches delivered by the right honorable gentleman, and have heard him speak upon a number of questions; but never before did I hear him get up and openly denounce the Employers' Federation. I do not wish to insinuate too much, but it does seem peculiar that such a statement should come from the right honorable gentleman just at a time when the Employers' Federation is not popular in the county'. This is a matter to which honorable members sitting behind the right honorable and learned member for East Sydney may give their serious consideration in the near future. Next to the actual result of the elections, and the condition in which we find political parties in this House; I feel compelled, in common with other honorable members, to refer to the conditions under which the last elections were carried out. So far as I can learn, the experience in Western Australia has been no exception to the general rule. Things were not satisfactory in the Electoral Department in that State. When the rolls did at last come to hand - and that was only a few days before the election took place - we found that numbers of people had been left off. I found - and it deeply concerned me at that particular time - that a vast number pf those whose names had been left ' off the rolls were working men - miners resident in the constituency. The omission of their names happened in this way : The police compiled the rolls in that State, and went round to collect the names. Unfortunately, a number of people have to live in camps in Western Australia. The men go to work in the morning, and as their wives, in many instances, reside in the eastern States, the camps are' left to mind themselves - whilst the miners are at work. When the policemen came to a camp, the miner was somewhere else, probably in the bowels of the earth, and so the policeman walked along to the next camp. In this way thousands were left off the roll. Not a few, not a dozen, but thousands in the Kalgoorlie constituency went to the polling- booths on the day of the election and were unable to record their votes. I have heard this matter referred to by- other honorable members who have spoken, and although I do not wish to tire the House, I desire to place upon record my absolute disapproval of the manner in which the Electoral Department was conducted in Western Australia. I hope this will be remedied in the near future.

Mr SYDNEY SMITH (MACQUARIE, NEW SOUTH WALES) - There ought to be an inquiry.

Sir John Forrest - Why did not the people look beforehand to see that their names were on the roll?

Mr FRAZER - The rolls were not there for them to see. I was unable to get "the rolls for the. district until two days before the election actually took place, and, so far as the lists of supplementary names were concerned, some did not reach . their destination in time for the election.

Sir John Forrest - The rolls had to be exhibited for a month before the election.

Mr FRAZER - If they were exhibited it must have been in some back room of a Government office in Western Australia, which was not generally known to the public. Another question upon which I desire to say a word is the Government proposal to assist immigration.

Like the speaker who preceded me, I believe that if the Federal Government intend to take this matter up, they are starting at the wrong end. I repeat the utterances of some other honorable members, when I say that, whilst I would like to see Australia supporting a larger population, at the present time, we have in Australia numbers of men having a knowledge of agriculture who are willing and ready to go on to the land, and would do so if they could get land. The honorable member for Parramatta sarcastically asked by interjection the other day whether all the applications made for blocks in different portions of New South Wales and Victoria were bond fide. I say they are bond fide, and if the land were available and men could get blocks, the honorable member would soon find that there would be teams on the road, and agriculturists ready to go to take possession of them. We require to bring about such a condition of things in Australia as will enable us to reasonably settle the people we have upon the land before we think of importing others from across the sea. I feel strongly upon this point, and I believe that Western Australia at the present time is the only State in which this question is being grappled with in a business-like fashion. The Western Australian Government is affording facilities to agricultural settlers to go upon the land, and they are giving them assistance when they get to the land, with the result that they are taking away a number of useful settlers from this portion of Australia. I say that if the Western Australian Government is progressive enough to get " in " on the Governments of the other Statesand entice useful citizens to that State, they deserve all the good luck they can secure is the result of their efforts. It is idle to speak of bringing people from across the ocean until such time as we are able to settle the thousands we have here who are prepared and willing to go upon the land. There is another matter in connexion with immigration to which I wish to refer. There is a cry raised for desirable immigration to Australia, but I say ; hat there is need for a protest against the undesirable immigration we are getting. I f ind, from a return placed upon the able of the House during the last Few days, that we increased our population during the last twelve months by importing into Australia 793 Italians. So far as I can see no test has been applied to these people. Representing a mining constituency, I know what it is to have to deal with Italians upon the labour market of Australia. I know the danger of a large increase of them amongst, our white population. Numbers of these fellows get off the ships at Fremantle, get on board the trains, go up to Kalgoorlie, and are employed almost immediately on arriving there, whilst British workmen are thrown out of employment. That is hard, solid fact. They say they do not come out under contract. But they are educated to that when they are coming out upon the boats, and when they get to Kalgoorlie they are gathered together by some one who knows of their landing, taken to one of the wood-sidings or one of the mines, and are given jobs almost at once. Numbers of Italians are employed in the mines of Kalgoorlie who cannot speak and do not understand a word of English.

Mr O'Malley - That is why they are employed.

Mr FRAZER -Perhaps so. They work down in the bowels of the earth, and if an accident were to occur, and if one of these Italians were to be told to go away for assistance, he would not understand what was said to him. Further, in connexion with the signalling that takes place in the mines, these fellows are unacquainted with the conditions that prevail, and are a source of danger, not only to themselves, but to the British workmen who work with them. I do not say that the language test should be applied to every person who may come to Australia, but I do think that the contract provision of the Immigration Restriction Act is being flouted so far as it concerns the Italians who are being landed in Western Australia. I hope that the Government will take the matter into consideration, and see about instituting some more rigid inquiry in that State. In connexion with the Chinese who are landed in Australia, the return which has been presented, and which is a very interesting document, shows that 986 were admitted into Australia during 1903. During the same period ninety-nine Chinese were refused admission by the application of the language test. I find on analyzing the figures that 572 State permits were granted, and there were travelling from State to State 308. It appears to me that a very high percentage of Chinese travel about from State to State, if these figures are correct. But 1 have reason to believe that they are not altogether correct. I do not say that they are not correct so far as the official returns go; but I believe that a system has been instituted in different ports of Australia for providing Chinese with the necessary credentials when they land at any particular port, to make them appear as though resident at that place, thus enabling them to gain access to any part of the Commonwealth. It appears to me that there are too many Chinese coming into Australia, and I believe that the time is close at hand when considerable attention will have to be paid to immigration restriction. I believe that, in order successfully to combat this invasion of ' undesirable aliens, we shall have to select one ' port, and one port only, in each State at which they can gain admittance, and at that port a very stringent test and searching examination will have to be applied to them. The proposal to have the Federal Capital question settled as speedily as possible will undoubtedly have my hearty assistance. A pledge has been given under the Constitution that should certainly be carried out at the earliest possible date, and I am prepared to cast a vote for the purpose of having the question settled definitely.

Mr O'malley - Is the honorable member in favour of Bombala ?

Mr FRAZER - I hope the honorable member for Darwin will not question me on that point. Another subject to which I wish to direct the attention of the House is that of the construction of the transAustralian railway. I am very pleased to see that the Government intend to do something definite. The survey they propose is not all that I should like to see done, but it is a step in the right direction; and I hope that when the question comes before the House there will be a sufficiently strong body of opinion to authorize the survey of the proposed route. I trust that in a very few years we shall see this great national undertaking an accomplished fact. Another matter about which I desire to say a few words has been mentioned by the honorable member for the Northern Territory. That is the administration of the Post and Telegraph Department. In Western Australia it is unnecessary for me to say that we are a long distance away from our brethren in the eastern States. Consequently we rely to a very large extent upon the telegraph line for the information which is necessary to enable us to keep up to date. But in Western Australia, things have not been altogether satisfactory in that Department. Frequently telegrams take any time between two hours and twenty-two hours to reach their destination. Letters very often get astray ; so do urgent messages ; and, generally speaking, the office, if not altogether up-side-down, is certainly out of plumb. I think that one means of getting over at least some of the difficulties in the way of bringing it right up-to-date, would be to have an interchange of the heads of the Department in the different States. That is a matter which should receive consideration, and I hope that if my suggestion is eventually adopted, the officer sent over when he goes into the Western Australian office will endeavour to inaugurate ' an uptodate system. On behalf of the people whom I represent, I ought also to say a word upon another aspect of this question. In Kalgoorlie, during a number of months of the year, the weather is certainly very trying.. Honorable members who were over there on the occasion of the opening of the water scheme, will bear me out in that. I think that when an officer has served a number of years, or even a number of months, upon the gold-fields of Western Australia, he should be able to-get a transfer to a different portion of the State. That principle has not been carried out to any great extent in Western Australia up to the present time, but I hope that consideration will be given to it in the near future. Another question to which I wish to address myself, and one which to me is of an all-important character, is that of old-age pensions. Reference is made to it in the GovernorGeneral's Speech. Upon this matter I can truthfully say that I am altogether out of sympathy with the Government in their ideas. I think it is a crying shame if the youth and energy of Australia are not prepared in these enlightened days to sanction the necessary legislation to afford more liberal conditions of living to our old and deserving poor. A number of honorable members, including the leader of the Opposition, have expressed the opinion that a system of oldage pensions cannot be inaugurated in the Commonwealth for a number of years. If that were the case, it would be a reflection upon the intelligence of this House. I venture to say that if honorable members are unable, by means of our united intelligence, to devise a scheme for improving the position of the deserving poor in Australia, they ought not to return to this Parliament when they 'meet the electors at the next election. It is a question which is worthy of the most earnest consideration of every man in this House, no matter to what pari./ be belongs, it is in the interest of suffering humanity, and I trust that when the Address in Reply has been adopted, and we get to business, honorable members will address themselves to its settlement in unmistakable terms. Another matter upon which f will say a few words is that of conciliation and arbitration. I am pleased that the Government intend to introduce a Bill in the near future. I hope that it will be debated in a spirit that will enable us to bring forth the best measure that our united intelligence can devise, apart from party considerations, for the benefit of- the people of Australia/ This is a Question upon which no party should split, if honorable members are desirous of securing sound industrial conditions for the people of this country. Although we may differ as to how far the Bill should go, the principle of applying arbitration to the whole of the people of Australia remains almost unquestioned by honorable members; at least, I hope so, and I hope to see that measure placed upon the statute-book at an early date. I also desire to say a few words with reference tothe introduction of Chinese into the Transvaal. I was very pleased, indeed, to know that the Government had expressed the opinion which the majority of the people of Australia hold upon this subject. 1 quite understand that there are a few in Australia - there are very few I hope - who take the view that the people of Australia should not' express an opinion upon a matter that affects only other parts of the Empire. I do not want to mouth my loyalty to the Empire, and to dilate upon the glorious work that was done by Australian soldiers in South Africa. But I do say that my own experience in. Australia - my own experience in the city where we are now meeting - is sufficient to show the disgraceful condition to which the Chinese can degrade our Australian sisterhood and our nationhood, and is sufficient to justify any man in objecting to the Chinese being introduced to a civilized community. I go no further than this one particular case, in which the evidence is sufficient to justify me in supporting the Government in their protest, as, I propose to do in a wholehearted fashion. The only other subject to which I desire to refer is one on which there appears to be some little difference of opinion, as I suppose 'there always is in. political matters, namely, the appointment of an Inter-State Commission. I shall heartily support the Government in their endeavour to adhere in this respect to the letter of the Constitution at the earliest possible date. There are conditions in Western Australia which would warrant the visit of a Commission almost as soon as it was constituted ; in fact, I think that if the Government had carried out their duty such a Commission would have been at work in that State long before now. In conclusion, I desire to express the hope that the debates in this House will eventuate- in the best possible legislation for the people of Australia as a whole. I can promise honorable members that I shall vote in no way that will not give to all the people in Australia justice, and I shall oppose the 'granting of privileges to any.

Suggest corrections