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Tuesday, 15 March 1904

Mr GROOM (Darling Downs) - In discussing the Governor-General's Speech honorable members have given expression to their .opinions on the result of the recent elections, and although I have no desire to -raise contentious issues, I think I may say that, so far as Queensland is concerned, the electors have spoken clearly, on two points. Queensland has shown most emphatically that she supports the decision of the first Parliament of Australia, that the citizens of the Commonwealth shall be people of European extraction. In that respect her people have spoken with no uncertain sound. They have also emphasized the attitude taken up by this House in dealing with the sugar question - a question which incidentally arises out of the policy of a White Australia; Recent experience has clearly proved that the view whicff the House expressed on that question is the right one - the view that it is possible by a system of duties and bounties to gradually bring about the breaking up of large estates, and the settlement of a farming population on the sugar-growing lands who will be able to grow sugar-cane by the aid of white labour alone. Experience has proved that fact most exclusively, and it is now admitted bv many who were at one time of opinion that it would be utterly impossible to grow sugar cane by white labour. We were asked, when the matter was under discussion in this House, whether we could point to any case in which the. work was being successfully performed by means of only white labour,; and those who have travelled in the northern parts of Queensland can refer to many such instances. ' So far as this Parliament is concerned, these are issues of the past ; but they need on the part of the House a continuance of sympathetic treatment to show that the policy of a White Australia is a wise and right one. Another question which has been definitely settled, so far as Queensland is concerned, is that there shall be no alteration of the Tariff. The remark was made by the leader of the Opposition that the. Tariff question was emphatically settled in so far as it related' to this Parliament. The honorable member for Bourke was present when the right honorable member made the statement in Melbourne that he was going to have that issue settled once and for all

Mr Mauger - He made that statement publicly.

Mr GROOM - Yes.

Mr Deakin - And said that he would accept the verdict of the people.

Mr GROOM - Quite so. He then spoke apparently as the leader of his party. The issue was definitely taken up by the honorable member for Bourke, who was present when the statement was made, andalso by the press, and I believe that the whole of Australia regarded the issue as being whether the Tariff was to remain settled at least during the bookkeeping period.

Mr Wilks - The leader of the Opposition was. referring to a referendum.

Mr GROOM - He was asking for the decision of the people, and he has obtained a decision which is clear beyond all doubt.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - The position is very clear in New South Wales.

Mr GROOM - New South Wales is a yerv important part of the Commonwealth, but when we have to determine national issues we must look at what has been the decision of all the States in order to gain the national opinion. In every State of the union, with the exception of New South Wales, the people have decided to rest for some time on the present Tariff. We do not want our industry and our labour unsettled, and above all, we do not desire that the six States Treasurers shall be continually called upon to readjust their finances, owing to tariff alterations. They say, " Above all things give us certainty."

Mr Wilks - "Giveus peace."

Mr GROOM - No; they ask for certainty. Alterations mean that every time a State Treasurerdesires to prepare a statement of Estimates, the Public Service and the whole of his State machinery must be readjusted, or else he must have a complete revision of his system of taxation.

Mr McDonald - Has he no certainty when he knows that the Commonwealth must return to him three-fourths of the Customs revenue collected in his State?

Mr GROOM - He knows at present that whilst we have a Tariff with certain fixed duties, he has some degree of certainty, allowing for the ordinary law of averages, as to what his returns will be. But if we were going to have a complete alteration of our Tariff every few years, we should' have continual friction between this Parliament and the Parliaments of the States ; we should have one Parliament raising the revenue, and giving to other Parliaments varying amounts. Each fluctuation would give rise to discontent between the different parts of the Federation. But I think that the people have declared that it is desirable that, until the Bookkeeping perio.d has closed, we should adhere to the existing Tariff.

Mr Lonsdale - New South Wales has not spoken in that way.

Mr GROOM - New South Wales must not dominate the whole of the Commonwealth. It is a very important part of the Federation, and is, of course, entitled to express its opinion; but the leader of the New South Wales party called upon the peopleof Australia to give expression to their opinion on the Tariff issue.

Mr Lonsdale - The right honorable member did not put the matter in that way ; he sought a referendum, but the Government would not agree to his proposal.

Mr GROOM - The honorable member was not in Victoria at the time. He was then engaged in canvassing, very properly, for the seat he now occupies.

Mr McCay - But the honorable member knows all about it.

Mr GROOM - If he does not, I am putting the. facts before him for his information. If he questions representatives of Victoria sitting on the Opposition side of the House - if he questions the honorable member for Parramatta - he will learn that the statement to which I have referred was made in Melbourne by the leader of the Opposition.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - The Melbourne influence had temporarily taken possession of the right honorable member.

Mr GROOM - If he remains here much longer, he may possibly become a protectionist. It is clear, from his own state^ ment, which, apparently, is not accepted by some of his followers, that so far. as this Parliament is concerned, he considers that the Tariff issue is dead.

Mr McDonald - The leader of the Opposition made that statement on the floor of this House.

Mr GROOM - Exactly.

Mr Lonsdale - He spoke of " an armed truce."

Mr GROOM - He admitted that practically, in so far as it related to this Parliament, the matter was dead. When certain issues have been disposed of,' no doubt my honorable friends of the Opposition will be found sharing the same opinion. Other issues of more or less importance were raised. We know that each State has its own particular grievances. In Queensland questions were raised during the election campaign which we should voice here, one of them being a matter in regard to which the people of that State think they are entitled to equality of treatment. I refer to the mail contracts. The Prime Minister visited Queensland, and referred to the question in no uncertain terms. He declared that if the Government, having a fair regard to the consideration of cost, could see their way clear, they would be quite prepared to extend the mail service to Brisbane, provided that a tender of that kind were received. I believe that I am correctly stating the views expressed by the Prime Minister. ' '

Mr Deakin - In a condensed form.

Mr McDonald - The Government were very " wishy-washy " over it.

Mr GROOM - I believe, further, that if such a tender had been received the Prime Minister would have acted up to his promise, as he always does.. We felt that we were entitled to have Brisbane included as a port of call for our ocean-mail steamers. Under the existing contracts Sydney and Melbourne had had that right conserved to them, but iri the new conditions of - contract particular -prominence was given to the question of cold storage, and all that we contended was that, seeing that those conditions related to cold storage for Australian produce, Queensland, who has to contribute to the cost of the service, was justified in making a demand to participate in its benefits. We did so, and do not ask for any special consideration.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - No contracts have been accepted.

Mr GROOM - I am pointing to the issue which was , raised.

Mr Deakin - I admitted that that was a fresh factor.

Mr GROOM - That is so. At present we do not know whether fresh contracts are to be entered into, but we feel justified in again voicing at this stage the feelings of the people of Queensland. Considerable ex:pansion has recently taken place in the industries of that State. With a view of securing some systematic method of conveying our produce to the markets of the old world, the State Government made a conditional arrangement with the Aberdeen Ship-: ping Company, and the result has been ex:ceedingly gratifying to our producers. With the knowledge that steam-ships, possessing cold storage accommodation, and capable of carrying- our produce to the British markets, will call at certain prescribed times, new industries arise. It is the uncertainty as to vessels of this class being available which to some extent hinders the progress of our industries. Recently as many as 50,000 boxes of butter were exported by Queensland within the course of a few months,, and, as our exports are increasing, we de-; sire that our producers shall have some certainty as to suitable vessels calling at ourports at certain specified times. If Brisbane were a port of call for our mail steamers, that certainty would be assured. It is not the consideration of the mere ' carriage of mails or of passengers to Brisbane - with which we are so much concerned - and the desire that Brisbane shall be the terminal port of call for these vessels - so that the money, at present expended in connexion with them at, Sydney shall be spent in the Queensland capital, that influence us. All that we claim is that, now that Queensland is expanding, that her lands are being opened up and occupied, that large sums of money, are being expended in the erection of cheese and butter factories, and that products which are at present attracting Imperial attention are likely to be cultivated in Queensland, we should surely be entitled to participate in the right which other States enjoy, of having these mail steamers to carry away their produce to the old world markets. It is, I think,- a Federal claim, and I am sure that it will receive just treat-' ment at the hands of this House. Thereis another matter relating to the export of. produce which I regret to see has not been more specifically dealt with in the Governor-General's Speech. In the opening speech a promise is made of certain bounties on agricultural! produce, as a preliminary to the establishment of a Department of Agriculture. With all due deference I feel inclined to take up the position that we should first establish a Department of Agriculture. The producers feel the need of having a properly-organized Department of Agriculture. In the six States we have six Departments of Agriculture, working on their own lines. What we need is a system by which we can federalize the experiences of those six departments. In Queensland an experiment is taking place with respect to one class of produce ; in New South Wales an experiment is taking place with respect to another class of produce ; and so on in South Australia and Tasmania. Recently, in Queensland, our supply of seed wheat ran out, owing to the drought, and we had to import fresh varieties of seed wheat. We need a central Department which could generalize the experience of the States, so that the producers in each State might have the advantage of the experience in any part of the union. In Queensland we should derive a considerable benefit if we could get the experience of South Australia and New South Wales in connexion with a good many varieties of wheat which they have been growing. We feel that there is a need to have a Department of Agriculture which would inform us as to the state of the markets in the various States. Now that we have Inter-State free-trade we have considerable markets within the Commonwealth, and there are large quantities of produce which Queensland could supply to Victoria, and which Victoria could supply to Queensland. The same thing applies to New South Wales, Tasmania, and other States. With a properlyorganized Department, if we had officers in each State who could centralize the information and advise the growers, a great deal of the produce which is being imported could be grown in the Commonwealth, and in this way we could give material assistance to our producers. We need a Department to work in conjunction with a High Commissioner whose duty it would be to assist us in our markets abroad. If we could get a Department to work on the same lines as the American Department of Agriculture, if we had our officers abroad to inform us of the condition of the markets, if we had an officer to whom we could send samples of what we produce, and an officer who could tell us how those samples would take on the English market, we should render material assistance to our producers. In Queensland we have been producing certain classes of barley. A trial shipment of 50 tons is being sent home, and the report which has been received as regards the samples is that in that State we are growing the best barley which is producible in the world. That illustration ought to show that, if we had had our officers abroad, who could act not only on behalf of one State, but on behalf of all the States, a Department of that kind could be doing a very great and useful work for the Commonwealth. There are other kinds of work which the Department could do. It could be disseminating literature ; it could be publishing reports similar to those which are published by the American Department ; it could> publish reports of the different experiments which are made in various parts of the world, with the view of producing a class of produce which' would give higher and better results. Take, for instance, sugar-cane. Experiments are being made abroad, with the view of getting a class of sugar-cane which will give a higher percentage yield than those which exist. If we had similar reports given to us it might be of great advantage to the grower's in our northern sugarfields. Another very important matter which is affecting us in the need of having a Department of Agriculture, with regulations such as have been made in the United States, to deal with various pests. In Queensland we can deal with an- evil as far as our border, and there we are stopped. New South Wales can deal with an evil up to its border, and there the authorities are stopped. At the present time we have a fruit fly which is causing incalculable injury. Suppose that we deal with that pest effectively, it pays no attention to the border, and crosses into New South Wales. In America the States- have just the same powers as our States have, but by a series of executive regulations the States are encouraged to act on those regulations, and so they have a uniform method of dealing with the eradication of various pests. These are the lines on which our Department of Agriculture could work, and work successfully. I notice, with regret, that in the opening speech no reference is made to the establishment of a weather bureau. In Queensland we feel the need of a bureau. I think that most of the shipping people are feeling the need of proper weather forecasts for the whole of Australia. Queensland is subject, perhaps more so ' than any other of the States, to heavy visitations of storms from the sea, from which very serious consequences result. When we had our own weather forecasts done in the State, flood signals were issued right along the coast, and shipping people were able to act upon them. It is to be deeply regretted that this matter has not been further advanced. . I notice that some time back in Victoria it was stated that they were holding their bands pending the Commonwealth dealing with this question. I hope that the Government will see if it cannot take some action at the earliest possible date, seeing that it has control of the telegraphs and all the machinery required for the' purpose of the weather bureau. There is another matter which I think ought to be mentioned, and that is the recent action of the Health Department of New South Wales in connexion with a shipment of produce from Brisbane. It appears that in 1900 all the States entered into a compact that they would enforce certain regulations with respect to shipping, in case of plague. In New South Wales the authorities have absolutely set aside this agreement, and enforced new regulations, which have not been agreed to by the States ; and by their operation they have practically prohibited the import into the State of large quantities of Queensland produce. That is causing a great deal of irritation in Queensland, and some talk is made of taking retaliatory measures. I notice that in the opening speech reference is made to the question of Federal quarantine. I hope that it will bo quite possible in the measure for that purpose to make general regulations, so as 10 prevent such treatment as our State is subjected to by New South Wales.

Mr Deakin - That is rather a matter for the Inter-State Commission.

Mr GROOM - The Government are going to deal with quarantine regulations generally as regards shipping. The action of which I complain arises purely out of shipping. New South Wales will not allow any grain or fodder of any description to be imported from Queensland ; while Victoria, Western Australia, and the other States set up no such barrier. Retaliatory measures are being taken in Queensland. It is unfortunate that they. have to be taken, and I sincerely trust that the matter will be amicably arranged, and it could be arranged under a Federal Act. I am heartily in accord with everything the Prime Minister said on the subject of immigration. Some time ago I brought this matter under the notice of the -late Prime Minister, who, I think, handed my letter on to his successor, with a view of seeing if something could not be done to attract additional population to the Commonwealth. It is not, I think, necessary to import a large number of artisans. What we ought to dois to advertise throughout the length and breadth of the United Kingdom the opportunities which Australia offers as a field for immigration and investment. Great prominence is given to the position of Canadian immigration. Queenslanders have gone over to Canada with a view of bettering their conditions, and I am very glad to say that they have come back with the opinion that Australia is as good a land in which to establish a home as any they have visited. Their advice to Australians is - "You have a good land; stick to it. There are some hardships to be borne here, but in every land it is the same, and Australia offers as good a field for enterprise as any other country." A great many unkind aspersions have been cast on Australia on account of the attitude which we - have taken up in the Immigration Restriction Act. Iri passing that measure we simply recognized that law of self-preservation which, every organized community recognises. We merely said - " We shall exercisethe right of admitting to the Commonwealth only such citizens ' as we feel will -add to the strength and welfare of the community as a whole." We are told that we are adopting an extreme attitude; but I will refer honorable members to the recently issued report of a Royal' Commission on Alien Immigration in the United Kingdom, which consisted Of Lord James of Hereford, Lord Rothschild, the Honorable Alfred Lyttleton, Sir Kenelm E. Digby, Major W. E.. Evans Gordon, M.P., Mr. Henry Norman, M.P., and Mr. William Vallance, and which was appointed to inquire into -

1.   The character and extent of the evils which are attributed to the unrestricted immigration of aliens, especially in the metropolis.

2.   The measures which have been adopted for the restriction and control of alien immigration in foreign countries and in British colonies.

If honorable members will turn to part 2 of the report they will find a very interesting summary of the whole position, in which the Commissioners show that various nations exercise that right which every nation possesses, of excluding from its midst those immigrants whose presence would be a source of weakness. International .law, the report says, recognises the right of any nation to expel foreigners, and it would seem, unless the action is in contravention of a treaty, that no nation can complain of having its subjects returned to it by a foreign Government. The Commission proposed that there should be formed for the United Kingdom an Immigration Department, with officers whose duty it would be to inspect immigrants, to make such inquiries as might be possible from the immigrants on their arrival as to character, condition, and so forth, and to act on the information which they would receive in that way. In their recommendations they suggest that -

Any alien immigrant who, within two years of his arrival, is ascertained or is reasonably supposed to bc - a criminal, a prostitute, a person living on the proceeds of prostitution, a notoriously bad character, or, shall become a charge upon public funds, except from ill-health, or shall have no visible or probable means of support, may be ordered by a Courtof summary jurisdiction to leave this country, and the owner of the vessel on which the immigrant' was brought to this country may be ordered to re-convey him to the port of embarkation.

The report deals with the question of overcrowding, arid of how aliens oughtnot to be allowed to live in certain areas, suggests that inquiries should be instituted as to the way in which they live in those areas, and discuss very fully the way in which these people should be treated. Unfortunately Australians have proved to be our worst enemies. In the old country they have talked about our exclusive spirit, and yet we find that in the United Kingdom a Royal Commission recognises the evils which result from an unrestricted flow of an undesirable class of immigrants.

Mr.Crouch. - The Balfour Government have promised to bring in an Alien Restriction Bill.

Mr GROOM - That may be so. It will be clearly seen that in Australia we are not exercising a power which is unusual amongst civilized communities. We are merely exercising that power which is exercised for the preservation of the purity of national life. The opening speech deals with other matters of importance, to which I should like to refer, but I shall not delay honorable members any longer titan to express the hope that the Government will be able to carry out even a few of the leading measures which they have foreshadowed. We are told that there is nothing in their programme ; that it is lacking in positive sub-; jects. I hope that the Parliament will be able to see that there is something in the programme, and something which will lead to the welfare of the Commonwealth as a whole..

Debate (on motion by Sir John Forrest) adjourned.

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