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Friday, 18 March 1904

Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - There was one remark made by the Prime Minister iri discussing this motion with which I heartily agree, and that Was that this should not be treated as a party question. It is an Imperial .question, and I think that the .member's who sit on this side of the Chamber have always shown that they can, when occasion requires, rise to national interests, as distinguished from party issues. I do not intend to deal so lengthily with the subject as the two honorable gentlemen who have preceded me have done. They appear to have stated the case to its fullest argument; necessarily, perhaps, because they recognised that they were speaking to a larger audience than that contained within this Chamber. I, for my part, will confine my remarks to the one leading consideration which has induced me to approve of the step taken by the Prime Minister. It was a keen disappointment to me when the decision was come to that large numbers of Chinese should be introduced into the Transvaal to conduct: the mining industry there. The war in South Africa is over - that unfortunate war,, the one reason for which, I believe, was not so much the questions immediately at issue, but the fact that racial antipathy was so great, and was increasing so rapidly, that nothing but war could terminate the ill-will between the two dominant races there. But that struggle, though over on the battlefield, is not ended. The doggedness of the Dutch, their natural resentment of their defeat, will continue to animate their national spirit, and to keep alive that desire for the possession of South Africa which, rightly or wrongly, has been so strong with them. There is one means of resistance, and only one which can be effectively opposed to that desire - the settlement of British people in South Africa in larger numbers than the Dutch. The opportunity to secure that settlement is, I consider, being missed. We know the attraction to population provided by rich gold-fields. We know the settlement which has' taken place in the western States of America, whither population was first attracted by the golden metal there; and we have seen the settlement in Australia due to the floods of persons of British and other races who were drawn to our shores by the same attraction. Many of those who came here as miners have remained to follow other walks of life. The miner, when his claim has petered out, often looks to the soil for a living, or, as he grows old, turns to the agricultural resources of the land to provide a home for himself and for the sons growing up around him.

Mr Watson - That has been the experience of Australia.'

Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Yes, and of California and other sparsely populated countries to which immigrants have been drawn in the first place by the presence of mineral wealth, and where an agricultural soil capable of maintaining them has been found. Therefore, I was in hope that British settlement in South' Africa would be encouraged by giving every opportunity for white people to enter the mines of that country. I agree with those who say that we should not attempt to exclude the black native population. I would not endeavour to force them to work, though' I would not refuse, them an opportunity to work in the mines. But after the employment of all the native labour available, we know that there is still opportunity .for the employ? ment of many others, and when it comes to the question whether servile aliens or white British settlers shall be imported, I say that, leaving the immediate interests out' of . consideration, and looking to the future greater interests of the Empire, we shoul'd 'endeavour to encourage the settle^ ment of a white British population in South Africa, as that will prove the strongest rampart against the inroads of the Dutch. In time, especially if the hopelessness of rebellion is shown by the fact that the population is becoming more and more British, the racial antipathy which now exists in South Africa will die, and, as in other British possessions, the Dutch there, forgetting the past, and finding that they are treated with justice and equity, will become loyal members of the Empire. The reply to my argument is that it is not possible to profitably employ white labour upon the Rand. I am of opinion that no genuine effort has been made to test that question. So far as it has been tested, the results have been encouraging rather than discouraging. Before the British Government take such a serious step as to sanction the introduction of large numbers of 'coloured aliens, before they lose the opportunity that now presents itself to increase the British population in South Africa, a strong, genuine, and earnest attempt should be made to see if the mining industry there cannot bs conducted by white labour, assisted by the native blacks. Only when it has been proved by absolute experiment that that is impossible should such a proposal as that now made be entertained. I am aware that Lord Milner- pledges his word that for every 10,000 aliens introduced into the Transvaal 10,000 whites will be employed in the course of a few years. But that does not meet the objection. If 10,000 whites were substituted for the 10,000 Chinese, whose introduction is contemplated, 25,000 white!> would find employment. This number would embrace the 10,000 men who would take the place of the aliens, the 10,000, who, according to Lord Milner, would be required in addition to them, and at least another 5,000, who would be engaged in ministering to the greater necessities of a white as compared with a coloured population. That 25,000 might be multiplied according to the figures, as to the need of workers, which are available to us. If 25,000 British settlers were added to the population of the Transvaal they would afford a very great safeguard to the British Empire in South Africa. Grave questions, however, suggest themselves as to the desirability of one State in the Empire endeavouring to interfere with another. Judging from the correspondence, even the Premier of New Zealand, as well as the Prime Minister, had some qualms upon this point. At the time that the correspondence on the subject was entered upon it might very well have been doubted, in the first place,' whether interference was desirable ; and, in the second place,' whether it would have any substantial effect. The question pf desirability is now set at rest by the communication from the Secretary of State for the Colonies to the Premier of New Zealand, in which he says -

I fully recognise the title of all the selfgoverning Colonies to explain their opinion on so important a question, and especially of those who, like New Zealand, rendered memorable services in the South African war.

Thus, from the highest authority, we have a justification of the representations made by the Prime Minister. I quite agree that the proper course was to communicate with the Transvaal Government rather than seek to obtain a veto from the Crown. Our re' presentation has now been made, and without meeting with objection on the part of the British Government. Reference is made, in the despatch of the Secretary of State, to the services rendered by Australia and New Zealand in South Africa. Several honorable members have also dwelt more or less upon our action in that matter, as entitling us to express our opinion with regard to the future of the Transvaal. I do not wish the references to our services in South Africa to be overdone.

Honorable Members. - Hear, hear.

Mr Deakin - There was no allusion to them in the telegram I sent.

Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - No, I observed that, and. I think that the Prime Minister exercised a wise discretion. No doubt honorable members have had experience of that most undesirable individual, the person who has done you a service at some period, who is utterly regardless of the fact that you may have done him twenty services, and who, because of that one service is always presuming upon your good nature.

Honorable Members. - Hear, hear.

Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - We all know him. At election times he is very much in evidence. For any service we may have rendered Great Britain, she has rendered us a score.

Honorable Members. - Hear, hear.

Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - If I did not believe that we were prepared to again do that service - prepared again, if need be, to come to the rescue of the British Government in South Africa - I should say that we had no right to raise our voice upon the question now under discussion. It is because I believe that we are prepared, whenever the Empire stands in danger, or whenever there is a disruption in a portion of it, to recognise our responsibilities and to give "our money and' our men to support the great Empire of which we form a part, that I regard it as legitimate for us to express, not in an objectionable manner, but calmly and respectfully our opinion upon the situation in South Africa, as it is likely to affect the Empire in the future. There is one respect in which .1 do not agree with the action of the Prime Minister. He said that he was prepared to follow any man who took the right course. He was then referring to the Premier of New Zealand. In this House the Prime Minister has shown a similar willingness to follow, and notably in the present case. Either the Prime Minister regarded such a resolution as that now before us as unnecessary or undesirable, or he neglected his duty by not himself appealing to Parliament to indorse the action taken by him during the recess.

Mr Deakin - That has been done. Special reference is made to it in the Governor-General's Speech; that is the Government's way of asking for the indorsement of Parliament.

Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Then, as I say, the Prime Minister must have regarded a resolution as unnecessary or undesirable.

Mr Deakin - One never regards as undesirable a resolution emanating from the other side, approving of one's action ; it is quite a pleasant experience.

Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - If a resolution had been desirable, the Prime Minister should have been the one person in this House to propose it. I am not objecting in any way to the action of the honorable member for Bland in bringing it forward, but I contend that the Prime Minister, having taken this matter in hand - a delicate Imperial matter - should have been to the end, the leader of the House upon the question; and not a mere follower of another honorable member. As to the resolution itself, I must say that I do not like the wording of it. As the Secretary of State says, all we have a right to express is our opinion. We have no right to protest or to object.

Mr Poynton - Why?

Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Because an objection or protest implies the exercise of some real power of interference. I quite agree that we could pass a resolution dealing with the inhabitants of Mars, if there are any; but, I believe that the proper course to adopt in a case of this kind is to express our opinion. That opinion would remain, whether a referendum took place in the Transvaal or not.

Here, however, it is proposed to go beyond a mere objection even. It is proposed to deal with the method of admission, if there is to be an admission, of Chinese into the Transvaal. In the first place, we say in effect that there ought to be a referendum. How would the British Government view a resolution of that kind? The Transvaal is still a Crown Colony. Why? Because it has been recognised that, owing to the feeling of resentment due to the war, and owing to racial differences, the people of that territory cannot at present be intrusted with responsible government. It is felt that the votes of the Dutch element might be influenced, not by national, but by racial considerations, and that there might be a desire, not so much to promote the general welfare and progress of the community, as to harass the Government. The British Government, which has ever shown its willingness to grant responsible government when a people are ready for it, felt that the residents of the Transvaal were not ready, and declined, for a time at any rate, to let them settle questions' of public importance by their own votes. That being so, it seems to me rather extraordinary to suggest that a vote on such an important question should be given by those who, according to the present view of the British Government, should not be allowed to exercise- such a privilege.

Mr Watson - The despatch from the Secretary of State for the Colonies to the Prime Minister states that the desire of the Imperial Government is to consult the wishes of the people of the Transvaal.

Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - There are different ways of ascertaining their wishes. The honorable member for Bland spoke of a petition to which the signatures of the majority of the white population of the Transvaal had been attached.

Mr Watson - Alleged signatures.

Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - The honorable member doubted the genuineness of that document ; but it might be perfectly genuine so far as the Dutch residents in the Transvaal are concerned. It might very well occur to them that the .introduction of British white labour would have the effect of reducing them to the position of a minority.

Mr Watson - The promoters of the petition in the Chamber of Mines at Johannesburg were nearly all foreigners.

Mr McDonald - There were only two English names in the whole lot.

Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - That supports my view. I think that it. is reasonable to assume that the Dutch element might see very good reason for the introduction of aliens rather than white Britishers, who might eventually outweigh their own influence. We know that the settlement of the matter cannot be deferred until the establishment of responsible government. Therefore, I think that another form of resolution, which expressed practically the same view, but which avoided debatable points, would have been infinitely preferable. I do not intend to submit an amendment, but I believe that the whole effect desired could have been secured without raising those objectionable issues, which, to some extent, are raised by this resolution.

Mr Kingston - The honorable member would prefer that the resolution should stop at the word "Transvaal."

Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - No, I think that a resolution expressing the opinion of this House, and intimating that that opinion was based upon the undesirability of the introduction of these aliens into South Africa, in the interests of that country, and of the Empire, would have been quite as effective, and would have removed those grounds for objection which might be raised in connexion with this motion.

Mr Fisher - Is it worth while submitting two different resolutions in the two Houses, when we all mean to convey the same sentiments ?

Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I am aware of that, but I think that the resolution submitted to the other Chamber might have been in a better form. Another remark was made by the Prime Minister in his eloquent peroration last night, to which I desire to allude. He said that the British nation was great because it was British.

Mr Deakin - Because of its Britons. That is the sense in which I used the words. I said that the more Britons there were, the more British would the nation become.

Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I should like to point out to the honorable gentleman that the British nation is not wholly British, is not, indeed, even largely British. There are far more dark-skinned than whiteskinned subjects in the Empire.

Mr Fowler - What part have the darkskinned subjects played in the development of the Empire?

Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - If the honorable member will permit me to finish what I desire to say, he will understand precisely what I mean. I say that the British Empire is great because its rulers, in handling some of the most varied races of the earth, have always recognised that right and justice must govern their intercourse with, and their control of, these people- that the black-skinned, as well as the white-skinned must receive justice. When I have been compelled to object to some of the legislation proposed by the present Government, it has been sometimes because, in my opinion, they were neglecting those canons which have established Great Britain as the great protector of the coloured races of her realm, and their honest ruler. If we depart from those great principles, there is nothing more certain than that we shall lose our hold upon those races, and that, whilst the British nation then might be more British, it would certainly be less great.

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