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Friday, 18 March 1904

Mr JOHNSON (Lang) - Whilst agreeing in the main with the sentiment underlying the motion, I am one of those who do not altogether approve of its wording. It seems to me that it would be wise for us to avoid even the appearance of any desire to interfere with Imperial' questions, that is, with a view to dictate Imperial policy. The wording of this motion is, perhaps, open to objection on the ground that it may be capable of some such construction. I propose, in all friendliness, to move an amendment which, perhaps, the leader of the Labour Party may see his way clear to accept, as it expresses practically the same thing, but in language which is less mandatory and dictatorial. I move -

That all the words after the word " House/' line i, be omitted with a view to insert in lieu thereof the following words : - "views with extreme regret the proposal to import Chinese labour into the Transvaal, regarding such a step as prejudicial to the best interests of the Colony."

I think that a motion worded somewhat in that form would be less open to objection, and perhaps would commend itself more to the favorable consideration of the Imperial authorities than would the motion in its present form. I am very greatly in accord with the opinions expressed by the honorable member for North Sydney regarding the use of the referendum in the condition of the Transvaal at the present time. Whilst, of course, I should like to see the Colonies in South Africa enjoying the same measure of self-government that we enjoy, I realize that at the present time, and for some considerable time to come, it will not be practicable, because time has to be allowed for all the bitterness of feeling arising out of the recent war to die away. I can clearly see that there are great difficulties in the way of giving the population of South Africa the right of 'self-government for some time to come yet, and this matter is urgent. My amendment does not in any way object to a referendum being taken if it is desired that the will of the people should -be ascertained in that or any other manner. It leaves the question quite open, so that the Imperial Government could take the sense of the white population there, either by a referendum or any other effective constitutional means. But whatever the will of the people might be, it would not alter my opinion as to the undesirability of Chinese being imported into the Transvaal. The amendment leaves that aspect of the matter in no doubt, and simply gives the House an opportunity of recording its opinion as to the undesirability of the course proposed. I am fully in sympathy with the principle underlying the motion, because, from familiarizing myself with the history of South Africa, ' and all the incidents which culminated in the recent war, I know that there has been a great desire on the part of the land monopolists to stretch their clammy digits over the map of South Africa, and with the aid of Australian soldiers, they have succeeded in effectively accomplishing their object. Whilst they were perfectly willing and eager to accept all the aid which Australia could give them in securing to themselves the position which they now occupy, they desire to have all the spoils of victory, and all the opportunities which the spoil spoilation of a country gives, and to exclude those same Australians from any participation in the benefits of the victory which they did so much to achieve.

Mr Fisher - An Australian cannot get a position in South Africa.

Mr JOHNSON - No. They were glad enough to accept all the aid which Australians could give them at that time, and will be glad enough to get all the aid which Australians can give them at any future time when their interests are jeopardized. But they are now raising a wail against the introduction of Australian or white labour into the Transvaal. Whilst we may resent that kind of treatment, we have to be very careful not to place ourselves in a false position. No language could be too strong to express my own feelings. But we have to consider the question in its diplomatic character. We do not wish to gain a reputation for presumption and bumptious interference with Imperial affairs. In a dignified, respectful, and perfectly legitimate way - without giving any cause of offence - we can express our opinion as to the undesirability of the proposed measures as they affect the prestige of the white population in any part of the Empire. I take it that, if our opinion is couched in courteous language, it will receive that consideration to which it is entitled. I would ask the leader of the Labour Party to consider the expediency of accepting my amendment, or some other modification of the terms of his motion.

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