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Friday, 18 March 1904


Mr KINGSTON (Adelaide) - I shall have much pleasure' in recording my vote in favour of the motion. I do trust that when we are all desirous of speaking unanimously on this question we shall not split upon little matters in regard to the form of the motion.


Mr Brown - The Parliament can only speak unanimously by adopting the motion moved by the honorable member for Bland, because a motion in that form has been adopted by the Senate.


Mr KINGSTON - That is so. I believe the other branch of the Legislature has already accepted unanimously a motion in the terms of that proposed by the honorable member for Bland. Although I do not mind confessing that I have some little sympathy with the suggestion to make it a little stronger, I am of opinion that unanimity should not be sacrificed for the minor consideration of mere form. Setting an example in sinking my own views as to the matter of form, I trust that every honorable member will do likewise, knowing that an unanimous expression of opinion on the subject, without any division as to form, is bound to carry much greater weight than if we were to dissipate our forces and minimise our influence by dividing upon a question of the strength of verbal expression. I venture to think that the subject now engaging our attention is one of the utmost importance It has been engaging considerable attention elsewhere, and by to-day's cables we see that the action of the Imperial Government in this connexion is likely to form the subject of a no-confidence debate at the instance of the leader of the Opposition in the House of Commons. If we do feel strongly upon this subject as a people, we ought not to exhibit any chariness in expressing our views. There is hardly a motion to which I ever gave my adherence with greater pleasure than that upon which I hope to be able to record my vote to-day. I should like here to say that I congratulate the Government upon the action they have taken in the matter. It has been said that they should be blamed for not getting in before the Premier of New Zealand, Mr. Seddon. All I can say is that, as regards matters of Australasian concern, I hope there will be no paltry rivalry between the States. I venture to say tha't Mr. Seddon commands the entire respect of the Australasian democracy, and to follow him is nothing to be ashamed of. He is a leader behind whom any Australian democrat might be proud, indeed, to march. We know that of late years in Australasian history he has time and again led the van, and in a way which we all have reason to be proud of. I say all honour to him for the work he has accomplished, and in which he has taken the lead.


Mr Conroy - He has often gone backwards, and called it progress.


Mr KINGSTON - I do not think anything of the sort. I say that the career of Mr. Seddon is a glorious one in the records of Australasian democracy, and I again say all honor to him. It is a happy day when we find both the Government of the Commonwealth and the Government of New Zealand co-operating in the way in which they are now doing upon a subject which demands the best attention of the Australasian democracy. We are all familiar with the history of the South African war, and the part which New Zealand and Australia were permitted to take in it. We did what we could, and we did what we should have done. We took part in that war for the honour and glory of the old country, and on the suggestion that it was necessary for the further liberty and enfranchisement of white men in South Africa. We never for a moment dreamt that the result of any hostilities to which we might become parties would be, not the enfranchisement of white men, but their further degradation.


Mr Thomas - " My country, right or wrong." According to that doctrine, we ought to have fought in any case, England having declared war.


Mr KINGSTON - I hold that view. May my country ever be in the right; but my country, right or wrong ! Under circumstances such as those at the commencement of that war, for us to have adopted any other course would have been a. meanness of which no Australian could be capable.


Mr Thomas - Even if we had known that the authorities were going to import Chinamen ?


Mr KINGSTON - If we had known that the result of the war was to be, not the enfranchisement of the white Uitlander - it might be, of the Australian-born residing in South Africa - but his further deprivation of power, and his practical expulsion from the country, through his being denied an opportunity to earn his daily bread there, I venture to think that there are many who would have rightly held the responsible authorities to a policy for the encouragement of the enterprise of white people, before Australian blood was shed, and Australian treasure spent in upholding the name of the Empire in South Africa. To give a preference to an alien over a British subject, to substitute Chinamen for white British workers, and to deny the latter opportunities for employment, is inimical to the best interests of the Empire. Something has been said about this being an Imperial question, and it being necessary, therefore, that we should be careful about expressing our views upon it. If it be an Imperial question, let us treat it as such. As an Imperial question, every part of the Empire is concerned in it, and Australia has a right to speak, and to continue to speak as she has commenced, in protest against this indignity to her people, for the benefit of capitalists who care nought except for the profit that they may make out of their enterprises, and of Chinese whose views are foreign to our hopes of British supremacy, and of British honour and glory. We are familiar with the history of the South African war. I recollect the first telegram that was- sent from Australia when, provoked by a message from a foreign potentate to Kruger on the failure of the Jameson raid, expression was given, through the usual channel, to the Australian hope that Great Britain would do whatever was necessary to maintain her honour and dignity, and to the promise that she could rely with confidence upon Australian sympathy and support. I think that that telegram was properly sent, and that our action afterwards followed consistently. Australia has no reason to be ashamed of her part and concern in the hostilities which took place, but she has deep and grievous cause to be disappointed at the Imperial reception of proposals which can have but one effect. To prefer, for the sake of private greed, Chinese aliens to white British subjects meansthe loss of the realization of the hopes rightly entertained by the members of the Empire, that those who assisted the mother country, the people of Australia among them, would not be given practically the option to starve in South Africa, or hopeless of work, to leave the place where they should receive preferential consideration. In this country in respect to which Britain has so benevolently expressed herself, even the wages paid to the aboriginal blacks, which are little enough - £4 per month - are to be reduced, and their labour displaced by that of Chinese aliens brought in to take the bread out of their mouths, while people of our own race, seeking for work, are starving in the various ports. Opportunity for employment is being taken from our own people and given to others, who have no claim upon the British Government as members of the Empire: it is being taken from British subjects and given to Chinamen, who own no allegiance to the Grown. What is undoubtedly the proper course in connexion with the South African question? As a guarantee for the- future peace of the land, settle it with loyal British subjects, with people to whom the Empire can look for support and defence in time of stress and trouble. Do you tell me that in such a state of things the Chinaman - introduced under circumstances which make him a slave or a serf in the land, since he is tied down to the confines of a certain block, to work there for a certain time, and restricted from going beyond a distance of, I think, a mile, afterwards to be sent home again - guarantees a loyal resident population ready to support the British flag should the occasion again arise? Nothing of the sort. It seems to me that the thing is intolerable. I feel that, if this attempt, to introduce Chinese is persisted in to a successful consummation, there will be a residue of bitterness in the minds of those who know and reflect upon the circumstances.. They will come to the conclusion that, however much Britain appreciates the assistance of her sons in time of need, she forgets in the piping times of peace the preference due to those who help her, as Australians have helped her in South Africa, and turns to Chinese aliens, who have no claim upon her, to . men who will never give her loyal allegiance, and are incapable of rendering that assistance which she has received in the past from her sons, and will obtain again in time of need. It is difficult to ascertain the precise particulars of the position, but I have had placed in my hands extracts from articles appearing in the Launceston Examiner of the 5th March, and the West Australian of the 19th February. I acknowledge the kindness of the Government in this matter. In those articles we have particulars from Australians who have been to South Africa, who tell us shortly what the trouble is. It is undoubtedly that, whereas the blacks were getting the magnificent wage of £4 a month, there has been an attempt to reduce it ; and as they are not prepared to submit to a reduction, the old dodge of bringing in Chinese is being resorted to. We have a right to speak plainly upon the subject of Chinese labour. Have we not tried it? Has not every State had more or less experience of it? What is the result? The very worst. The standard of civilization introduced has been altogether too low for Australian sentiment, and the Chinese have been legislated against by every State, while further legislation against, them has been passed without any real dissent by the Commonwealth Parliament. . I do not hesitate to say that the established policy of the . Australian Commonwealth is, . as was the .established policy of every

Australian State before Federation, the exclusion of the Chinese and other undesirable races. I will quote now from the West Australian qf the 19th February -

Referring to the great labour trouble, the proposed importation of Chinese, Mr. Petersen said it had aroused intense and determined opposition amongst the masses. The position, he said, is this : - "Very few of the mines have resumed operations since the war, and those which have started are working short-handed. In the past the owners have employed hordes of blacks, who were paid £n per month each, and were housed in compounds and supplied with rations, that is, mealies. The employers wished to cut down the monthly wage, but the independent blacks objected."

We know that the desire to procure labour as cheaply as possible frequently results in attempted reductions of wages, and here we have the cause of the trouble in South Africa. Mr. Petersen continues -

As a matter of fact, there is little necessity for them to work, for in their villages they can grow sufficient maize to keep them supplied with food. Finding that their proposed economy was not well .received, the owners asserted that they could not secure sufficient black labour to keep the mines going, and so the importation of Chinese was mooted. The scheme drawn up provided for the importation of an initial batch of 10,000 Chinamen to be housed in compounds further than a mile from which they were -not to stray. The wage to be paid was 17s. 6d. per month, and at the end of the contract they were to be re-shipped home.

Now think of it, 17 s. 6d. a month - ^46 1 os. per annum.


Mr Cameron - Are the men supplied with food as well?


Mr KINGSTON - Yes.


Mr Cameron - Then what is the difference between their case and that of the English sailor, who receives practically the same wage?


Mr KINGSTON - Does the honorable member contend that there should be an uniform wage of 17s. 6d. per month?


Mr Cameron - I am merely asking what is the difference between the wages proposed and those now paid to British seamen ?


Mr KINGSTON - The rates paid to British seamen differ a great deal. In some cases the wages are very low, whilst in others, on Australian ships, for instance-


Mr Cameron - I am not speaking of Australian ships, but of those which sail from the ports of the United Kingdom. The right honorable and learned gentleman is ridiculing ^4 a month as a wage, whilst, as a matter of fact, English sailors receive only about that rate of pay.


Mr KINGSTON - Then they ought to get more.


Mr Cameron - That is only the right honorable gentleman's opinion.


Mr KINGSTON - I can only express my opinion. I hope that I do not attempt to express other people's opinions.


Mr Watson - The wages paid to the natives in the gold mines in the Transvaal are 42s., and not £4 per month. I have the authority of the Johannesburg Chamber of Mines for that.


Mr KINGSTON - Mr. Petersen'sstatement continues as follows : -

The publication of the scheme gave birth immediately to the bitterest, well-deserved opposition. The labour organizations fought it tooth and nail ; the huge masses of unemployed asked where they came in, and were told that the mines could only be run with cheaper labour than they could supply, and the affrighted public was up in arms. The three Johannesburg papers were unanimous in. condemning it, and joined in asserting that once the Chinamen came into the country they would never be repatriated, but would eventually overrun . the other industries. The press opposition ended suddenly, however, and after three editors had resigned rather than change their convictions on the subject, the erstwhile newspaper opponents of the scheme became its warmest supporters. At about the same time Mr. Creswell, the manager of the Village Main Reef Gold Mining Company, spoke out in opposition to the importation of Chinese. He informed the Native Labour Commission that the mine-owners were opposed to the employment of white labour for political reasons, and wrote home to the Board of Directors for permission to make a trial of white labour for surface work. He received a reply from the Chairman of Directors, and, on giving it to the labour organization for publication, he was dismissed. The letter was published in pamphlet form, and the following is taken from it : - " I (the Chairman of Directors) have consulted the Consolidated Gold-fields people, and one of the members of the Board of the Village Main Reef has consulted Mesrs. Wernher, Beit, and Co., and the feeling seems to be one of fear that if a large number of white men are employed on the Rand, the same troubles will arise as are now prevalent in the Australian Colonies, i.e., that the combination of the labouring classes will become so strong as to be able to more or less dictate, not only on questions of wages, but also on political questions, by the power of their votes when a representative government is established." This, continued Mr. Petersen, seems to explain the whole difficulty, with, of course, the fact that' Chinese labour is so much cheaper than white labour. The capitalists are afraid of the men eventually forming unions and organizing to protect themselves. It certainly explains the enmity shown towards Australians. Since landing, I have gathered that the general opinion here is that Australians are condemned on account of their excesses in the South African war. That is not correct. Of course the Australians were guilty of excesses -

I think that remains to be proved- but so were the other troops. The Dutch people I came in contact with expressed admiration for the sterling qualities of the average Australian - his bushmanship, bravery^ and hardihood. I have often heard it said that Australians generally would not be condemned for the larrikinism of individuals, and if there was any resentment harbored, it would be shown as much towards Canadians and Englishmen as Australians. The cause of the difficulty is that Australians, after settling down, would seek to assert their civil rights, and, as they have a name for being agitators and considerable dabblers in politics, the employers fear them and the power they would wield. Unfortunately, there is every prospect of the intentions of the mineowners being carried out. With a population of Chinese workers, the outlook of South' Africa seems very dark indeedSimilar impressions which were made upon a Tasmanian, Mr. Harry Goodluck, who recently returned from a visit to South Africa, are recorded in the Launceston Examiner of 5th March last. It seems to me that the position is this. Weare debating an Imperial question, in which we are interested as members of the Empire. Further, by the part we took in the South African war, we showed that we considered that the matter was one of Imperial concern. To-day we hear little or nothing of that which was talked of so much at the time' of the commencement of the war, namely,' the enfranchisement of the Uitlanders.I But this petition, is presented for our consideration. Numbers of Australians and numbers of other British subjects are in South Africa, desirous to obtain work and unable to find it. How is this? An attempt is being made to supply what is declared to be the want of the mine-owners in respect to labour. To whom is the opportunity to be given? Can it be credited that the proposals sought to be enforced are these? No work for the Australian or other Britisher. He has little chance now ; but his case is to be aggravated, and he is to be denied the opportunity to obtain work at a fair wage, in order to make way, not for British subjects, but for aliens- who have proved themselves to be undesirable residents in a country such as this, whose' customs generally are not likely to lead to the permanent development of British resources or to the security of British 'supremacy - men who own no allegiance to the British Crown, and who are neither by nature nor disposi-.tion able or willing to render it adequate support in time of need. I say that it will be a calamity if such a purpose is effected. Disappointment and bitterness are aroused in many ways, and most of all by ingratitude. Are we to permit Australian services - to be rendered again as freely, I 'hope, in time of need- to be .forgotten? Shall we sit silent here and make no protest? I thank the Government for what they have done, and I am glad, indeed, to find that we are fortunate enough in this matter to have the co-operation of the great Colony of New Zealand. I am glad that the motion has been moved, because I think that we should tender the Government our hearty approval of their every word and action. I hope that to-day will not pass before the agreement of both Houses of the Commonwealth Parliament on this subject has been completed and flashed to the four corners of the earth, so that there can be no room for doubt about Australian sentiment. There may be a dispute about the matter of form, but not as to our sentiment. Our hearts are warm, and the only constitutional way that is open to us is to give expression by the passing of this resolution to the sentiments which .animate us, and which come from the bottom of our hearts. So may the world learn that Australia speaks with no two voices on this subject, but with one outburst of approval of the action of the Government.







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