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Friday, 18 March 1904


Mr SPENCE (Darling) - I am rather surprised that there should be any opposition offered to this motion. I had hoped that there would be a unanimous House. But there seems to be some alarm lest Great Britain should take umbrage because we express our honest opinion in regard to the introduction of Chinese to the Transvaal. We have heard a great deal about our right to say anything whatever. I am one of those who have hitherto been proud of belonging to the British race. I want to be in the position of continuing to be proud of it. I recognise, as we all must do, if we are thoughtful students of the social system, the many evils that exist, not only in the United Kingdom herself, but in the various' States of the British Empire, which are constantly agitating for the reform of abuses. Yet, comparing the British people with the people of other countries and races, we find a reason for being proud of the British Empire. But, according to the honorable and learned member for Werriwa, I am to be denied the right, as a unit in that Empire, to express my opinion about proceedings in a part of the Empire for which we have fought. We claim the right, as a self-governing community, to speak to the mother country upon a question of this kind. There is no sense in our connexion with the Empire if we are to be denied that right. I cannot believe that the British Government will be so " touchy " as to quibble and quarrel about the wording of our resolution. They will have regard to the spirit in which it is passed, and will understand what it means. I venture to say that half-a-dozen different honorable " members, sitting down in half-a-dozen different rooms to frame a resolution of this kind, would express the same idea in different terms. It is a waste of time to - discuss amendments when we desire unanimity. As the other Chamber has passed a resolution similarly worded to the one we are discussing, that is a strong reason for its passing here. We want, if we can, to prevent a mistake being made, arid a degradation taking place, which would result in a lowering of the credit of the race of which we are proud. The fact seems to have been overlooked that of all the nations in the world the British nation has been the most meddlesome - that our readiness to interfere in every part of the world has become, so to speak, our special characteristic. And I see no reason why the British nation should not interfere, when it is actuated by a creditable feeling of indignation at injustice, whether it occur in Armenia or elsewhere? There is no people who possess to a greater degree the capacity for self-government, and it is public spirit which stimulates the indignation of the British race against all injustice, even though we may be told that it is not our business to interfere. We should not have advanced in civilization if that had not been the characteristic policy of the British people, It is the impulse to denounce wrong which leads to the evolution of civilization. I know that honorable members have greatlyadmired the eloquent address of the Prime Minister ; but they seem to have overlooked the reasoning with which the honorable gentleman began when he showed that a change is coming over public opinion in regard to the interference by one portion of the Empire in the affairs of another portion. How otherwise can we hope to have a united Empire? Are we to show resentment if other States pass resolutions in regard to Commonwealth legislation which concerns them? It is denied that this question of Chinese labour in South Africa concerns us'; but it is a narrow conservative idea which leaves a threatened evil alone until it becomes overwhelming. I have a high admiration of the outspokenness of the honorable and learned member for Werriwa, and I can quite imagine that had he been at Lambing Flat or at Clunes - I was near the latter - when recourse was had to force in order to prevent the employment of Chinese in the gold-mines, he would have taken a different view from that which he has to-day placed before us. The town was barricaded, the Mayor led the way, and there was a riot in an attempt to carry out the demands of the white miners. According to the honorable and learned member he would have stood aloof, regarding the whole affair as no business of his; but I am afraid that had he been there, he would have been after those Chinese, and had as many pig-tails as did some of the miners. The evolution 2 b 2 spoken of by the Prime Minster is binding the various parts of the Empire closer together, and there should be no readiness to take offence because of an opinion expressed in the way proposed by the honorable member for Bland. In these days of rapid communication, every occurrence in the world concerns us, and that applies with greater force to events within the Empire. The family which co-operates succeeds best, and it is good to see brother at liberty to speak to brother or to parent, and suggest that a proposal made is not to the common good. That is the view I take of the Empire, which ought to be regarded as a united family. One justification for the motion has not yet been laid before honorable members, namely, the necessity to put ourselves right in the eyes of the people of the old country. In the London Times of the 16th January the following paragraph appeared : -

Mr. Seddon'sprotest against the introduction of Chinese labour into the Transvaal is finding no support with the Australian press or public.

There is a foot-note to this paragraph, referring us to page 7 of the same issue, on which there appears a telegram from the Melbourne correspondent of the Times, who, if I am not mistaken, is to be found in the Argus office. The proprietors of the Times have found, however, that their present correspondent is unreliable, and have sent out a special reporter to obtain information. The cable message to which we are referred is dated 15th January, and is as follows : -

Mr. Seddon'sprotest against the introduction of yellow labour into the Rand is meeting with no support from the Australian press or public. Although Mr. Deakin's reply it not yet known, there is reason to believe that he in no way encourages interference with the outside world.


Mr Deakin - There never was any authority or justification for such a statement as1 regards myself..


Mr SPENCE - The new correspondent of the Times is in Australia now, so that we may expect correct information to be sent Home. That cable of itself justifies this Parliament in expressing an opinion. Having passed an Address in Reply, containing a paragraph which is being used in Great Britain for party purposes, there should be no hesitation in expressing our views on a matter of such vital interest and importance. . I should like honorable members to hear an opinion expressed by the Church Times, a high Anglican weekly paper published in London, by people who are, so to speak, outsiders, and may be deemed to be impartial. This is not a labour organ expressing any radical or extreme views, but the following appeared in its columns : -

It would seem that the question of importing coloured labour into South Africa is reaching an acute stage. A correspondent of the Westminster Gazette, speaks of large numbers of white labourers as ready to resist the landing of Chinese, " if necessary, by force," and adds that civil tumult is in any case likely to arise. To avoid this it is said that, if and when the Chinese are imported, they will be landed at Delagon Bay, and quietly drafted into the Transvaal through Portuguese territory. If the movement is to be defeated, it must be through the formation of a healthy public opinion. The question for each man to ask himself is, whether the ideal for South Africa is a country in which the labouring class should be free citizens, or one in which slavery is established. Apart from the religious aspect of the matter, important as that is, it ought to be possible to appeal to the colonists of South Africa on the grounds of civilization. To re-establish slavery at this time of the day is hopelessly retrograde and benighted, and those who are now in favour of this abominable proposal would find that they had brought back other, evils with a caste-system of servile labour. We hope that it will be resisted, "by force, if necessary." If Chinese labour can only be kept out vi etarmis, a civil tumult would be a small price at which to purchase a future gain.


Mr Deakin - Bishop Gore, of Worcester, whom I quoted, is connected with that branch of the Church.


Mr SPENCE - And also the Bishop of Bloemfontein. Had I expressed an opinion anything like so strong it would have been said to be characteristic of the Labour Party. Fancy this Church paper talking about resorting to force ! The casting of the Chinese out of Australia was commenced by civil tumult, so that there may be some justification for speaking of resorting to force, just as war, rightly or wrongly, is sometimes sought to be justified as neces- sary. The extract I have read shows that people in high and independent positions recognise the great seriousness of the position. The case has been very clearly put by Mr. John Morley, who is well known as an able man and a great thinker. Mr. Morley, in an address to his constituents, said -

Does it not occur to you what a bitter piece of irony it is that this situation has been brought about by action in which British colonists took a fighting part - British colonists who iri their own countries, in Australia and other colonies, will not allow the Chinaman to set his foot? Does not that strike you as rather ironical, that the result of all their efforts has been to set up a situation in South Africa, that those who helped to set it up would not tolerate for one single moment in their own countries?

That is exactly the position as it seems to us, and I am anxious for the credit of the Empire. Previous to the Boer war, it was stated by many public men, and would have been stated by more, no doubt, but for a desire to stand by the Empire in time of trouble, that the conflict was being brought about in the interest of the South African mine-owners. Subsequent events would seem to clearly prove the soundness of that position. England having secured possession of the Transvaal at a cost of £250,000,000, and about 100,000 lives, is practically handing over the control of the Colony to a band of foreigners. According to the honorable and learned member for Werriwa, we should allow that to be done without saying a word in protest-


Mr Conroy - No; I never believed in the war.


Mr SPENCE - I am afraid the legal training of the honorable and learned member came to his aid when he endeavoured to justify his position. Great Britain, by her action, is practically admitting that she is less able than Oom Paul to govern the Transvaal. Kruger's mining laws were admitted by mining men to be some of the best in the world ; and now it is proposed to hand over the whole of the underground work in connexion with the industry to aliens. I have been connected with mining, and I know that the plea raised for the introduction of Chinese is not new. In a mining country there will always be found ores which will not pay at present cost; and it is in connexion with these mines that there is a demand for cheap labour. The answer to that demand is that such mines ought to be allowed to stand until scientific discovery has found means of treating the ore at a cost which will pay the owners and enable them to give decent wages. Such has been the development of mining in Australia, and it is a healthy development. Having fought for the Transvaal, are we going to hand it over to foreign millionaires, in order to satisfy their greed by allowing them to extract all the gold in a few years? What benefit or sense is there in such a policy? I receive communications from friends in South Africa, who say that the conditions there now are most disgraceful ; and those conditions have been deliberately produced by the mining magnates. The honorable member for

Kooyong will agree with me that, while we have straightforward, honest investors and others in control of mines, we have also " sharks," who care for nothing except what they can grab out of other people's pockets and put into their own. Those are not the men who do most for mining development. It is the bona -fide investor whom we should encourage. I remember that some years ago the late Chief Justice Higinbotham laid down a principle that should be borne in mind. He stated that the reason the Crown grants a lease to a mining company is because they agree to employ labour, and not merely because they agree to pay rent. The British Empire, in taking control of the Transvaal, should see that that country is developed in the best way, and that the best conditions are set up by the Government. It should be the concern of the authorities of the Empire to see that the wealth of that country is not taken out of it as fast as possible, and handed over to a few foreigners. If Chinese are introduced in the manner proposed, it is possible that the companies indenting them may be able to keep them within the compounds so long as their contracts last. But when the contracts expire, many of the Chinese will be lost, and will be allowed to spread all over the country in order that the cost of sending them back to China may be saved to the companies introducing them. That is what has happened elsewhere, and what will be the condition of South Africa should that kind of thing be allowed to take place there? I should have liked if I had had time to quote the remarks made by some very able American writers and speakers during a recent discussion of th: best means of developing the Philippine Islands. I may tell honorable members that those who took part in that discussion instanced Great Britain as the country that should be looked to for a model for the government of semi-civilized and savage countries. A great point was made of the establishment of justice under the British system of colonization, by which the confidence of native populations was secured. The confidence of the native is secured when he realizes that, instead of being under the will of a chief, or of anybody else, he has only to enter a British' Court to secure justice. It was claimed that that is the real reason for the success of the British race in colonizing countries inhabited by such people. That brings me to discuss the position of the coloured labour already in South Africa. The Empire owes a duty to the coloured people in the Transvaal, if the high character of British policy in the government cf uncivilized people is to be maintained. There are nearly five millions of coloured people in South Africa, whose interests must be conserved. I would ask what it is that has been deliberately proposed by the people who are advocating the introduction of Chinese to the Transvaal. I am in a position to quote for honorable members the remarks made by Mr. Albu, the chairman of the General Mining and Finance Co., Limited, in moving the adoption of the annual report of the company on the 15th April last. A report and balance-sheet were submitted to the meeting, and also a lengthy statement from the very able manager of the company's mines, as to the labour available and as to labour cost. I quote from the official report of Mr. Albu's remarks.

Sweep away the men who, with fingers covered with blood and lucre, would clutch hold of the vitals of this fair country, and to satisfy greed and ambition, would seduce everything to their own selfish ends. Cast into the fire those who are craftily trying to weave round South Africa the monopolist's net, who employ every force at hand, political agitation, great wealth, and the press, to forward their aims. Guard against the introduction here of the labour troubles of Australia and New Zealand, and the trust fiend of America.

That is very strong language, indeed, and it is the advice of a man who is, to some extent, outside the ring of mining magnates who are advocating this pernicious policy. A friend of mine was actually present at the meetings which were disturbed by men paid 15s. a day for the express purpose. These people have controlled the press as far as they could. They lowered the wages of coloured men, simply in order that they might have some justification for the cry that they could not get coloured labour; and then they raised the. cry that they must have Chinese labour. These are the means by which they have attempted to create a public opinion in favour of the proposal they make, and I object to the interests of the nation being sacrificed to the greed of the men who are receiving enormous dividends from the Transvaal mines. When the complaint they make is examined, it will be found that they do not say that the supply of coloured labour is insufficient at the present time, but that a greater supply will be required ten years hence. A statement was made to-day by the right honorable member for Adelaide with respect to the wages paid on these mines. The English company to. which I have referred controls nine mines, and employs 3,217 men. They pay a minimum wage of 30s., and a maximum wage of 35s. for thirty days. That is very much less than 'the £4 per month quoted by the right honorable member for Adelaide. They tried piecework, ana made it a condition that it was not to cover more than 50s. per month, counting the whole of the expenditure for wages and keep, for each native labourer. They found that the piecework system was not satisfactory, and then reverted to the old method. There can be no doubt that if they were to pay higher wages they would get a better supply of labour, because before the Labour Commission evidence was given to show that the supply was improving, and was better then than it was immediately after the war. The1 report made as to the requirements of labour states that 140,000 men -are wanted at the present time, but that in ten years there will be work for 300,000. What have we to do with that? There may be many changes on the Rand before that time. The whole thing is a plot, and I say that England requires to clear herself of the suggestion that the Boer war was undertaken for this particular object, and it is our duty to stimulate the British authorities to do so. I desire to quote the letter written to Mr. Creswell, to which reference has already been made. Only a portion of the letter has been quoted, but I shall read the whole of it. It is dated 2nd July, 1902, and is signed by Mr. Percy Tarbut, the chairman of the' London board of directors of the Village Main Reef Gold-mining Company. Mr. Tarbut writes:-

My dear Mr. Creswell, -

With reference to your trial of white labour for surface work at the mines, I was not present at the board meeting, when a letter was written stating that the board did not approve of the suggestion, and on receipt of the last mail, I called another meeting to reconsider the matter, in view of the fact that the local board had already commenced to adopt your suggestion.

I have consulted the Consolidated Gold-fields people, and one of the members of the board of the Village Main Reef has consulted Messrs. 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.

I cannot of course set up my own personal view against that of the authorities I have men- tinned, but at the same time I think if the European population of the Transvaal is going to increase to anything like what Lord Milner, and the other best authorities anticipate, that the . extra number of working men which your scheme would provide, would be merely a " drop in the ocean."

The board finally agreed to the trial being made, and a cable was sent to that effect. I hope you will meet with success.

The point I desire to emphasize is that the great firm of Wernher, Beit, and Co., have used their influence to prevent a trial of white men. in the mines. It is of no use for them to say that white men cannot do the work, or will not do it, or that they cannotbe got, because they have all through deliberately carried out a plot to prevent the employment of white men. This is well known in the Transvaal. My friends in that Colony tell me that if a man is known to be an Australian he cannot get work, and that Australians have been discharged from the mines. What nonsense it is for them to say that they cannot work their mines, and cannot get sufficient labour when those who now appear to control the whole of the Transvaal, as well as the mines and mining properties, adopt such a plan as I have described? Mr. Chamberlain might, I think, with some credit to himself, take some hand in denouncing the proposal to introduce Chinese to the Transvaal. He had some hand in bringing about the Boer war, and I am sorry that his great influence is not thrown into the scale to prevent the threatened disaster to the Rand, and the destruction of the whole future of that field. I have no desire to repeat what has been said already as to the necessity of peopling the Transvaal with men and women of the British race. I agree with- the acting leader of the Opposition that unless that is done we cannot hold . the Transvaal, and the old trouble is likely to arise there again. I . desire that the British people shall' maintain the high position they hold amongst the nations of the world; but I should like to know what is going to follow if Chinese are introduced to the Transvaal, and Great Britain should again need our help in any difficulty. Seeing that strong views are held in Australia in regard to this matter, the Imperial authorities would, I think, be wise to give them some . consideration, as under certain conditions it is possible there would be no contingents sent to aid Great Britain from Australia should trouble arise; in the future. The Australian people are: very democratic, and while we know there was a divided opinion in connexion with the Boer war, the feeling of loyalty to the Empire overcame every other feeling. But I say that Great Britain, much as I admire her, cannot afford to ignore the views which find expression here, in connexion with what is now proposed in South Africa. Great Britain has achieved great things, but she has also made many diplomatic mistakes, and a mistake, which it will be very difficult to condone, will be made if any action is taken which is calculated to drive white men out of the Transvaal. I am anxious to save the Empire from the consequences of any mistake of that kind. I have a right, as an individual, to say so, and this Parliament, as representing, an important part of the Empire, has a right to say so. We need not have any fear about laying down' precedents for the future. Government,, by precedent, is a Chinese proposition. In China, the oldest "men in the family govern, as they have there the patriarchal system, and where is that nation amongst the nations of the world? The Chinese have been an educated people for thousands of years, and yet have been standing still. They have been governed by the old conservative view that it is not. wise to make. any change. I do not believe in the Chinese, or in Chinese politics. I say that it is only by making new departures, and, at times, daring departures, that we can make any progress at all. When reference is made to precedent, the honorable and learned member for Werriwa, as a barrister, must know that "circumstances alter cases." I think that we are able to take care of ourselves. The one great mistake of. coercive interference which England has made in her history was that in connexion with America, and that has been enough for her. With wider experience and knowledge she will be prepared to assist in the development of her Colonies, and, I have no fear, that an occasion for interference upon these grounds' will ever again arise. I hope that the House will carry the motion unanimously and that honorable members will not quibble about the wording of it.







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