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Tuesday, 22 March 1904

Mr G B EDWARDS (SOUTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Some of the Colonies refused to take part in the agitation, but Victoria ultimately received a reply from the Home Government that the transportation of convicts to Western Australia would be discontinued in two or three years, and that promise was fulfilled. If we desired a constitutional precedent for our present action, I do not think we could find a better one. It must be recollected that Western Australia, although even now far removed, from the eastern States, was really more widely sepearted from us in 1863. It was almost as far ' away as is South Africa in these days of improved steam communication. Whilst I am somewhat surprised that a motion of this kind should have been' brought forward by the Labour Party, who would no doubt most bitterly resent a protest from any other portion of the British Empire upon such a subject, for instance, as the Navigation Bill, I think that it is very much to their credit that they have submitted the motion. It shows that there is some solidarity between the various elements which compose this great Empire, and that we are desirous that other portions of the Empire shall not labour . under disabilities similar to those from which we have had to suffer in times gone by. ' Perhaps it would be better for us to tone down the terms of the motion- by some slight amendment, but some such motion should be carried to-night. I agree with the honorable member for North Sydney that it is rather a pity that some honorable members should have expressed the idea that we have a special right to interfere in this matter because of the assistance we rendered to the mother country in the South African war. I do not think we ought to make too much of that point, because the service we rendered was a mere nothing, from an Empire point of view, and we could not reasonably base any claim upon it. Those, however, who believe in the solidarity of the Empire should at this juncture unite in making a dignified protest against what we conceive to be a great wrong. I do not attach much value to the arguments used by Lord Milner in his despatch to the Secretary of State for the Colonies. Such arguments are always used by British Governors of his class when they are called upon to deal with similar difficulties. He is necessarily surrounded in his Council and elsewhere by mining speculators and investors, whose views would naturally have great weight with him. Although I have had no experience of mining beyond having lost some money in speculations, I venture to say that if the Rand mines were situated at Ballarat we should be very proud to work them with white labour, and, further, that we should derive immense wealth from them. I believe that South Africa would be able to do the same, if it were not for the greedy haste which is now being manifested to rip up the earth and produce wealth in the shortest possible space of time for the benefit of a few capitalists. These men have too long exercised a dominating influence over the affairs of South Africa, and it is not in the interests of the Empire that their present ephemeral views should be allowed to shape the destinies of that great portion of the Empire. I hope that the Imperial authorities will see fit to nullify the Ordinance relating to the admission of Chinese into the Transvaal, and that they will devise some better means of developing South Africa than that of introducing Asiatic labour. I believe that the future of - that portion of the Empire depends upon the introduction of a large British population, which will, like a sponge, ultimately absorb the Dutch element. Unless this is done, we shall have a kind of Irish question in South Africa for centuries to come.

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