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Tuesday, 22 March 1904

Mr BROWN (Canobolas) - As was remarked by the honorable and learned member for Corinella, there has been a great deal of quibbling over the verbiage of this motion. But whilst that is so, no honorable member has supported the policy to which the motion objects, namely, the introduction of Chinese labour to- South Africa. If I understood the remarks of the honorable member for. Wilmot aright, he objects, not to the introduction of Chinese to South Africa, but to the interference of Australia in a question which he considers is altogether outside our jurisdiction.

Mr Kelly - Does not the honorable member see that, as worded, the motion will constitute a very dangerous precedent?

Mr BROWN - No. If I did, probably I should vote with the honorable member. I feel that in passing this motion we shall be merely doing justice to ourselves, and to our relations to South Africa at the present time.

Mr Kelly - The Secretary of State for the Colonies recognises the title of the selfgoverning States to explain their opinions, but not to express their objections.

Mr BROWN - We give expression to our opinions by objecting to the introduction of Chinese into the Transvaal. We are not attempting to dictate to the Home Government in. any way whatever. We do not ask them to veto the proposed introduction of the Chinese. It is for them to consider whether or not our objections shall weigh with them. Some honorable members are anxious to whittle down this motion to such an extent that it will carry no weight whatever. If it is to have any weight, it must be framed in language which will indicate our strong opinion on the matter. I desire the Home Government to understand that, whilst we do not desire to dictate to them as to the policy which they shall pursue, we object to the introduction of Chinese to South Africa, in the best interests of the Empire itself. It has been urged by the honorable member for Wilmot and several other honorable members, that we propose to deal with a matter which is altogether beyond our scope of action. They contend that we should, so to speak, institute a sort of Monroe doctrine, and abstainfrom interfering in matters that do not concern us. I hold that we should not unnecessarily interfere with questions that do not particularly concern us; but the limitation does not apply to the matter now before us. We have helped to deprive, at least, the Dutch portion of the white population of South Africa of the rights of selfgovernment.

Mr Kelly - Has the Commonwealth, as a Commonwealth, contributed one penny to the cost of the war ?

Mr BROWN --The people of Australia have, and the Parliament of the Commonwealth is now voicing their wishes. By our failure to observe the policy of the Monroe doctrine we have assisted to deprive a considerable proportion of the white people of South Africa of the means to express their wish with respect to the proposed introduction of Chinese to the Transvaal. A non-representative form of government has been established for the time being in the Transvaal and Orange River Colonies, and it is that Government which proposes the innovation. In this motion we express our opinion that the contemplated action will not tend to the stability of the Empire. We urge, further, that if the Government consider it necessary to take this step, the white population of the Colonies in question should at least have an opportunity to give expression to their wishes on the subject. If by means of a referendum they declare that in their opinion the innovation will be conducive to the welfare of those Colonies, we shall offer no further objection. We believe that the people themselves should have the right of self-government, and if they decide in favour of the introduction of Chinese to the Transvaal, we shall not attempt to take further action, although we may disagree with their decision. We shall concede to them the right of selfgovernment which we claim for ourselves. I have no desire to review the unfortunate incidents which lee? up to the war in South Africa; but if it had been understood at the outset that British and Australian money and blood were to be expended in that war fbr the mere purpose of securing for a few absentee millionaires an opportunity to tear out the natural wealth of the country at a cost less than that which would be involved by the employment of even native labour, I feel satisfied that the people of Australia would not have entered into the struggle with the same determination and zeal that characterized their efforts. We felt that we were fighting for other interests, and that fact should have some weight with the British Government, and lead them to veto the proposed introduction of Chinese labour at all events until the wishes of the people directly concerned have been ascertained. Australia is under some obligation to the people of the Transvaal. We helped to take away from the Boers their national independence. We helped to deprive them of the right of self-government, and therefore we should endeavour, if possible, to prevent the deep injury which it is now proposed to inflict upon them. If we occupied the position of the Boers, and, instead of having to deal with a just and fair-minded people, such as we consider Britishers to be, were called upon to deal with some great foreign power - Germany, for example - what action should we take? If Germany had acquired Australia, and, whilst proposing to assimilate our race with her own, introduced large hordes of inferior Asiatic races to exploit the natural wealth of the country, should we not feel indignant? Natural racial antipathies would be intensified by the proposal to heap upon us an additional injustice. That is the position of the Boers, and, inasmuch as we assisted to deprive them of their independence, it behoves us to protest as strongly and as reasonably as possible against the perpetration of the further injustice now proposed. The people of Australia have never been able to assimilate with the Chinese races, and the people of South Africa are not likely to do so. If that great country is to be part and parcel of the British Empire, and if the racial differences which have been intensified by the late war are to be removed, this proposal should not be carried out. Can it be' suggested that it is a proper way in which to build up a great freedom-loving people? Do we not know, from our experience in Australia, as well as from the experiences of the United States of America, that the Chinese do not help to build up the population and develop the trade, wealth, and stability of a country? When gold-fields are discovered, there comes a large inrush of population, which remains as long as the fields continue to be profitable. But as soon as they become exhausted - and in South Africa as elsewhere that will be only a matter of time - the great bulk of the gold-seekers leave for other parts. Usually, however, a considerable number remain to develop the agricultural and pastoral resources of the country, and in that way help in the work of establishing settled communities. Is it not in that way that England has built up her Colonies? We know that it is, and I contend that the South African Colonies should be built up in the same manner. They can be properly and- permanently settled only by the introduction of white labour to develop their resources. If Chinese are utilized in the production of the mineral wealth of the country, they will disappear as soon as the mines become exhausted. The mine-owners themselves will go even before that stage is reached, and the work of colonization will have to be commenced again.

Mr Poynton - We have a striking example of this in the Northern Territory.

Mr BROWN - Quite so. The South Australian Government attempted to develop the Northern Territory by means of Chinese labour. The effort, however, was unsuccessful, and settlement there is now in the last stages of decay. That must continue to be the position until a white population is secured. The same may be said of South Africa. I believe that in the interests, not alone of the people of South Africa, but of the Empire as a whole, these inferior Asiaticraces should not be introduced. They do not conduce to Empire building. In Australia they have been naught but an obstacle to our progress, and their presence in South Africa will operate in the same way. I believe that those who advocate the importation of this cheap labour into South Africa do not contend that it will tend to permanently settle the country. They require this labour simply to exploit the mineral wealth of the country. They assert that they cannot carry on operations without it, and that the utilization of Chinese labour will afford increased facilities for the employment of white workers. This has not been our experience, and I do not think that these predictions on the part of the advocates of Chinese labour will be verified. If honorable members turn to to-day's issue of the Age. they will find an interesting article, setting forth the yields obtained during last year from the South African mines. Notwithstanding the disorganization caused by the war, and the fact that a great deal of dead work had to be carried out in order to bring the mines up to a workable condition, their returns for the year represented something like .£12,500,000, while the total cost of labour, &c, used in securing that result was about ^£4,500,000. The article shows that the mine-owners, notwithstanding the disadvantages under which the mines were worked, were able to distribute about £3,500,000 by way of dividends, and to carry some ,£4,500,000 to a reserve fund. These figures show that there is a workable margin for the employment of white labour in the mines of South Africa. The cost of production there compares very favorably with the cost of working the Australian mines. I have here an extract from the Sydney Worker of last week, in which a comparison is made between the cost of working a South African gold-mine with black labour, and that of working an Australian mine - the Scottish Gympie. Without going into details, I may say that it shows that the total cost per ton of ore is j£i 6s. 11.14c!. per ton in South Africa, while in Australia the cost is 18s. 2. 5 2d. per ton, because of the fact that the country is more easily worked, inasmuch as the lodes are softer than in Australia. Fifty-three stampers in South Africa are able to put through as many tons as 125 stampers in Australia. That shows a very big difference in favour of the labour conditions in South Africa in that particular respect. Still, the mine-owners in that country say that they are not able to profitably produce this mineral wealth without the use of cheap labour. I have no doubt that if public opinion had permitted of the same interests advancing a like argument in Australia, it would have been just as emphatic here as it is in South Africa. I hope that the motion will be carried, and will reach it intended destination. I listened with great pleasure and satisfaction to the very able address of the Prime Minister. I have no doubt that the motion will be carried by a big majority, if a division is called for by those who wish to alter its wording .but do not attack its principle. I trust that the Prime Minister will take some means of conveying this further substantial backing to the Imperial Government. The action of the Prime Minister of New Zealand was worthy of him, and creditable to that portion of the British Empire. I have every admiration and respect for the right honorable gentleman who has controlled so ably and so long the destinies of New Zealand, and no belittling reference to him can detract from the great reputation which he has won and the important position which he holds in the British community to-day. I trust that the Prime Minister will have the satisfaction of transmitting to the Imperial Government the motion as it now stands on the business-paper, as a substantial backing to the very proper representations which he has already seen fit to make to them.

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