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Thursday, 23 June 1904

Mr WILKS (Dalley) - In his opening remarks the honorable member for Perth said that he would not address himself to the principal issues of the debate. I have been listening to the debate, and looking for the issues, and I do not think that I should be out of order, sir, if I were to ask you to say what question is before the House. I am just reminded that this is grievance day. I am in the position of a well-known character in the Yeoman of the Guard. I have not the slightest grievance to ventilate. The only anxiety I have is to find out where my . leader is. I have looked through various portions of this building, and from the columns of the press I cannot find where my leader is.

Mr Tudor - He is coming to-night.

Mr WILKS - The sooner he comes the better. I listened to the remarks of the deputy leader, the honorable and learned member for Ballarat, who dealt with the question of the Italians, whom he discussed from a very high stand-point. He told us that the Italian is a devotee to the arts and sciences. The average Italian I meet is not a devotee to the arts and sciences. I do not run against Michael Angelos all round the place. And I do not find a Lombroso at every street corner selling vegetables or flowers. I think that Australia has about as many Italians to the square inch as she can stand.

Mr Hughes - The honorable member does not say that on a hot day when he needs an iced drink.

Mr WILKS - I do not patronize Italians on a hot day.

Mr Hughes - Not to the extent of an ice cream ?

Mr WILKS - No, I never goto extremes ; and as the Labour Party deal with extremes, I cannot support them. The United States of America, with its rigid Alien Restriction Act, excluded last year no less than 85,000 undesirable immigrants, the bulk of them belonging to the Mediterranean races. That Republic has found by experience that, with few exceptions, those who come from the Mediterranean countries do not make the best class of immigrants for its purposes. In civil life, in industrial life, and in social life, the Americans have proved that the people who come from the shores of the Mediterranean Sea are not a desirable class to populate their country with. In Australia the Italian, however desirable he may be to his wife and- family, occupies many avenues of employment that our own race could well occupy. In our large cities the restaurants have practically been captured by the Italian or the Dago. . The fish shops, as well as the fruit shops, have all been captured by the Italian. . And they ply the fishing avocation to the exclusion of British and Australian fishermen. Even in the gay city of the south, Melbourne, the municipal authorities experience great difficulty in coping with the major portion of the flower and fruit sellers - those of the Dago and Italian class. The shopkeepers of Swanstonstreet complain that while they pay high rates and taxes the Italians out-sell them. In fact, the only devotee to the Muses has, by some municipal law, been excluded from our land. I remember the time when a musical artiste did parade the streets of our large cities and, with that culture which the honorable and learned member for Ballarat appreciates so much, worked his musical instrument on what I can only describe as the mangle principle. He adorned his musical instrument of great power with what is called by scientists the missing link. On many occasions the missing link was to be seen adorning the top story of these instruments, coupled by a chain of circumstances, sir, that I do not care to relate to you now. . That is the Italian as we used to find him here. The practical people of America find it to their advantage to discourage any great inroad of this class of immigrant. No doubt we want population, and one of the great obstacles to that end is the large fares and freights between the old world and Australia. The agricultural labourer of Great Britain does not carry ,£600 in his pocket at a time, nor does he spend ,£20 on a passage to Australia, when he can travel to Canada or the United States for £2 or ^3. No doubt the liberal land laws and the avenues of employment which are promised in Canada and the United States have a powerful effect ; but it is their proximity to Europe and the low fares which form the strongest inducement. The honorable member for Lang, and two or three other honorable members, have introduced the fiscal question, of which we have not heard for some time; and which I am almost glad to meet again. I am told that coalition is " in the air;" but if the honorable member for Lang and others keep throwing the apple of discord into the fiscal camp, it is " all up " with coalition, and I take it that discord amongst the Opposition would not be considered much of a grievance by the Government. It has been said that present industrial conditions are deplorable, and that one cannot pick up a newspaper without encountering stories of distress and destitution throughout Australia. In my opinion, the people are disposed to say, " A plague on your politics and Parliaments, and various systems of government; the times are out of joint, and what we want is prosperity and comfort." I have been told that Victoria is the " paradise" of labour, and that the "paradise" has been created by a panacea called protection. Thirty years have been occupied in the creation of the " paradise," but an advertisement by the Royal Agricultural Society of Victoria for a caretaker, about a fortnight ago, had a remarkable result. The society offered the magnificent salary of 30s. per week, with a cottage ; and it might be supposed that, under the circumstances, it would have been difficult to obtain one application. At any rate, that would be the natural conclusion of any one in another country who had heard of

Victoria as the " paradise " of labour, and of Australia as " a land flowing with milk and honey." But, sad to relate, the number of applicants for this position was 1,466.

Mr McCay - That is since the honorable member assisted to bring the Tariff down.

Mr WILKS -But this occurs after thirty years of protection. If the old question of free-trade and protection is to be brought up again, some old stories will have to be re-told ; but we are informed that this is an age of fiscal peace, and I suppose the question is raised merely in the absence of some grievance. It is admirable to have a "grievance day," but it is awkward when one has no grievance. Personally I have no grievance to air, and, therefore, I refer to that brought forward by the honorable and learned member for Ballarat, who pictured for us the advance in the arts and sciences which would follow from an invasion of this country by Italian immigrants. I cannot admit that the Italian is particularly noted for scholarly arts and graces ; he is noted, rather, for obtaining the largest profits on the smallest returns, and for working in the cheapest market to the detriment of Australian citizens. If Australia's future is dependent upon an inroad of what we call the Latin races, then our outlook is very poor. It has been suggested that Australia is being destroyed by drastic restrictions on immigration. In my opinion, there is plenty of room for laws of the kind. In America we do not hear of six immigrants being refused admission ; but of 85,000 people in one year being returned to their homes as undesirable. Even Great Britain is seriously considering the advisability of restricting the invasion of Polish and Russian Jews, not because the race is despised, but because it is considered that their presence lowers the standard Of the people, and is detrimental to the industrial classes. In no land of experiment, or of Socialism, but in a land of good old conservatism, like England, it is being discovered that restrictive measures of the kind are desirable. Every man and every woman in the community, when touched bv such competition, strives to alter the position. I can admire the history of Italy, and the patriotism of her Garibaldi; but we have to deal with the nation as a whole, and not take the best of her people for examples. We do not get the best, but absolutely the worst, Italians as immigrants, and their presence is not generally to the interests of Australia. The only grievance which I can air has relation to the navigation laws; but I know that I should be out of order in anticipating a discussion on the Bill which is to be introduced. However, I throw out the hint that if the people Of Western Australia and the people of Tasmania contend that certain interests in those States require exemption from the navigation Jaws, then I, as a representative cf a portion of Sydney, in the interests of the shipping, commercial, and industrial classes of that city, will also ask for an exemption.

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