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Wednesday, 26 October 1904

Mr GROOM (Darling Downs) - I hold an opinion entirely different from that expressed by the honorable member who has just resumed his seat. I think that the honorable and learned member for Indi took the only course a man of honour could follow. I should, to some extent, have entertained a lower opinion of him if he had not risen and taken the stand he has. The statements made in the leader published in the Argus are grossly unfair, and are calculated to excite racial feelings, which no honorable newspaper should endeavour to arouse. The honorable and learned member has shown that the statements made are absolutely unwarranted. Honorable members seem to think that the matter is one merely of individual interest ; but I hold that as it reflects upon the public character of a member of this House, the honorable and learned member has a perfect right to bring the matter before us. When statements are made, which amount to a libel upon an honorable member of this House, it is our duty, no matter upon which side of the House we sit, to protest against it.

Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) (Minister for Home Affairs) - We have daily cause for complaint.

Mr GROOM - The newspapers enjoy great privileges, and their duties to the public are correspondingly important. No one can find fault with them for criticising principles and measures, but when we find them impugning the honour of a member of this House, we have a right to regard the matter as one affecting our collective dignity and honour.

Mr Johnson - Has the honorable and learned member read the statements which are made in the Tocsin?

Mr GROOM - Here is a newspaper enjoying a large circulation, which purports to represent the wealthy and aristocratic classes of the community. Copies of it are circulated by the thousand in homes of all descriptions, and the honorable and learned member for Indi has no opportunity to make an adequate reply to its statements. Indeed, it is quite possible that people who read its charges in cold print will believe that the honorable and learned member has . hurled opprobrious epithets at the British people. That we know- to be an absolute falsehood. He has never uttered one word which savoured of discourtesy to our race. Upon all occasions his speeches have reflected the greatest devotion . and loyalty to the people amongst whom he lives. In addition to that, he has set a good example to other men here by placing his very great abilities at the services of the people of this Continent. We are proud to have him as a member of this assembly. Upon all occasions he has stood for what he believes to be just and fair in the interests 'of the nation as a whole. He has never suggested that we should exclude British people from Australia. He has practically made the same statement as the Prime Minister himself when the

Tight honorable gentleman declared in one of his speeches in Sydney that he was quite prepared to exclude those persons from the United Kingdom who were induced to come here under contract, as the result of the avarice and greed of other people in this Continent.

Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) (Minister for Home Affairs) - He has accused the Prime Minister of not desiring to preserve a White Australia.

Mr GROOM - He has not done that. The charge levelled against the honorable and learned member by the Argus is that he has hurled opprobrious epithets at the people of Great Britain, and that practically he has sought to exclude British subjects as such from the Commonwealth. That statement is absolutely false. He has taken up the stand that has been adopted by a majority of honorable members, namely, that we desire to preserve the best conditions . that we can for our people, and that we do not wish persons to come here under contract in violation of those conditions. I believe that the Prime Minister is in sympathy with that idea; it accords with his own expressed convictions. However, the question that we are considering is not one of policy. That question is- " Has the honorable and learned member for Indi been grossly misrepresented?'' I say that he has.

Mr G B EDWARDS (SOUTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Yes, and so have many other honorable members.

Mr GROOM - But this instance, I claim, is the worst case of misrepresentation that can be cited, because the Argus has attempted to despise the honorable and learned member because he belongs' to a certain race. That is contemptible and unjust, and we should be wanting in manliness if we did not protest against such tactics. I am glad . that the honorable and learned member has drawn attention to this matter. It is just possible that the article in question was written with a want of knowledge of the words which were actually used by him, and if so. it would be a fair and manly act for its author to admit that his utterances do not justify the statements which are contained in the article in question.

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