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Thursday, 2 November 1905


Senator PEARCE (Western Australia) - I move -

That, in the opinion of this Senate, the time has arrived when, in order to effectually carry out the policy of " a White Australia," legislation should be introduced to provide for -

(a)   The cessation of the importation of coloured labour, under regulations, to carry on the pearl fishing industry in North Australia.

(b)   The return of the coloured labourers imported under agreement to work in the industry.

(c)   The assisting of theindustrybybonus or otherwise to enable the replacement of . the coloured labour by white labour.

When we were dealing with the Immigration Restriction Bill, it was pointed out that in the north-west of Western Australia and the north of Queensland there was, an industry which was practically carried on by coloured labour, and the question was asked whether the Bill was to be aimed at the employment of coloured labour in that industry, as well as at the introduction of coloured labour into the Commonwealth. The Government of the day announced their intention to treat coloured labour on pearling boats in the same way as coloured labour on oversea ships, and regulations were drawn up to carry that intention into effect. But in each pearling district of those two States we have allowed not only the coloured labour then employed to continue, but also a continuous influx of Asiatics into the industry. In Western Australia we have had a large influx of Malays and Japanese ; and, owing to the increase in the price of pearl-shell and the consequent introduction of a number of new pearling boats, a large number of those persons have been imported under agreement to be returned. Prior to Federation, under the Imported Labour Registry Act, Asiatics were allowed to be imported into Western Australia to performlabour, on condition that, at the expiry of their term, they were to be deported to their own country at' the expense of the importer. When rigid regulations were drawn up, it looked as if the numberof Asiatics inthe State could not be increased, but the regulations were more honoured in the breach than in the observance, and the Asiatic population was largely added to as the result of the agreements. So far from being deported, they were allowed to remain in the State in large numbers: The Commonwealth Government undertook to see that that result should not occur under the Immigration Restriction Act. But it is a singular feature of the administration of each Government that, notwithstanding the rigidity of the regulations, and the fact that the employers were under bond to return the Asiatics, every year has seen a large and continuous increase in the number of them employed in the pearling industry. From 1894 to 1901 567 Asiatics were imported under the Imported Labour Registry Act into Western Australia, under a bond to return them within twelve months, in default of which the importer had to forfeit a certain sum. Although the agreements were made for that term, still they could be extended., butcould not be broken. From 1894 to 1901 only 32 of the 567 imported Asiatics were returned, 109 agreements were still in force, and 426 persons, had either evaded their agreement or had been allowed to remainindefiance of its terms. A reference to the Senate papers of 1903 and1904 will show that there were imported into the Commonwealth under agreement 717 Asiatics in 1902, and 1189 Asiatics in 1903. According to the paper laid on the table of the Senate, under the Statute, on 10th August, 1905, in relation to the Immigration Restriction Act, there were 1,532 Asiatics admitted to Western Australia during 1904. In order to show the difference between the number admitted anl the number returned, I refer honorable senators to a paper presented to the Senate on the 25th August of this year. According to that return, in 1904, there were 913 Asiatics under contract returned, or 276 less than were imported in the previous year, and 619 less than were imported during the same year. There were 419 Japanese imported, and 152 returned, showing a gain of 247 ; there were 461 Malays imported, and 220 returned, showing a gain of 141 ; there were 524 Papuans imported, and 325 returned, showing a gain of 199. There were, inthat year, 1,404 Asiatics imported, and 827 returned, showing a gain of 607 ; and the total gain in three years was 1,500.


Senator Dobson - Is there any provision for paying the cost of their return ?


Senator PEARCE - The whole cost has to be borne by the importer who enters into a bond.


Senator Dobson - The importer does not deposit any money ?


Senator PEARCE - No. It is urged that if we prevent the importation of Asiatics we shall cause the cessation of this industry. I do not think that will be the result ; but even if a partial stoppage were caused it would not be an evil. The testimony of experts is to the effect that the pearling industry of Australia is within sight of the end, if the present methods are continued. The pearling industry is one which depends on deep water for its development, and if the deep water is exploited the mainstay of the industry is gone, because the shallow waters are fed from the deep waters. In the early stages of the industry in Western Australia and Queensland, the shallow waters were first of all depleted of pearl- shells-, and now the deep .waters are being dredged, and the testimony of the experts examined by Judge Dashwood and Mr. Warton, the two Commissioners appointed by the Commonwealth, is that if the present methods are continued the deep breeding grounds of the pearl shell will be so depleted that the shallow waters will fail in supply, and the industry become extinct.


Senator Dobson - If the industry is to become extinct, why bother about "the coloured labour ?


Senator PEARCE - I think I. shall be able to show that it would be good policy to so arrange that the industry shall once more be directed to the shallow waters, so that the deep waters may be -left as a breeding ground. Mr. Warton reported that at the date . of writing there were 1,680 men engaged in this industry in North- Western Australia, of whom no were white men, mostly British, 55 were Australian blacks, and 1,515 were of Asiatic races and other coloured men, including South Americans. In a document which will be found at page 1079 of the Parliamentary Papers for 1901-2, Mr. Warton points out that these men who are employed sign articles at Koepang and Singapore, and not at Broome, and are imported for the industry on the condition that they are returned by their employers. Of the" 1,515 Asiatics employed on the fleets at that time, 1,000 were under bond to be returned to Singapore or Koepang at the expiration of their agreement, or intended extension 'of agreement. The balance were men who were in the State before 23rd December, 1897, the date of the Western Australian Immigration Restriction Act. According to the same report, the value of the shell from 1891 to 1895 averaged about ,£94 per ton; and from 1896 to 1900 the average was about £128 per ton, giving an average for the ten years from 1891 to 1900 of £111 per ton. The average price for 1903 was about £150 per ton. In the appendix to the report it is shown that, with a production of £105,403 worth of shell, a revenue of only ,£2,696 from all sources connected with the industry was received. It is sometimes held that this is a very valuable industry to Australia, and yet we learn that in 1901 the revenue from direct sources amounted to only £2,696, while the wages paid in that year .totalled £30,824. In connexion with the amount of wages paid, I wish to point out that there is what is known as a "slop chest,'' or practically a floating store, from which the men employed are supplied with goods. This floating store is very often fitted out and loaded at Singapore,! and1 -as it goes straight to where the fleet is engaged, no duty is paid to the Commonwealth Government. The only time that money is spent on shore is during the monsoon season, the supplies during the rest of the year being obtained from the "slop chest," which is the property of those who own the pearling fleets. The amount of trade done can be gathered from the fact that of the sum of £30,824 paid in wages £16,814 was advanced through the shipping office. That was money advanced while the fleet was at sea, and expended at the " slop chest," leaving only £14,000 to be divided between the money sent to Asiatic homes and that spent ashore. On page 1012 of the Parliamentary Papers for 1901-2, we are shown (that the present cost of a boat and crew is £472 per annum, and that the return is 7 tons of shell, valued at £105 per ton, or £735, showing a net profit of £263 per boat. My desire is to prove that white men could be paid fair wages for this work, without absorbing all of this profit, if a bonus of so much per ton were paid by the Government. The bonus required to supplant coloured labour with white labour would not be very high. Mr. Warton made an estimate that the cost of European labour would be ,£812 per boat, which, with a net return of £105 per ton, would mean a loss of £77 per boat. That, of course, is on the basis that the white crew would get no more shell than the coloured crew does now, but that is not the general experience of the difference between coloured labour and white labour. To cover the loss, it would be necessary to have a bonus of £1 1 per ton ; and by that means the industry could be carried on by Europeans, with Australian rates of wages, and no loss to the pearlers.


Senator Mulcahy - Are the people who conduct the industry not entitled to any profit ?


Senator PEARCE - I am at present showing the actual cost of running the boats, and pointing out that with European labour, while there would not be any profit, there would, at any .rate, be no loss.


Senator Lt Col Gould - What would the bonus cost the Commonwealth per annum ?


Senator PEARCE - That, of course, would depend on the quantity of shell received.


Senator Lt Col Gould - But taking the average of the shell raised hitherto ?


Senator PEARCE - I think I have the figures, which I shall quote later on.


Senator Dobson - Can the honorable senator tell us the rate of wages on which he based his last estimate?


Senator PEARCE - I did not take out all the details, but the wages are given in the Parliamentary Papers for 1901-2.


Senator Dobson - Can the honorable senator give us any idea of what the wages are ?


Senator PEARCE - No; I have submitted Mr. Warton's estimate just as he gives it.


Senator Lt Col Gould - Can the honorable senator tell us how many white men are now engaged in the industry ?


Senator PEARCE - I have already given the number. In Western Australia, 550 tons of shell per annum are obtained outside of the three-mile limit, and 150 tons inside. That is a total of 700 tons of shell, so that a bonus of per ton would amount to .£7.700, which, according to Mr. Warton's estimate, would be necessary to supplant coloured labour with white labour, and yet prevent any loss in the industry. The revenue received by the Government at Broome from direct sources amounts to £1,500 per annum; and', taking into consideration the duties on stores and shipping material - which, although landed at Fremantle, are intended for use at Broome - the Federal Government and the State Government together receive, as the result of the industry in Western Australia, about £20,000 per annum. Mr. Warton arrives at the conclusion that the shell in shallow water is recruited from the shell in deep water, and, at page 1083 of the Parliamentary Papers, he says -

Speaking generally, the trade in these waters has always been worked with coloured labour under white supervision and ownership. That is, with coloured divers, tenders, and crews. Since the introduction of the diving apparatus in 18S5, there have been altogether about forty or fifty individual white divers.

To my knowledge, there is at the present time engaged at Broome a white diver, who is obtaining satisfactory results. On page 1084 of the Parliamentary Papers,Mr. Warton estimates the cost of working a lugger with coloured labour at £35 per month, while he estimates the profit as follows : - 4J tons of shell, at £150 per ton, £675; pearls, £125; "slop chest," £40; a total of £840. The wages of the coloured crew, according to this estimate, amount to £420, and the wages of a diver to £100, or a total of £520 ; leaving a balance of profit of £320. At page 1087 it will be found that he admits that fishermen from Great Britain or Scandinavia might be imported at wages which would not prohibit the industry. His previous estimate was based not on the wages he thinks might be charged, but on Australian rates of wages. Further on he says that he thinks it impossible to payably work the industry under present conditions, that is to say, in . deep water, with white labour. I quote that because I do not wish it to be thought that I bring Mr. Warton forward as an advocate of the employment of white labour in the industry. He has reported against it if it is to be a payable one under present conditions. But I say that, whilst taking up that attitude, he admits that if fishermen from Scandinavia and Great Britain were introduced at the rate of wages which they receive, the industry could be carried on by their labour at a profit.


Senator Dobson - But the honorable senator would object to those men coming in to work at less than the current rates of wages.


Senator PEARCE - If it could be shown that there were not men in Australia available for the work, the employers in this industry would have the right to introduce such men, and there is nothing in the Immigration Restriction Act which would prevent them from doing so.


Senator Dobson - Is the honorable senator willing to apply that principle to other industries ?


Senator PEARCE - Yes; where it can, be shown that suitable labour cannot be obtained in Australia.


Senator Dobson - That is good news to me.


Senator PEARCE - Senator Dobson should know that any employer has a right to import labour under those conditions.


Senator Lt Col Gould - It is a question of the rate of wages paid. If the rate of wages paid in Australia is ios. a day, the honorable senator would not consent to the introduction of men to work for 2s. 6d. per day.


Senator PEARCE - The law is that if there are no men in Australia available for the work, or possessing the skill required, any employer is free to import men to do the work. In the celebrated six hatters case Senator Gould is aware that, while objection was taken to the landing of those men, as soon as their employer showed that he could not get suitable or sufficient labour in the Commonwealth they were allowed to land.


Senator Lt Colonel Sir ALBERT GOULD (NEW SOUTH WALES) -Col. Gould. - I know that the labour unions did all they could to prevent their landing.


Senator PEARCE - I do not care what the labour unions did; the law is as I have stated it. At page 1091 Mr. Warton shows that the extra cost of raising shell by white as compared with coloured labour ranged from £45 to £83 per ton. Coming now to the Northern Territory and Queensland, Judge Dashwood in his report on the industry in the Northern Territory, which will be found at page 938 of the Parliamentary Papers for 1901-2, shows that in the Northern Territory the number employed is 291, and at Thursday Island 2,214. The number of Europeans is, in the Northern Territory, nine ; and in Thursday Island, seventy-six; whilst in the Northern Territory, there are 266 Asiatics employed, and sixteen other coloured labourers. At Thursday Island, the number of Asiatics1 employed is 1,110, and the number of other coloured labourers, 1,028. The value of shell raised at Thursday Island in 1897 was £126,042; in 1899, £130,165; and in 1901, £105,403. So that in Thursday Island this industry is rapidly declining. Although the figures do not show a very rapid decline, it must be remembered that in 1897 shell was very much cheaper than it was in 1901, and the return of £105,000 for 1901 represents little more than half the quantity of shell represented by the return of £126,000 for 1897. In the Northern Territory the value of the shell, raised in 1897 was £15,666; in 1899, £29,509; and in 1901, £17,168. So that a decline is shown there also. Of Queensland shell one-sixth of the total quantity secured is raised within the three-mile limit, and the rest beyond the three-mile limit.


Senator Lt Col Gould - Over that we should have no control.


Senator PEARCE - We might exercise control where the boats engaged in the industry make our ports their base. I find that the approximate Customs revenue is at Thursday Island - on stores, &c, £3,200, and for licence fees £180. Judge Dashwood comments on this important phase of the question. At page 991 of the Parliamentary Papers it will be found that he says -

Those whose opinions are entitled to weight have urged from time to time that if the industry is to be preserved, the pearl-shelling areas should be closed for certain periods, to allow of the 'recuperation of the shell bed.

Further on he points out that shallow beds, are recruited from deep-water beds, agreeing in this respect with Mr. Warton. He says -

The inspector of pearl fisheries, Mr. Bennett, draws attention to the fact that the figures show the yield of shell from Torres Straits fisheries has been gradually diminishing during the last five years, notwithstanding that the number of boats and divers has considerably increased.

The average* take per boat in 1897 was 5 tons 14 cwt., and in 1902 2 tons 9 cwt.


Senator Dobson - Does the honorable senator propose to introduce a Bill to provide for a close season, or to ask the Government to do so?


Senator PEARCE - I propose to ask the Government to prevent the further importation of coloured labour for the industry. As the existing agreements expire I think that a bonus should be< given on the pearl-shell raised, to encourage the use of white labour in the industry. I believe that one effect of that would be the abandonment of pearl-shelling in the very deep waters, and that it would continue to be carried on only in shallow waters.


Senator Lt Col Gould - Why?


Senator PEARCE - Because the white diver will not take the risk involved1 in working in deep waters. There can be no doubt that it is extremely dangerous. At Thursday Island, and particularly in the case of the Japanese, deaths are very frequent amongst those engaged in fishing in deep water. Sooner or later paralysis follows almost inevitably as the result of diving in deep water. At page 992 of the Parliamentary Papers it will be found that Judge Dashwood says -

A consideration of the foregoing figures certainly points to the conclusion that the beds are being drained to too great an extent, and that steps should be taken to regulate the fishing, and so prevent further depletion.

Further on he says -

I think all deep-water areas should be' permanently closed, or at any rate until there are appliances which will enable them to be worked without the deplorable loss of life which the statistics show has occurred in the past, and also to constitute permanent reserves from which spat would be distributed by currents over the ordinary ground.


Senator Staniforth Smith - Would the honorable senator mind saying how the areas can be closed, when they are outside the th'ree-mile limit?


Senator PEARCE - In the case of boats making our ports their base, it could be made a condition that they should be closed. We could deal with them in that matter as we do in regard to duties imposed on ships' stores.


Senator Dobson - Will white men go into a risky business of this sort?


Senator Croft - Would the honorable senator allow the dark man to engage in such' a business ?


Senator PEARCE - I was going to ask Senator Dobson, who looks upon the Japanese and the Indian as his brother, whether he would put them in an industry which he does not consider fit for a white man? Is this all that the honorable senator's fraternal feeling is worth? I might ask further whether he would permit the Japanese and the Indians to engage in work which is too dangerous for the white man ?


Senator Dobson - Certainly not.


Senator Lt Col Gould - Does the honorable senator desire to shut them out because the work would be dangerous to their lives?


Senator PEARCE - No; but because I believe that the industry should be reserved for white people.


Senator Dobson - The honorable senator's argument is that the white man should have a bonus for endangering his life.


Senator PEARCE - No;' because I have said that I would prevent pearl-fishing in deep water.


Senator Dobson - I asked the honorable senator whether he 'proposed to introduce a Bill?


Senator PEARCE - The honorable senator asked whether I proposed to introduce a Bill to provide for a close season, and I said that I proposed to ask the Government to prevent the further introduction of coloured labourers for the industry. Certainly a Bill should be introduced to regulate fishing, and I. believe that such a Bill has been promised by the present or by a previous Government. Judge Dashwood explains in his report that white men started the industry and worked in it in 1873 in Torres Straits. In 1886 and 1887 it was first started at Thursday Island by white men; but white men practically disappeared from the industry in 1894, owing to the competition of coloured alien labour. That is Judge D ashwood' s statement, as the result of his inquiry.


Senator Dobson - Are these poor blacks to be allowed to do nothing ?


Senator PEARCE - There is plenty for them to do in their own country.


Senator Dobson - They are to be driven out of the stoke-hold, out of the sugar fields, and now out of the sea !


Senator PEARCE - In paragraph 9 of his report dealing with the prospect of the industry, if white labour had to be employed, Judge Dashwood says that the great majority of the witnesses who appeared before him stated that it could not be carried on, but four of the witnesses were of the opinion that the industry could be carried on with white labour. It is noteworthy that, with the exception of four, the witnesses examined were the owners of pearling boats, the employers of the coloured labour, the men who were making profits out of the industry. We can easily imagine that -those men are quite satisfied with the present condition of affairs. Of the four men who said that the industry could Le carried on by white labour two were men who had been making their living in the industry as divers, and who were subsequently driven out of it by the influx of coloured Asiatics.


Senator Dobson - Does the honorable senator think that the Commonwealth will be able to stand the payment of bonuses to all these different industries ?


Senator PEARCE - We are paying a bonus to the sugar industry. If this industry is worth saving, it .should be carried on by white labour, and I believe that the time will come when it .could be carried on profitably by white labour without a bonus. I believe that during the transition period, when those engaged in the industry were prevented from employing further coloured labour, and had to deport the coloured labourers now employed, it is possible that a bonus might toe needed, but eventually, T think that it would not be required. Judge Dashwood says that undoubtedly white labour can carry on the industry, but that white men could not carry it on profitably at present prices. I come now to deal with a question which will probably be raised by those who object to my motion, and that is that, if we prevent the employment of coloured labour in this industry, those- engaged in it will establish their headquarters outside of Australia, and the industry will still be exploited by coloured labour. Judge Dashwood made it his business to inquire ' into the possibility of the proposal to have a base for pearling fleets at Merauke. He visited this place aru the steam launch White Star, on which he conducted his inquiry, and it was delayed for twenty-four hours in entering the port owing to the insufficient depth of water.. The White Star is but a small steam launch, and yet, because of the shallow water, it was delayed for twenty-four hours before it could enter this port, which was to supplant Australia;!! ports as the head-quarters of a pearling fleet. Judge Dashwood explains that the harbor of Merauke is a bar harbor, and, furthermore, it is 140 miles from the pearling ground! A feature of the industry is that it must have a base for operations, and that base must be within a reasonable distance from the pearling grounds. A port 140 miles from the pearling grounds is altogether too distant to bea suitable place for a pearling fleet. It must be borne in mind also that the vessels employed in the industry are not steamers or steam' launches, but sailing luggers. Inthis particular part of Australian watersthere is a prevailing trade wind, and the vessels engaged in the pearling industry, in order to reach Merauke from the pearling grounds, would have to beat up the whole distance against head winds.


Senator Staniforth Smith - Is the honorable senator not aware that the south-east monsoons blow for three months in the year towards Merauke from the pearling grounds ?


Senator PEARCE -I do not knowpersonally anything about the industry. I am giving Judge Dashwood's statements for what they are worth. To sum up, he considers that Merauke isaltogether unsuitable as a head-quarters for the fleet. A significant fact in connexion with the Judge's report is a petition,, signed by forty-one white residents in Torres Straits, in favour of the employment of white labour, and asking for the prevention of the importation of more Asiatics. Many of the signatories are business men. Honorable senators who choose to look through the evidence will find that many of them are men who are trying to make a living in Torres Straits. Though it may be urged by some who oppose my motionthat to carry out what 1 ask would annihilate the industry, these men evidently have faith that such would not be the effect,, and that white mert could carry it on.


Senator Dobson - Of course the business men would make more money if whitelabour were employed and a bonus paid.


Senator PEARCE - On page 23 of his report, Judge Dashwood quotes a letter from the business men of Thursday Island. This should appeal to- Senator Macfarlane, who pays- great weight to anythingthat Business men may say. The letter contains the statement that the present system exhausts the shelling ground withoutcreating permanent settlement on the adjacent island or the mainland. That is one of the indictments of the present system - that no permanent settlement accompanies it. You practically get a nomad class of persons, who merely look to maketheir temporary homes at the pearling cen- tres, and who afterwards, if they can dodge the Immigration Restriction. Act, may come to live in one of the southern States. I do not propose to read the list of witnesses examined by Judge Dashwood, but if any honorable senator chooses to peruse it he will find that, with very few exceptions, they are owners of pearling boats. One of them owns eighty-two 'boats.


Senator Staniforth Smith - .Who is he?


Senator PEARCE - His name is George Smith. Another man is the owner of thirteen boats, another of sixteen ; others own fifteen, seventeen, and so on. One could hardly expect these men to say, " We think you should abolish coloured labour, and compel us to employ white men." The employment of coloured labour enables them, as Mr. Warton says, to make a profit of as much as £263 per boat. But this is the class of men to whom we have to go for information now, because all the white men who are interested in the industry are concerned to continue it as at present. The white divers who at one time manned the boats at Thursday Island have been compelled to go elsewhere to look for a living. The few white men who still remain, from whom evidence has to be collected, say that the in-dustry could be profitably carried on if the Government were to regulate it. lt is said by some that the employment of Asiatic labour in the industry is not an infraction of the White Australia policy. One of the powers intrusted to the Commonwealth Parliament is the control of fisheries. Would any one say that the fisheries of England are not part of the industries of England ? Would any one say that the fishermen of England are not citizens of England, and that they are not just as valuable to England as are the men who work in the shore industries? Certainly they are. Why not apply the same principle to Australia? Here is an industry carried on upon the shores of Australia, some of it within the three-mile limit. All of it is carried on in the neighbourhood of Australian ports. I say that this is an industry which has just as much right to be looked upon as Australian as has the hat or boot industry in Melbourne. ' We cannot assist the pearling industry by protective duties if we would. We cannot by the imposition of a duty raise the price of pearl one penny. But if the policy of the Commonwealth is to be that the people are to be penalized by pro tective duties for the assistance of industries, I contend that pearling has as much right to consideration as have the bootmaking or the hat-making industries. Pearling is at present worked by coloured labour. It is shown that within certain limitations it can be carried on by white labour.


Senator Dobson - With a bonus.


Senator PEARCE - With a bonus during the transition period. But it is further shown' that those very limitations that I have indicated would be for the benefit of the industry, because they would have this effect - that, instead of rapidly exhausting the industry, to the aggrandisement of a few, there would be a conservation of it, so that it would last, perhaps, for ever, or as long as would concern the present generation, at any rate. The industry, while, perhaps, employing fewer white than black men to-day, would be of far greater benefit to the country, because those white men would be citizens of Australia, and would be able to participate in the national life of the country. When one remembers what the English fishermen ha.ve been to England for the recruiting of the British Navy, one cannot over-estimate the value of the pearling industry as a recruiting ground for our Navy that is to be. These fishermen, if white men, would be a valuable asset to our country. But what are they to-day? Are they of any value to Australia? A few rich men are reaping a harvest, but so far as concerns any benefit to the country itself - so far as. concerns building up an industry which' is conferring any benefit upon the Commonwealth - the pearling industry is of absolutely no use whatever. Nor will it ever, be of value while it is carried on under present conditions. Personally I should rather have an industry which would return on the production only one-tenth of what it is at present returning, the whole of that tenth being produced and distributed amongst people who were good citizens of the Commonwealth, than have a larger production which conferred no benefit upon Australia as 'a whole, nor assisted to' promote good citizenship. I now come to another aspect of this question. It is a most regrettable one. That is the effect of this cancer spot in Western Australia - because it is nothing else - on our unfortunate aboriginal race. I have before me the report of the Royal Commission on the condition of the aboriginals in Western Australia by Dr. Roth, of Queensland. One of the most regrettable features of that report is that in which he deals with the contact of Asiatic races with the aboriginals of Western Australia. While the report is couched in very plain terms, I consider, that it is my duty to let honorable senators know what is the effect of permitting these people, with their loose notions of morality, to come amongst us, and what is the effect on the unfortunate aboriginals of our country. I shall first quote from the evidence of Mr. John Byrne, sergeant of police at Broome. In answer to the question^'" Is there any aboriginal prostitution in your district ?" he says -

There is a good deal of it between the Asiatics and aboriginal women. They come ashore from the boats at different points, and at Broome, and go to the native camps. There does not seem to be any law in force to prevent them landing.

That Has all occurred under Commonwealth administration. We are responsible for it.

Is not a large proportion of these Asiatics forbidden to land? - According to the law they are not. They are imported as seamen only.

In your opinion a large proportion of this prostitution is due to men who should not be allowed to land? - Yes.

The obtaining of wood and water is a great excuse for prostitution? - Yes. The natives cut the wood, and the pearler has thus only to be in a creek for 24 hours instead of, perhaps, three days. At Lft Grange Bay (where I have a constable, tracker, and three horses) the pearlers give the natives a bag of flour or rice in return for the wood.

Do you consider that this evil could be minimised by insisting that the pearling boats obtain their wood and water at certain specified places only ? - Yes ; of course it would.

Is there any liquor supplied to the natives in this district? - Yes. A great deal of liquor is supplied to natives in and around Broome during the laying-up season. The boats also lay up at Cygnet Bay, and there is a lot of trouble there. Some coloured men who supplied drink to the natives at that place "were taken to Derby, and sentenced to three months imprisonment in the Broome Gaol. During the last 12 months fines amounting to about £200 have been levied (mostly on Asiatics) for this offence. There have been a few cases of drink having been supplied by white men. I am of the opinion that in these cases, where drink has been supplied bv any one to natives, the full penalty of the law should be imposed.


Senator Dobson - The honorable senator is making a good case for the regulation of the industry.


Senator PEARCE - We have had regulations for over three years, and this is the result.

Are there any other matters you would like to bring Before my notice with regard to the aborigines in your district? - With regard to the Asiatics mixing so much with native women, I think a law should be brought into force whereby the police could order the Asiatics to be aboard their boats at a certain time, and not be wandering around the town. In the laying-up season they roam about the town, and it would take twenty policemen to supervise them. They do the same at La Grange Bay, Beagle Bay, and Cygnet Bay. They are always in these places for two or three months of the year. I think some power should be given to the police to order them to go back to the boats, no matter what their masters think of the mailer. It should be made an offence for these men to be found ashore at any time. They go ashore at La Grange Bay, and wander away until they find a batch of natives and cohabit with the women. They take with them gin, tobacco, flour, or rice, all for prostitution.

I shall' next quote the evidence of the SubCollector of Customs, Mr. John McKenna, at Broome : -

Have you ever taken action ? - I have never seen a prohibited immigrant ashore for anything of the sort. I have myself heard disturbances in the night time caused by Malays and Manillamen visiting the blacks' camps and interfering with the women..

In one breath, he says that he never heard of anything of the sort, and in the very next breath he states that he has heard of disturbances in regard to the things complained of. I next quote from the evidence of Mr. Graham Blick, District Medical Officer, and Resident Magistrate, of Broome: -

I understand that there is a good deal of prostitution going on where the boats land for getting wood and water. Is this so ? - Yes. It has been reported to me. I should think that there would be a great deal of it.

The guilty parties are generally aliens who have been specially exempted by the Commonwealth Minister of External Affairs? - Yes, but I think many of the whites are just as much to blame in that matter as the coloured crews.

Are the otherwise prohibited immigrants (Malays, Manillamen, &c.) allowed to come on shore above high-water mark? - They must come on shore sometimes to do 'the work of their boats. You cannot have a vessel come into port to discharge cargo and take stores, &c, and keep the crew on board. The crews are signed on and dealt with under the Merchant Shipping Act.

Is it a fact, then, that these Malays and Manillamen, otherwise prohibited from coming into the State, are coming in under the Merchant Shipping Act? - Yes. They can come ashore for the purpose of getting stores, -wood, and water, and in cases of sickness.

Do they land for any other purposes? - I donot know. It is possible that they may do so. They are supposed to "do nothing but the boat work. They could never stay ashore long, because their masters are responsible for all of them.

Do they land in the laying-up season for other than boat purposes? - They may camp on shore while_ the boats are being overhauled. Also during sickness.

Is any action being taken against any such men who land for any other purposes than required for boat work? - I do not think any" action litis been taken hitherto. We recognise that it is necessary at certain times for the men to come ashore, but only when they are obliged to.

Here is the evidence of Filomeno Rodriguez, a pearler, of Broome -

Have you ever seen aborigines employed on the boats ? - Yes.

What are they employed as? - Some for cleaning shell, and others for boatmen. A black is sometimes employed to keep a watch on the rest of the crews, so as to prevent pearls being stolen.

Are any blacks employed in " swimmingdiving " now ? - No.

Are you aware that many abuses in the way of prostitution take place in connexion with the boats' crews landing along the coastline for wood and water? - Yes.


Senator Playford - Would it not have ' been the same if the crews had been white ?


Senator PEARCE - My experience of. white men on the gold-fields of Western Australia tells me that it would not have occurred to the same extent.

For the most part, to what nationality do the coloured crews belong? - They are mostly Malays, Manillamen, and Japanese.

Are these Malays, Manillamen, and Japanese the persons who are really forbidden by the Commonwealth law to land? - Yes; some of them are.

I anticipated that a slander would be hurled against the white men, and therefore I decided to quote the evidence of Sub-Inspector William Lappin, of Roeburne, as to the treatment of the aborigines by white men. After dealing with the Asiatics, and practically reiterating the evidence I have already quoted, he gave this evidence -

Do not the whites go after the gins? - Yes, but not to any great extent. The coloured men are the worst offenders.


Senator Millen - Have we not recently had a report reflecting upon the conduct of white people towards the aborigines of Western Australia?


Senator PEARCE - The report refers, not to conduct of this kind, but to the treatment of the aborigines by the police, in bringing in a large number of them handcuffed, charging exorbitant rates for their stores, and so making money out of the transactions.


Senator Millen - And contains a very strong indictment of the white men on the lines which the honorable senator is now pursuing.


Senator PEARCE - There was nothing of this kind at that time. Constable Ber tram Henry Fletcher, of La Grange Bay, gave the following evidence: -

How long have you been at La Grange Bay? - Two years and four months.

What are your duties there? - Protecting the natives and keeping immorality down. Those are my instructions.

What is the nature of the immorality ? - Connexion between aboriginal women and Asiaticsemployed on the pearling boats. ls there much of this going on? - Yes, there is a great deal of it, but it would be terrible if no one was there to stop some of it.

Is there much disease amongst the aborigines at La. Grange Bay? - There is some, but I am - pleased to say that there is not so much as when 1 first went there.

How many blacks are there in the neighbourhood of La Grange Bay? - Within my patrol thereare about 400 natives.

What proportion of these do you consider are diseased? - Not quite one quarter of them, as the men are in the majority. The worst cases are generally among the women. To give an instance, a short time ago 30 of the blacks were very bad with venereal disease, and about 17 or 18 of these died.

Were these mostly women ? - Yes, all but one or two.

Were there any young girls amongst those diseased ? - There were none of tender years, but some were as young as 16.

What success has attended your efforts in coping with this evil ? - I have had great success. I suppose there is not one-fourth of the disease that there was when I went there first. This can be proved by the decrease in the supply of medicines.

What steps have you taken to stop immorality -I kept the natives together as much as possible, and when I saw any Asiatics from the boats come Ashore about night-time, I put them in chains for the night. Of course, many of them have got ashore, when I have been unable to see them. I have given the natives work to do to keep them out of mischief.

Surely you could not watch every creek in the neighbourhood ? - Certainly I could not. I have mustered the natives in one or two places, and seen that no men from the boats came near them. Very few natives get away from the camps. One disadvantage is that I have never had full powers to do this. When I have had to come to Broome all the good that has been done has been undone.

Is there nothing to prevent these boats' crews getting wood and water themselves? - There is nothing to prevent it that I can see.


Senator Millen - Did the honorable senator check the percentages before he read them?


Senator PEARCE - No.


Senator Millen - They are ludicrous.


Senator PEARCE - There is some de,plorable evidence, but I db not see anything ludicrous about it.


Senator Millen - If the honorable senator will look over the figures he will see that they do not tally. For instance.. the witness refers first to a fourth and then to a tenth.


Senator PEARCE - I see no inaccuracy in the use of the figures.


Senator Millen - It is an exaggerated statement, because ten quarters are more than the whole.


Senator PEARCE - It may have been a slip of the tongue on the part of the witness.Does the honorable senator cast any doubt on the quality of the evidence?


Senator Millen - No ; but it would appear that the witness was speaking a little loosely.


Senator PEARCE - If the honorable senator will read the report he will find that this constable's statement is confirmed by other witnesses. We are not concerned as to a man being a little out in his arithmetic, but as to the treatment of the aborigines by Asiatic fiends. The revolting evidence, which I feel compelled to submit, is an indictment on the employment of Asiatics in the industry which should cause honorable senators to give some thought to the question, and not to con- cern themselves so much as to whether a man has made a mistake in his arithmetic.

Do the blacks vou mention come to the creeks because of the Malays and other Asiatics? - Yes. Some of them come from the coast, and others from inland. The coastal natives tell them what they can get from the crews, and they are attracted. Some natives come from 100 miles inland to trade with the crews about twice a year.

I have only one other quotation to make, although the evidence teems with convincing passages. Revolting and unpalatable as the details are, I feel that it is my duty to quote them in order to show the Senate what is on the reverse side of the ledger. I shall be told of the profit and the revenue to Australia but I wish to show the evil which is inflicted on the aborigines byAsiatics being allowed to land upon our shores, by quoting the evidence of Mr, Richard Henry Wace, Resident Magistrate and District Medical Officer at Derby -

Have you any information to give this Commission on the effects of this pearling industry upon the coastal blacks?- It is most thoroughly demoralizing to the blacks. In the laying-up season of this year, several pearling luggers laid up at Cygnet Bay. Several cases of supplying liquor to the blacks were brought down here. In every case I asked why the defendants had given the liquor, and in every case I was informed that the reason was that they wanted one of the women. I think that liquor is seldom given in these cases - to the aboriginals, except for that specific purpose. It is the recognised payment. I have treated several cases this year of specific diseases amongst the pearling boats, and I know from my ownknowledgethat it is extremely prevalent amongst these crews, and cannot but have an extremely bad effect amongst the blacks. It is readily communicable, and its worst point 'is that it is hereditary. It has a morally and physically deteriorating effect, both on the one who contracts it, and the one to whom it is communicated by descent. To my own knowledge, girls have been taken from a mission station in accordance with the tribal marriage customs - young girls of 14 or 15 years, who have only just arrived at maturity, and in perfect health - taken away and prostituted amongst the crews of the luggers, returning after some time suffering from specific disease. One of the main reasons of the, dying out of the black race is the fact that, through prostitution, the women become infertile. This, by the way, applies throughout the district. I know also that members of lugger crews go ashore with guns, ostensibly for self -protection against the blacks. I refer to a case of a member of one of Mr. Pigott's boats, Pedro Rodriguez, who was shot while stepping out of the boat. I elicited the evidence that he was taking a gun ashore for the purpose of " self-protection." While these boats were at Cygnet Bay, a policeman was sent at the urgent request of the pearlers. The policeman got a very bad reception. The constable spent his time bringing Asiatics to trial, and during the intervals that he was away, bringing up persons chargedwith supplying liquor, the crews at Cygnet Bay were wholly without supervision.

If nothing I have said constitutes an indictment against the Commonwealth allowing the employment of Asiatics in this industry to be continued, the report of Mr. Roth, together with the evidence, does. In his report he deals in avery drastic manner with the subject. Summing up the evidence, he says at page 11 : -

Along the whole coast-line, extending from a few miles south of La Grange Bay, to the eastern shores of King Sound, drunkenness and prostitution, the former being the prelude to the latter, with consequent loathsome disease, is rife amongst the aborigines. This condition of affairs is mainly due to Asiatic aliens allowed into the State as pearling-boats' crews by special permission of the Commonwealth Minister for External Affairs, and allowed to land from their boats under conditions expressed in 1. Edw. VII., No. 17, section 3, sub-section K. The boats call in at certain creeks, ostensibly for wood and water, and the natives flock to these creeks, the men being perfectly willing to barter their women for gin, tobacco, flour, or rice ; the coloured crews to whom they are bartered are mostly Malays, Manillamen, and Japanese; they frequently take the women off to the luggers. Direct evidence of this state of affairs comes from La Grange Bay, from Beagle Bay, where your Commissioner saw native women at daybreak returning on shore from the boats, with presents of rice,&c., and from Cygnet Bay, where the disgraceful state of affairs and effects of disease on the aboriginal population are more fully detailed. One magistrate considers that the whites are just as much to blame as the coloured crews for the prostitution going on where the boats land for getting wood and water. As the result of their intercourse with aboriginal women, the boats' crews suffer a good deal from venereal disease, and the loss of theirlabour is severely felt by the pearlers. During about three months in the year the fleets lay up at Cunningham Point, Cygnet Bay, Beagle Bay, and Broome, as well as at other places; except perhaps at Broome, this laying-up season is taken advantage of by the more unscrupulous of the pearlers to swell the profits of the slop-chest by getting rid of their supplies of opium and of liquor, no small portion of the latter ultimately finding its way to the natives as payment for prostitution. A still greater evil, and one which may have disastrous results in the future, is that both the Malays and the natives, wilh whom they "are at present allowed to consort, possess in common a certain vice peculiar to the Mahometan. It is highly probable that this habit, practically unknown amongst the autochthonous population of other parts of Australia, has been introduced along this North-West coast-line by Malay visitors during past generations ; the fact remains that these aliens are being admitted into the Commonwealth. Further north, beyond King Sound, along isolated .patches of the coast-line, pearling vessels_certainly do land, and their crews bring fire-arms ashore. A witness states that Asiatic crews may camp on shore while the boats are being overhauled, and also during sickness; according to. tlie form of surety now issued by the SubCollector of Customs, form No. 15, they can be engaged in any duties" ordinarily connected with the vessels. With a view to minimizing the sexual intercourse between the Asiatics and aborigines at present existing and its resultant evils, the following recommendations "have been suggested : Power to be given to the police to order the men back to their boats; reserves to be proclaimed where boats only should be allowed to land, but no aborigines to enter, and vice vend, and the chartering of a patrol boat. One witness suggests that under proper supervision the male natives could earn their own living by cutting wood and getting water for the boats.

The whole report dealing with that phase of the question is an indictment of the employment of Asiatics in the industry. Carried on as it is, it is absolutely useless to the Commonwealth, Because it distributes no wealth here. The earnings go to Japan and the Malay States, while the dividends go to a few rich men in Melbourne, Sydney, Adelaide, and Perth. If we are in earnest on the question of a White Australia, can we allow this excrescence on our industrial life to continue? Are we going to say that this portion of our fishing industry shall for ever be cut off from the benefits of that policy? If we are in earnest, this industry, like all others, must come within its scope. The arguments which can be used to allow the continuance of Asiatic labour in the pearling industry can just as forcibly be used in favour of employing coloured labour in the bootmaking industry. The arguments which can be used in favour of the pearling industry being given over to white men are the same as can be used in favour of industries on the land being assisted by means of Customs duties and otherwise. If the pearling industry be worth saving, as 1 believe it is, we should take early steps to rid it of a baneful influence, and prevent it being exploited by coloured labour for the benefit of a few rich men. If we see that the deep waters are not allowed to be exploited, we need have no fear that the industry will depart from the Commonwealth. It has been shown that the port of Merauke, in Dutch New Guinea, is impossible as a head-quarters for the Torres Strait pearling fleet. It is equally certain that Timor is impossible for the purposes of the pearling fleet, because it is too far distant to be successfully used as a head quarters. I am satisfied that if the Government will take steps to bring in a Bill on the lines indicated, and it is passed, we shall have in the case of this industry what I hope we wish to see in the case of the sugar industry. We shall have an industry manned by white men, who will be qf some service to the Commonwealth, and the wealth of the industry will be distributed, not amongst Asiatic aliens, but amongst workmen of our own nationality.







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