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Thursday, 2 November 1905


Senator STANIFORTH SMITH (Western Australia) - I second the motion, pro forma. I am thoroughly in accord with a great many of the statements and many of the contentions put forward by Senator Pearce. I am cordially with Senator Pearce in his expressed desire to prevent coloured people from coming to reside in Australia. I shall be no party to any proposal to relax in any way the White Australia policy we have laid down. I go even further than Senator Pearce, and say that if it were possible to sweep away from our northern shores the whole of the pearl.shell industry it would, in my honest opinion, be to the ultimate interest of Australia. Pearl-shell will always attract coloured aliens, no matter whether it be obtained from Australia or elsewhere. I quite admit with Senator Pearce that white men can work, and do work, in this industry. I have been out on the pearl luggers, and seen white men there engaged ; and at the time I visited Broome there were six white divers employed. At the same time, I say at once that I am not in favour of the whole of the motion, for ample reasons, which I shall shortly state. In the first place, I am somewhat surprised that Senator Pearce should submit this motion. The policy which Senator Pearce asks us to adopt, is contrary to the policy of every Ministry since the inception of Federation, not excluding the Ministry formed by the Labour Party. On the 27th June, "1904, I asked Senator McGregor, who was VicePresident of the Executive Council in the Labour Government, the following question : -

Is it the intention of the Government to prohibit those pearling fleets which have their headquarters at Australian ports from engaging coloured labour for carrying on their occupation on the high seas?

The reply I received was -

No ; but regulations imposing certain desirable restrictions are under consideration.

I asked that question after a Cabinet decision on the question had been arrived at.


Senator de Largie - How did the honorable senator know that there had been a Cabinet decision?


Senator STANIFORTH SMITH - I was so informed. I should like to know now whether the Labour Party, as the result of further information, have altered their policy, or whether Senator Pearce is merely expressing his individual view? Certainly it would be a great change in little more than twelve months to totally reverse the policy of the \party in such a matter. I say at once that the Labour Ministry were right in the decision at which they arrived, and in the answer they gave me; and the reasons are perfectly obvious to any one who has taken the trouble to study the question. Senator Pearce labours under the disadvantage that he has never visited those districts, and that he is relying on reports prepared three or four years ago, since which time the conditions have changed enormously. The estimates quoted by the honorable senator as to the price of the pearl-shell are altogether "out," and therefore the conclusions he draws are of no' value. It is evident that Senator Pearce does not recognise the immense difficulties which surround this question. I candidly admit that when I visited Broome two or three years ago, I was strongly imbued with the view that the pearling fleets ought to be cleansed of coloured aliens. During a stay_ there, of some ten days, I went out on the pearling boats, and thoroughly investigated the circumstances ; and I came back with a strong opinion, that it would be better to leave matters as they are, lest worse evils should result. However, I advocated cer tain stringent .regulations, which, I am pleased to say, were adopted by the Government, not only at Broome, but throughout Australia. As a result of my visit I issued a pamphlet, from which I quote the following : -

Regarding the vexed question as to whether white men can do the work, I have no hesitation in saying that I believe they can. The work is undoubtedly laborious, monotonous, and full of hardship. The crew are often wet through for days together when the sea is Tough, and fresh meat, milk, and vegetables are luxuries seldom indulged in. But it must be borne in mind that owing to the hurricane season the boats are practically laid up from the middle of December till the end of March - ;that is, during the hottest part of the year. The industry is, therefore, carried on during the eight months of the year, when the heat is least oppressive, and out at sea the temperature is less intense than on lard. In proof of my contention, I need only mention that six white divers, and a score of .white men, were working on the luggers during the season just .closed.

But if it be admitted that white labour can do the work, the question as to whether we should endeavour by legislation to substitute white for coloured labour, has by no means been settled. If the pearl shelling waters belonged to Australia, and were, therefore, under our jurisdiction, I should insist on white labour, as we have done in other Australian industries. But an aspect of this question that has received little consideration, but which transcends all others in importance, is that the pearl shelling on our western littoral is not an Australian industry at all, or, at any rate, is one to only a very limited extent. It is an international industry which has been started, developed, and monopolized by Australia very much to our advantage. Of the 700 tons of shell obtained last year, less than 150 tons were gathered in Australian waters [i.e., within the three-mile limit). The balance was obtained on the high seas, and was the common property of the nations of the world. Any foreign boat has just as much right to work there as we have. If, therefore, we impose conditions which largely increase the working expenses of the industry, we will not destroy it. No legislation an Australian Parliament can impose will do that - but it 'would in all probability have the effect of shifting the headquarters of the industry from Broome to Koepang in Timor (500 miles due north), where they would sail under the Dutch flag, and carry on the industry exactly as before, except that they would be prohibited from pearling within the three-mile limit, a restriction which is practically immaterial to the pearlers. The boats could put in to the Australian coast for wood and water and stores, as before, but they could not lay up their boats in the hurricane season. The object of the legislation would, therefore, not be attained, while a most valuable industry would be lost t./ Australia.

In considering the advisability of excluding or allowing coloured labour on our pearling fleets, two important questions have to be decided : -

1.   Does the manning of the boats by coloured crews endanger, or is it opposed to the principle of, our "White Australia" policy?

2.   Would legislation insisting on white, labour being employed have the desired effect, or would it mean the loss of the industry to Australia?

The people of Australia have placed on record, I trust for all time, their determination that Australia shall remain only for the white races of the world ; that on national and racial grounds they will admit no one into Australia whom we cannot absorb into our population.

Does this pearling industry give an alien an opportunity of settling in Australia? That is really the crux of the matter; and to make sure on that head was one of the principal reasons that led to my visit to Broome. I went very carefully into the question, and have no hesitation in saying that if the Acts and Regulations are strictly administered, as they are at present, there is not the slightest danger. The system of registration is the most perfect I have seen. Every alien, with one exception, who has been brought to Broome since the passing of the first West Australian Immigration Restriction Act has been accounted for.

Senator Pearcestated that at Broomethere are a number of people who have evidently evaded the provisions of the Western Australian Immigration Restriction Act.


Senator Pearce - I quoted the actual figures as given in returns presented to the Senate.

Senator STANIFORTHSMITH.The honorable senator quoted only two documents - the report of Judge Dashwood and Mr. Warton.


Senator Pearce - Excuse me; I quoted from returns which, according to statute, were laid upon the table of the Senate.


Senator STANIFORTH SMITH - As a matter of fact, there are two or three hundred aliens who have been at Broome for a number of years, and who were there before the first Western Australian Immigration Restriction Act was passed. These are what are called " freemen."


Senator Pearce -i showed that 500 were unaccounted for under the Western Australian Act.

Senator STANIFORTHSMITH.That is not correct. When I was at Broome I obtained particulars of all the freemen, and according, to the statement of Mr. Warton-


Senator Pearce - Mr. Warton is not my authority for the statement I made in this connexion. My authority is a parliamentary paper which was laid upon the table of the Senate before Mr. Warton reported.

Senator STANIFORTHSMITH.Mr. Warton assured me that those freemen and others were there before the

Western Australian Immigration Restriction Act was passed. This is the system of restriction as described in my pamphlet -

The resident magistrate's register- records the movements of every coloured man from the time of arrival to the date of departure. Each change of ownership is noted, as well as the date of his return, and the name of the ship he returned by. The Asiatic must bring with him a doctor's certificate, proving that he is free from all disease, and a photograph of himself with his name on the back, which is kept by the resident magistrate as a guarantee against impersonation. The pearler also has to enter into a bond of £100 that the man will be employed the whole time on the fleet, and will be brought back to the resident magistrate directly the term of his contract has expired.

I may say that, as a result of my representation, that system has been extended to the whole , pearl-shelling, industry of . Australia.

Had it not been for the 400 " free men " who came into Broome before any restricted legislation was passed, there would not be a single coloured alien in Broome for eight months of the year.


Senator Pearce - That is absolutely incorrect, as the parliamentary papers show.

Senator STANIFORTHSMITH.Is a parliamentary paper absolutely omniscient ?


Senator Pearce - The parliamentary paper shows the number imported, the number returned, and the number not accounted for.

Senator STANIFORTHSMITH.Senator Pearce has fallen into a very simple error in neglecting to take into account the free men engaged in the industry who were previously working on shore. I further say -

If legislation were passed prohibiting coloured crews from being transhipped at Broome, or remaining in port during the laying-up seasont one or two things would eventuate - either white crews would be employed, or the head-quarters of the industry would be changed to some foreign port near the North of Australia.

Senator Pearcehas said that that is impossible, but I shall show that it is not only possible, but 'has actually been done, and is in operation at the present time.

The working expenses of the fleets would be increased by at least 30 per cent. if white men were employed for the pearling season (eight months), instead of coloured crews all the year round. The average wage paid to a coloured crew, including the diver, is about 18s. a week, while white crews could not be expected to do the work for less than 6s. a day and found, with 10s. a day for the diver, or an average of£2 a week.


Senator Dobson - If the cost is only 30 per cent, more, the industry could be carried on by white labour without a bonus, according to the figures given by Senator Pearce.


Senator STANIFORTH SMITH - But Senator Pearce was wrong in the prices which he quoted for pearl shell, and the arguments which the honorable senator based on those prices are absolutely useless.


Senator Pearce - I gave the average price stated by Mr. Warton.


Senator STANIFORTH SMITH - The price of pearl shell is not like the price of gold. It does not remain the same year after year; and the figures which Senator Pearce quoted were three years old.


Senator Pearce - I quoted fluctuations, as the honorable senator would have known if he had been listening.


Senator STANIFORTH SMITH - The last prices quoted by Senator Pearce 1\Vere averages up to 1902 or 1903, and while he based his arguments on those prices, the price obtained for pearl shell .to-day is altogether different.


Senator Pearce - Mr. Warton based his argument on the average price, and that is what I quoted.


Senator STANIFORTH SMITH - I shall tell honorable senators later on what the present price of pearl shell is.


Senator Dobson - Thirty per cent, is the difference between the cost of white and black labour?

Senator STANIFORTHSMITH.That is my estimate. I go on to say -

The cost of rations would also be doubled. I believe pearlers could save this increased expenditure, and still make a profit, if the price of shell keeps up to its present extraordinary value, but is it likely to do so? There_ is little doubt they would adopt the alternative course, and lay up their boats at Koepang, where no restrictions would be imposed upon them, and from which they could "issue as soon as the hurricane season is over, and pearl in their old grounds just as formerly. If they adopted this course, the object of the legislation would not have been attained whilst the fleet of 250 Australian vessels, valued at ^110,000, would be transferred to the Dutch flag, together with the profits of the industry. .£25,000 of the State revenue would be lost annually, and certain subsidiary industries would be ruined.

As I stated in my preliminary remarks, the monetary consideration has 'with me very little weight. The question is whether the shifting of the head-quarters of the indus try would further or injure our White Australia policy. I further say -

But the mischief would not end here. The owners of the fleets would then be under no heavy bond to see that their coloured crews did not escape, and after they had served their term they could land any of their crews that they did not require quietly at night on the mainland] "and the real danger would menace our White Australian policy. A lucrative industry such as this, having its head-quarters in a foreign country, would probably lead foreigners to embark in the enterprise, and continually patrol our shores, with endless disputes as to whether they were working within the three-mile limit.


Senator Stewart - Would not the headquarters be too far away


Senator STANIFORTH SMITH - I shall show later on that head-quarters have actually been established at another place, and a fleet is working successfully from there. I shall be able to prove that Senator Pearce was wrong in saying that it is impossible to establish a base outside of Australia.


Senator Pearce - Can the honorable senator show that it is possible to establish a base at Koepang?


Senator STANIFORTH SMITH - I will be able to show where a base has been established. I may inform Senator Pearce that there is an excellent harbor at Koepang, and it would not be difficult to establish head-quarters there.


Senator Pearce - But it is too far away


Senator STANIFORTH SMITH - I do not think that it is. Senator Pearce has said that it is impossible for boats to work at a considerable distance from the base, but the honorable senator is altogether wrong in that statement. They could work with a base at Singapore. The question is - Where are they to lie up? The boats engaged in the industry off the coast of Western Australia lie up at Broome, and many of them come there once a year. Vessels pearling on the coast of Australia, no matter where their base is, could1 run into any port to secure food and firewood, as thev do at the present time. Vessels could come' in that way from Singapore, from Timor, or Merauke, and work along our coast. We could not refuse to permit them to come into a port for stores, wood, and water, and other requirements. I further say -

The Western Australian Government would be put to a heavy expenditure in policing outshores and grave difficulties leading to international complications might arise, as in the case of the British and French fishing grounds in Newfoundland. If we consider the best interests of Australia, our policy should be to prevent foreign nations from carrying on industries contiguous to our coast, which might imperil what - for the want of a better name I might designate our Monroe doctrine regarding the islands. The conclusions I have come to as the result of my investigations are that our "White Australia" policy is not endangered by the employment of coloured crews in the pearling fleets, provided the Acts and regulations in existence are firmly and strictly administered ; that any legislation enacted with a view of prohibiting coloured labour would not consummate the effect desired, but would rather tend to create a danger which at present does not exist, while it would deprive Western Australia of a very valuable and lucrative industry, and" perhaps lead to endless quarrels and complications. In the administration of the Act great care should be taken -

1.   That when a coloured alien is discharged, he must be returned by the first steamer.

2.   That they have no proprietary interest directly or indirectly in any of the pearling boats. This is a matter that requires the greatest vigilance, as some, especially the Japanese, are willing to pay a high figure to acquire an illicit interest, and such a transaction is very difficult of detection.

3.   That during the lay-up season, when the men are on shores, their employers do not put them to any work other than in connexion with the boats.

That is the system at the present time. The very danger I foreshadowed in that statement made in December, 1902, and my foreboding of the danger of foreign people establishing a base close to Australia, have come to pass. Senator Pearce has stated that it was found impossible to establish head-quarters at Merauke.


Senator Pearce - I quoted Judge Dashwood's statement to that effect.


Senator STANIFORTH SMITH - I think that is right, because the settlement at Merauke, in Dutch New Guinea, is at the entrance to the river, and the approach is very difficult. Probably it would not be a good place for the head-quarters of a fleet. But. as a matter of fact, large pearling fleets have left Thursday Island, and have established their head-quarters at the Aru Islands, south of Dutch New Guinea, and are doing well there. They have brought their vessels under the Dutch flag, and they can pearl in the very same waters as they did when working from Thursday Island. That is a statement which I know to be correct. It is a fact that Mr. George Smith, the head of what is known as Clarke's combine, to whom Senator Pearce has referred, took a large fleet of vessels and established a base at Aru Islands.


Senator Pearce - It is somewhat singular that no one else ever heard of this, and that we have had no telegrams about it.


Senator STANIFORTH SMITH - I do not consider it singular, because ninetynine out of every 100 in the south know nothing of the pearling industry.


Senator Pearce - We got a lot of information about the proposal to go to Merauke.

Senator STANIFORTHSMITH.That may be so; but, as a matter of fact, men engaged in the industry have gone a little west of that port, and have actually established head-quarters for their vessels, placed them under the Dutch flag, and now can come down to work in the same waters as they worked in from Thursday Island. They secure many advantages by so doing. The Dutch have made the place a free port, and the pearlers get their supplies without having to pay duty. There is no restriction whatever on the men they engage. There is no restriction as to the wages to be paid, and they have absolutely no responsibility. They can bring their crews to work along our littoral within three miles of the shore ; and at any time they please they can put them ashore without any liability to themselves. The only persons liable are those who are landed in Australia. They can do all this and can carry on the industry as they did before in the waters in which they previously worked from Thursday Island, and they can, if they please, run into Thursday Island itself, or to any other port, and get supplies of stores, wood, and water.


Senator Pearce - Where did the honorable senator get this information?


Senator STANIFORTH SMITH - I can assure Senator Pearce that the information is absolutely true, and that I had it confirmed this morning by the 'Secretary of the External Affairs Department from official document's.


Senator PULSFORD (NEW SOUTH WALES) - The facts are well known in Sydney.


Senator Pearce - Why does not the honorable senator quote the document?

Senator STANIFORTHSMITH.Senator Pearce need not take my word, but I assure him that I was able to confirm the information this morning, and he can himself make inquiries on the subject from the Secretary of the Department of External Affairs. Pearl-shelling in 1902 and 1903 - and Senator Pearce was unable to give later information-


Senator Pearce - I gave information for 1904.

Senator STANIFORTHSMITH.The honorable senator quoted from the reports submitted by Mr. Warton and Judge Dashwood. They made their inquiries in 1902 and 1903, in the boom time, when the price of pearl shells went up to £300, and even to £400, per ton. Senator Pearce based his argument on an average value of £105 per ton. If that price could be obtained for pearl shells a profit of about £1 5 per ton might be made, because a good pearl lugger will obtain 4J tons of shell in a year. But is Senator Pearce aware that at the present time the price of pearl shell has fallen as low as £89 per ton? On the honorable senator's figures there would be absolutely no profit in the industry at that price. As a matter of fact, there is no pearling fleet working in the north of Australia or on the coast of Western Australia at the present time that is making a profit.


Senator Givens - Whose fault is that? Have they not depleted all the beds to satisfy their greed?

Senator STANIFORTHSMITH.At Thursday Island some ©f the beds may have been depleted, but those along the coast of Western Australia have not been depleted.


Senator Pearce - The honorable senator admits that the present price is abnormal, because he has said that the price at one time was as high as £300 per ton.

Senator STANIFORTHSMITH.It cannot be said that the present price is abnormal, because it is impossible to fix a standard price for pearl shells.


Senator Pearce - Is £105 an average price ?

Senator STANIFORTHSMITH.It was the average price for some years, but the price during the last twelve months has fallen to £89 per ton, and there is no present prospect of an increased price. So that when Senator Pearce based his argument on estimates made three years ago as to the bonus that would be necessary to enable the industry to be carried on by white labour, his basis being wrong, the inferences he drew must fall to the ground. The tendency at the present time is for the whole of the fleets to migrate to the Dutch Possessions. I know personally that another large fleet is at the present time contemplating going to Aru Island. In Dutch waters they have some advantages. If they put their vessels under the Dutch flag they can pearl in Dutch waters, as British vessels cannot do; they can get their provisions without paying duty ; and they are under no restriction as to the labour they employ ; nor do they have to pay the £100 guarantee. At the same time they can, if they please, fish in Australian waters, as they did previously. I say that, if we impose these conditions with regard to white crews, we shall add, according to an estimate which I made, 30 per cent, to the working expenses of the pearling fleets. The result would simply be that we should drive those fleets to foreign places, where they could form their base, and we should have our whole coast-line swarming with foreigners, with their luggers crammed with coloured aliens, whom we certainly do not desire to see in Australia. Many of them would, there is no doubt, land at night, and evade the Immigration Restriction Act. Of course there is a penalty on any alien discovered landing in Australia; but the inference is that in those places they would not be discovered'. A state of things would, I am satisfied, be brought about that would be injurious to the White Australia policy. In our efforts to make this international industry a white industry we may jeopardize the policy which we have inaugurated for the good of Australia. The great trouble in connexion with' all these pearling fleets' is that the places they visit - especially Thursday Island- are infested with coloured aliens. If any person wants to make up his mind whether we ought . to maintain the White Australia policy or not, he should go to a place like Thursday Island, and be as unfortunate as I was in having to spend a week there. He would then learn that the great trouble in such ports is not with regard to the indentured men on the pearling boats, but as to the number of free men who can roam about unrestricted. They can, if they choose, come to any part of Australia. In Thursday Island the number of contract men is 795 ; the number of non-contract men is 1,089. The latter are men who are in Australia unconditionally, and have the same rights as British subjects.


Senator Findley - How did they get there ? f


Senator STANIFORTH SMITH - They were allowed to. go there under the stupid Queensland laws. In Broome there are 2,209 contract and 260 non-contract men. The latter are in Broome unconditionally;. In Port Darwin there are 82 contract men and 158 non-contract men. So that out of a total coloured population of 5,097, 3,086 are contract men, and 2,011 are non-contract men. It is in the case of non-contract men that the trouble has arisen. There is no restriction whatever upon them. They) can remain where they are, or they can come down to Melbourne if they like. It is a peculiar fact that 200 or 300 of the non-contract' men in Thursday Island are kanakas, who came to Queensland under contract, bound to work only in the cane plantations, and to be sent straight back to their islands when the specified time expired. Senator Pearce quoted the discrepancy between those coloured people who were brought into Australia under contract and those who left. I admit that there is a great discrepancy. But Senator Pearce overlooked the fact which I have already mentioned, that many of these non-contract men have retired from the fleets, whilst many of them have gone away. Therefore the contract men have been coming in more largely than they have been going out. But the difference is made up by the non-contract men who have gone back to India, China, or the Philippine Islands, or, if they liked, to other parts of Australia.


Senator Pearce - The Commonwealth returns show all men returned, contract and non-contract alike.

Senator STANIFORTHSMITH.No, they do not. I called for a return for the year 1904. It shows that the labourers who arrived for the fleets numbered 1,532, and those who returned numbered 913. That leaves 619 unaccounted for. I immediately instituted inquiries to ascertain how this discrepancy arose. The noncontract men on the fleets were fewer by 282. The number authorized to be introduced into Western Australia on account of new boats was 196. The number authorized to be introduced into Port Darwin and Thursday Island for the same reason was about 141. Senator Pearce mentioned that the rapid growth of the pearlshelling industry would in itself account for the larger number of coloured people coming in and the smaller number going out. He quoted from Judge Dashwood's report figures showing the increase in boats and so on. But he himself gave the reason why a larger number should have come in than left Australia. I have said before that the value of this trade from a monetary point of view is not by any means the most important consideration-. The great question is : Are we advancing the White Australia policy, or are we absolutely injuring it? Still, however, the direct revenue received by Western Australia from Customs duties, fines, licences, and so forth amounted in 1902 to £25,000. I got those figures from Mr. Warton himself. The Commonwealth revenue obtained from Broome, which- is absolutely dependent on the pearl-shelling industry, was fairly large.


Senator Givens - A licence is not required in order to gather shell on the high seas.

Senator STANIFORTHSMITH.But the pearlers have to get a licence if their head-quarters are at Broome. The value of the fleet was £ 11 0,000. Senator Pearce said that the revenue in Broome was £2,000, and that the pearlers got their supplies from Singapore. But as a matter of fact they get hardly any supplies from Singapore. They have no direct communication with Singapore. They obtain their supplies from firms in Australia.


Senator Givens - That is a mere assertion.


Senator STANIFORTH SMITH - It is an absolute fact. I base my statement on official figures. Large quantities of supplies are obtained from Fremantle. MrWarton is my authority for this statement also.


Senator Pearce - Why did he not say so in his report?


Senator STANIFORTH SMITH - His report dealt with 1901. I am referring to 1902. I have mentioned that the value of the fleet in that year was ,£110,000. It should also be remembered that some subsidiary industries are created by the pearlshelling industry. Ninety per cent, of the Broome boats are built at Fremantle. In 1902, Perth and Fremantle built boats for the pearl-shelling industry to the value of £10,500. The pearl shell and pearls were estimated to be worth £180,000. The whole of the owners of the fleets were living in Australia. Their money was spent in Australia. Further, the greater proportion of the wages of the men employed on the fleets is spent in Australia.


Senator Findley - Most of the coloured men save their money and take it away with them.


Senator STANIFORTH SMITH - I think that the honorable senator is wrong. Certainly the Malays do not save their money. I have seen a Malay receive £roo in wages - I was there when the boats started to lay up - and I have seen that Malay come to his master the next day and ask him for more money. The Malays are tremendous gamblers. They will sit down stoically and gamble away in one night the whole of the money they have earned in a year. It must be remembered that the crews are on board the boats during eight months of the year. During that time they consume provisions which are bought in Australia ; and, of course, the money goes into Australian pockets, whether the provisions are consumed on luggers or on shore. I have said that the question of the monetary advantage arising from the industry is of small consideration in comparison with whether we can make the White Australia policy more effective. Shall we, if we Carry Senator Pearce's motion, make the White Australia policy more effective or not? That is the whole question. I am not opposed to the proposal of Senator Pearce to offer a bonus. I should offer a bonus to white crews to enable them to carry on the work, and ascertain what amount would be necessary.


Senator Dobson - In the extracts there is nothing about the danger and loss of life. Is there much loss of life?


Senator STANIFORTH SMITH - If the divers go into deep water - 15 or 18 fathoms - they are apt to get paralysis from the bursting of a blood vessel in the head ; but if they are working in 10 or 12 fathoms there is no danger. All this talk about depleting the deep waters is bunkum, because it is not known how far the pearlshell extends. Neither of the two gentlemen who have been quoted has had practical experience in regard to pearl-shelling.


Senator Pearce - But they have based their report on the evidence.


Senator STANIFORTH SMITH - I got my information from pearl-shellers who had) "been working there 'for fifteen or twenty years. How would it be possible to prevent the depletion of pearl-shell in deep water outside the three-mile limit?


Senator Givens - Why were regulations enforced regarding the size of the shell ?


Senator STANIFORTH SMITH - That is a different matter.


Senator Givens - It was done for the purpose of preventing depletion.


Senator STANIFORTH SMITH - It is impossible to deplete the deep water, because i.t is not possible to get pearl-shell when it is more than 18 or 19 fathoms deep.


Senator Dobson - Does the honorable senator think that white men will do the work for 6 s. a day ?


Senator STANIFORTH SMITH - If they are paid a proper wage, undoubtedly they will do the work. I mentioned a rate of 6s. a day and keep for the men, and of 10s. a day and keep for the divers ; but I merely made the suggestion in order to base an argument thereon.


Senator Dobson - Is the honorable senator bearing in mind that 4,000 or 5,000 white men will be wanted to take the place of kanakas?

Senator STANIFORTHSMITH.Yes. There are any number of white men to do the work if the price can be paid. This is not an industry which is controlled by Australia. Pearl-shell is lying at the bottom of the high seas, and the question is whether the industry is to be worked from Australia or from a foreign part. At the present time it is worked from Australia under most stringent conditions, in order to insure that no alien pearlers shall enter the Commonwealth. If a single man of that type comes in, the owner of the lugger is liable to a fine of £100. A man comes from a foreign part with a photograph of himself, and an impression of his hand is taken, so that there can be no doubt as to his identity. If he is not brought up at the end of his agreement the bond is forfeited. If we allow the industry to be carried on from outside Australia, these very men will work in the very same positions as they previously did, but their employers will be under no personal obligation to keep them from landing on our shores. It costs an employer nearly £5 to send a man back to Manila and places like Japan. He can say to his pearlers when the term is up, "Would you like to enter Australia at your own risk?" and if they say " yes," then along that coastline of 1,000 miles he can run in and put them ashore. If the industry be carried on by foreigners operating from outside Australia there, will be the greatest possible danger of a coloured alien invasion. I made a rough calculation in regard to the bonus which would probably be required. If my calculation be right, it will cost 30 per cent, more to work the industry if white be substituted for coloured labour. There are about 600 luggers working at the present time. Each lugger employs six men, namely, the diver, the tender, the man who holds the life-line, the two men who work at the pump, and the man who looks after the vessel. Roughly speaking, the pearling fleets employ about 4,000 men. As the average wage is 18s., that means a wage fund of ^167^000 a year. If we added 30 per cent, to that sum, it would mean a bonus of ^50,000 a year. That is only a rough calculation, but I believe that the owners of the fleets could carry on their industry as successfully as they do now if we gave them a bonus of -^50,000 a year. Senator Pearce's calculation was based upon the statement in Mr. Warton's report that the annual cost of working a lugger was £520. but that is a 'mistake, I think. However, if it be true, it would mean that the bonus would need to be largely increased. The honorable senator read some appalling statements in regard to the vice which is brought about by the association of the aborigines with coloured aliens. That is one of the worst blots on the pearl-shelling industry, and one which should give us the greatest possible concern. If the whole of the pearl-shell could be swept away from Australian waters, I believe that ultimately it would be to our best interest, but it is there. If coloured aliens are going to work in exactly the same waters as they do now along that great coast-line, they can always go ashore. The aborigines will flock down to get tobacco and spirits, and the same evil practices will continue, whether the industry be worked from Australia or from a foreign part. There will not be the slightest difference in that respect. If I had looked at the matter from a personal stand-point, I should not have opposed the motion. When the average man is asked, " Do you want coloured men working in the pearling industry " ? the answer is " No." From the purely personal stand-point, it would have been much to my advantage if I had said that I cordially agree with the motion. I have been in touch with this industry, and perhaps I understand its working better than any one else here. While, with the best intentions, Senator Pearce desires to bring about an alteration, I feel certain that the loss of our control would bring about a condition of affairs infinitely worse than that which now obtains. The owners of the boats would be under no responsibility to see that the coloured men did not escape to the mainland!. There would be no liability to a fine of £100 if a coloured man was not accounted for at the end of his term. The industry could be carried on in exactly the same waters, and the pearlers allowed to come into Australia just as they pleased, without the owner of the boat incurring any responsibility or liability.


Senator Givens - Would the honorable senator mind quoting Mr. Saville Kent's report as to the probable depletion of the beds, as he said just now that they could not be depleted?


Senator STANIFORTH SMITH - The beds round Thursday Island have been depleted, and the 'men are not allowed to 0 pearl within a certain distance of the island. They have to go to the Warrior Reefs and to the north-west of the island in order to pearl, and that is in the direction of Dutch waters. From Aru Island they can go down and pearl in Dutch waters; I ask the Senate to consider this question : Is it better that this industry - which will be carried on by coloured labour whatever restrictions we make - should be carried on under the strictest supervision than that it should be worked from a foreign base, and carried on without any restrictions;, and thus be a source of serious danger to cur White Australia policy ?

Debate (on motion by Senator Millen) adjourned.







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