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Thursday, 23 November 1905

The PRESIDENT - The amendment is a negation of only part of the motion.

Senator Clemons - The amendment is an absolute negation of all that is affirmed in the motion.


Senator Clemons - I respectfully point out that the amendment leaves out-

The PRESIDENT - I have given my ruling.

Senator Clemons - I hope I may be allowed to put my case before a decision is finally given ?

The PRESIDENT - The honorable and learned senator may speak if he wishes, but I cannot possibly see how the amendment can be regarded as a negation of the motion.

Senator Clemons - Then I hope I may be permitted to try to explain my point to you. Senator Pearce proposes to leave out the word "affirms," and if that be carried the motion will contain nothing more than an expression of " earnest hope." The affirmation, which is the main part of the motion - which is practically the whole of the motion - it is proposed to omit; and any amendment which takes out the whole of the affirmation can be nothing else than a practical negation of the motion. I understand, however, sir, that you have already given your ruling.

The PRESIDENT - It seems to me clear that the amendment is not an absolute negation of the whole motion, though it may perhaps be a most fundamental alteration.

Senator Clemons - You intimated that the amendment does not interfere with the affirmation of the motion. But only one thing is affirmed in the motion, and the amendment proposes to remove that affirmation.

Senator Pearce - Would the motion, as amended, not affirm our friendship to Japan?

Senator Clemons - The motion, if amended, would affirm nothing.

The PRESIDENT - Senator Clemonsknows that amendments are constantly moved to leave out the whole of the motion except the word "That," and such amendments are not. held to be negations.

Senator Clemons - It all depends on what it is proposed to substitute.

The PRESIDENT - There is nothing substituted sometimes.

Senator PEARCE - There; is an attempt to make it appear that those in favour of a White Australia are animated by a spirit of animosity to Japan and other Eastern nations. I have no doubt that if we were to reject this motion, our action would be used by those opposed to the principle of a White Australia to prove that we have a hatred of Japan and all Eastern nations, and regard them as enemies. Nothing is further from our thoughts, and without bringing in any such matter, Senator

Pulsford might very easily have secured a vote of the Senate on the question whether the immigration of these people to the Commonwealth should be controlled by treaty or by law. That is really the question involved in the motion, and it should not be mixed up with the question of our friendship for or hostility to Japan. If I were unable to move the amendment, the question would be complicated, and I should be called upon to vote against something I desire to vote for or for something I desire to vote against. On the question whether immigration of this character should be controlled by treaty or by law, I ask, first of all, whether we have the power to enter into a treaty with a foreign country? As I understand the Constitution, we have no such power. Such a treaty would have to be entered into not by the Commonwealth Government directly, but by the British Government, so that Senator Pulsford's motion really asks the Senate to affirm that a very important power given to us under the Constitution shall be handed over to the Government of Great Britain. My amendment is moved in order to let the people of Australia know what members of the Senate are prepared to hand over that power to the British Government. Let us have a division on the question, and see what members of the Senate will tell the people of Australia that they are prepared to hand over powers intrusted to the Commonwealth Parliament to the British Government, and leave them to determine our immigration policy by treaty.

Senator Dobson - Surely we should indicate to the British Government the nature of the treaty we desired.

Senator PEARCE - On the Home Rule motion the other day, we were informed that we should not dictate to the British Parliament and Government.

Senator Pulsford - How absurd.

Senator PEARCE - The honorable senator says that we may dictate to the British Parliament in connexion with matters in which he believes, but it is absurd that we should presume to do so in connexion with any matter in which he does not believe.

Senator Clemons - This is a matter which affects us, whilst Home Rule does not.

Senator PEARCE - Assuming that it is advisable that we should endeavour to influence the Imperial Government in connexion with a treaty, I take it that those who advocate that method of dealing with this question, in preference to the passing of a law to deal with it, do so because they are of opinion that the law which now exists on the subject irritates Japan. Is it not a fact that if we had this important matter arranged1 by treaty, it would be a constant source of irritation? We should have the people of Australia continually complaining that Japan was not observing the treaty. Whenever there was an increase of Japanese immigrants, representations would be made that Japan was not observing the treaty. The question, instead of being, as it is now, to some extent, a settled question, and part of a settled policy, would be a constant source of trouble and irritation. Representations would be made continually in both Houses of the Federal Parliament that Japan was not observing the treaty, and that we were getting more Japanese into the Commonwealth than we should be getting under the treaty. These representations would have to be forwarded to the Imperial Government, and from the Imperial Government to Japan. There can be no doubt that such a method of dealing with the subject would lead to endless trouble and irritation. Although I believe that Senator Pulsford submits his motion under the impression that the method he proposes would lead to less irritation than is caused by the present law, the adoption of his proposal would have the opposite effect. A proposal is before another place, which I cannot debate, but the object of which is, without impairing our law, to delete a word which Senator Pulsford asserts is a source of irritation to the Japanese. If that source of irritation can be removed without impairing the force of the existing law surely it will be more satisfactory to permit that law to continue and to allow its operation to effect what Senator Pulsford claims to desire. The honorable senator says that he does not desire that the Japanese shall be admitted to Australia, and that he is in favour of a White Australia. In the circumstances, if the existing Commonwealth law can be altered in such a way as to meet his views by removing what he considers to be a source of irritation, and at the same time continue to effect the purpose which he professes to have in view, the honorable senator ought not to bring in this proposal for the settlement of the question by a treaty which would undoubtedly lead to constant irritation. A treaty is always open to the objection that either of the parties to it may at any time denounce it. What would then become of the arrangement ? It would; cease to have any force. Whereas with respect to a law we are ourselves its custodians, we take the responsibility of it,, and if the people of Australia are prepared to back up that law, it cannot be -repealed, unless by force of arms. If such a treaty as Senator Pulsford suggests were denounced by Japan, we should be compelled to again go to the trouble of passing a law dealing with the subject.

Senator Dobson - The treaty could not be denounced during the time for which it was entered into.

Senator PEARCE - Certainly not. But Senator Pulsford, in his motion, makes no reference to a treaty for any particular term.

Senator Dobson - The honorable senator does not suppose that it would be for a day ?

Senator PEARCE - I have moved my amendment with the deliberate purpose of asking- the Senate to say that it is far better we should deal with this matter by Act of Parliament, no matter how we may differ as to what its terms should be. If amended as I propose, the motion would put a clear-cut issue before the Senate. Honorable senators who believe that the matter should be dealt with by treaty will support Senator Pulsford's motion in its entirety, whilst those who agree with the view I have submitted will support the amendment. For the motion, amended as I propose, I shall be prepared to vote with pleasure. In my opinion, it is only fair that those who are opposed to dealing with this matter by treaty should not be placed in the position of appearing to be hostile to Japan. We have no desire to be placed in any such position. We have too often been placed in that position ; those who have opposed us on this question have often attempted to place us in such a position, and I move my amendment in order that we may avoid that on this particular occasion.

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