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Thursday, 23 November 1905

Senator Sir JOSIAH SYMON (South Australia) - Senator O'Keefe is perfectly justified in saying - and I regard it as a great compliment, coming from, him - that I should be one of the very last men to consent to any surrender of our power - in fact, if I were the last, I still should he found resisting the handing over of any unrestricted power to the Imperial Government, to make treaties affecting the control of immigration and emigration in respect of Australia or any other subject of vital interest to our national welfare. But I think there is a misapprehension in. the minds of Senator Pearce and Senator O'Keefe on this subject. I entirely disagree with the suggestion that we should contemplate for a moment handing over to the Imperial authorities entirely the making of a treaty which is to bind Australia in relation to this matter. In. the first place, the motion is perfectly innocuous - that is to say, it is not harmful to the policy which my honorable friends have very dearly at heart, or to any question relating to Japanese immigration. It simply affirms the desirability of a treaty arrangement being made between that great power which has arisen in the East on the one hand, and Australia on the other - that is to say, a treaty arrangement which, in substance, would be between Japan on the one hand, and Australia on the other. That is not an interference with our self-governing right to pass whatever Bills we may please. My honorable friends will see that the power which has been and is again about to be exercised in what is suggested as a more attractive form to the Japanese in relation to immigration, is altogether unaffected. We can exclude any one we please, either foreigners or our own kith and kin. We have absolute power in that respect, and the Imperial authorities are not likely, at this time of day, to propose to interfere with us in any form. Senator Pulsford's suggestion is that, without interfering with or infringing upon that great principle of selfgovernment, it is desirable that there should be a mutual arrangement made between Australia and Japan. It is not -necessary now to discuss whether an agreement could be entered into between the two countries. My own disposition is to think that it could. So long as it did not lessen or destroy Imperial interests, I know of nothing to interfere with our right to make an agreement with Japan in reference to our legislation on that subject. But, suppose that there is, and that the treaty, being Imperial in. its character, must be entered into by the Imperial Government, it would be only entered ink by the Imperial Government as our agent. They would not enter into a treaty with Japan which was hostile to us, or which was not for the purpose of carrying out our desire. I cannot contemplate such a thing for a moment.

Senator O'KEEFE (TASMANIA) - Cannot the honorable and learned senator contemplate that if, in their opinion, Australian interests and ideals conflicted with* Imperial interests and ideals, their leaning would be towards the latter ?

Senator Sir JOSIAH SYMON - In my opinion, the Imperial Government would not make a treaty subordinating Australia to Imperial interests. We should' be the very first to rise in revolt against an act of that kind. We should not allow them to do so, and they would not.

Senator Clemons - They did not refuse the Royal assent to the Immigration Restriction Bill, and that was the same thing.

Senator Sir JOSIAH SYMON -I do not wish to discuss the motion at any length. I d-'d not intend to say a word on the subject; but I could not help rising to point out the fallacy which I think lurks in the position taken up by Senator Pearce and

Senator O'Keefe.I can see no reason why they should not assent to the motion. It does not run in conflict with, or lessen in any way, our powers of self-government, our right to say who shall or shall not enter. All it says is that, consistently with all that, it is desirable, and nobody can deny that it is desirable, that we should make an arrangement with Japan if we can.

Senator O'keefe - What is the object of the motion?

Senator Sir JOSIAH SYMON - The object of the motion is simply to affirm the desirability of giving some sort of practical effect to what, as my honorable friend quite truly says, will be left simply as an. ex ' pression of abstract good-will.

Senator O'Keefe - Will Senator Pulsford deny that the object of his motion, in his own mind, is to have less restriction placed upon the admittance of Japanese?

Senator Sir JOSIAH SYMON - It does not say that. I am not going to affirm anything as to what the restriction shall be.

Senator O'Keefe - If that is not in Senator Pulsford's mind, why did he move the motion ?

Senator Sir JOSIAH SYMON - I think that my honorable friend is unnecessarily sensitive about this matter. He will see what Senator Pulsford in his motion affirms. Without questioning the power of Australia to regulate immigration as she pleases, to keep out the Japanese if she pleases, to pass what laws she pleases, but looking at the attitude of this nation and the position to which it has risen, he simply says it is' desirable that we should do it in a friendly way, by some kind of arrangement. If the motion had been affirming, as my honorable friend thought it did, the desirability of handing over to the Imperial Government the duty of doing our business for us, making a treaty to which we were no parties, in which we should not be asked to concur, and with which we might altogether disagree

Senator O'Keefe - I did not go that far.

Senator Sir JOSIAH SYMON - That is what I gathered was pressing upon my honorable friend's mind. If that were the case.. I should be at one with him.

Senator O'Keefe - I know that we could make our representations.

Senator Sir JOSIAH SYMON - No; they must carry out what we told them, if it is to bind us. If the motion had any tendency towards what my honorable friend thought, of handing over entirely to the Imperial authorities the duty of entering into a treaty of this kind, willy-nilly, so far as we were concerned, I should be with him, and oppose the motion. But, so far as I can see, it is simply an expression of that national good-will which we, as a great and growing nation, may well entertain for Japan, which, whatever we may think of her people, and whatever our just conceit of ourselves may be, is a much greater nation at the present moment, so far as power and position are concerned, than we are.

Senator O'Keefe - The amendment will affirm that.

Senator Sir JOSIAH SYMON - No. My honorable friend said, and said truly, that the amendment would take the heart out of the motion. We may omit the last part, although it is simply a pleasant and complimentary way of affirming that we wish to keep on friendly terms with Japan. But the suggestion 'is that it is desirable that we should try to make an arrangement by agreement - and a treaty is only an agreement - with Japan in this matter.

Senator Pearce - The motion gives us a splendid opportunity to lay a few ghosts, and we shall do it.

Senator Sir JOSIAH SYMON - What ghost is there to be laid?

Senator Pearce - People talk about our hostility to Japan, and all that kind of thing.

Senator Sir JOSIAH SYMON -I do not take exception to the expression " ghost " in that relation. It would be very unwise if we entertained' a feeling of that kind. If my honorable friends want to lay a ghost let them do it, but it could be done much better by assenting to the motion as it stands.

Senator Higgs - Has the honorable and learned senator altered his views with regard to the total exclusion of Asiatics from Australia ?

Senator Sir JOSIAH SYMON - I do not know that I have ever expressed myself in those terms. My honorable friend has put a proposition, which I should be very glad to discuss with him at some other time, but that is not the question we are debating now. The only point is whether we might not very fairly - without hampering our national strength or weakening our feeling against any interference bv an outside power, no matter whether it be the mother country or not - agree to this motion.

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