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Thursday, 23 November 1905

Senator CLEMONS (Tasmania) - I also entirely fail to understand the reason for the attitude which has been adopted by Senator Pearce and Senator O'Keefe. I shall not have the slightest hesitation, if asked, to state my views on this subject. I would remind those honorable senators that the Parliament of Australia has decided not to admit Japanese. But I believe that we all desire to give as little offence as possible to that nation. I do not see, in this motion, anything but an honest attempt to allay any feeling of irritation and friction which may have arisen between Australia and Japan. I can imagine that if we sought to enter into negotiations for a treaty on this subject, we should say to Japan : " We have absolutely decided that your people are not to enter the Commonwealth, but we wish to make the arrangement with you in as friendly a way as possible. We do not wish to hurt your feelings, if it can possibly be avoided. We wish, when we enter into this treaty on the questions of immigration and emigration, to have a clear understanding with you as to the terms upon which Australians may enter your country." There is a correlative in this matter. The other side of the question has been considered by Senator Pulsford in drafting his motion. Surely neither Senator Pearce nor Senator Pulsford can have the slightest objection to the Commonwealth discussing that matter in an amicable way with Japan, and always on the clear assumption that there is to be no modification of the policv of Australia that the Japanese are not to come into our country.

Senator Pearce - If honorable senators on the other side do not ask for a modification why do they want an alteration made in the law?

Senator CLEMONS - The amendment, which is to be submitted in another place, will, under no circumstances, make it more easy for the Japanese to enter Australia. If it will have any effect at al], it will only make it more easy for our Customs officers to keep them out.

Senator O'Keefe - That is opposed to my view.

Senator CLEMONS - I have no doubt that the alteration proposed will make it much more difficult for Japanese to "obtain admission to Australia. But what we ought frankly to admit is that the education test was never designed to let people in, but as a .sure means of keeping them out. No man living,, and no man who has ever lived, is or was so educated that he could enter Australia in face of the language test. We discussed that matter years ago, and we all know what the intention was.

Senator O'Keefe - That is, he could not enter, in face of the language test, if we were determined to keep him out.

Senator CLEMONS - Undoubtedly. It is a test designed to keep certain people out, and it is a sure means of keeping them out if there is any force in it at all.

Senator O'Keefe - If the word " prescribed " were substituted for the word "European," would it not be possible by administration to make it easier for Asiatics to come in?

Senator CLEMONS - Senator O'Keefe must recognise that if, by the alteration proposed, it was made at least as easy to keep them out, it would not in the slightest degree affect the efficacy of the education test. If we have an education test we can keep out any man, even though he be the greatest linguist who ever lived.

Senator Guthrie - Or it would be easy to let any man in under it.

Senator CLEMONS - If the Administration wished to do so; but that is not the object. What has been suggested in another place is that we should omit from the Act a certain word in order to appease the Japanese. I think that the motion of Senator Pulsford off eis a very much more desirable method of smoothing over the feelings of the Japanese, without in any waywhatever interfering with Australia's policy. I am going to vote for it, assuming that, if , we make a proposal for a treaty, the starting point will be that Australia does not want the Japanese, and does not intend to let them in. The object of the treaty would' be simply to provide some means cf making that definite arrangement without, if possible, hurting the feelings of the other side. And as I have pointed out, and must repeat, there is a correlative. If the treaty were applied to keep the Japanese Out of Australia, it might equally be made to apply so as to exclude Australians from Japan. Japan has -a perfect right to say that people from this country shall not be admitted into her territory. But I say at once that I believe that Japan would never adopt such a method of keeping- people cut as the education test. As every ,.>ne knows who was with me in the. first Parliament of the Commonwealth, I utterly hate the education test, because it is a subterfuge and a dodge.

Senator Playford - Hear, hear; I admit that.

Senator CLEMONS - We all admit it. I do not believe that Japan, even though she determined to exclude Australians, would adopt such a test as that.

Senator Pearce - Because she has not an Imperial Government over her to press her to adopt it.

Senator CLEMONS - I do not wish to go into the reasons why the education test was adopted. 1 am simply stating a fact - that Japan has a perfect right to say- to Australians', " You shall not come into our country;" though she would probably, do it in a more direct way.

Senator Pearce - So should we, except for the Imperial connexion.

Senator CLEMONS - Let us assume that she does that. , We do not want to be shut out from the opportunity of visiting a civilized part of the world. Surely a question of that kind is a proper one to be settled by treaty. As to Imperial interference, surely we all recognise that if we are to enter into negotiations with regard to a treaty between Australia and Japan it is very desirable that the Government of Australia should conduct those negotiations. In other words, we should discuss this matter with the Japanese, and should arrange the terms on which Japan would admit Australians into her country.

Senator Pearce - Arrangements have been entered into.

Senator Playford - Japanese who do not wish to settle here are admitted freely into Australia.

Senator CLEMONS - Am I to understand that no modification is requisite - that it is not desirable or necessary that we should attempt to soothe the feelings of Japan ?

Senator Pearce - That is a very different thing.

Senator CLEMONS - That is the whole point in connexion with this matter.

Senator Pearce - I understand this motion to mean that a treaty would take the place of our Immigration Restriction Act

Senator CLEMONS - Not at .all.

Senator Pearce - That is the intention. Senator Pulsford's whole speech was denunciatory of our Immigration Restriction Act.

Senator CLEMONS - On what grounds? Senator Pearce can see with me that Senator Pulsford's motion relates not to the admission of Japanese, but to the method of their exclusion.

Senator Pulsford - Hear, hear.

Senator CLEMONS - I believe- so far as I am capable of speaking for Senator Pulsford, and I am not to a great extent - that honestly that is his view; that the manner in which we have excluded them is unnecessarily offensive.

Senator Pearce - He would admit them by treaty.

Senator CLEMONS - For this reason - that by adopting that method we should avoid the risk of unnecessarily wounding the susceptibilities of a highly-civilized nation like the Japanese. I cannot see why any member of the Senate, no matter what his views are, should object to the method suggested by Senator Pulsford. Am I to understand that honorable senators opposite do not care whether we wound the feelings of the Japanese or not? That is the whole point.

Senator Pulsford - My proposal is to do by treaty what it has been proposed in another place to do by means of a Bill.

Senator CLEMONS - Honorable senators opposite should not go back upon this starting point - that the Japanese are clearly to understand that they are to be excluded from Australia. If that be so, what more does Senator Pearce want?

Senator Pearce - Then why is the treaty wanted ?

Senator CLEMONS - We want a treaty, in the opinion of the Prime Minister of the Commonwealth, because the Japanese consider that the phraseology of our present education test is- such as unnecessarily to wound their finest susceptibilities, if we like to put it in that way.

Senator Pearce - The Prime Minister simply says that we want an amendment of the law, but Senator Pulsford says that we want a treaty, and not a law.

Senator CLEMONS - I do not think so. I agree with Senator Pulsford that what he proposes is a much better way of arriving at the same object as the Prime Minister has in View. It would enable us to secure our object without giving unnecessary offence to the Japanese, and without weakening the policy that is so dear to my honorable friends opposite.

Senator O'Keefe - Is it not dear to the honorable and learned, senator also?

Senator CLEMONS - I do not disguise my views. I admit that the Japanese will have1 to be kept out. I have said so half- a-dozen times. ' The White Australia policy is dear to me in a reasonable sense, but I am not a fanatic on the subject.

Senator O'Keefe - The honorable and learned senator believes in the policy ?

Senator CLEMONS - I have said so;: but I do not seek to carry it to an absurd extent. We want to keep the Japanese out, and we can keep them out; but the question is whether we cannot do it without causing any unnecessary irritation to them. When I speak of the fanaticism of my honorable friends opposite, I mean that they stick at nothing in order to carry out their ideal. The\y do not care how they irritate any one, so long as they secure their object.

Senator O'Keefe - That is an entirely unfair way to put it,

Senator CLEMONS - I will answer that interjection. The Japanese, I believe, have indicated that they do not desire to come into Australia.

Senator Findley - They want the Northern Territory.

Senator CLEMONS - I do not believe that the Japanese Government has, either directly or indirectly, indicated that it desires that its people shall come into Australia.

Senator Findley - A very high official, who has written a book recently, says that there is such a desire.

Senator Playford - If we open the door they will come in fast enough.

Senator CLEMONS - It is difficult to prove a negative, but it is my opinion that they do not want to come in. -The question is what method we shall- adopt to keep them out. I know they have expressed a certain amount of annoyance as to the methods by which we keep them out, and have expressed it very temperately. Is that denied?

Senator Stewart - We have no evidence of it.

Senator CLEMONS - I think we have had overwhelming evidence.

Senator Stewart - When ?

Senator CLEMONS - When we were dealing with the subject in the first Parliament, and since, It has been made public. I do not think there is any doubt about it.

Senator O'Keefe - That is generally accented. But does not the honorable senator think thev would have been more annoyed if we had drawn a colour line?

Senator CLEMONS - I do not know whether they would or not, but I should! think that they would not have been. That, however, is not the question now. It is this : We have lately had evidence of the annoyance that they feel at the way in which we keep them out - that they resent the method of exclusion more than the fact of it. I put it to the members of the Labour Party, whether if that is so, there is any justifiable reason why, if we can remove that cause of resentment, we should not do so?

Senator Playford - We are proposing to do so by means of a Bill.

Senator CLEMONS - If we can do it without altering the fixed policy of this country, is there any reason why we should not accomplish the purpose by -agreement rather than by legislation? That is what Senator Pulsford's motion means.

Senator Higgs - Can the honorable senator indicate a way in which it can be done?

Senator CLEMONS - I am absolutely certain that if we entered into friendly communications, preliminary to a treaty, with Japan, we could so arrange the whole matter as to leave. the power of exclusion as effective as it is now, and still do away with all the resentment which the Japanese feel. Apparently, however, Senator Pearce has made up his mind, and I suppose that nothing will shift him, even if he recognises that he is showing fanaticism. Let honorable senators 'ask themselves the question: Who is going to make the treaty? Australia. I should not ask for this policy to be pursued if I thought that the treaty was going to be made by some one else, even by the Imperial authorities.

Senator Pearce - Does the honorable senator say that we have power to make treaties with foreign powers?

Senator CLEMONS - Of course the Imperial authorities will have to act as our agents in concluding the treaty ; but there is no difference whatever between our making a treaty directly with Japan and our making the arrangements for the treaty with Japan, leaving the final formal stages to be concluded by the Imperial Government. The Imperial assent will have to be given just as in the case of every Act we pass.

Senator Pearce - But Japan does 'not give its assent to an Act.

Senator CLEMONS - No; and it is in order that we may work harmoniously with Japan that a treaty is desirable. Japan may agree to our terms, and if she does, we shall have removed all cause of friction. In my- opinion there is no danger in a treaty of1 the kind, and a great deal is to be said in favour of the proposal, if we wish to appease the irritation which Japan has already felt. The method proposed by. Senator Pulsford is infinitely preferable to the alteration in the law which- we know is- proposed in another place. I shall vote for the motion as it stands.

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