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Thursday, 30 November 1905


Senator GIVENS (Queensland) - I have no objection to the principle of the amendment, but I think there is a mistake in the wording of it which should be corrected. As it at present stands, it would simply mean that, although the employers could not import coloured labourers from Asia, they could import them from every other part of the earth. I think it would be better if the words used were " but so as not to increase the number of coloured labourers now employed."


Senator Keating - Make it "coloured aliens."


Senator GIVENS - I wish to amend the amendment by using the words "coloured aliens," suggested by Senator Keating, for the words " Asiatic labourers." As I desire to move a further amendment, I might be relieved of the necessity of moving this amendment by Senator Turley agreeing to accept it.


Senator Turley - I have no objection.


The PRESIDENT - Some honorable senator must move the amendment before it can be accepted. Senator Turley's amendment has been moved, and any amendment upon that amendment must be moved before it can be put.


Senator GIVENS - I intend to move a further amendment.


The PRESIDENT - There can be only one amendment before the Senate.


Senator GIVENS - Speaking to the amendment now, will I have the right to speak to the main question ?


The PRESIDENT - No ; the honorable senator must speak now to the amendment and to the main question. Perhaps the honorable senator will say what he desires to do.


Senator GIVENS - I wish to amend the motion by striking out paragraph b, but perhaps 1 can achieve my object if the motion is put to the Senate paragraph by paragraph.


The PRESIDENT - I point out that although I put the motion paragraph by paragraph, there can be only one debate on the three paragraphs of the motion.


Senator Pearce - We can strike out the second paragraph.


The PRESIDENT - That can be done after the first is amended, as proposed.


Senator GIVENS - I move-

That the amendment be amended by leaving out the words " Asiatic labourers," with a view to insert in lieu thereof the words " coloured aliens."

I think that that will meet the views of every one. It will permit of the employment in their own waters of Australian aboriginals, and of natives of New Guinea in New Guinea waters.


Senator Staniforth Smith - It will not.


Senator GIVENS - It will not prevent natives of New Guinea from engaging in the pearl fishing in New Guinea waters.


Senator Clemons - Can we keep them out of Australian waters?


Senator GIVENS - I think so ; they are not citizens of the Commonwealth, in the ordinary acceptation of the term. Personally, I do not think that it would be a good thing for the natives of New Guinea that they should be imported into the industry, either at Broome, or in the north of Australia. In the interests of the natives of New Guinea. I think that it will be wise to adopt some means to confine them to their own country


Senator Staniforth Smith - They should not be allowed to land at Thursday Island, or on any portion of Australia.


Senator GIVENS - I agree with the honorable senator. The motion, if amended as proposed, will not restrict their rights to fish in their own waters. Speaking on the general question, I wish to say that I disagree in toto with the remarks and conclusions submitted to the Senate by Senator Smith. The honorable senator pointed out that Western Australia is receiving a revenue of something like £25,000 per annum from the operations of this industry in North-west Australia, and also that a large revenue is derived by the State of Queensland from the industry. The honorable senator further said that if we pursued a certain course we should be likely to drive those engaged in the industry away from the Australian coast, and Australia would then lose their trade. Nothing, of that sort has occurred, or is likely to occur. It is necessary that the fishing fleets engaged in this industry should have their base very close to the fishing grounds, and it is only close to the Australian coast that the pearl- shell can be procured at a reasonable depth. The fishing grounds on the high seas are all at a very considerable depth. I do not presume to speak of Western Australia, because I do not know much of the industry there, but I do know a little of the industry in North Queensland, and judging from' the reports of experts it would not do very much harm if a close preserve of the fishing beds were declared for five years. I believe that it would result ultimately in wealth and advantage to Australia. That eminent piscatorial authority, Mr. Saville Kent, has said that there is very great danger of the beds being depleted. He has expressed the opinion that it is very fortunate that fishing cannot take place beyond a certain depth, because on this account a reserve of fish is provided from which the shallower banks can berestocked as they become depleted. In Queensland it was found necessary to pass a law prohibiting fishing for shell 21 inches and less in diameter. Still, as a matter of fact, the fishers, in their greed for profit, were continually taking away shell below the prescribed size, with the result that the banks in Northern Queensland, which formerly yielded enormous profits, are almost depleted, and the industry stands in danger of being extinguished, or, at any irate, stopped for a considerable number of years. I think that so valuable an industry ought to be conserved for the benefit of the people of Australia. We should! do everything we can to maintain it in a prosperous condition. But there is another point of view. Supposing that Western Australia was gaining £25,000 per annum from the pearl -shelling industry being pursued in the north-west part of Western Australia, and that Queensland was deriving an equally large revenue from having" the industry' pursued in Northern Australia, would not those two States derive an equally large revenue if the industry were carried on by white labour? Pearl-shelling has never been so profitable to Queensland as it was when white labour was. employed. There is nothing in the work to prevent its being carried on by white labour now.


Senator Staniforth Smith - The question is whether the industry shall be controlled from Australia, or from a foreign port.


Senator GIVENS - The reply is that it is necessary for the small boats which take part in the industry, to have either a larger vessel, or a convenient coast as a base. Western Australia and Queensland respectively, are the only two places which offer such conveniences. So that we need not fear the loss of the industry in the way Senator Smith suggests. It is owing to the impossibility of obtaining anything like efficient supervision over the coloured crews - many of the boats being owned by coloured people - and owing to the greed of some of the fishers that the beds are being depleted in Northern Australia. I believe that the same result is liable to occur in Western Australia.


Senator Staniforth Smith - I think it would have been better for Australia if there had been no pearl shell near its coast.


Senator GIVENS - I do not agree with the honorable senator. We should rejoice that our country has so many resources from which wealth may be obtained ; and we should do our best to enable our people to gain the greatest possible advantage from them. But we should not go out of our way to afford opportunities for coloured people to exploit our sources of wealth, and to take it away from the country, giving no adequate return.


Senator Clemons - It seems to me that thatis what we are proposing to do.


Senator GIVENS - The motion does not go as far as I think it ought to go, but Senator Pearce thinks that, as he cannot get all he would like, he ought to take as much as he can. To that extent, I am with him. Even if every word that Senator Smith had said were true, that £25,000 is secured to Western Australia by means of the pearl-shelling industry, and even if it weretrue that Queensland was gaining a similar amount, by having the industry in the hands of coloured labour, I still maintain that such a revenue is not an adequate compensation to any State for the enormous iniquities that arise from the presence of the coloured labourers, who participate in this industry.


Senator Staniforth Smith - I said that the monetary consideration is the least important of any.


Senator GIVENS - I freely admit that that is so. That consideration does not weigh with me even so much as it does with Senator Smith. But there is no reason why we should lose the £25,000. The industry was more beneficial to Queensland when it was carried on by white labour than it has ever been since, and it will be beneficial in the future if we take pains to (Conserve the wealth we have in the pearl fisheries, and insist on their being conducted by white labour. The same policy which we have adopted for the land of Australia should be adopted for the waters of Australia. We have no right to keep coloured aliens out of any industry in Australia if we permit them' to participate in pearling. I should be prepared to vote a handsome subsidy to enable the industry to be carried on by white labour, if it could not be done otherwise. But pearling was one of the most lucrative occupations in Australia for a considerable number of years, until the coloured races entered into it, practically swarmed over the pearling beds, and depleted that great source of wealth. If we are to be consistent, we should adopt the same policy with regard to those beds as we have adopted in regard to the mainland.







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