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Tuesday, 12 December 1905

Senator PULSFORD (New South Wales') - I greatly regret that this Bill does not meet the expectations of those who were looking for an amending measure which would be worthy of Australia, and satisfy the just requirements and wishes of great countries like Japan. The clause dealing with the exemption from the dictation test of the subjects of a country with which an arrangement has been made, is one which would be of immense advantage if it could be carried out at the present time. This clause concedes much that I have been asking in the motion which I placed before the Senate, and which, over some weeks, has been debated on several occasions. The Minister, however, does not tell us what sort of arrangement is proposed, or suggest when there will be an opportunity to put it into force. The clause goes on to provide that before notice of any arrangement of the kind can be issued, it shall have .the sanction by resolution of both Houses of the Parliament.

Senator Playford - Surely the honorable senator does not object to that provision ?

Senator PULSFORD - Parliament, in the course of days, or, at any rate, weeks, will prorogue, and then, I presume, there will be a recess of about six months, during which the conditions of the existing Act must, according to this clause, remain in force.

Senator Best - But has the Minister not told us that arrangements have been made?

Senator Playford - Arrangements have already been made with Japan and India, and instructions have been issued to all our officers on the subject. The arrangements are in force now. and have been in force for some considerable time.

Senator Lt Col Gould - And there is no intention to repeal them?

Senator Playford - We do not intend to interfere with them.

Senator PULSFORD - Does Senator Playford mean to tell me that there is an arrangement existing to-day with the Empire of Japan, under which this dictation test is absolutely done away with?

Senator Playford - The dictation test is not done away with in regard to the whole of the subjects of Japan, but only in regard to merchants, tourists, and students.

Senator PULSFORD - The arrangement for which I have been asking, and the arrangement which, I presume, this clause means, is one whereby Japan shall undertake to issue passports only to tourists, merchants, and students, who shall not be subject to any dictation test on arrival.

Senator Playford - That arrangement is in operation while the honorable senator is talking to-day

Senator PULSFORD - - There is no treaty - no complete arrangement - with the Empire of Japan at this moment.

Senator Playford - The Government have promised to admit the classes of travellers I have indicated, and the Japanese Government have undertaken, to give them passports.

Senator PULSFORD - We cannot live on promises ; we want performances.

Senator Playford - The promise has been given to the Government of Japan and the Government of India, who have both agreed. What more does the honorable senator want?

Senator PULSFORD - Then,, again, in regard to the test, any "prescribed" language has been substituted for any " European " language, but no regulation prescribing a language is to have force until it has been laid before both Houses of Parliament for thirty days. I presume that means thirty sitting days, and if that be so. the House of Representatives- would have to sit for about two months, and the Senate, possibly, three months, before the clause was complied with. If next year there be a short session - and by this time we are entitled to a short session - the Senate might not meet on thirty days.

Senator Playford - The clause means thirty consecutive days after the regulations have been laid before the Parliament.

Senator PULSFORD - That reduces to some extent my objection to that part of the Bill. Honorable senators, however, will notice that this little change is not to be brought into force until after Parliament meets again. Why should we not meet the occasion at once? Why should not Parliament prescribe certain languages? Can Senator Playford say whether there is to be one language only, or whether several languages may be prescribed?

Senator Playford - Oh, several. We may prescribe all the Eastern languages.

Senator PULSFORD - It seems to refer to only one language.

Senator Playford - Oh, no.

Senator PULSFORD - It does not. indicate a number of languages.

Senator Playford - It is always understood that, according to the Acts Interpretation Act, a word in the singular includes the plural.

Senator PULSFORD - I hope that in Committee we may be able to amend the Bill in some important points.

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