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Tuesday, 12 December 1905

Senator HIGGS (Queensland) - This is one of the measures which the Government should have either brought forward at an earlier period of the session or held over until next year. It is hasty legislation. It did not make its appearance on the notice-paper of the other House until about the 2nd December, and the second reading was not carried until a few days ago. Owing to the rush of business, the Senate has not had a proper opportunity to consider the provisions of the Bill, and certainly the people throughout the Commonwealth have had no such opportunity.

Senator Lt Col Gould - It is like a stick in the porridge.

Senator HIGGS - No, it is a very important departure by the Government from the White Australia policy. So far as I know, no person has asked for the Bill, except public men like Mr. Bruce Smith and Senator Pulsford, who hold extreme views in the other direction. There has been no demand on the part of the general public for an alteration of the law. Of course, there have been expressions of opinion from Japanese Consuls and Ambassadors and high officials generally in favour of an alteration.

Senator Gray - Why, the press of the Commonwealth has been full of expressions of opinion against the legislation.

Senator HIGGS - I do not know that the Conservative press generally has been in favour of the proposed alteration. Senator Playford has plainly told us that the Bill is a farce.

Senator Playford - It is not a farce so far as regards the test with fifty words.

Senator HIGGS - The Minister said : " There is no danger in the Bill ; pass it, because any prescribed language must come before the Parliament later on in the form of a regulation, and we do not intend to brine forward a regulation at present." The measure will, it is supposed, have the effect of mollifying "the susceptibilities of the Japanese, who take great exception to our making a colour lint-.. Lately we have all formed the opinion that the Japanese are a smart and intelligent people. Does Senator Playford, or anyone else, think that Japanese Consuls and other persons, who have been objecting to our legislation, are likely to be misled by the new clause, which states that a prescribed language shall be put before both Houses in the form of a regulation, and that until such time, the old objectionable provision is to stand ? I take the view that this measure is the result of wire-pulling, if I may use the term, on the part of the Balfour Government. The party which it represented will have to face in the United Kingdom a storm of criticism, owing to the introduction of Chinese into the Transvaal. They have said that there was nothing in the charges made as to the abuse of the punitive system ; that all the evils said trĀ» have arisen existed only in the fevered imagination of their opponents. No doubt the coloured labour legislation of Australia will be quoted, and they will now be able to meet their opponents with the statement that the Australian Parliament has recognised its false position, and repealed the legislation which had for its object the exclusion of Chinese and Japanese.

Senator Lt Col Gould - That is very far-fetched

Senator Playford - That would not be true, because we shall not have repealed the law.

Senator HIGGS - All that Senator Gould has to do is to watch the cable accounts of what Mr. Balfour says in his appeal to the people of the United Kingdom not to be led away by the anti-Chinese agitation. I object to the Bill, because it displays a weakening by public men on what is a vital question to Australia.

Senator Dobson - Will the honorable senator help me to defeat it ?

Senator HIGGS - Yes. If the honorable senator will vote against the second reading, he will find me voting on the same side.

Senator Pearce - That ought to make Senator Higgs suspicious.

Senator HIGGS - It may appear to Senator Pearce that if Senator Dobson and I were found voting on the same side something wrong must have happened to one or the other of us. But if the division lists be examined it will be found that on various occasions labour men have sat with the strongest Conservatives in the Senate, and they can defend their position every time.

Senator de Largie - Senator Gould and Senator Symon were with us last time

Senator HIGGS - I might tum to Senator Pearce, and ask : " When you find yourself voting with Senator Pulsford for the .second reading of this Bill, do you not think you are making a mistake?" It is generally recognised that every nation has the right to exclude from its territory any persons whom it considers undesirable.

Senator Lt Colonel Sir ALBERT GOULD (NEW SOUTH WALES) -Col. Gould. - But sometimes we are unable to maintain that right. For instance, the Chinese were not able to maintain it against Great Britain.

Senator HIGGS - No, but that was owing to a kind of obsession. There is no doubt that before many years have passed, the Chinese will tell all Europeans to get out of their country, and we cannot blame them if they do. This hasty legislation on the part of the Commonwealth will not delay that day by a single hour. I believe that eventually the progress of education in China will lead to that result. If the Japanese could assimilate with our people we might take up a different view, but, apparently, they do not, and will not. Indeed, the greatest student of our race has declared that it would be an undesirable thing for civilization if ever such an amalgamation did take place. We who comprise the Labour Party do not object to the Chinese or Japanese merely on the ground of colour. It is an economic question with us. Those who have preceded us, and ourselves, have succeeded in establishing a certain standard of comfort which is in the interests of the community generally, and in the interests of civilization.

Senator Fraser - The Labour Party have not a monopoly of that view.

Senator HIGGS - I do not suppose that we have, but we hold that view, and seem to hold it mote strongly than do members of other parties, because we always vote to maintain it. To allow these people to come here will be to lower the standard of comfort and civilization throughout Australia. Senator Playford may say that it is not the intention of the Government to do that. The honorable senator might prognosticate the probable life of the present Government from a consideration of that of previous Governments.

Senator Playford - No Government can do what is proposed here without the consent of Parliament.

Senator HIGGS - We might be guided by the history of the States Parliaments. Some sudden agitation might arise, as the result of which the democratic or Labour Party might find itself in a minority, and with a strong majority opposed to it. What would happen with this class of legislation in such a case ?

Senator Best - It would be perfectly safe.

Senator Playford - If there were no such legislation in existence the dominant party could' pass it.

Senator HIGGS - The objection I have to the passage of a mere resolution by both Houses of Parliament is that only the mover of a resolution has the right to speak more than once upon it. If is not dealt with in Committee.

Senator Best - It is in accordance with our practice to deal with resolutions in Committee.

Senator HIGGS - We have not dealt with resolutions in Committee. Only the other day we considered' a most important resolution in relation to the Eastern Extension Company, but we did not deal with it in Committee.

Senator Best - We dealt with the Capital Sites resolutions in Committee.

Senator HIGGS - If we had dealt with the Eastern Extension Telegraph Company's agreement in Committee, I venture to think that the motion proposed would have been discussed at greater length, and we might, perhaps, have succeeded in carrying certain amendments upon it. The fact remains that a resolution might be given notice of one day and moved the next. It would not have to pass through a number or' stages in the same way as a Bill. A Minister might bring forward a resolution, make a speech upon it, and if he had a majority behind him>; prolong the sitting sufficiently to carry it in one day. That is an important objection I have to the proposal. I shall, perhaps, have something to say on a similar question when the companion Bill to this is before the Senate. In the meantime, I earnestly hope that honorable senators who take the view that if the Government is sincere in trying to mollify the susceptibilities of the Japanese they should do so in a proper manner, will vote against this measure, because, in the words of the Minister who has introduced it, it is only a " farce " after all.

Senator Playford - I did not say it was a farce.

Senator HIGGS - Then the honorable senator said it was a " subterfuge."

Senator Playford - No ; I referred1 only to the test as being a subterfuge.

Senator HIGGS - That is the commencement), middle, and end of the whole thing. All that the Japanese object to is the European language test, and the proposal in the Bill for dealing with this is4. in the opinion of the Minister, a subterfuge, a trick, or a device to delude some one.

Senator Playford - They know all about it.

Senator HIGGS - If they know all about it, they will not be mollified in any way by this legislation.' They will probably protest even more strongly against it than against the previous legisla/tion on the subject, because it is an insult to their intelligence. This should induce honorable senators who sympathize with Japan to vote against the Bill. I remind honorable senators that the legislation already passed1 was passed by this Parliament in a modified form to meet the susceptibilities of Japan, and at the request of the British Government. We rejected the colour test, and adopted the practice of the United Kingdom with regard to such legislation.

Senator Playford - No; the policy of Natal.

Senator HIGGS - It must, I think, be admitted that there are some good points in this Bill which serve to cover up the dangerous provisions. But the Government could very easily remedy what defects there are in the principal Aci: by the introduction of an amending measure which' would enable it to be administered more successfully. I direct the/ attention of Senator Dobson to the fact that the Minister in charge of the Bill declares that the language test is a subterfuge, and to satisfy those of us who desire the exclusion of these races the honorable senator contends that there are important provisions in the Bill which will enable the Government to keep out Japanese and Chinese more effectively than they can do under -the existing Act. That is really the virtue of the Bill, according to Senator Playford. In view of the opinions held by honorable senators in

Opposition, and by supporters of the Government, I think it is likely that the Bill will be rejected.

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