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Tuesday, 12 December 1905

The PRESIDENT - The honorable senator is not in order in reading from the debates, in another place.

Senator DOBSON - It is because the British nation has 300,000,000 coloured subjects that objection was taken to prohibiting the admission of persons into the Commonwealth on the ground of their colour, and it was decided that it would be better to propose an education test. That test is, neither a farce nor a subterfuge, lt does exacttly what we desire to do, but in a proper way, having regard to the comity of nations and the feelings of other people. If one believes that some other person is a little untruthful and inaccurate, he is not allowed to call him a liar, though he might like to do so. But he is, permitted to do so in more polite language. Senator Playford declares that an Act which appears on the Commonwealth statute-book is a subterfuge, and now he deliberately asks us to enact a greater subterfuge. While we are to be asked to proclaim to the Japanese people that we shall make an attempt on paper to do what they desire, in -the next sentence we are to be asked to nullify it. There is but one reason which induces me to vote for the second reading of this Bill. It is to insert a provision to enable the Government to enter into an arrangement with the Japanese Government, as they have asked us, to do. It is because the Bill enables us to do that- that I am going to vote for it. Everything else in it is worse than useless.

Senator Playford - That has all been done since the 1st October, 1904.

Senator DOBSON - My honorable friend, with the numbers at his back, can there smiling j but does he mean to say that every Act of Parliament that we pass is to be treated as the Immigration Restriction Act has been? Does he mean to say that after we have passed an Act for the exclusion of aliens a Ministry is to make arrangements with a foreign Government as to the terms under which they shall be admitted ? We are now told that the Watsor Government made an arrangement with Japan under which students,, merchants, and tourists can come into Australia. Why did we not think of this matter when we were passing the Act ? It would have been much more suitable if what has been described had been done under the authority of Parliament. It is such loose and stupid legislation that I protest against. I object to the provision in this Bill by means of which we are to strike out the section of the principal Act which enables a Chinaman who has formerly been a resident of Australia, and has been visiting China, to come back with Bis wife and family. It is a wise thing to enable such a man. to bring his wife with him.

Senator Playford - We have stopped the operation of that section for years.

Senator DOBSON - A more inconsistent thing was never done. I have read statements over and over again from the supporters of the White Australia policy that one of their objections to alien immigrants was that they did not bring their wives with them. Yet when these Chinamen go home and bring their wives, back, the Government is to' have power to determine whether they shall be admitted or not. The Government can easily make a regulation providing that if a Chinaman is married he shall bring from the British Consul in China a certificate to the effect that the woman whom he is bringing with him is really his wife. I can see no reason for altering the section. I desire to say nothing more about the Bill except that I look upon it as a farce, -with the exception of the one clause to which I have called attention. And is that clause to be in the Bill as a mere make-believe ? Is it intended to enter into an arrangement with the Japanese Government ?

Senator Playford - The arrangement has been, made, and is in existence.

Senator DOBSON - My honorable friend is really bluffing. He is turning himself into a farce as a Minister. Does he not know that the Japanese have had an arrangement with the State of Queensland whereby Japanese to the extent of two or three thousand were to be allowed to enter that State? Does he not know that the Japanese Government do not desire that the working men of Japan shall come here? Have not they intimated that much to the Government? Have they not said that they will look after their own immigrants, and not allow them to come to Australia? But when they are asking for a treaty, the Minister tells us that they have had it all the time.

Senator Playford - It has been in existence since the 1st of October, 1904.

Senator DOBSON - Does that satisfy the Japanese authorities?

Senator Playford - As far as we know, it does.

Senator DOBSON - As far as I know, it does not. The very thing that the Japanese have asked for is apparently provided in the Bill, but the Government is not going to carry it out. I never heard of a more extraordinary thing than to strike out " European " in order to insert a provision enabling an immigrant to be tested in any language, and at the same time say that the new provision shall mean " European " after all.

Senator STEWART(Queensland).While, no doubt, there are some good provisions in this Bill, still, on the whole, I frankly confess that I do not like it. As honorable senators are well aw.are, the education test was in the first instance a compromise, suggested to us, I believe, bv the Home authorities, as one which would in all probability meet the wishes of Japan, China, and Asiatic peoples generally. It was only accepted in deference to the opinions expressed by the Home authorities. But now we are asked to go a little bit further. We are asked to eliminate the word " European " from the Act, while putting it into a regulation. What could we gain by that change? We are told that Japan is displeased by our legislation. But we have no evidence of that fact. We have not a tittle of evidence to show that Japan has ever expressed the slightest disapprobation. I have read articles in the newspapers, and reported interviews with Japanese Consuls and other persons, who said mat Japan felt hurt at the attitude of the Commonwealth, but there is no direct evidence that she feels in the very least degree insulted. Before dealing with .an important matter of this kind, we should have some clear, straightforward intimation from Japan herself - through the Imperial authorities, of course - that she disapproves of our legislation. When we have that intimation clearly expressed, it will be time for us to decide in what way we can frame our Act so as to make it less offensive to Japan. I cannot see the slightest need for any change. But I can see in this proposal a very great danger, which is not apparent on the surface of it, but which, I believe, is there all the same. Section 3 of the principal Act says that any person who, when asked to do so by an officer, fails to write out, at dictation, and to sign in the presence of the officer, a passage of fifty words, may be excluded. The fifty words' test is distinctly provided for. The amending Bill says " not more than fifty words-. "

Senator Playford - I explained all that.

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