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Tuesday, 12 December 1905

Senator DAWSON (QUEENSLAND) - I may say at the outset that, while I am generally in agreement with my honorable friend, Senator Givens, who has just resumed his seat, and with others who have addressed themselves to the question of the desirableness of strictly enforcing the White Australia policy, and while I would assist in every possible way to that end, at the same time I confess that I am absolutely unable to foilow them when they declare their intention to' vote against the second reading of this Bill. I think that Senator Pearce's position is the right one. And just here I should like to say that I believe that every member of the party to which I belong agrees to stick as closely as we can to the policy of excluding all undesirable immigrants, Asiatic or otherwise, from Australia. I did not understand Senator Pearce to say that he intended to vote for the second reading of this Bill, because it had some good provisions, in it, whilst admitting that it also contained bad provisions. I understood his position to be that he was not prepared to sacrifice the good provisions in the Bill because he did not like some bad ones. If an honorable senator adopts the principle that he will vote against the second reading of any measure because it has some bad provisions in it, he will find himself voting against the second reading of almost every Bill introduced in the Senate. Throughout my parliamentary experience, I have never seen a Bill of any importance submitted by any Government that did not contain some objectionable feature. The parliamentary method of getting rid of the bad provisions of a Bill is to adopt the second reading, then to deal with the measure in Committee, and to eliminate the objectionable features at that stage. For that reason, I intend to vote for the second reading of this Bill. It is unmistakable that since the Immigration Restriction Act was passed the administration of it has shown a number of loop-holes and blemishes which were not perceived when the measure was placed upon the statute-book. We now know from experience where mistakes were made, and we propose to remedy them. That is a common-sense way to proceed. But it appears that the whole discussion has centred around the language test. According to Senator Givens, Senator de Largie, and Senator Higgs, the bad provisions of this Bill relate to that point. I agree with them in that respect, and in Committee I intend to vote against any alteration of the test. But, at the same time, I shall vote for any provision of the Bill which effects an improvement in the principal Act. I need not delay the House bv pointing out what the defects in the existing legislation are. Senator Pearce has indicated them in a very effective manner. One of them is, I think, of very great importance. It is a defect which we ought to be prepared to take any amount of time to discuss adequately. If we have to come here at 10 o'clock in the morning, and sit on Mondays . and Saturdays to do our work thoroughly, we 'should not neglect this part of it. We, who represent the smaller States, have had a great difficulty to contend with, because our States cannot stand a great strain upon their resources. They have been continually complaining of the expense to which they have been put. Under the present Act, some persons commit an offence every time they touch our shores, and the line imposed is an encouragement, rather than a discouragement, to break the law. The Bill provides, however, that an offending company, or those responsible, must provide a passage back for the undesirable immigrant, and deposit a stated sum in order to recoup the State for any expense that may have been incurred. That provision in itself is a great protection, and absolutely necessary in the smaller States. The variation of the language test appears to me remarkable, if not humiliating, to the Federal Parliament j and I must express my astonishment that the present Government should have introduced a provision which they declare will not relax in one iota the stringent provisions of the Act. The only reason given for the amendment is that a particular nation, which has proved its power on the water and in the field, is particularly sensitive, and that in order not to offend its pride it is desirable not to refer to it as Asiatic. Senator Playford, and those who support him - I refer particularly to Senator Best - have not furnished us with a tittle of - evidence, or quoted any authority, to show that the test in a European language has worked any evil. No attempt has been made to prove that the proposed amendment will strengthen the While Australia policy ; there is only the one excuse, which I regard as, to a large extent, a pretence, that the Japanese people are extremely sensitive about being regarded as Asiatics, and that, therefore, it is necessary to alter a satisfactory law in order to meet their views. We have not been told that this is done at the request of the Japenese nation, as expressed in any official communication. As a matter of fact, a challenge to show that any such communication has reached Australia, has not been responded to. What is the reason for the break-neck rush with this measure at the tail end of the session ? One is led to believe that there is some justification for the suspicion of Senator de Largie, that there is more in this matter than appears on the surface. Up to the present, the sensitiveness of the Japanese Consul is about the only fact which has been laid before us in support of the amendment ; but, apparently, that Consul did not speak on behalf of his Government, or, on behalf of the people of Japan, through his Government. If we are to take the touchy nature of the Japanese into consideration, what about the Chinese or the Indians, the latter of whom belong, to the British Empire? Honorable senators have said that the variation of the test means practically nothing ; indeed, one honorable senator described it as a farce, and the Minister declared that it was a subterfuge, and perhaps both are correct. The intention may be. as indicated by the Minister, but at the same time there is a very great danger in the amendment. Is it intended by the amendment that some other language, than an European, is to be used as a test?

Senator Playford - All that is proposed is to add more languages - not to omit European languages.

Senator DAWSON (QUEENSLAND) - The leader of the Government says that the intention is only to add some other Asiatic language to the European language.

Senator Lt Col Gould - The Government will never do that.

Senator DAWSON (QUEENSLAND) - Then what is the use of the amendment? If the amendment is not to be acted upon, it might as wel I be put into the waste-paper basket, which is, perhaps, the best place for it, although I have no particular grudge against the basket. The wording of the clause conveys the idea that it is an intention to prescribe languages other than those provided for in the principal Act; and, before we proceed any further, it is the plain duty of the Government, if they have any particular language in their mind, to let us know what that language is. I quite agree with those honorable senators who hold that the proper course would be to set forth in the Bill what the other language or languages are to be, so that we may have an opportunity to discuss their merits.

Senator Playford - That opportunity is given under the Bill.

Senator DAWSON (QUEENSLAND) - The Bill merely says that the language has to be prescribed.

Senator Playford - And the language cannot be prescribed until approved by resolution by bosh Houses.

Senator DAWSON (QUEENSLAND) - The clause, as presented to us, lends a very strong colour to the idea that this amendment is a mere pretence. If the Japanese language is contemplated, I should have a very strong objection. Some people may elevate Japan to a high pedestal of civilization, and place it on an equal footing with European Powers, but I, for one, do not. Personally, I view the influx of Japanese with a great deal more alarm than I should the influx of three, times the number of Chinese. It is very difficult to collect information of a satisfactory character as to the relative merits or demerits of Chinamen or Japan ese. I have travelled from Thursday Island in a Chinese boat, the white officers of which all protested that Chinamen are the most trustworthy and reliable men possible, but that a Japanese cannot be trusted out of sight. On the other hand, the white officers on a Japanese boat gave a certificate of character to the

Japanese with which nobody could quarrel, but declared that a Chinaman cannot Le trusted as far as he can be thrown by his pigtail. However, some friends of mine have recently been peregrinating in Japan and China, and they say that they are prepared to trust a Chinaman at any time, but that they button up their pockets very closely when they come into contact with a Japanese. As to regulations, my experience of some years leads me to the conclusion that it is much better to make all the provisions desired in a Bill itself. Regulations ore the most deceptive things imaginable, and are mostly a dead letter. Frequently, when they are brought into active operation, they are used for purposes for which they were not originally intended. Mention has been made of the introduction of Japanese into Queensland under certain regulations, and it is true that Japanese labourers were admitted to work on the sugar plantations. There was a regulation providing that they had to be under engagement for three years, and also an agreement that the Japanese Government should send out an inspector or overseer, who would be responsible for their return to their own country. The Japanese came, but they remained in Queensland, and absolutely flooded one of our best industries, namely, pearl -shelling, which is still in their bands at Thursday Island and thereabouts. Numbers of white men were previously doing very well in the industry, but the last time I was at Thursday Island the only white man employed in any way in connexion with the business was an artisan who supervised the repairing of the boats by Japanese. So much for regulations and agreements. The statement that Japanese workmen do not desire to come to Australia is all humbug. There would be no need for an Immigration Act at all if it were not for the fear, that Japanese would come here and work for less wages, and under worse conditions, than do Chinamen. We have no desire to see them here. They do not hold bur ideas of civilization or morality, of what is a living wage, or a fair standard of comfort. There is absolutely no possibility of any assimilation between either the Chinese or the Japanese and ourselves. We Have declared our determination to have a White Australia. We have a policy imprinted in concrete form on our statute-book, and I see no reason why it should be departed from at the invitation of this, or any other Government.

The straight, honest course is to keep the test as it is, and to pass the rest of the Bill, which remedies the defects in the principal Act.

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