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Wednesday, 13 December 1905

Senator MATHESON (Western Australia) - I should like to make an explanation in regard to the paper -which I had to sign on coming from Fremantle to Adelaide. Apparently it was a paper which was required to be filled up by the Cus

Senator Keating - They are simply statistical papers.

Senator MATHESON - But look at the ridiculousness of the thing. . A person can travel from Adelaide to Melbourne by train, and he signs no document, but if he travels from Adelaide to Melbourne by sea he is an immigrant.

Senator Keating - The officials on the trains supply the information that is required.

Senator MATHESON - How do they know anything about the passengers on the trains?

Senator Keating - They merely collect the numbers.

Senator MATHESON -But if you travel by ship you become an 'immigrant, and have to sign a paper stating your name, your age, and sundry other particulars.

Senator Keating - A person coming from Tasmania to Melbourne also has to supply the particulars which are collected by the officials on the trains.

Senator MATHESON - And these are the precious statistical returns which I suppose are collected for electoral purposes !

Senator Playford - Those statistics are not collected under our immigration law.

Senator MATHESON - But it is all done under Customs regulation. As the Minister of Defence has pointed out, the difficulty arises entirely from the fact that our Act is a farce and a subterfuge. The unfortunate part of it is that although, as the Minister points out, we in Australia understand the situation, persons outside Australia do not. That is the justification for the amendment that Senator Symon has moved.

Senator Playford - The amendment simply refers to persons in the country who do understand the situation.

Senator MATHESON - The honorable senator is quite mistaken. This Bill will go to Great Britain, and will be read there. There will be statements in the press that we have passed an Act by meansof which no one who leaves these shores is able to return unless he can pass 'a dictation test. That is the statement that will be made, and it will be logically based upon this Bill. One may spend weeks and months in trying to convince the British public that such is not the fact, but in England they pass Acts of Parliament which are not frauds and subterfuges. They pass Acts which are meant to be read and acted upon.

Senator O'Keefe - But the British Government is responsible for Australia passing such' a Bill as this.

Senator MATHESON - How is the High Commissioner, when he is appointed, going to explain to the British people that the Act which we have passed means nothing at all, and that its language is not to be read as English? To illustrate the extent to which this position can be pushed, I may mention that to-day I had occasion to inquire how it was that coloured labour was still introduced into the pearling fleets, both at Broome and Thursday Island: I inquired under what regulation these coloured aliens were introduced. The reply was that there was no regulation authorizing their introduction, but that they were introduced simply on the Customs officer being instructed not to put the language test to them.

Senator Clemons - Was that information authoritatively obtained?

Senator MATHESON - I obtained it in the office. The aliens were introduced simply through the Act not being put into operation, in the same way as the Minister suggests that white immigrants are treated.

Senator Clemons - It shows the rottenness ofthe whole thing.

Senator MATHESON - It shows that this Bill is an absolute fraud. The point that I wish to make is: How easy it will Be for the present or any other Government, under this Bill, to introduce any number of Asiatics, whether under contract or not.

Senator Playford - It is all a matter of administration.

Senator MATHESON - It is entirely a matter of administration, and if the Government do not choose to instruct the officers the law is not put in force.

Senator Clemons - It is shown, further, thatthe present Government are permitting these people to come in.

Senator MATHESON - All Governments have administered the Act in the same way, and I am not raising that point'.

Senator Lt Col Gould - Surely the Watson Government did not so administer the Act?

Senator MATHESON - That Government also administered the Act in this way. If the Government have the power to refrain from putting the Act into operation, they also have the power to so administer it as to shut out any person - any white person - offensive to them. A white citizen of Australia who was, for instance, a political agitator, might, on returning to Australia, be subjected to the test by an autocratic Government. If Sir John Forrest, for instance, were at the head of such a Government, I might be shut out, if I failed to respond to the education test.

Senator Playford - There would be a fine row if the honorable senator were shut out) !

Senator MATHESON - That is all very well ; but in the meantime I, an Australian citizen, would have been put to the indignity of writing out fifty words at dictation.

Senator Sir Josiah Symon - Sir John Forrest is not his own master at present.

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