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Wednesday, 13 December 1905

Senator MATHESON (WESTERN AUSTRALIA) - Fortunately . For the reasons I have given I am inclined to support the amendment proposed by Senator Symon.

Senator Sir JOSIAHSYMON (South Australia). - I feel very greatly touched by the pathos of Senator Matheson's description of what his position might be under a set of circumstances which he would not be the only one to deplore. The expression " a subject of the King resident in a State" is rather large, and therefore I have adopted "citizens," which is a term thoroughly well known to the law. The dual citizenship we enjoy is that of a citizen of the Commonwealth and a citizen of a State; and it is only the citizens of the Commonwealth who ought not to be bound in the fashion which, for reasons I can quite understand, -and what the Minister has not been slow to stigmatize as a makebelieve, the Bill proposes. The point to which I invite attention is that this clause applies to every traveller and every visitor, whether on business or pleasure, who comes to this country from England. It is suggested that an Australian may be Known or easily identified; but that might not be so with Customs officers at outside ports. The result might be that people who were never intended to be affected would be subject to the test.

Senator Playford - They will not be subjected to the test if they show as white face.

Senator Sir JOSIAH SYMON - But they are liable to be subjected to the test. There are many Asiatics with comparatively white faces, such as those who come from Northern India. The people of Cashmere, asSenator Playford knows, are nearly as white as himself.

Senator Playford - Not quite.

Senator Sir JOSIAH SYMON - Very nearly. The honorable senator has the glow of the sun in his face, and so have they. The Asiatics are the people whom we desire to exclude.

Senator Playford - And negroes.

Senator Sir JOSIAH SYMON - As the Bill stands at present-, British subjects who visit Australia for any purpose are liable to be exposed to this education test.

Senator O'Keefe - Does the honorable senator know of a case in which the test has been applied to a British subject?

Senator Sir JOSIAH SYMON - That is not the point. Surely we ought to keep our statute-book free from any imputation of the kind. The Agents-General say -

In endeavouring to indicate the forces which mould public opinion in Great Britain, we should be neglecting our duty if we failed to give adequate weight to the far-reaching effect exercised by the language test and contract clause of the Immigration Restriction Act.

Senator Findley - The Agents-General do not speak for Australia.

Senator Sir JOSIAH SYMON - They speak for the people whom we do not want to exclude. As Senator Matheson has pointed out, the people in England do, not understand the refinements by which we reconcile this Bill to our legislative conscience. All they know is that if they come to Australia they are liable to a test, and to' exclusion if they do not satisfy the test.

Senator McGregor - Who told them that ?

Senator SirJOSIAH SYMON - Senator McGregorought to tell them that.

Senator Guthrie - They are liable to other tests, in reference to health, and so forth.

Senator Sir JOSIAH SYMON - But we do not mean them to be liable to the education test.

Senator O'Keefe - Is it not the main point that the test is not meant to be and is not applied to them?

Senator Sir JOSIAH SYMON - We do mean the test to be applied, because it is: so said in. the Act.

Senator Trenwith - We do not.

Senator Sir JOSIAH SYMON - I am not speaking of what Senator Trenwith or others may mean.

Senator Trenwith - I am speaking of what Parliament meant when the Act was passed.

Senator Sir JOSIAH SYMON - I am speaking of what the people in England understand. There is no placard1 in England to say that, so far as white British subjects are concerned, the Act is a dead letter ; and we find the Agents-General making representations, not from the point of view of Asiatics, but from the point of view of British subjects.

Senator O'KEEFE (TASMANIA) - Probably the English people do not know that there is such a test.

Senator Sir JOSIAH SYMON - They do know that there is a test.,, but they do not know that it is not applied to white British subjects. It is said, rightly enough, that we are not responsible, in one way, for what the Peninsular and Oriental, or any other shipping company, may do. At the same time, we place in the hands of the shipping companies an instrument for the irritation of their passengers.

Senator McGregor - There are other ships by which people may come to Australia.

Senator Sir JOSIAH SYMON - That is not the frame of mind in which to approach the consideration of this question. It is either right, or it is not right, that this provision should remain as it is, rendering white British subjects liable to exclusion. If the provision is not right, let us adopt some other means to attain our end. Let us say that we do not wish to exclude them ; and then I shall support a provision later on, that coloured > residents of Australia, shall, on returning to the Commonwealth, be subject to the test, just as if they were arriving for the first time. Surely the English language is not so feeble an instrument that we cannot adequately express our intention. My desire is not to interfere in any way with the object of the Bill, but to facilitate 'its operation, though not by placing a ban on people whom we do not wish to exclude.

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