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Wednesday, 13 December 1905

Senator STEWART (Queensland) - I am constrained to speak, because of the most extraordinary attitude that Senator Symon has adopted, and because of the position in which, apparently, he is anxious to place the Senate. He must know perfectly well that in proposing this amendment, he is simply beating the air. A little while ago we heard him expressing himself as being extremely anxious for the end of the session. But here he is now wasting the time of the Senate. I can hardly believe that he is serious.

Senator Sir Josiah Symon - The honorable senator may take my word for it, that I am very serious about this proposal.

Senator STEWART -The honorable senator is proposing the amendment with his tongue in his cheek. He is simply having a little game with the Government. He knows, or ought to know, that the education test has not been applied to any Australian.

Senator Sir Josiah Symon - Then, do away with it, so far as concerns Australians"

Senator STEWART -- If we did, what would the result be? We should require to have a definition of the word citizen.

Senator Sir Josiah Symon - It is thoroughly well understood.

Senator STEWART - In the United States a man is not a citizen until he has resided in the country for a period of five years, and his papers as an elector have been issued to him.

Senator Clemons - In the Commonwealth a man is a' citizen either by birth or naturalization.

Senator STEWART - It might be difficult to define the word. If we insert the amendment, we shall be compelled to do the very thing we have been trying to avoid - to differentiate between coloured and other people. So far as I have been able to learn, no Australian desiring to go out of this country for the purpose of visiting any other country has been subjected to the education test on his return. There is no inconvenience whatever. Are we prepared to draw the colour line ? If we are not, we should stick to the Bill. Every one knows that a majority of the Senate was in favour of the education test when the original Act was passed. The consideration that swayed us was that we had the Imperial Government to consider. The original Act which this Bill amends was a compromise. Are we in a better position to-day than we were than when that measure was passed? Are we able to stand straight up on our own feet and say that we will not have any compromise?

Senator Clemons - The honorable senator had not courage enough to try.

Senator STEWART - The 'honorable senator taunts me with lack of courage. I would rather be a coward than a deceitful person. We know perfectly . well why honorable senators opposite were so very anxious to amend the original Bill. They thought the result would be that the Bill would be hung up indefinitely, and that Asiatics would be permitted to come in freely during the negotiations.

Senator Clemons - I was referring to the vote which the honorable senator gave last might. He was afraid to put this matter to the test - afraid to risk this little Bill.

Senator STEWART - I knew that there was no business in the amendment submitted. That is the plain way to put it. The whole question had been fought out before. The party with which Senator Givens is associated had given the matter a great deal of deliberation, and had abandoned in despair the very thing which he attempted to do.

Senator Givens - The position is different now.

Senator STEWART - If the position had been better to-day than it was then, I should have voted with Senator Givens.

Senator Clemons - What did the honorable senator risk last night?

Senator STEWART - I risked nothing, but I knew that we should be defeated ultimately. If I had voted with Senator Givens, I should have had all the glory of waving a coloured flag in the face of Eastern nations, knowing full well that it would merely be a piece of braggadocio, and would have no effect.

Senato'r Sir JosiahSymon. - Mr. Chamberlain is not in power in England now.

Senator STEWART - That does not matter. Colonial and foreign policy are continuous in England. I really do not see that we shall gain anything by adopting Senator Symon's amendment. No doubt we have gained something from his point of view - we have wasted a lot of time.

Senator Sir Josiah Symon - I do not think the honorable senator seriously meant that.

Senator STEWART - I do. I impute nothing to the honorable senator _ that is not legitimate; but any one could see what the policy of the Opposition has been throughout this session. Its policy has been to delay, to obstruct, to defeat every proposal brought forward by the Government.

Senator Clemons - That is absolutely incorrect.

Senator Gray - The Opposition supported the amendment last night.

Senator STEWART - It has very seldom happened that the Government has had any support from the members of the Opposition. The policy of the Opposition from the beginning of this session has been to prevent the Government from passing any legislation.

Senator Gray - To prevent the Government from passing bad legislation.

Senator STEWART - The session has been, so far as the Opposition is concerned, one long, feeble attempt at "stonewalling."

Senator Clemons - No man has occupied more time than the honorable senator himself.

Senator STEWART - I intend to occupy a great deal more. As I am helping honorable senators opposite, I do not see why they should complain.

Senator Sir Josiah Symon - May I ask the honorable senator to address himself to the amendment ?

Senator STEWART - Senator Symon has laid great stress upon the fact' that every Australian who comes back to this country after a visit to foreign parts is liable to be subjected to the education test. That is quite true; just as every man who walks down the street this afternoon is liable to arrest by the police on suspicion of having committed some offence. The liability is just as great in the one case as in the other. But how often have respectable people' been arrested? Senator Symon quoted the Agents-General, but I say frankly that, so far as the AgentGeneral of my own State is concerned, I would not give two straws for any report he made.

Senator McGregor - Or any report in which he had a hand.

Senator STEWART - Or any report in which he had a hand. I am prepared to justify every word I am now saying.

Senator Clemons - Can you, Mr. Chairman, connect these remarks about the Agents-General with the clause under discussion ?

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