Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
Wednesday, 13 December 1905

Senator GIVENS (Queensland) - I hope the Committee will accept the amendment. I consider it the most important that can be moved in this Bill. It is ridiculous for the Minister to tell us that the more languages we have the better. I ask the honorable senator whether, with all the European languages included in the existing Act, the authorities could not exclude anybody they pleased if the test were applied with that object ? No person living is an adept in all the languages of Europe. It is merely throwing dust in the eyes of the Committee "to say that the object of this clause is to enable the test to be applied to undesirable immigrants in a greater number of languages. The real reason for the clause "is that there has been an outcry that our Immigration Restriction Act should be made less offensive to Japan.

Senator Playford - And if we can do so without losing anything, why should we not do so?

Senator GIVENS - The fact that we provided that the test should be imposed in a European language, and not in a prescribed language, showed clearly and unmistakably the intention of Parliament in the matter, and it has been so held by the Courts. It was thought that only persons who spoke a European language should be admitted. If the phrase "an European language" be replaced with the phrase "any prescribed language," what indication shall we have of the language which may be used in the test ? It is the most dangerous proposal in the Bill. It is admitted that the value and effect of this legislation depends entirely upon administration. Suppose that we had in office a Minister who was in favour of coloured races being allowed to enter.

Senator Trenwith - How long would he continue to be Minister?

Senator GIVENS - In Australian politics very strange things have occurred. At one time a distinguished gentleman induced the Parliament of Queensland to pass an Act excluding ,kanakas, but in a very short time he swallowed every principle which he had professed, and to-day he is occupying perhaps one of the highest positions in the Commonwealth.

Senator DAWSON (QUEENSLAND) - In Victoria it was done very recently by Mr. Irvine.

Senator GIVENS - Such cases are quite common. Therefore, it behoves Parliament to place on the face of every measure a clear indication of what it means. This clause would only make our legislation more a subterfuge than ever, because the Minister, after getting perhaps a catch vote in favour of a regulation, might prescribe the Japanese, or the Chinese, or any language, and he would have the authority of Parliament for taking that course. If, however, we were to retain in the Act the expression " an European language," no Minister could go behind the back of Parliament and prescribe any other language. I take it that we are all perfectly willing and anxious to allow every one of our own race and colour, no matter whether he may come from Europe or from America, to enter the Commonwealth.

Senator Fraser - Indeed, the honorable senator is not.

Senator GIVENS - To say that any member of the Labour Party is anxious to keep out any persons who are of our own race and colour, and who wish to come here under perfectly free and honest conditions, is a gross misstatement of facts.

Senator Gray - The secretary of the Labour Party wrote a letter to that effect.

Senator Findley - He pointed out that there were large armies of unemployed in Australia., and that is perfectly true.

Senator GIVENS - Any citizen of Australia, whether he be a secretary, or otherwise, has a perfect right to try to prevent persons from being brought here under false pretences.

Senator Gray - The honorable senator is supporting a fraud now which he has acknowledged.

Senator GIVENS - It is not my fault that the Bill is a fraud. When' I proposed the adoption of a straight-out colour test yesterday, I did not receive very much support. I believe that the amendment will assist to introduce the element of honesty into the Bill, and to declare truly what Parliament means, and for that reason it shall have my support.

Senator PULSFORD(New South Wales).- Several honorable senators stated yesterday, time after time, that Japan had not made it officially and authoritatively known that she. felt insulted at the word " European " being used in our Act. After the repeated explanations which have been made here, I cannot understand any honorable senator rising to make that assertion, because if anything has been made clear in the history of politics during the last few years it is that one fact that Japan has explained fully, courteously, and earnestly that the adoption of that term by Australia, differentiating as it does against Japanese, was taken by that nation as an insult. I do not think we need argue whether certain things are so or not. The question is, has Japan made it quite clear that she does feel slighted and offended at the adoption of that phrase? If we are inclined to-day to take a big 'view of things, then we must pay attention to the utterances of our ally. If, on the other hand, we care nothing about the Empire, if any of us is eager to take steps which might even tend to discredit Australia, which might tend ultimately to disintegrate the Empire, then I can understand honorable senators with such ulterior purposes in their minds being ready to bring about a position which might produce that result. We had repeated statements made here yesterday as to the position of a British emigrant to Japan. It was stated positively that, whatever might be our terms of exclusion, Japan's terms of exclusion against the British were more exacting, more arbitrary, and more offensive. Honorable senators' cannot have paid much attention to the paper which was tabled not long ago. on the motion of Senator Higgs, and which is entitled " Treaty of Commerce and Navigation between Great Britain and Japan." I shall quote briefly two or three articles of the Treaty, in order to make clear the terms upon which British people mav enter Janan. Article 1 of the Treaty begins as follows:^ -

The subjects of each of the two High Contracting Parties shall have full liberty to enter, travel, or reside in any part of the dominions and possessions of the other Contracting Party, and shall enjoy full and perfect protection for their persons and property.

Senator DAWSON (QUEENSLAND) - In what year was that Treaty signed?

Senator PULSFORD - In July, 1894.

Senator Pearce - And Australia is especially exempted from all its provisions.

Senator PULSFORD - The Treaty is in force to-day.

Senator Pearce - Not in Australia.

Senator PULSFORD - I know that.

Senator DAWSON (QUEENSLAND) - Queensland was the only Colony in the group which took advantage of the Treaty.

Senator PULSFORD - I am talking of the position between Great Britain and Japan. Article 1 goes on to say -

In whatever relates to rights of residence and travel ; to the possession of goods and effects of any kind ; to the succession to personal estate, by will or otherwise, and the disposal of property of any sort in any manner whatsoever which they may lawfully acquire, the subjects of each Contracting Party shall enjoy in the dominions and possessions of the other the same privileges, liberties, and rights, and shall be subject to no higher imposts or charges in these respects than native subjects.

There shall be reciprocal freedom of commerce and navigation between the dominions and possessions of the two High Contracting Parties.

By article 19 the self-governing Colonies of the Empire are excluded, unless they wish to take advantage of the Treaty.It is in the power of the Commonwealth to signify that it desires to do so. If it intimates that desire Japan is willing to enter into a similar arrangement, subject, as she has notified, to an arrangement whereby the questions of immigration and emigration would be controlled. Senator after senator has asserted that it has not been authoritatively stated that Japan has objected to the education test being made in a European language. I find that in a' letter written on the 5th October, 1901, by Consul Eitaki to the Governor-General, he used these words-

I have received a cable from His Imperial Japanese Majesty's Government stating that they consider the two Bills named clearly make a racial discrimination, and requesting me, on that account, to convey to Your Excellency their high dissatisfaction with those measures.

Does not that stamp the communication of the Consul as being authoritative, and as being sent with the consent of his Government? I think that honorable senators will admit with me that it does not lie in our mouth to refuse to recognise the official character of these communications when they have been officially recognised by no less an authority than the GovernorGeneral of Australia. On the 21st October the Secretary to His Excellency wrote to the Consul in these terms -

In continuation of my letter to you of the 10th inst., I have now the honour, by desire of His Excellency, the Governor-General, to inform you that he has transmitted a copy of the correspondence regarding the Immigration Restriction Bill, which has taken place between the Commonwealth Government- and the Japanese Consulate, for the consideration of His Britannic Majesty's Government.

You will, of course, understand that His Excellency has taken this course in addition to submitting your letter of the 5th idem. for the consideration of his responsible advisers.

Itis clear, therefore, that this communication was sent by the authority of the Japanese Government; that it was received in "Australia as authoritative; that it was recognised by the Governor-General as authoritative; that is was sent on by the Governor-General to the Secretary of State for the Colonies as authoritative. The present Government itself is, or has been, in communication with the Japanese Consul. In a paper which was circulated a few days ago, headed " Immigration Restriction Act, 190 1," containing a number of documents, there is given a lengthy correspondence which" has taken place between, not one, but threeseparate Governments of the Commonwealth, and Mr. Iwasaki, the Consul for Japan. I notice that in one of the letters Mr. Iwasaki says -

Immediately on receipt of your letter I cabled to my Government, and to-day received a cable authorizing me on behalf of my Government to accept the terms and conditions referred to ; showing again that the Consul for Japan has spoken and acted in an authoritative manner. It has been stated by several speakers that the ordinary course of procedure is for the representatives of foreign Powers to address themselves to London, and for their communications to come through the British officials to Australia. But surely those who are anxious to see Australia develop into a great nation - those who have high ideals of what Australia ought to be. and will be in the future - ought, above all others, to be gratified that direct communications have passed between the representatives of Japan and the Government of Australia, without the circumlocution office having first to be dealt with. It was not to-day, it was not yesterday that Japan first of all began to complain of Australian legislation. I hold in my hand a copy of a despatch, dated the 20th November, 1897, from Mr. Joseph Chamberlain to the Governor of Victoria. It is only one of several despatches that were sent to Australian Governments, in which the Colonial Secretary intimated that he had received communications from the Japanese Government with regard to Aus-" tralian legislation; and he used the words that " a painful feeling exists in Japan." Is it for us, when we can achieve our object easily and readily, to take steps which will admittedly give offence to the Japanese? There is no question of doubt that in introducing this measure to omit the word "European," and to effect the object previously attained by the principal Act in another way, the Government have been influenced - and I think happily and rightly influenced, in the interests of Australia and in the interests of the Empire - by a desire to be at peace with Japan, and to arrange our business on lines that will at least give satisfaction to that nation, and will not be offensive to our own feelings. Only a few minutes ago I said that the whole subject of immigration was in the mire. I have recognised the trouble we are in, and I am grateful for any effort to relieve Australia of any portion of the mire that clings to her. I recognise that this amendment of the law makes some effort to .meet a great difficulty,, and one which reflects much discredit on Australia. It is for this reason that T ask honorable senators to pause before proposing to hark back again to the conditions, of the existing Act. I hope that the time will come when we shall be able to effect our object in a much more satisfactory way than we do by means of this Bill. I have had a motion on the business-paper of the Senate for some time, and it has been discussed on several occasions, on the lines of making an arrangement with Japan, and, of course, with other countries, with regard to immigration.

Senator Playford - The honorable senator is making a second-reading speech on a little clause.

Senator PULSFORD - It is not a little clause. It is a very big matter. It is of no use for the Minister to try to gain acceptance for this clause bv a reference to some matter which is of little consequence, when subjects of grave importance are under consideration that ought to anneal to- all who love their country, arid who love thei'r Empire, and that should induce us to deal with them in a statesmanlike way.

Senator WALKER(New South Wales).' - My honorable friend Senator Pulsford has said a great deal that I wished to say. All that I desire to add is that this measure gives us an opportunity to avoid hurting the susceptibilities of the people of Japan. Consequently, I shall support the Government in .reference to it.

Senator Sir JOSIAHSYMON (South Australia). - I wish to say in a sentence or two how grieved I am that I cannot take the view so eloquently, and so justly in many respects, put by Senator Pulsford. He thinks that this provision is a concession to the feelings of the Japanese. I am unable to recognise in it any appreciable concession to them. If I vote upon this matter, I shall be found supporting Senator Stewart's amendment, but I shall be exceedingly sorry if, ito doing so, I differ from Senator Walker and Senator Pulsford. I do not see that there is anything to be gained by perpetuating what we are all calling a subterfuge. "The beginning of sin is like the letting out of water," and once we begin this kind of legislation there is no end of it. The provision under discussion affords an illustration. We propose to use the words " In any prescribed language." That is clear. But there is to be no other prescribed language than an European language until next session, when some other language, we do not know what, may be adopted by the Legislature. Until some other language is prescribed, the test is to be applied in an European language, as defined in the existing Act. It is merely a pretence to say that we are wiping away a reflection on the Japanese. Let us be a little honest in our legislation, and not perpetuate a dishonest method. We all admit that our- policv is to exclude Asiatic labour. That policv has been enunciated by this Parliament. None of us is prepared to question it now, whether we are in accord with it or not. We then have to consider what shall be our instrument - what means shall be adopted. Our Act imposes an education test in an European language. That is an instrument which has been effective in the past. Tt will be effective in the future. But when we pass this Bill, and put it upon the statute-book, removing the expression. "European language," we are still going to leave the existing Act absolutely intact,' still wounding, the susceptibilities of the Japanese. No one believes for a moment that when we meet again next session we shall change the European languages in which the education test is applied into Asiatic languages. The Bill merely says that power is given. We do nothing. This Bill does not really alter the thing one iota. If the Japanese are wounded toy European languages being prescribed in the existing Act, they will remain prescribed after this Bill becomes a Statute. If the existing law is a blot in the opinion of the Japanese, it remains a blot.

Senator Fraser - Could any language be prescribed?

Senator Sir JOSIAH SYMON - Not without the authority of Parliament.

Senator Playford - What harm is done ?

Senator Sir JOSIAH SYMON - What good is done? Why introduce another pretence and another subterfuge?

Senator Walker - It pleases the Japanese to think that no particular nationality is excluded.

Senator Sir JOSIAH SYMON - When the Bill is passed it will have to be read in conjunction with the existing Act. An European language is prescribed in that Act, and this Bill makes no alteration. The position is that the measure does not alter the European language provision which stares the Japanese in the face in our existing legislation. We are reducing our legislation to a perfect farce, and I am with Senator Stewart when he wishes to say plainly what we are trying, by means of this Bill, to escape from saying. We are a pack of cowards if we do not say it plainly. Let us have some courage, and some political honesty, in telling the Japanese that, whatever modification may be. made by Parliament hereafter, it is by a test in an European language that their admission is to be governed. Will any one tell me that we are going to prescribe Japanese as one of the languages in which the test may be administered? I think not. It is a mere hollow farce to suggest that we are going to do anything to relieve the feelings of the Japanese by putting the Japanese language on the same level with an European language, when we do not intend to do anything of the sort. Why should we treat the Japanese in this fashion? They are not children. Such legislation is not worthy of us, and for that reason I shall support the amendment proposed by Senator Stewart.

Senator TRENWITH(Victoria).- It is rather amusing to hear Senator Symon crying out for war - asking us to display a little courage, and fly in the face of anybody and everybody.

Senator Sir Josiah Symon - Are we not afraid of the Japanese?

Senator TRENWITH - Practically, the concluding sentence of Senator Symon' s, speech was a call to us to display a little courage, if we have nopolitical honesty. If the admission implied in the last few words applies to the honorable senator himself, it certainly does not apply to the Commonwealth Parliament.

Senator Sir Josiah Symon - I was referring to this legislation.

Senator TRENWITH - This legislation was enacted in the light of day, with the full knowledge of the British public.

Senator Sir Josiah Symon - But the honorable senator has called it a subterfuge.

Senator TRENWITH - It is,, at all events, a subterfuge honestly entered into.

Senator Sir Josiah Symon - An honest subterfuge !

Senator TRENWITH - There may appear to be a contradiction in terms there, but if in open day, in order to please somebody, we resolve to achieve our end in one way, instead of another, there is no dishonesty in the subterfuge.

Senator Sir Josiah Symon - I never heard of larceny being less larceny because it was, committed in daylight.

Senator TRENWITH - This does not happen to be larceny, but a method of achieving an end which we published to the world by means of--

Senator Lt Col Gould - Of a false pretence.

Senator TRENWITH - No; by means which, it is said, will fail to give offence. Senator Symon says that the proposal will not make any difference whatever ; and I believe that, in actual practice, it will not. But it appears that those who feel hurt now, will not feel so hurt if we adopt a different course. Is it a polite, courteous, or humane method to attempt to achieve our object in a way that may hurt people's feelings generally ?

Senator Gray - That has already been done, and the present proposal will make the position worse.

Senator TRENWITH - If Senator Gray intends to vote against the proposal of the Government, in the belief that some one's feelings may be more hurt than they are at present, he has, no doubt, some reason in his mind for the belief ; but what a very extraordinary "mind to be capable of arriving at such a conclusion ! I had the honour to be a member of the Parliament in which, I believe, was first introduced this, education test, and I would have much preferred to state in positive language exactly what it was proposed to do. However, an intimation was received from those to whom we have a right to defer that they would be pleased if we adopted another course, which would not embarrass them, or be offensive to a nation with whom they were on friendly relations. The position is the same to-day. Most of us have a little .courage, but I am not hankering after strained relations with other parts of the world. I am not " looking for trouble," if the desirable ends I have in view can be otherwise achieved. It seems to me that the Government have adopted a course which is commendable. [ feel as s.trongly as any man in. the Commonwealth in regard to the underlying principle of the Bill. It is in the interests of the Commonwealth to keep this continent to be owned, managed, and enjoyed by people of our own race ; at any rate, we ought not to admit within our borders persons who obviously never can blend with us. Having achieved that initial principle, we ought to be anxious at all times to give the "other fellow" - if I may use the expression - everything that is non-essential, if he is satisfied with that. In this instance, it appears that those with whom we might be embroiled are satisfied with what the Government propose to do, and we ought also to be satisfied because the law will be strong enough to achieve our object.

Senator Dobson - Is there any evidence that the Japanese are satisfied with the Bill?

Senator TRENWITH - I confess that I do not know, but I have been given to understand that they are. Let us assume, for argument's sake, that they are not quite satisfied ; how much more satisfied would they be if we retained what, to them, is objectionable ?

Senator Dobson - If we provided for the Japanese language, that would be all right for them.

Senator TRENWITH - I am not prepared to go that far.

Senator Dobson - What harm would it do?

Senator TRENWITH - It would do harm.

Senator Dobson - But what harm?

Senator TRENWITH - I do not propose to discuss that greater question, but I submit that to admit the Japanese language would furnish an excuse for a Ministry, antagonistic to what I regard as the policy of the Commonwealth, to do an act with which we would have just reason to be annoyed.

Senator Dobson - Do you think that any Ministry would admit a lot of Japanese working men?

Senator TRENWITH - The honorable senator wishes to draw me into a discussion which is not quite relevant, and which would be too lengthy at this stage of the session. I believe that Senator Dobson does not believe in the principle of excluding Asiatics.

Senator Dobson - The honorable senator has heard so many misrepresentations as to my views that he supposes I desire to see Japanese working men come into Australia.

Senator TRENWITH - Senator Pulsfordfrankly admits that he is opposed to the whole Bill, though, I think he is taking a proper attitude on this amendment. There are other- honorable senators who are opposed to the principle of the Bill, and would be glad to incorporate in the measure anything likely to intensify objections to it. I am glad to know that Senator Dobson is not amongst those honorable senators, but that does not alter the fact that others take that view.

Senator Dobson - I do not believe it, though I may be wrong.

Senator TRENWITH - However, all this does not affect my argument. We can get along very much better with individuals, or with aggregations of people, if we achieve our ends by the most pleasant and unobjectionable method; and that is what I think the Government are now doing. We know, as Senator Symon pointed out, that the Government will not prescribe an Asiatic language, and there is no need, therefore, to have any specific clause in this connexion. So long as Parliament has the power to prescribe the language, that power should be left as wide as possible, if in leaving it so we avoid giving offence. I know that some honorable senators, who agree with the principle of the Bill, resent any outside interference with our legislation. ( Such interference arouses pugnacious people, and I regret to say that in many, respects I am pugnacious myself. We should always endeavour, however, to overcome that disposition, because, after all, there is a vast amount of wisdom and philosophy in a saying with which I was familiar in my boyhood : " You can catch more flies with treacle than you can with vinegar." We ought to put as little " vinegar " as possible into our negotiations and communications with other people.

Suggest corrections