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Wednesday, 13 December 1905

Senator MULCAHY (Tasmania) - For more than one reason, I intend to vote with Senator Stewart. According to that honorable senator's idea, and according to the admission by Senator Playford, this clause is really an exchange of subterfuge. In other words, we propose to adopt one subterfuge in place of another.

Senator Trenwith - If the honorable senator does not like the subterfuge he should oppose the Bill.

Senator MULCAHY - I did vote in favour of a straightforward declaration of what we intended. It would) have been a far more statesmanlike, as well as more honest course, to say exactly what we meant, and to run the risk of a refusal of the Royal Assent. The policy of Australia is to exclude Asiatics, and we ought to be honest enough to say so. There is another aspect which has not been touched on. Section 3 of the principal Act provides that -

The immigration into the Commonwealth of the persons described in any of the following paragraphs of this section (hereinafter called " prohibited immigrants ") is prohibited, namely : -

(a)   Any person who when asked to do so by an officer fails to write out at dictation and sign in the presence of the officer a passage of fifty words in length in an European language directed by the officer.

It is clear from that that any intending immigrant, on landing, in the Commonwealth, may be met by an officer, who dictates to him fifty words in an European language. We know, as a matter of fact, that the officer can dictate fifty words in any European language, and he is therefore given a very wide choice. What is now proposed ? It seems to me that we are being asked, with the approval of Parliament, to reduce the number of languages in which the test may be applied to one prescribed language.

Senator Clemons - Surely the honorable senator does not mean that only one language will be prescribed in which the test can be applied?

Senator MULCAHY - I direct attention to the fact that clause 3 of this Bill provides that prohibited immigrants shall include -

Any person who fails to pass the dictation test : that is to say, who, when ah officer dictates to him not less than fifty words in any prescribed language -

Then it goes on to say that -

No regulation prescribing any language shall have any force. unless under the conditions set out in the clause ; and later on the clause provides that -

Until some language has been prescribed, the languages authorized by the Principal Act shall be deemed to be prescribed within the meaning of this Act.

Now, what is the intention of this Bill ? It appears to me that by this clause, though we shall widen the range of choice, we shall narrow the selection to one language.

Senator Clemons - The honorable senator contends that the regulation may prescribe only one language ?

Senator MULCAHY - So it seems to me from the wording of this clause.

Senator Keating - The clause must be read in conjunction with the Acts Interpretation Act.

Senator Clemons - The regulation may prescribe one or one hundred languages.

Senator Dobson - The clause will leave the matter just as it is to-day.

Senator MULCAHY - As I am confronted by three lawyers, I suppose I must back down upon my contention ; but it certainly appears to me that the clause, as drafted, indicates an intention to narrow down the languages to be prescribed to one language. I should like to hear the opinion of Senator Keating on the matter.

Senator Pulsford - I raised the same question on the second reading, and it was then positively stated that a number of languages might be prescribed.

Senator MULCAHY - In anycase I intend to support Senator Stewart's amendment, because, if we do not desire these Asiatics to come into Australia, we should be honest enough to say so.

Senator GRAY(New South Wales).We are being asked to agree to what I was going to call cowardly legislation. We have already passed a measure which is admitted to be a fraud, and we are now considering whether we shall not perpetuate that fraud. If I could believe that the people of Japan, or of any of the other Eastern nations, will be satisfied that the proposals of the Government in this Bill are. in accordance with their desires, I should gladly support it.

Senator Best - Is the honorable senator in favour of the principal A;t?

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