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Thursday, 14 December 1905

Senator Lt Col GOULD (New South Wales) - I am quite sure that every honorable senator desires to make the people of this community as prosperous as he possibly can. I believe that, if it were thought by honorable senators on this side, or by the Government, that the Bill would do to our people the serious injury which is feared by Senator Higgs, it would have very little chance of being passed. I desire that all our people shall be fully and satisfactorily employed, because no community can be truly great unless , its people are employed remuneratively, so far as that is possible. I do not think that the Bill is open to the very serious objection which has been taken to it by some honorable senators. Under our restrictive law as it stands, there is a possibility of introducing, contract labour under certain conditions, and although this Bill may apparently increase the possibility, still it is hedged round with such precautions as would prevent its provisions from being used for, an improper and unwise purpose. It leaves the door open 'to the people of our own kith and kin - to British subjects born in the United Kingdom, or to the descendants of such persons. It is only fair and reasonable that if a discrimination is to be made it should be in favour of people of our own kith and kin. We are all proud of belonging to an Empire which we hope will always hold a leading place among the nations, and in which humanitarian considerations will al ways. lie uppermost in the framing of legislation. Tt is only fair for us to recognise all British subjects born in the United Kingdom, or the descendants of such persons as our brothers, and to admit them to our community. But even then every precaution is taken in this Bill to protect the workers in the Commonwealth, because the contract has to be submitted to and approved by the Minister. He has to be satisfied as to the terms and conditions of the contract, and before- he can give his approval he has to be satisfied that it is not made " in contemplation of, or with the view of, affecting an industrial dispute." It will be remembered that the primary object of our legislation, in regard to contract labour, was to prevent the introduction of a large number of men at a time when an industrial dispute was in existence, and so give employers an' opportunity of defeating what might be the legitimate aspirations of their late workmen. Those provisions are still retained in our law. and apply to an Englishman as well as to a foreigner. But this Bill will give a further advantage. By paragraph c of sub-clause 2 of clause 5 it will prevent the introduction of men with a view to the cutting down of wages. If in Melbourne an employer wishes to bring out men under contract, he will have to satisfy the Minister that the contract immigrant will enjoy the same remuneration and other terms and conditions of employment as local workmen.

Senator Givens - After he has flooded the market, will he pay current wages?

Senator Lt Col GOULD D- The term of the contract will have to be specified, and the Minister will have to be satisfied that it will be such as will afford the contract immigrant a reasonable opportunity " in which to establish himself in the community, and will not enable the employer to dismiss him unless he be willing to accept lower wages.

Senator Givens - Employers can bring out men, and after flooding the market cut down the wages.

Senator Lt Col GOULD - The Bill provides that an employer shall not import contract labour " in contemplation of or with a view of affecting, an industrial dispute," or subject to conditions less advantageous than those which are enjoyed by local workers. Senator Givens entertains the fear that "employers will flood the market and cut down wages, but he is willing to allow fifty or 100 men who are receiving 30s. a week in England to come out to Australia to be employed at £2 a week. But where a man is brought out under contract at a wage of, say, £2 a week, with an engagement lasting for a number of years, who should object? No contract labour can be brought out without a great deal of expense, inconvenience, and risk to the employer. It is not reasonable to assume that any employer, or body of employers, would bring out a number of men to flood the market and bring down wages. They would, by doing so, not only run the risk of losing their money, but I am not sure that they would not run a great risk of prosecution for conspiracy. This Bill is surrounded! by restrictions 'to protect the interests of those who are already in the Commonwealth. But it is impossible for Australia to achieve the destiny which we all hope and believe is in store for her, unless she gets rid of some portion of the restrictive legislation she has in force at present.

Senator Givens - The honorable senator should not talk nonsense. There is no restrictive legislation.

Senator Lt Col GOULD .- Yet Senator Givens himself says that he would not allow any man to come out from England under contract to do work in Australia !

Senator Givens - That is not restriction on the Commonwealth.

Senator Lt Col GOULD .- We want people to come out with a prospect of being able to maintain themselves for a reasonable time. I should be better pleased if we had an opportunity to deal with this question of immigration on a far larger scale. I should like to see opportunities given to persons to settle on the soil of this country, and become producers ; because, without that, we cannot have a material increase of employment in the cities and towns, or an addition to the industries of the Commonwealth. Unfortunately, however, we have not control of the lands. All we can do is to say to the States Parliaments. " Make provision to put people on the land, and we will see that they are brought out."

Senator O'Keefe - We han 'do more than that ) we can impose a stiff graduated land tax.

Senator Lt Col GOULD - That is another error.

Senator Givens - Now who is opposed to immigration?

Senator Lt Col GOULD .- The States Parliaments can take any land they think fit from people who own it at present, so long as they take it honestly, and pay for it. But I do not desire to discuss that question. I simply say that we have not the opportunity of dealing with the subject in a way that I think is desirable. .In

Canada, the Government's in a better position than we are in that respect, because it has large areas of unalienated land. But while we are in our present position, are we to say to a man who has capital : " You can come to Australia if you like, but you will have to take your chance of finding employment on the spot, and subject to such restrictive legislation as you find in force " ? The more people we have in the country, the more employment there must lae for our population. No man can come to Australia without requiring some work to be done for him. Take the case of a man who comes out under contract, and earns £2 or ^3 a week. He spends the money which he earns amongst the members of the community. He creates work for other people. . Senator Higgs has said that we have too many doctors, too manybriefless barristers, and too many solicitors who are pining for want of employment. Why is that? Simply because there are so many people in the community who wish to put their sons into what they look upon as genteel professions. They do not give them a chance of earning a living in occupations where their services are likely to be required by the community. Many people appear to think that there is some charm in making a man a lawyer or a doctor. It is considered that it gives him a sort of position in the community. People are not so anxious to make their sons mechanics, following occupations where they could do good for themselves and for the country. It is not sufficiently recognised that there is a dignity in labour. I do not care what occupation a man follows, so long as he is working honestly for his living.

Senator McGregor - There are many people who talk about the " dignity " who do not care about the " labour."

Senator Lt Col GOULD - I am aware of that, and think it is an unfortunate circumstance. If we pass such immigration legislation as will encourage people to come to this country, no matter whether as workers or employers, we db good to the Commonwealth.

Senator Pearce - We require to induce the States to provide land for immigrants to settle on.

Senator Lt Col GOULD .- That is the best solution of the difficulty we can have ; but we must go step by step, and this Bill is a step in the right direction. I would rather see the Bill very much wider than it is, now in its scope; but even as it stands it will be of great value. I should have no objection to a return being tabled every twelve months, giving the names of people who have taken advantage of this measure, the number of employes they have brought into the com. munity,and the position of these people at the end of twelve months. I believe the result would be a revelation to honorable senators who opposed the' Bill. I acknowledge that they oppose it honestly, but they are mistaken. Such a return would show the beneficial effects of this measure upon the community in. general. The Bill affords no opportunity to flood the market with labour. It gives no opportunity to introduce immigrants under unreasonable conditions. There are Factories Acts and Wages Boards in several of the States.

Senator Turley - They do not affect half the labour in Australia.

Senator Lt Col GOULD .- Let the States be satisfied that such laws are good, and they will pass them. The working people of this country have the greatest amount of voting power, and if they only choose to work together they can influence legislation in any direction they see fit.

Senator O'KEEFE (TASMANIA) - Does not the honorable senator know that the working people have 'scarcely any voting power in the Legislative Councils ?

Senator Lt Col GOULD - They have in many of the States. Under t;he Commonwealth, the working classes have the fullest opportunities of exercising their rights. There could not be a freer Constitution than ours. It is true that some of the States have nominee Legislative Councils, but the working classes are not without influence in them. Now, I should like to direct attention to one or two points connected with the language of this Bill. I think it would be wise to make it clear that immigrants who come out tinder the measure are not subjected to the dictation test. Under clause 6, i't is provided that if a contract immigrant lands in Australia before the Minister has approved of the terms of the contract it becomes void, and the immigrant is liable to a penalty of £5. I do not think it is a reasonable thing that a man who is induced to come to Australia should be rendered liable to such a penalty simply because his contract is void owing to an oversight on the part of his employer. The hardship of imposing a penalty on the immigrant was pointed out by Senator Symon, and also by the Minister, but the latter remarked that there was some recompense, because it was within the power of the Executive to direct the payment of a certain sum of money, not exceeding£50, to the immigrant. That sum is not intended to recoup the immigrant for any penalty that may be inflicted upon him, but is really meant to maintain him until he can find suitable employment, or to enable him, if he so chooses, to return to the country whence he came. Even if the intention were to recoup the immigrant, the proper course would be to render the employer, and the employer only, liable to a penalty, and not by a round-about means to make him liable for a fine supposed to be inflicted on the immigrant. We are all agreed that we do not desire to give people in other parts of the world opportunity to misrepresent the intentions or desires of the Commonwealth Parliament. But there will be a very serious hindrance to the removal of these impressions which, rightly or wrongly, prevail, if our laws indicate that a man, by a simple omission on the part of his employer, may become liable to a penalty. Such a provision is utterly contrary to all the principles of British fair play and justice; and I hope that, if the Bill goes into Committee, this objectionable feature will be removed. I raise no word of objection to a penalty being imposed on an employer who fails to comply with the law, because, if he takes advantage of the legislation, it is his duty to make himself acquainted with its provisions. As to the importation of men under contract in case of an industrial dispute, I have already pointed out that the Bill requires the Minister to be satisfied that an agreement is not made in contemplation of any such event. If, however, a Minister be misled, and he assents to a contract which violates this provision, the Bill later on enables him to protect those who are interested or concerned in an industrial dispute. In clause 9 power is given to the Governor-General to publish an order in the Gazette to the effect that, after a date specified, the immigration of contract immigrants in connexion with, or in contemplation of, an industrial dispute, shall be prohibited, subject to exceptions and limitations expressed in the order. That clause furtherprovides that from the date so specified, contract immigrants shall be subject to the exceptions and limitations within the meaning of the Immigration Restriction Act of 1901. By this clause any section of the working community, who are engaged in what they regard as a legitimate industrial dispute, are absolutely protected against any mistake on the part of the Minister. That provision must be regarded as most reasonable; and I cannot conceive of any objection to it on the part of honorable senators, who, I assume, are desirous to promote the prosperity of the community-. The only weak point in the Bill, from a labour stand-point, is the fact that the Bill makes an exception in regard to our own kith and kin. In the case of men who are not our own countrymen, the Minister has to be satisfied that there is difficulty on the part of an employer in obtaining within the Commonwealth workers of at least equal skill and ability. This provision, and this provision only, does not operate in the case of men from England who are British subjects bom in the United Kingdom, or their decendants born in any part of the British Empire. I have already urged upon honorable senators the fairness and justice of working amicably with our own fellow countrymen, who, after all, are only separated from us by an imaginary border, seeing that we are all citizens of the British Empire. It would be as unreasonable to say that a working man in New South Wales shall not be employed in Victoria, as to say that the British subject born in Great Britain shall not be employed in Australia. The principle is exactly the same; and I wish honorable senators to realize that the people of the Empire are one. If we desire to keep the British Empire in its present position, and to protect all British coasts and territories, we must be imbued with the knowledge that we are one people with one destiny. When this Federation was formed that was the cry that was raised ; and the phrase, " One' people, one destiny," should take a far broader scope than that which was then contemplated. Australia is not an independent country, with ideals, principles, and obiects hostile or foreign to those of Great Britain. Throughout the Empire there are advocates of every possible means of ameliorating the condition of the working classes ; and the legislation of

Great Britain is in advance of that of other portions of the world in its humanitarian aspects, and its efforts to upraise the people, as far as possible, to a position of independence. While I know that in Great Britain there is great poverty and distress, I also know that in the United States there is equal, or even greater, poverty. I urge on honorable senatorsnot to make any distinction against our own kith and kin, no matter what we may do in reference to the people of other nations. Australia has a territory of something like 3,000,000 square miles.

Senator O'Keefe - How much of the land is fertile?

Senator Lt Col GOULD - The territory under our dominion represents 35 per cent, of the British Empire, and over that vast expanse is scattered a population of 4,000,000 souls. Do honorable . senators mean to say that we have no room for immigrants ?

Senator O'Keefe - No one says that; but to speak of Australia as consisting of 3,000,000 square miles is misleading, because only a small portion of the territory is fit for the use of man.

Senator Lt Col GOULD - I decline to subscribe to that doctrine. I know there are men who say that nothing more than a narrow fringe of Australia is fit for settlement; but, as a matter of fact, we find that, as population increases, that fringe becomes wider and wider.

Senator DAWSON (QUEENSLAND) - Is there any short ness of labour in Australia how?

Senator Lt Col GOULD - I do not say there is at the present time ; I am not arguing that point. Do not honorable senators know that some of the most unfertile and unlikely looking country in America has been turned into smiling fields by the magic of irrigation ?

Senator O'Keefe - How can we irrigate Central Australia?

Senator Sir Josiah Symon - In South Australia arid countryhas been rendered fertile by the use of phosphates - country on which there is a rainfall of only nine inches per annum.

Senator Lt Col GOULD - When people say that Australia is over-populated, they make a great mistake.

Senator O'Keefe - Nobody says that.

Senator Lt Col GOULD .- The State of Victoria, which is capable of maintaining the whole present population of Aus- tralia, consists of only 87,000 square miles out of a total of . 3,000,000 square miles.

Senator McGregor - All the land is not like that of Victoria.

Senator Lt Col GOULD .- That may be so, but a great deal of the land in Australia is quite equal to any that can be found in Victoria. If honorable senators desire to see what can be done by. irrigation, let them visit the Mallee district in the State I have just mentioned!; and similar results might be obtained throughout the whole of Australia.

Senator O'Keefe - Where could the water be obtained to irrigate Central Australia, where there are no mountains or rivers ?

Senator Lt Col GOULD .- Difficulties are very often placed in the way in order to teach us how to overcome them. A man who expects to have everything at his hand is of little service to the world at large.

Senator de Largie - But some honorable senators object to railways to open up the country.

Senator Lt Col GOULD .- That is not the question with which we are now dealing.

Senator McGregor - The honorable senator has described the centre of Australia as consisting of barren sand.

Senator Lt Col GOULD .- I say that Australia is capable of maintaining an immense population; and we are untrue to our position as Australians if we malign the country by conveying to others a contrary impression. In the United States there are millions of acres which, so far as nature is concerned, appeared absolutely useless ; and yet they are being used in the service of man at the present time. The United States cover an area no greater than that of the Commonwealth; and yet the former has a population of something like 80,000,000, with immigrants pouring in at the rate of over 1,000.000 a year.

Senator O'Keefe - Despite all the restrictions !

The PRESIDENT - Does Senator Gould think that his remarks are relevant to the subject-matter of the Bill ?

Senator Lt Col GOULD .- I am endeavouring to show that there is plenty of room in Australia for anv number of immigrants.

The PRESIDENT - The Bill is intended to remove certain restrictions.

Senator Lt Col GOULD .- It is true that small restrictions have been removed. The question hasbeen raised whether this Bill is not introduced in the in- terests of the sugar-planters of Northern Queensland. I do not believe that to be the fact. The probability is that if the sugarplanters desired to take advantage of the provisions of the Bill they will do so; but unless the intending immigrants are British subjects, or descendants of people born in the United Kingdom, they cannot be admitted unless it is shown that there are not available in the Commonwealth persons of equal skill and ability. We have heard it suggested that numbers of people may be introduced from Southern Europe for that purpose, but before that can be done the Minister must be satisfied that there are no persons already in Australia available and capable of discharging the duties which those people would be called upon to. discharge after their arrival ' in the Commonwealth. If I ask honorable senators whether they desire to see the sugar industry carried on successfully, they will tell me that they do, and I say that they must afford opportunities to make it successful. When, under this Bill, labourers who are not British subjects cannot be introduced under contract to work on the cane-fields of Northern Queensland unless the Minister is satisfied that there are no labourers in Australia available and capable of doing the work, it must be admitted that they are amply protected. If we have not men in the Commonwealth available and capable of doing this work, will it not be the height of folly to refuse to permit the introduction of others who will be able to make the industry the success it ought to be ? Nature has done all that she could for us, and we should do all that we possibly can to make the most of our natural advantages. We should be prepared to give our own kith and kin the same opportunities that we claim for ourselves. I would ask honorable senators opposite what they would say if they desired to enter Great Britain to carry on their occupation, and were told that they would not be allowed to do so? Would they not talk loudly of the narrrowmindedness of the people of Great Britain who would shut out their own kith and kin ? Yet some honorable senators object to allow people from Great Britain to enter Australia under contract to earn an honest livelihood. They say that those who desire to come here must do so on their own responsibility, and take their chance; or, in other words, that thriftless and' workless persons from the old country may enter Australia and join the thriftless and workless in the Commonwealth. Those are the men we are asked in some quarters to encourage, and I can only say that I should be very sorry to see in this country the thriftless class of people whom America receives with open arms. The report of the Agents-General has already been referred to, and I ask honorable senators to bear in mind that it was asked for by the Government of the Commonwealth, who recognised the fact that difficulties existed in connexion with the introduction of immigrants to this country. The Agents-General say in their report - and it cannot be too often repeated, or too strongly impressed upon the people of this country-

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." These have proved veritable stumbling-blocks to the work of the Agents-General, and have had a ' most prejudicial influence upon public opinion in every part o"f the Kingdom.

Nothing has more irritated public opinion than these two matters, to which we propose to revert in a separate despatch dealing with the subject of Immigration.

In connexion with this Memorandum, we cannot refrain from expressing our conviction that, although a reasonable provision against. the importation of labour during a strike could be fully vindicated, the real aims of the Commonwealth will not be understood or sympathized with so long as constantly-recurring incidents under the Contract Clause serve to remind people of a provision which grates upon every British susceptibility, by treating the British worker under contract as' an industrial "pariah" in a British community.

These words are well worthy of consideration bv honorable members who claim that there is no justification for the belief entertained by people at Home as to the effect of these two provisions of our law.

Senator McGREGOR (SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - There have been many misrepresentations in connexion with them.

Senator Lt Col GOULD - That may be so; but it is our duty to prevent misrepresentation, and to let people abroad know exactly what our laws are. If people choose to go about maligning a country, they can do immense injury, but that can be avoided if we are able in an authoritative way to show that we are being maligned. We should thus kill the lie which, given a start, does an incalculable amount of injury. Impressed as I am with this view, I believe that, even if under this Bill and under the Bill with which we dealt yesterday a single additional immigrant were not introduced into the Commonwealth, their provisions would still do good in removing the erroneous idea existing in the minds of the British public at the present time. Senator Henderson read what I presume was the official report in connexion with the six hatter case. An attempt is made in that report to .show that if the law had been observed earlier, those men would not have been prevented from entering the Commonwealth.

Senator Mulcahy - If the spirit of the law had been given effect, they would not have been allowed to come in at all.

Senator Lt Col GOULD - If Mr. Anderson had gone to the Minister in the first instance a week or a fortnight before the men arrived, and secured his authority for their entry, they would have been allowed to come in immediately they arrived. But Mr. Anderson did not do that, and during the week in which he was making inquiries, the Minister kept those six hatters on board the Orontes as prisoners, and refused to permit them to land in Australia until the matter was determined.

Senator Playford - Because he could not do so under the law. They were prohibited immigrants..

Senator Lt Col GOULD .- So much the worse for the country that passed such a law.

Senator Playford - That is quite another matter. The honorable senator cannot blame the Minister for administering the law.

Senator Lt Col GOULD - I believe that the Government are making an honest attempt in this Bill to avoid the same trouble in the future, and that is why I wish to see the measure passed. We have a right to combat misrepresentation as to the character of our laws, and to show that we are not as restrictive in our immigration laws as some persons on the other side of the world allege. A man who has only recently arrived in this- country, or who took no interest in politics here, might say, " What is the nature of your legislation? You have only 4,000,000 in Australia, and those who are here want to do all the work, and desire to keep others out."

Senator McGregor - That is what politicians of the honorable senator's class are always telling the people-.

Senator Lt Col GOULD .- This is the old gag over again, and the honorable senator is trying once more to raise a class distinction. The remarks I have made to-day should have satisfied Senator McGregor that I desire the prosperity of the community as a whole.

Senator Givens - He would have to be easily satisfied.

Senator Lt Col GOULD .- I could not have said more than I did, and what I have said I said honestly. If we are going to make this a great country, we must correct the misrepresentations circulated in Great Britain. We should bear in mind the fact that we have no right to occupy this Commonwealth unless we are prepared to utilize it. When we consider the teeming millions of people in other countries-

Senator Stewart - Humbug ! What about the land-grabbers of New _ South Wales ? They are a lot of hypocrites and humbugs.

Senator Lt Col GOULD .- If Senator Stewart applies his remarks to me, I return him the compliment.

Senator Stewart - I thank the honorable senator. I do so apply them.

Senator Lt Col GOULD - Then I tell Senator Stewart that he is as great a hypocrite as can be found.

Senator Stewart - What about land monopoly in New South Wales?

The PRESIDENT - There is no question of land monopoly before ihe Senate.

Senator Lt Col GOULD - Am I responsible? Is Senator Stewart responsible for the land monopoly in Queensland?

Senator Stewart - No, thank heaven ! But I have not taken the same course as Senator Gould has.

The PRESIDENT - I must ask senators not to interrupt. The question of land monopoly is not dealt with in this Bill.

Senator Lt Col GOULD .- I hope that honorable senators will view the Bill from a reasonable stand-point, and will be prepared to accept it as a measure which will not interfere unduly or unfairly with any class in the community. It is, in my opinion, an honest attempt to impose restrictive legislation in such a way as to avoid any misrepresentation of our desire. I hope that honorable senators will realize that some special consideration is due to people of our own race and colour. If they do so, they will accept the principle of the Bill, and, though it may not be carried in the Senate by such an enormous majority as that by which it was carried in another place, there will still be a substantial majority in its favour inthis Chamber.

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