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Thursday, 14 December 1905

Senator DOBSON (Tasmania) - When I was young, and had more time for reading poetry than I have now, I read two lines which have stuck in my memory ever since. They were written by the poet Rogers: -

We watch the wheels of Nature's mazy plan, And learn the future by the past of man.

From what I can see of the Senate as at present constituted, there is not the slightest fear of it trying to learn the future effects of legislation from the experience of the past. The Senate has been in existence over four years. We have passed many Acts of Parliament; and unless we have the justice, the honour, and the common sense to try to learn and remember lessons from the results of what we have done, I for one shall absolutely despairof ever having any proper legislation passed. I shall alludeto two circumstances, one of which was referred to yesterday, in respect to the Bill with which we were then dealing. It was stated over and over again that the Japanese Government had made no representations concerning the amendment of our Jaw, whereas Senator Pulsford - -

The PRESIDENT - The honorable senator must not discuss a Bill that we dealt with yesterday. There is a standing order which says that a senator must not refer to previous debates.

Senator DOBSON - I am merely illustrating an argument. Although the statement which I have mentioned was denied, there is the absolute fact that out of the mouth of the Consul for Japan--

The PRESIDENT - That has nothing to do with this Bill.

Senator DOBSON - I think I have a

Tight to illustrate the argument which I am adducing.

The PRESIDENT - The honorable senator has no right to allude to yesterday's debate..

Senator DOBSON - I will illustrate the point further by the Biff in front of us.

Honorable senators opposite have contended over and over again that they are in favour of immigration - that they wish to see Australia peopled by British subjects. Senator Henderson said, not long ago, that he would be delighted to see an influx of crowds of people from the old land. But he had not the candour to tell us what Senator Findley told us yesterday - and what I take to be the true policy of the Labour Party - that they do not want a single man to enter this Commonwealth either under contract or in any other way so long as they can point to a few unemployed in some corner of Australia. That, I believe, is an honest and candid expression of what the policy of the Labour Party is. And if that be so -and I assert that it is; I insist that it is, because I know that it is - all that I have to say is that the Labour Party never will be in favour of any immigration to Australia. And if we Can logically and truthfully derive that policy from the utterances of members of the Labour Party, we cannot wonder that the leading journals of Great Britain derive exactly the same policy. And therefore it is known throughout the length and breadth of Great Britain that the people of Australia, influenced by the Labour Party, do not desire any immigration whatever. Unfortunately, when we go into these heated subjects we can never agree about the facts, and will not. admit the most palpable things that are brought under our notice. What is the use of the members of the Labour Party saying, one after another, that it is not our laws which have got us into disrepute, but the slanders of the capitalist party and press, when we have before us the opinions of the six AgentsGeneral, who are old and experienced politicians ?

Senator Findley - Some of them are too old for their position.

Senator DOBSON - I understand that experience is not a bad qualification, and some of these. Agents-General have taken part in fighting for the very laws of which Senator Findley approves. ' I cannot allow the honorable senator to sneer at the age of the Agents-General.

Senator Findley - I meant the age of their views.

Senator DOBSON - These AgentsGeneral, with their responsibilities, experience, and knowledge of opinion in the old' country, are far better judges on the ques- tion of fact than honorable senators opposite.

Senator Playford - The opinion expressed is that of only a small section of the Agents-General.

Senator DOBSON - Senator Gould has saved me the trouble of quoting the reports of these gentlemen; but they deemed it their duty to say-

Senator Playford - Who are " they "?

Senator DOBSON - The six AgentsGeneral.

Senator Playford - The Agents-General of New Zealand, South Australia, and Western Australia did not take part.

Senator DOBSON - What have we to do with New Zealand? We are now discussing the alleged slanders in England, and I am trying to show, on the authority of the Agents-General, that it is the laws of the Commonwealth which have brought Australia into disrepute.

Senator Playford - Only some of the Agents- General took part, and I am sure you will not find the Agent-General of South Australia, Mr. Grainger, among them.

Senator DOBSON - I find that the report is signed by, amongst others, Mr. Jenkins, for South Australia. The Minister is so anxious to curry favour with his party and supporters, and to drive his Bill through, that he has not even read the report of the Agents-General. The Agents-General deem it their duty to point out that the legislation, which we are now considering, has been a veritable stumblingblock in their way, and that it has. created a bad influence against Australia in every part of the United Kingdom. Could evidence be better, or language stronger? If we appointed a Commission to inquire as to the cause of the socalled slanders - but truthful statements, in my opinion - could we call better witnesses than those Agents-General who, I suppose, read the press on both sides, tabulate notes of all matters affecting the Commonwealth, and discuss questions of the kind with bankers, commercial men, and people from different portions of the Empire?

Senator Higgs - Would the honorable senator be willing to insert a clause to allow lawyers to be introduced into the Commonwealth* under contract?

Senator DOBSON - The honorable senator is talking nonsense, and the President has told us, over and over again, that such interjections are irrelevant. My point is, that if the Labour Party, honestly, as I believe, hold the views I have indicated, we cannot expect them to ever favour any kind of immigration? A great many moderate members of the Labour Party would, in their hearts, I believe, like to follow the example of Senator Turley, whose speech to-day rather astonished me, as showing the extreme to which he would go, and thus risk marring the prosperity of this or any other country.

Senator Pulsford - Senator Turley proved too much.

Senator DOBSON - -Not only did Sena tor Turley go beyond Senator Findley in saying that he had met, or knew, hundreds of men who were out of employment, and that, therefore, he could not possibly vote for a Bill sanctioning immigration while that condition of things continues, but he added that he knew hundreds of men who were employed in country places at low wages, and that immigration would be to the prejudice of those men, whose wages would be taken as the standard. Senator Turley's argument, driven to a logical conclusion, means that, while throughout the Commonwealth there is one section of workers whose wages and conditions, in the opinion of a labour member, happen to be unsatisfactory, the door should be barred to our fellow-British subjects. It is hopeless to expect a Labour Party holding such views to receive with sympathy any Bill to assist immigration. The views of Senator Turley on this question are so narrow, so circumscribed, and so undoubtedly favorable to class legislation, that if they were carried into effect they would destroy the progress and prosperity of every man in the Commonwealth, including the class he represents.

Senator Turley - I am opposed to any man being brought in under contract.

Senator DOBSON - And, I suppose also to any man coming in free?

Senator Turley - No. Let as many men come in as choose, so long as they find their own way.

Senator DOBSON - We are making a great fuss about nothing, so far as the practical effect of the Bill is concerned, but we are doing a most important work in placing ourselves right in the opinion of our fellow subjects in Great Britain. We have the authority of the Prime Minister that very few men under contract have come in in the past, and that he expects very few in the future. We are informed by the Prime Minister that last year there were not one dozen applicants for contract labour certificates made to' the Government. After all, we are passing a. Bill which permits the immigration of British subjects under restrictions which are very great and far-reaching, and I do not know that the measure will do the good that is expected. The provisions are most restrictive in so far as they enable the Minister to insist that every contract shall be placed before him before the immigrant lands. It is all very fine for the Prime Minister and other Ministers to. say that the contract must be submitted in advance ; but men in the hurryskurry of business, in this twentieth century, can scarcely be expected, three or four months in advance, to submit to a Minister, at the Seat of Government, a contract for the engagement of a man then 12,000 miles away. If we want our British fellow, subjects to come to Australia, why not be content with the other conditions, without imposing this further restriction, and thereby nullifying the very provision we all favour? At first I had intended to move that the High Commissioner and the Agents-General should be substituted for the Minister, but I do not propose to take that course now. I- do desire, however, to make the clause water-tight and workable, and therefore I intend to propose that, the Minister may depute his authority to the High Commissioner, or to the Agent-General of any State. The emigrants will be engaged in Great Britain, and therefore will have no trouble in applying at the offices of the Agents-General.

Senator Playford - The amendment is entirely unnecessary, because it is already provided in the Bill that the powers of the Minister may be deputed to any "officer authorized by him."

Senator DOBSON - Does Senator Playford tell me that the Minister will appoint some one else to administer the Act ?

Senator Playford - I cannot say what the Minister will do, because I am not going to be the Minister. I should say, however, that the Minister will exercise common-sense and intelligence.

Senator DOBSON - The provision to which Senator Playford refers was inserted in order to provide for the absence or illness of the Minister. Does 'Senator Playford mean to say that the Minister will appoint the High Commissioner, or any officer in London?

Senator Playford - When I moved the second reading I expressed the opinion that this provision meant that an officer would be appointed in London.

Senator DOBSON - I am very glad to hear that statement, and under the circumstances, I shall not move an amendment.: However, I notice that a contract under the Bill can be entered into only by a person " resident in Australia." In order to meet cases of large manufacturers, or squatters who live in England, and only visit Australia once every two or three years, I think we ought to make the clause read, " resident or carrying on business in Australia." The clause dealing with the "equal skill and ability" phase seems to be unduly strict and unworkable. In my opinion, the words of the original Act are preferable, namely, that the Minister or officer shall be of opinion that the skill of the worker who is seeking to enter is "required in the Commonwealth." "I do not see how any Minister, officer, or AgentGeneral is to satisfy himself on the point. It is hopeless to expect a Minister or official to honestly and properly adjust such a calculation.

Senator Playford - Then the logical course for the honorable senator is to move to strike the clause out.

Senator DOBSON - I shall not do that, but merely suggest another way of arriving at the same result. The Bill is open to the further criticism that a distinction ought to be made between the ordinary labourer or navvy and a skilled mechanic. Of what use is it to apply the Words " skill " and "ability" to the work of the manual labourers ?'

Senator Pearce - All labour is skilled, as the honorable senator would find if he went navvying.

Senator Playford - If the honorable senator went cracking stones he would find that another man could beat him hollow.

Senator DOBSON - I do not think that it was ever intended to apply these words as Senator Pearce applies them. There is some distinction to be drawn between halfadozen hatters, trained from their youth in the most important branches of hat manufacture, and workers who have not been so trained. But if we required 1,000 men to build a railway to the West, and1 could not get them here, we could not import men and refer to them as having greater skill and ability than men who are here, using the word "skill" in its ordinary acceptation.

However, if the Labour Party and the Government are of opinion that that expression does not require alteration, I shall let it pass. With regard to the question of the Anglo-Indian, I take leave to differ from Senator Playford. I take it that if a British subject went to India and married a native of that country, trie offspring of the marriage would be entitled to come into the Commonwealth under this Bill.

Senator Playford - He would have all the vices and none of tUe virtues of his parents.

Senator DOBSON - What sort of an answer is that to my argument? I believe that under the Bill he would be entitled to enter the Commonwealth.

Senator Millen - Whether he was vicious or otherwise.

Senator DOBSON - Quite so.

Senator Playford - I do not think so.

Senator DOBSON - Just as individuals are competing .with each other in the race of life, so every nation in the world is striving against other nations ; and I should like to know how we are to keep up with Canada, the United States, Argentina, and Mexico with all their lands, riches, and opportunities for employment if at the same time they open their doors wider to immigrants than we do?

Senator Findley - If the Honorable senator says that Canada opens her door wider than we do he cannot understand the Canadian Act.

Senator DOBSON - I have extracts from it here, and can tell the honorable senator what it provides. Under the contract section of the Canadian Act it is provided that no foreigner shall enter Canada under contract at all. But the section goes on to provide that it shall not apply to the people of foreign nations who admit Canadians into their country. That is a reciprocal treaty between Canada and foreign nations.

Senator Findley - We do not admit Canadians under contract.

Senator Pearce - Has the honorable senator noticed that the Agents-General, in the report to which he has referred, made the statement that Canada has sent back to the old country thousands of disappointed emigrants ?

Senator Millen - But on what ground? They were rejected on the ground of illhealth.

Senator Pearce - They were rejected, anyhow.

Senator DOBSON - The honorable senator should bear in mind that, although Canada may have rejected thousands on the ground of ill-health, and as being unfit to weather her frightful winter, tens of thousands of immigrants are entering the Dominion every month, and are encouraged to go there. How are we to succeed in the race with countries that have land at their disposal, and a reasonable immigration policy, when we have the most restricted policy that Mr. Attorney-General Isaacs, helped by the Labour Party, could devise?

Senator Playford - It all depends upon the States; the Commonwealth has not the land to offer.

Senator DOBSON - The honorable senator says that we have not the land.

Senator Playford - No; it is a matter for the States to deal with.

Senator Givens - I rise to a point of order. Many honorable senators have been prevented from addressing themselves to this aspect of the question.

The PRESIDENT - I ask honorable senators not to deal with the land question. The Bill before the Senate is not a measure to bring out immigrants and give them land. It deals with but a small part of the immigration question. I ask the leader of the Senate, at all events1, not to bring in the land question.

Senator Playford - I did not bring it in.

Senator DOBSON - I am glad, sir, that you have rebuked the leader of the Senate, though the honorable senator now denies his own words.

Senator Playford - I do not deny them, but I say that the honorable senator introduced the land question first.

Senator DOBSON - I said that the nations to which I have referred open their doors to immigrants, and the honorable senator stated that it was because they have land to offer. Another matter with which I . propose to deal is the question of the introduction of contract labour in relation to the. sugar plantations. The number of contract immigrants arriving here under the existing Act is very small, and it is not likely to be greatly increased under the restrictive provisions of this Bill. I remind honorable senators that it is very likely that an effort will be made to introduce contract labour under this Bill for work on the sugar plantations, because it is possible that we shall find that white labour is scarce in North Queensland.

Senator Matheson - Does the honorable senator- suggest that coloured labour should be brought in under contract for the sugar plantations ?

Senator DOBSON - Senator Matheson's remark is unworthy of him. We know that he is so ingrained with every doctrine of the Labour Party that labour politics bubble out of him like water out of a spout. My honorable friends opposite seem to me to be quite incapable of believing that any man who happens to have a shilling in his pocket, and is therefore a capitalist, can be anything but the most conservative, selfish, and unprogressive of individuals. I took special notice of the speech delivered by Senator Higgs, and I regard the carrying on of the sugar industry by white labour as one of the most important matters with which we have to deal. We shall have to consider it in a few hours' time, when we have the Sugar Bounty Bill before us ; and I believe that when the 6,000 kanakas now in Queensland are deported, there may be some difficulty in getting the 4,000 white men who will be required to supply their place, and I think some provision might be made in this Bill to meet it. It is very important to consider in this connexion what are fair conditions for workers in the industry if we are to introduce white labourers under contract to carry it on. If we are to be asked to vote another ^1,000,000 in sugar bounties, immediate steps should he taken to obtain white labour for the plantations. The day is close at hand when the kanakas will have to be deported, and we should know whether white labourers will be available in sufficient numbers to take their places. If it is found that they are not available, we should set to work under this Bill to import foreigners, whether Italians, e or people of other European nations, to do the work required to be done, and to keep Australia white, even on the sugar plantations. We must do what is necessary to save this great industry from being annihilated, in spite of the bolstering up we have to give it, and must continue to give it. This question of contract labour for the sugar plantations is about the most important that can arise under the Bill, and every effort should be made under it to provide white labour for the sugar plantations of the tropical regions. If this Bill is to be mutilated in Committee, and the one or two steps in advance for which it provides are not to be taken, it will do more harm to the Commonwealth than anything that has happened so far, because the people at Home will get it into their heads that, in spite of all our protestations that we desire to welcome them with open arms, we really do nothing of the kind, and they will be able to point to the laws on our statute-book.

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