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Thursday, 14 December 1905

Senator STEWART (Queensland) - I must confess that I approach the discussion of the measure with a feeling that is very closely related to sorrow. It is a distinct evidence of decadence. The robust spirit which pervaded this Parliament four years ago seems to have evaporated into thin air, and in its place we have a weak and vacillating temper which may lead us anywhere, and which certainly bodes no good to the Commonwealth. When a law affecting the interests of the people of Australia is desired to be amended, the first duty which lies upon those who seek to alter its provisions is to show that a demand for the change has come from the people. Have the people of Australia asked for a revision of this Act? I emphatically say that we have not the slightest evidence to that effect. During recent recesses, I have gone up and down Queensland detailing to the electors what had been done in the Federal Parliament. This, I pointed out, was a measure of which the people of Australia ought to be proud. I said that we had laid it down as an axiom indelibly expressed in the Australian statute-book that every immigrant should land as a free man, and I was applauded wherever I went. If I had even hinted to the people who sent me here that the Act required revision , the very idea would have been scouted. I admit frankly and freely that a small but noisy, mischievous minority has persistently clamoured for this Bill. I ask honorable senators whether, in a case of this kind, they are going to listen to the voice of the vast majority of the people, or whether they are going, to be led away by a small, disloyal, slanderous, untruthful, insignificant minority. I have always understood that the wishes of the majority ought to be the law of the country. But in this, particular case we are asked to follow, not the lead of the great body of the loyal, patriotic people of Australia, but the lead of a small, slanderous, untruthful, insignificant minority. If the Parliament of the Commonwealth chooses to take that course, it certainly shall not have my support. I repeat that there has been no demand from the people of this country .for the alteration proposed in the Bill, and I submit that, constitutionally speaking, the Government had no right to bring it in. The party who introduced the Immigration Restriction Bill, four years ago, is still in power. It is kept in power in the same fashion. It has the Labour Party behind it now as it had then ; it has its own supporters now, as it had then. What is the reason for it1? What is the impelling motive? Has the original law been found defective in administration? If so, in what way? The honorable senator who is in charge of the Bill has not told us. He has simply echoed the sentiments of those who have told us that Australia is in evil odour. Where? In Australia? Where is our legislation in evil odour? Some have said that our legislation is in evil odour in this country, but, and a number consider this to be of greater consequence, it is also said to be in bad odour in Britain. Now, what is Britain? When honorable senators refer to Britain, what do they mean? Thev mean that wretched corner of London known as the Stock Exchange, where the hawks of the money markets have their nests, and from which they fleece the entire world. That is what honorable senators opposite mean when they talk about Britain ! I admit frankly and freely that the Stock Exchange of London is against us, that Australia spinks in its nostrils. Why? Simply because they cannot make enough profit out of us ; because they cannot coerce us into employing cheap labour in our mines, in our factories, in our fields; because of our advanced legislation. I will not call it socialistic legislation, because I do not desire to offend the sensitive ears of some of my honorable friends on the right. But I say positively that' that is why Australia stinks in the nostrils of the London Stock. Exchange and of the London capitalists. And my hope is that she will stink "still more, that her example will be followed bv every community under the sun, and that within a measurable distance of time the reign of the capitalists will be shattered, and the reign of the people will Have be- gun. Are we, in our internal government, going to be guided-

Senator Macfarlane - Infernal government ?

Senator STEWART - If we had the rule of the Stock Exchange I should be justified in calling it infernal. Have we not an Inferno over in South Africa"? I direct attention to that ; and I tell my honorable friends that if the London Stock Exchange had its way we should have exactly the same state of affairs here- as exists in South Africa.

The PRESIDENT - Does the honorable senator think that that has anything to do with this Bill ?

Senator STEWART - I think" that anything that relates to immigration has something to do with this Bill. ...

The PRESIDENT - I do not think that South Africa has anything to do with it.

Senator STEWART - You will excuse me, sir; I have no wish to come in conflict with the Chair. But I desire to point this out: that throughout the whole pf this debate -the principal argument that has been advanced by honorable senators on my right is that this legislation of ours is damaging us, so far as immigration is concerned, in the eyes of the British people.

The PRESIDENT - Th~at is right enough; but what has South" Africa to do with it?

Senator STEWART - I do not know whether my reference to South Africa appealed to you, but I am sure tEa-6 it appealed to a number of honorable senators. In any case, however, I have said all I desire to say with regard to South Africa, and will now proceed to another aspect of the question. I have given the reason why Australia is in bad odour in England. The question that I now desire to ask is this : whose opinion are we to consider in the internal management of Australian affairs? Are we to consider the people of Australia, are we to consider the electors of this continent, or are we to consider the views or.; the London Stock Exchange, or of the rich newspaper proprietors, or of the capitalists of Great Britain? So far as I am concerned, my honorable friends on the right can bow the knee to Baal if they please, but I bow the knee to the people of Australia. In these matters the will of the Australian citizens is my law. If my honorable friends on my right have false gods, that is their look-out. But my look-out, so far as I am able, is to prevent the people of Australia being injured on that account.

Senator Pulsford - The people of Australia have larger views than the honorable senator gives them credit for.

Senator STEWART - I hope that their views are large. I know that they are; but if we were to follow the lead of the honorable senator our views, instead of being large, would be insignificant, and the great mass of the working people of this country would not be considered at all. They would be looked upon as mere goods and chattels. Horses arid cows and sheep and pigs and asses and goats would be placed on a level with them. But we are trying, however ineffectively - and, of course, we always have the drag of my honorable friends upon the right - to raise our fellows up to a dignified station. We are trying to make men of them, to make them feel that they are human beings, that they are men made in the image of God - that they are not mere profitgrinding machines for men such as my honorable friend Senator Fraser. That is what we are trying to do, however ineffectively, and however inefficiently. That is our ideal, and the principal Act, which we are now discussing, was placed upon the statute-book with that object. But now' our friends of the Opposition have made a breach in the wall. Senator Pulsford has said that he sees the position quite clearly. Next year a claim will be made for the entire sweeping away of the safeguards we have here. The first breach has been made in the wall ; and if my honorable friends think that, having been so far successful, our pertinacious opponents on the right are going to give up the struggle they are mistaken. They will return to the fight with redoubled energy next session, and the probability is that they will be able to bring more and more pressure to bear on the Government, until ultimately we have every vestige of our defences swept away. And, that accomplished, our opponents will then turn their attention to the White Australia policy. Having defeated the right wing of our army, they will attaCk the left wing. And I do not blame them. If they find a feeble, vacillating, foe before them I do not blame them for taking every advantage. I give them credit for it. If they find that the army of democracy, as represented by the supporter's of the present Government, are easy of defeat, that they fall asleep in their camp when they ought to be up and watchful with their swords girded at their sides, all credit to them !

Senator Fraser - The caucus can kick the Government out in a moment if it likes.

Senator STEWART - It appears to me that the Government has entered into a new alliance. It is, so far as I can discover, a Government of very easy virtue. It is now wedded to one mate, and within a week we find it wedded to another.

Senator Sir William Zeal - What does Mr. Watson say?

Senator STEWART - I do not care two straws about Mr. Watson. T am not bound to the chariot wheel of Mr. Watson, or any other gentleman. I stand here upon my own two feet, representing the people of Queensland, and prepared to speak my mind, no matter who thinks or speaks otherwise. I am prepared, to assert my own individuality.

Senator Pulsford - Trembling at a shadow.

Senator STEWART - I am not trembling at all ; although I am afraid I have some reason to tremble when I find a Government in power ready to give way to a clamorous, untruthful Opposition. And I do not exclude my friends on the right from that category, because, instead of assisting to put the true state of affairs before the people of England they have helped the slanderer on every occasion.

Senator Fraser - It is what our Acts of Parliament say that matters.

Senator STEWART - I say that my honorable friends on the right, instead of standing up for the good name and fame of Australia, instead . of supporting the legislation which the Parliament of Australia has placed upon the statute-book, on every occasion have helped the slanderers of Australia.

Senator Sir William Zeal - The honorable senator's friends in another place have done the same thing.

Senator STEWART - It is quite enough for me to deal with those who are here. T do not know whether all this was done for party purposes, or whether mv honorable friends are animated bv the most purely patriotic spirit. But. in any case. I think it is extremely unpatriotic that they are not doing their utmost to rehabilitate Australia in the eyes of the world, if it be true that she has lost her character, as we are told. They have been allying themselves with the enemies of Australia, with the people who are opposed to every law that we have placed upon the statute-book - every single one - who sneer at our legislation, who scout the very idea of our, adult suffrage, who laugh at our free institutions and jibe' at the care we take of our workers. I suppose our enemies of the Stock Exchange see danger ahead. " If this sort of policy is allowed to continue," they say, " if the people of Australia can successfully carry out their schemes of legislation, the spirit of reform will attack the countries of Europe, and our possibility of making huge profits will be lost." I do. not blame them from their point of view. But we are here - at least I am here - to look after the interests of the working people of Australia.

Senator Fraser - If the honorable, senator had to go away from Australia would he like to have to apply for an exemption certificate ?

Senator STEWART - We are not dealing with that matter now. We are dealing with quite another measure. My honorable friend does not seem to know what we are dealing with.

Senator Fraser - This Bill is on the same lines.

Senator STEWART - Why was the Immigration Restriction Act placed upon the statute-book at all? What' was the need for it?

Senator Fraser - There was no need for it.

Senator STEWART - The Parliament of the Commonwealth evidently thought that there was. We have laws for the punishment of theft, for the punishment of murder, for the punishment of forgery and a number of other crimes. Why? Because some people steal, while others commit murder, forgery, and so on. Why did we put this Act on the statute-book? Because we found that some people were only too ready to introduce labour from outside Australia. For what purpose? For an illegitimate purpose - for the purpose of lowering wages : for the purpose of making more profits ; for the purpose of reducing the working men of Australia to a condition of subjection.

Senator Pulsford - Nonsense !

Senator STEWART - That was exactly the reason this Act was placed on the statutebook. It was a measure of selfpreservation, just as we preserve ourselves against the attacks of criminals, so we passed this legislation to defend our industrial system against people who desire to destroy it. The Opposition say they, have gained nothing, and the Government say that they have lost nothing; and if that be the case, why make any- change ? But I claim that the honours of war are distinctly with the Opposition. The spirit of the first enactment is gone. That Act declares that no labour shall be introduced here under contract, . with one special exception, the exception that proves the rule. But, according to the Bill, labour may be introduced under contract, though, it is true, the provisions are surrounded with a great number of precautions. The whole power, however, is placed in the hands pf the Minister, who, if he is so minded, . can permit the introduction of contract labourers by the thousand. That is a most unsatisfactory state of affairs which, I presume, the people of the Commonwealth will not approve.

Senator O'Keefe - A Minister who pursued such a policy would soon be dealt with.

Senator STEWART - It will not be denied that the Minister has the power under the Bill.

Senator O'Keefe - He has the same power under the existing Act.

Senator STEWART - He has the power under the existing Act only when it can be shown that the labour required is pf special quality, which cannot be obtained within the Commonwealth.

Senator O'Keefe - An unsympathetic Minister could act in precisely the same way under the present Act.

Senator Pearce - Who was the judge in the case of the six hatters?

Senator STEWART - But according to the law, the Minister could admit the men only if it were proved that there were no labourers or tradesmen in the Commonwealth capable of doing the particular work. Now, however, that provision of the Act has been widened, and the Minister has absolute power, if he chooses to exercise it. Even under the Bill, the Minister 'has power to appoint officers, amongst whom will prob ably be one in London ; and, if that be the case, we shall have no guarantee that the Act will be administered in the spirit in which it was passed.

Senator Guthrie - The officer in London will probably know nothing of Australian conditions.

Senator STEWART - Or may have no sympathy with Australian sentiment. In my Opinion, the law as it stands, is an abso- lutely equitable and just law. Every man who lands on Australian shores is free to make his own bargain when he becomes aware of Australian conditions.

Senator Walker - In days gone by, people came here under contracts which were honestly carried out.

Senator STEWART - Queensland spent between £3,000,000 and £4,000,000 on immigration ; and I make bold to say that no more than 1 per cent, of the immigrants came out under contract. Does any honorable senator imagine that the men who build up new countries like Australia, the United States, and Canada, all over the globe, are men who require to have a billet to go to before they leave the old country ?

Senator Millen - Then there can be no objection to repealing this section of the Act. *

Senator STEWART - What I say is that the men who need to have a billet before they leave the old country are not the kind of men who have built up Australia, Canada, and the United States. I know hundreds of men who came out' to Queensland as immigrants, and not a single one of them was under contract.

Senator Fraser - But a number of them came out to relatives and friends.

Senator STEWART - Every one of them, so far as I -know, came out willing to take his chance and participate in the rough and tumble of colonial life, without having a billet tied round his neck in the old country. These are the best men that any country can have.

Senator Walker - Many men came out as nominated emigrants.

Senator STEWART - I am aware of that. I am sorry that we are not permitted by the rules of debate to deal with the real reason why we are short of immigration and why the population is not increasing. If it were allowed, I think we could show that the Immigration Restriction Act is not responsible, but that the fact lies in some

Other system which my friends who oppose this measure would not lift their little finger to remedy. We have been told that labour legislation prevents people coming to Australia.

Senator Walker - So it does.

Senator STEWART - Is there not something else?

Senator Walker - Possibly.

Senator STEWART - Have not the people in the old country heard that young communities, children in arms, so to speak, like Victoria and South Australia, have been losing population during the last ten or twelve years, and that that loss is represented, not by the old or very young, but by the very flower of the people.

The PRESIDENT - Does the honorable senator attribute that loss to this clause?

Senator STEWART - With all due deference, I think that the whole question of population comes up for discussion. We have been told that the population of Australia is not increasing, because of this class of legislation, and that an alteration of the law is required.

Senator Playford - Why does the honorable senator not marry and have some children ?

Senator STEWART - Under the circumstances, I think we ought to be permitted to show that the loss is caused, not by this legislation, but by some other conditions. Senator Playford has asked me why I do not take a certain action; and my reply is that (I am doing something very much better in trying to make the conditions such that other people may marry. If I married myself, my attention might be confined to my own domestic affairs ; and I hold that I am a patriot in maintaining my present condition and position. We. are anxious to get this business done with, bad as it is. I shall vote for the second reading, but if the Bill be carried we ought to try, if possible, to take the sting out of its provision.

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