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Thursday, 14 December 1905

Senator MILLEN - The statement of Senator McGregor was made without any qualification, and in justification of his support of the Bill. The Government had been accused of weakening in their policy, and, in order to defend the Government, Senator McGregor affirmed that the purpose of the Bill as introduced was to increase, !and not to lessen, the restriction. If that statement had been made outside Australia, or by any one on this side of. the Chamber, I venture to say that Senator Best and others would have described it as a gross slander on Australia. Nothing that has been said in England has been one whit stronger than the statement made by Senator Findley. That honorable senator has said exactly' what has been Heard on _ English platforms, and published in English journals, namely, that it is our purpose to shut out immigrants.

Senator Findley - To shut out contract labour.

Senator MILLEN - The words "contract labour " were not used. Nothing has been said at home other than that the purpose of our legislation, as it appears on the face of our measures, is to shut out absolutely even our own countrymen if they come under contract. According to

Senator McGregor,it is the express purpose of the Government to increase the restrictive character of the legislation, and, because that is the purpose of the Government, Senator McGregor supports the Bill. I recognise the great danger of any attempt at prophecy, and it is very rarely I indulge in the venture. I intend to dc so now, however, and I feel quite safe, because I base my prophecy on what has' taken place in the past. I venture to say that very few weeks will elapse before we shall find the members of the Government, and Senator McGregor and other supporters, on public platforms throughout Australia, proclaiming their great attachment to the Empire, and taking credit for removing the restrictions against British immigrants.

Senator McGregor - Nothing of the kind !

Senator Turley - I shall tell the electors that I was opposed to the removal of any restrictions.

Senator MILLEN - I compliment Senator Turley on his consistency, "while I differ from him in the attitude he is taking.

Senator O'Keefe - The honorable senator is trying to take the wind out of our sails.

Senator MILLEN - Here is the proof of my prophecy at once ! It is not often that a man who ventures on prophecy realizes so complete and early a vindication. I have no doubt that my friends opposite will do as I have stated, and for that reason I draw attention to what I know will be the tactics adopted. Exactly the same course will be taken as that followed by the Government when, having "fought to keep a certain provision out of the Postal Act, they subsequently took credit all over Australia for its inclusion.

Senator McGregor - The Government may take that course, but I shall not.

Senator MILLEN - Does Senator McGregor say that he will not take credit for supporting the Government? If so, why is he supporting the Government?

Senator McGregor - Because I think that to do so is right.

Senator MILLEN - Then the honorable senator is declaring that he will not take credit for doing right. I should strongly advise him to do so, because it is not often he has the opportunity.

Senator O'Keefe - Why does Senator Millen support the Bill ? Does he not think it is right?

Senator MILLEN - Of course I think the Bill is right; but I am supporting it because I believe it will remove, and not increase, restrictions. Honorable senators who have hitherto opposed a provision of this kind,, and now support it, ought to have the candour to admit that they are trying to remedy the mistakes of the past. Not a single honorable senator who previously opposed, but is now supporting, this proposal, has had the honesty to make that admission, and to assert that, so far as he is individually concerned, he intends to remedy a defect.

Senator Pearce - The honorable senator supported the original Act.

Senator MILLEN - The Honorable senator is mistaken - making a fluky guess.

Senator Pearce - Did the honorable senator object to paragraph g of section 3 of the original Act?

Senator MILLEN - The honorable senator knows well that when the original measure was introduced Senator Pulsford submitted a proposal very similar to that now included in the Bill, and that it was simply laughed put of the Senate.

Senator Pearce - The honorable sena, tor did not support that proposal.

Senator MILLEN - The honorable senator is absolutely wrong. In order to- mark the dividing-line between those who support the original Act and those who wished for its amendment, I ask what happened when there arose the great scandal over the six hatters? Who urged that the Act should be interpreted so as to exclude these men? My honorable friends opposite. Who urged' that it should not be so interpreted? Honorable senators who sit on the same side of the Chamber as myself.

Senator Pearce - And were silent when the law was passed.

Senator MILLEN - It was only when the Government were absolutely "booted" into taking action that these hatters were admitted, in spite of the strong opposi-tion of the trade unions.

Senator McGregor - The hatters were admitted under misapprehension - false pretences.

Senator MILLEN - The six hatters were admitted because public opinion became too strong, even for my honorable friends opposite. Had the Act been literally interpreted. these men would never have set foot on Australian shores.

Senator Croft - Why did the honorable senator not try to repeal the provision when he sat behind the Reid Government?

Senator MILLEN - It will be time for me to talk of introducing measures when I have a seat on the other side of the Chamber.

Senator O'Keefe - Mr. Reid said he never intended to repeal the provision.

Senator MILLEN - Mr. Reid never said anything of the kind. .

Senator O'Keefe - I can give printed proof that Mr. Reid did say so.

Senator MILLEN - The honorable senator will accept anything as proof which supports his argument. I am dealing with facts beyond dispute when I say that it was the unions who put this law in force against the six hatters, and those bodies, with whom my friends opposite are associated, used every power at their disposal to bring the Government to "sticking-point." But the people who objected to the administration of the Act in that way were my political friends ; and it was only because of the great outcry that the Government were forced to break the Act, which it had helped to pass, and admit these men. I welcome the Bill, although it does not go so far as I should like. It does, however, remove from our statute-book the greatest blot ever placed there, namely, the bar which was created against the reasonably free access of our own kith and kin from Great Britain. The Bill will go as an indication to the people 0 of the old country that whatever mistakes may have been made, we have recognised them and remedied defects, and that in the future, so far as our own countrymen are concerned, we are prepared to abandon the policy of exclusiveness, which, in what I regard as an ill-fated moment, we were induced to adopt. Nothing that could be said bv public men throughout Australia, in the public journals, or bv officials, could do more than will this brief Bill to put' us right in the eyes of the people of Great Britain ; and for that reason I propose to give it my support.

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