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Thursday, 14 June 1906

Senator WALKER (New South Wales) . - The Governor-General's speech on this occasion is a remarkable one. It is as remarkable for its length as the speech at the commencement of the last session was remarkable for its brevity. But, although it may be said in some respects to be an omnium gatherum, there are matters which are omitted from it to which reference ought to have been made. One is the matter of the repatriation of the kanakas' at the end of this year, and the other has regard to the bookkeeping system, which, may possibly come to an end at the expiration of five years from the establishment of the uniform Tariff. With regard to the kanakas, I feel very strongly. I lived in Queensland for many years, and I know that for over forty years kanakas have been coming from the Islands into Queensland. Numbers of them have settled there, have married, and have families. But at the end of this year, to all except those ho have certificates of exemption, it will be illegal even to give temporary employment I presume there is no nationality in the world which pays greater attention to humanitarian considerations than the British ; but on the present occasion the facts appear to be in the other direction. The churches, to their credit, are greatly concerned in this matter. I am glad to see that Senator Dobson expressed himself very forcibly in a recent letter to the Sydney Morning Herald, which I, for one, read with great pleasure. Then the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in Queensland passed the following resolution: -

The Assembly, having had brought before it the fact that at the end of the year the Act relating to the deportation of South Sea Islanders will come into force, desires to record its conviction that the forcible deportation of men and women, with, in some cases, their children, who, by reason of long residence, marriage, and settlement, have become rooted to our State, and replacing them on islands which, through lapse of time, may become practically foreign to them, would be an inhuman act, which only the direst necessity could even excuse. The Assembly is of opinion that no such necessity exists in this case, and therefore strongly urges upon the authorities the propriety of discriminating between different classes of islanders in the administration of the Act, with a view of allowing such islanders as have been specified to remain in Australia, if they so desire, and of taking the necessary steps to enable them legally to find employment.

That resolution was unanimously adopted subsequently by the General Assembly of the' same church in New South Wales. As a member of the Senate, I trust that honorable senators will support the Government in bringing in a Bill to give the desired relief, and thus prevent a stigma of inhumanity being hurled against, and attached to, the Commonwealth of Australia. Only this morning I read an extract from a telegram from Brisbane, in which the following appeared: -

A.   H. Ussher, Government agent on a labour schooner, said that while in the Solomon group recently he discovered that there was a serious shortage of native food. They were unable to purchase supplies for the ship. The natives refused to believe that the labour trade had been stopped, and were not making any preparations for boys who were returning. As far as he could see the natives were not more friendly towards the whites than hitherto. The island of Fue, where it was proposed to land islanders in large numbers, was a swamp. He had heard of several outrages while in the islands. In one instance in the Malayta three bush boys were killed by mission boys, who ate two of their victims. The report is to be presented on 30th inst.

This, remember, is said by a Government agent, who can speak officially on the sub ject. I think there is one mistake in the telegram here, because I do not know an island named Fue. Our conduct to these poor islanders is in sad contrast to the conduct of two poor African women to the great African traveller, Mungo Park. With the permission of the Senate, I will just read a line or two in reference to this matter: -

Mungo Park has told us, in his interesting account of his travels in Central Africa, how he arrived one evening, destitute, hungry, and tired, at an African village, and was resting himself beneath the village tree, when he was found by two village women, who forthwith took him into their poor hut, where they fed him, and tended, comforted to his needs with true womanly compassion, as women will ever do under such circumstances. And he has further told us that when he was seeking slumber, they composed and sang a song concerning him, " The night was cold and dark, the poor white man, hungry and weary, came and sat under our tree ; no mother had he to bring him milk, no wife to grind him corn ; let us pity the poor white man, no mother has he to bring him milk, .no wife to grind him corn." That is the song, rendered into English, which Park heard, and he tells us that it greatly affected him at the time, and which song was set to music by an English lady, I think it was the Countess of Huntingdon.

I have just been reading in the reports of the proceedings of the Federal Parliament, that the Prime Minister (Mr. Deakin) has said that the expulsion, or rather, the deportation, of the kanakas from Queensland, where they have made homes for themselves, is to be conducted with humanity, and, somehow or another (you cannot account for the vagaries of the human mind), the picture was presented to me of those two benighted Moslem women acting the Good Samaritan to our countryman, and then I thought of the kanakas, who are all Christians, being expelled "with all humanity." Humanity, indeed ! The whole thing is an outrage upon humanity. It is a disgrace to the entire community. Australia, by its legislation, has, indeed, been made little of before the world, but by nothing has it been disgraced so much as by this atrocious act, which is without parallel in the world's history.

I do hope we shall all unite in supporting the Government in introducing if only a temporary measure by which these poor people until they can be deported, will at least be at liberty to earn a living. As to the book-keeping period, until Western Australia, where there is a much larger proportionate male population than in the other States, comes into line as to a per capita contribution to Customs duties, I see nothing for it, if fair play is our aim, but to continue the system for the present. The system is admittedly cumbrous, but it is, at all events, fair. In my opinion, it is premature to interfere with the so-called Braddon section ; three years hence will be soon enough to consider whether to abrogate or to continue it at the end of the ten years prescribed. Taking some of the subjects in the order mentioned in His Excellency's speech, ,'we find references, to the New Hebrides, Papua, and Norfolk Island, and to none of these references do I take exception. In regard to the New Hebrides, I wish something could be done to put British residents there, doing business with Australia, in an equally advantageous position with the French settlers, who do business with New Caledonia. That mav not be very easy to accomplish, but I hope that some attempt will be made in this connexion. We are aware that the French settlers have their goods received in New Caledonia on much more advantageous terms than are the goods of the British settlers, and some means should be devised to prevent a premium being thus offered to British subjects to become French subjects, and thus gain an advantage over those who remain loyal to the British Crown. It seems little short of ridiculous that Norfolk Island, which is, as it were, an appanage of New South Wales, should for Customs purposes, be treated as a foreign land, and in a degree the same remark applies to New Guinea, which is a quasi-territory of the Commonwealth. There are other matters mentioned in His Excellency's speech which I think worthy of mention. I have long been an advocate of the suggestion that the Federal authorities should, if possible, take the Northern Territory under their control. South Australia has behaved1 very patriotically, in that for so many years that State has borne the expense of the administration of that part of Australia. If the Commonwealth should acquire the Northern Territory, there will then be land under the control of the Federal Government, and those who believe in offering privileges to persons to settle, whether! they are already resident elsewhere in Australia or come from Europe, would be in a position to present attractions which cannot now be afforded. As to old-age pensions, -there is no doubt that in time they ought to be a Federal matter ; but at present our finances do not warrant us undertaking the work. It seems a pity, therefore, that the States cannot arrange a system of co-operation amongst themselves, through a joint Commission, so that pensioners may be paid pensions in proportion to the time they have resided in each State. For instance, if a man 65 years of age has resided 25 years in New South Wales, 10 years in Victoria, and1 5 in Western Australia, or 40 years in all, let New South Wales contribute 25/40ths, Victoria io/40ths, and Western Australia 5/40ths of his pension.

Senator Lt Col Gould - Why discriminate between the different States?

Senator Pearce - Why did we federate?

Senator WALKER - I mention this matter because I happen to know, as a fact, that in New South Wales at the present time there are old people who have been thirty years in Australia, but who, because they have not been twenty years in New South Wales, are not eligible for a pension.

Senator Pearce - Why not have a Federal scheme?

Senator WALKER - I, unfortunately, know that what I am stating is a fact, because I am in a position to be frequently applied to for assistance. Therefore, I think the idea of a joint Commission to administer old-age pensions, until the Commonwealth takes up the matter, is not impracticable.

Senator Lt Col Gould - Two or three States do not believe in Federal old-age pensions.

Senator WALKER - But the idea is growing.

Senator Lt Col Gould - I do not object to them.

Senator WALKER - I do not believe" in a land tax for the purpose of providing these pensions, and I do not think that during the present session anything practicable can be done by the Government in this connexion. Then, in regard to the socalled tobacco monopoly, as the Constitution does not allow us to nationalize any industry at present, there must be an amendment before anything further .can be done. As to navigation and shipping, I shall reserve any remarks I have to make until I see the Bill. But I am, and have always been - and honorable senators will give me credit for this - in thorough sympathy with those who wish to make the conditions of the life of seamen more comfortable, wholesome, and safe. In fact, I am probably quite with Senator Guthrie in thinking that ordinary seamen have been treated in the most shameful manner in days gone by. But, unfortunately, seamen are not the only persons who have suffered. There are other persons on land who are also very unsatisfactorily treated by their' employers ; but that is a subject on -which.

I do not propose to enlarge now. A seafaring population is admittedly the hardiest a country cam have, as we have learned from European experience. In Great Britain, Denmark, Norway, Sweden, and Russia the sailors are the hardiest of the hardy ; and I, for one, regret that in Australia the rising youth is not attracted to the sea.

Senator Guthrie - Where are the British seamen to-day?

Senator DAWSON (QUEENSLAND) - Out of work.

Senator Guthrie - Seventy-five per cent. of the sailors on British ships are foreigners.

Senator WALKER - As to defence matters, there seems to be such a wide difference of opinion amongst military and naval experts as to the best means of putting Australian defence on a satisfactory footing, that a mere layman like myself scarcely cares to venture an opinion. Until Australia has a much larger population than at present it seems to me that we shall have to look to the home country for naval defence- not merely for the defence of our country, but for the defence of our great commerce.

Senator McGregor - Denmark has not half the population that Australia has.

Senator WALKER - How does that bear on the subject? Has Denmarka territory like that of Australia to look after? Has Denmark 8,000 miles of coast-line to defend?

Senator McGregor - There are foreign nations all' around Denmark.

Senator WALKER - When the time comes we shall, I hope, agree to be more liberal in our expenditure on naval defence. I do not think that any one 'objects to local defence so far as ports and harbors are concerned.

Senator Guthrie - And coastal defence. Will the honorable senator go that length?

Senator WALKER - Great credit is due to Victoria for her encouragement to the cadet system, and I am glad to think that the Commonwealth is, to some extent, going to take that State as an example.

Senator Mulcahy - Why should not the Commonwealth do what the individual States did in regard to coastal defence?

Senator WALKER - I agree with the honorable senator.

Senator Mulcahy - We have not a torpedo boat for Tasmania.

Senator Guthrie - And even the Cerberus is fitted with boilers that would not carry a 25-lb. head of steam.

Senator WALKER - I believe that Parliament would be prepared to supply torpedo boats and so forth for all the States. I learn, with much satisfaction, that the training of the Naval Brigade is proceeding successfully. It is indeed pleasing to read the good account that is given of the Naval Brigade men who have gone on service on the training ships. As to the statement that, in making appointments in our Military Forces, it is proposed to give locally trained officers the preference, I have only to say that if the local officers are equally efficient, they should, by all means, be given the preference. But we should not forget that we are a part of the British Dominions, and that being so, I fail to see why we should not secure the very best that the British Dominions can supply. I think we must all agree with Senator Styles that the system of exchanging military officers with Canada, India, and Great Britain, and of sending officers to England to gain special instruction, is a very sensible one. Passing on to other subjects, I would say that the Government are deserving of every credit for the promptness with which they have introduced and carried their redistribution schemes in another place. Every one must agree that it is well that no time should be lost in putting the rolls and the whole of the electoral machinery in order for the next general election. I am at one with Senator Millen in the belief that the Senate, as the States' House, is entitled to take a very deep interest in the redistribution schemes. Unfortunately, there are some men so constituted that they are inclined to consider only the question of whether a redistribution will suit them personally. A friend of mine, speaking of one of the redistributions, said, " It is all very well, but I find that there have been included in my electorate 5,000 men who are opposed to me." Of course he will have to face the inevitable, but if every member of another place had dealt with the redistribution solely from the stand-point of whether or not he was likely to be injured by it, it would not have been passed so speedily.

Senator Higgs - If it were suggested that each of the States should be divided into six electorates for the Senate, would you approve of that being done?

Senator WALKER - No; I should object to it. I indorse theremarks made by Senator Millen as to the paragraph in the speech relating to expenditure, which is addressed only to the members of another place. I had made a note of the matter, but what I intended to say has been so well put by Senator Millen that it is unnecessary for me to make any further reference to the matter. I cannot help thinking, however, that the speech would have been differently worded if we had had two responsible Ministers holding portfolios in the Senate. They certainly would have taken care to protect our constitutional rights. I was indignant when I found that we were, , so to speak, set aside, and that no reference was made to the Senate in that part of the speech dealing with Bills relating to expenditure which must originate in another place. If we do not stand up for the privileges to which we are entitled under the Constitution, they will gradually disappear, or, at all events, they will become adead letter. I come now to the question of the Tariff. It is quite true, as Senator Styles has said, that it was the desire of Mr. Reid that the question of free-trade versus protection should be fought out at the last general election. Mr. Deakin, who was then Prime Minister, raised the cry of " fiscal pence," and agreed that if that peace was to be broken, notice should be given by the1st May last. It was certainly not to be broken during the life of the present Parliament. It was simply stipulated that notice should be given in time to enable us to deal with the matter at the next general election. In these circumstances, it seems to me that, so far as the Tariff is concerned, we should not do more than remove anomalies during the present session. To my mind, we have had too many Royal Commissions. Those who have acted on them have done good work, and are deserving of the thanks of the country, but I certainly object to the undue multiplication of such bodies. Ministers should not avoid responsibility in this way, but should rather seek to obtain the information they require by means of their own officers.

Senator Guthrie - What about the Commission that the honorable senator desires to have appointed to deal with the question of old-age pensions.

Senator WALKER - That would be a joint States Commission, and would have nothing to do with the Federal Parliament. New South Wales is spending £500,000 or £600.000 on old-age pensions, and has a right-

Senator Playford - The Premiers met recently in Sydney and passed a resolution unanimously, so far as I am aware, in favour of the old-age pensions systems of the States being taken over by the Commonwealth.

Senator WALKER - We can take them over when we have the money to pay them, but we have not at present the necessary funds. We all know that the Prime Minister lays great emphasis on the desirableness of attracting population to Australia. Senator Millen has said, very truly, that we do not want to attract to our shores men who will loaf about the towns and cities of the Commonwealth. Whatwe require is a class of men who will go on the soil - who will go into the bush, and be prepared to play the part of pioneers.

Senator Playford - It is only proposed to establish in London an office through which Australia can speak with one voice. The Commonwealth cannot deal with the question of immigration, because it has not the land on which to put the people. The matter must be dealt with by the States.

Senator WALKER - At present we have in London an office connected with the Defence Department. If a High Commissioner were appointed, that office could be placed under his control, and those seeking information as to Australia would have no difficulty in gaining it. I do not know why the Government have not the courage to bring in a Bill for the appointment of a High Commissioner. I could name five men, any one of whom would capably discharge the duties of the office.

Senator Pearce - Are they the five honorable senators opposite?

Senator WALKER - Let me name them. In the first place, I would mention Sir George Turner, who", if his health permitted, would fill the position well. There is another gentleman whose appointment would be very acceptable to the people, but I am afraid we could not spare him. I refer to the Prime Minister, Mr. Deakin. Still another gentleman whom we could not spare very well but who would, nevertheless, be a capable representative, is Mr. Reid. No one could object to his appointment. He is a splendid platform speaker, a practical business man, a lawyer, and a legislator. Still another gentleman who would fill the position satisfactorily, and whom we all respect I hope, is Sir John Forrest. Why should any exception be taken to his appointment? In London he is persona grata; he has been an ex- plorer; for ten years he held office as Premier of Western Australia, and he has also been a member of two or three Federal Ministries. Finally, we have Senator Symon.

Senator Playford - Why leave me out of the list? I 'have been an AgentGeneral.

Senator WALKER - Because we could not afford to lose the honorable senator. If we appointed a High Commissioner, lie could act in conjunction with the AgentsGeneral of the States, and a committee so constituted would be a capital one to confer with the financial authorities at Home with regard to the federalization of our debts. Senator Millen has said that there is nothing to be gained by that process. Perhaps under present conditions he is not far wrong, but I would remind him that it is still, possible for us to create Australian Consols, which, like British Consols, would be interminable, and that we should thus avoid the heavy expense incurred in refloating loans. If Australia is to go ahead, she must have more population.. x have before me figures supplied bv the Government Statistician of New South Wales, which, from mv point of view, are very unsatisfactory. It would appear that for the five years ending 31st March last, the net increase in the population of the Commonwealth bv excess of immigration over emigration was only 6,576, an average of 1,315 per annum, or 109 per month. Can we believe that this vast territory of ours is incapable of absorbing a greater number of immigrants ? There must be some reason for this.

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