Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
Friday, 29 November 1912


Senator GIVENS (Queensland) . - In arriving at a decision upon this question it is desirable that the Committee should free itself from the influence of the special pleading indulged in by the Minister' of Defence. Thehonorable senator has made a very long speech, the only effect of which has been to cloud the issue, which is,- after all, a very simple one. To take his last argument first, the Minister asks the Committee to hesitate before doing anything, which would limit the opportunities of the residents of Papua for frequent communication between the Territory and the mainland, which is necessary for ils development. If we accept the honorable senator's advice, what shall we do? We shallgive the residents of Papua frequent opportunities of communication, but at the expense of the policy of a White Australia, which is the settled policy of the Commonwealth. On that ground alone the Minister's arguments will not hold water. Whilst we should be prepared to afford* every facility for communication between' Papua and the mainland, we should not do so at the expense of the White Australia policy which we have indorsed and maintained since the establishment of the Commonwealth.


Senator Lynch - Are there not somecoloured people producing sugar in Queensland at the present time?


Senator GIVENS - There are coloured: people employed in every one of the States. There are many producing furniture in Melbourne, but we should not give special facilities for the employment of such people, and it should be our aim to continually reduce the number of them employed1 in the Commonwealth and the Territoriesunder its jurisdiction. If we reject Senator Guthrie's amendment, we shall encourage a considerable section of our peopleto employ coloured labour, almost to theexclusion of white labour.


Senator Lynch - The White Australiapolicy is not completely carried out at thepresent time.


Senator GIVENS - I do not quarrel' with that statement, but I ask whether Senator Lynch is prepared to lend himself to a new invasion of that policy. No conscious vote of mine will be given to extend in any way the employment of coloured labour in Australia or on our coast. The Minister of Defence has said that we should listen to the protests of the residents of Papua, and give them due weight. 1 agree with that. We have listened to the arguments which they put forward, and have given them due weight. But, having done so, I ask whether we should sacrifice the "interests of Australia generally - and Papua must be recognised as an integral portion of the Commonwealth, because, although it is only a Territory of the Commonwealth, -we have taken it over and made ourselves responsible for it - are we to sacrifice the major interests of the greater portion of Australia for the interests of the handful of settlers in Papua ? It has been pointed out that there is no necessity to sacrifice the interests of the residents of Papua, and no reason why the Government should not afford proper facilities for communication between that Territory and the mainland.


Senator Lynch - By one line of -steamers.


Senator GIVENS - No, by half-a-dozen lines of steamers, if necessary.


Senator E J RUSSELL (VICTORIA) - How many of the settlers in Papua are agents of some -company ?


Senator GIVENS - There are not many who are not agents of some company. The number of independent white people in Papua is far too limited for the promotion of the best- interests of the Territory. I wish especially to point out that the residents of Papua will labour under no grievance if, as Senator Guthrie proposes, we treat them in this matter in the same way that we treat people in every other part of the Commonwealth, lt has been said that these people will labour under very serious disabilities. . In my view it should be the duty of the Commonwealth Government to see that they do not labour under a serious disability, and, if necessary, not only should we subsidize one line, but two or three lines or more. That is the cost which the Commonwealth is justly called upon to bear in order to maintain the White Australia policy. We have been told that we should accede to the wishes of the people in Papua, whatever they may be. If we had acceded to the wishes of the sugarplanters would we have ever put our White Australia policy in force? Never. If we had acceded to the wishes of any particular section which was interested in any legislation would we have 'ever made any progress ; would we have ever effected any of the desirable alterations which the Labour party thought necessary for the good of Australia? No. If the people of Papua cannot get sufficient means of communication while maintaining the White Australia policy, except by breaking it, it is the duty of the Commonwealth Government to see, no matter at what cost to its people, that those settlers are fairly treated. What will be the result if the Bill passes in its present form without this amendment? The result will be. that an Australian firm, or the Australian trade, will be penalized for the benefit of foreigners who have no interest in Australia.


Senator de Largie - That Australian, company does not recognise the White Australia principle.


Senator GIVENS - I do not think that any Australian company would recognise that principle if not compelled. I do not think that the companies care a straw about anything but profits. In this mattei let us have equal justice at any rate. If the foreigner is to be allowed to trade between Papua and the Australian coast under any conditions he pleases, and to employ any sort of crew he likes, let us be equally fair and say to the Australian, " You can do the same." Why should we penalize our own traders, our own. companies, by saying to them, " You shall comply with a fixed set of conditions," while we say to the foreigner, " You can come in and trade without any conditions?" That is what we shall do if we pass the Bill without this amendment. Papua is not so much isolated as the Minister would like to make out. It is, comparatively speaking, only a hop, skip, and a jump from Australia. One can get luggers and boats of all kinds to run from the North Queensland ports to Papua at any time. In certain weather I can go across from Cooktown to Papua in a day. Scores of mining prospectors and diggers have, instead of bothering about a steamer, chartered a boat for a few pounds to take them and then equipment across to the Territory. In th's Bill, which I believe will meet with the approval of nine-tenths of the people, we have insisted upon certain conditions which are calculated to make the Australian mercantile marine one of the superior services of the world. We have tried to make the conditions of seamen, firemen, engineers, and officers as ideal as possible. .We have also provided that our mercantile marine shall be manned solely by people of our own race and colour, who can not only become, but remain, good citizens of the Commonwealth. That has been deemed essential, not merely from the mercantile and economic point of view, but especially from the defence stand-point. Should we depart from that settled policy for the mere sake of offering a little extra convenience which is not, after all, essential to the little handful of settlers in Papua, while at the same time they can be equally served by a small sacrifice on the part of the people of the Commonwealth, without surrendering a great principle? Are we going to wipe out the Australian firms? 1 ask honorable senators to eliminate from their minds altogether the firm of Burns, Philp, and Company, seeing that another company may get the next contract, and view this matter in the light of abstract fair play and justice. "Senator RAE (New South Wales) [11.40]. - I think that in practice we have denied to the people of Papua most of the rights and privileges which we in Australia possess. In the first place there is no selfgovernment ; their Legislative Council is not elected by the residents, and therefore whatever temporary stop-gap functions it may fulfil, they cannot be said to possess many of the rights and privileges we enjoy. I am inclined to deprecate the light way in which Senator Givens disposed of what he called a mere handful of settlers. I contend that one man has as much right to be considered as have ten -millions of men. I admit that the residents of Papua are subject to very many disabilities, which we should do nothing to increase. We should bear in mind, too, that if they are subject to many disadvantages, their number is likely to remain small, and that the way to increase the number and, therefore, to make them of more importance in the eyes of Australia is to place facilities in their way. I do not look at all lightly on the disabilities which the settlers labour under. We should do something very substantial to ameliorate their condition, because, during my visit, I formed the impression that they have not such a wonderful prospect of either making a competency or great profits, or in any other respect leading a delightful life, that we should throw any obstacles in their way. We should go out of our way to confer some of the advantages of civilization on that small white community. At the same time we should guard these islanders against what is only natural. If all other firms are shut out of this trade except the one which now enjoys a subsidy, the consequence will be that the conditions which are approaching a monopoly will have a tendency to be accentuated, not merely in regard to commerce between Papua and Australia, but also, in the carry ing on of trade within the Territory. At the present time there is no doubt that Burns, Philp, and Company not only have.a big say in the trade between Australia and Papua, but also a number of branchesof their business there, and, to a great extent, a big pull over other traders. I am, not saying a word against the conduct of their business, nor do I wish to say anything against the advantages which they gain from the position they occupy, but I. do say that in the interests of the white residents and the natives we should di> nothing to put in the hands of a firm & monopoly of the business there. At the same time we have to bear in mind that Burns, Philp, and Company were the pioneer traders in these waters. It does; not seem fair that we should allow a. foreign-subsidized line to come in and cut" into this trade which this Australian firm: did so much to build up. I deprecatealtogether the attitude which some honorable senators take up of denouncing the other traders because they happen to be Dutchmen. I have no objection to foreigners trading in our waters, and I would not. put a single obstacle in their way if they conformed to Australian conditions. li* regard to the inhabitants of Papua, whose: interests are really foremost in this matter,.. we should hesitate before we consign them to conditions which, to say the least, will? be inconvenient to them. At present we~. have no telegraphic communication, and a* very infrequent mail service. Consequently there is but little encouragement for white men to go to Papua and settle there-. . There are but few opportunities for those'who are there to get their wives or children back to Australia when they are suffering;from disease or ailments which cannot beadequately dealt with on the spot, or from> the effects of the tropical climate. Therefore every facility for intercourse betweenthe mainland and the Territory should, asfar as possible, be maintained. Now, how are we to reconcile this principle of a White Australia and fair conditions in our mercantile marine with conserving all thebenefits, and even conferring more, uponthe inhabitants of the Territory rather than - taking any away ? I confess that thereare big difficulties in the way. I do notlike the attitude of those who make light . of either the views or the circumstance* surrounding the white residents. I repeatthat the fewness of their number is largely due to the disabilities under which they labour, and the sufferings which any body of persons have to endure are none the less difficult and hard to bear because the persons happen to be few in number. I have no sympathy with any cry against men because they are Dutchmen, Frenchmen, Dagoes, or anything else. I have met Dutchmen who were very good, and I have met Englishmen who were very bad. I arn really a cosmopolitan. I cannot hate a man because he happens to have been born under a different flag and speaks a different language to myself.


Senator E J RUSSELL (VICTORIA) - The honorable senator would hate a Dutchman because he gets lower wages.


Senator RAE - No; I should not hate the Dutchman, but I should hate the system. There is considerable difficulty in reconciling the principle which I desire to maintain with the interests of the white people in Papua and the general circumstances surrounding the settlement there. It is idle to say that they have the same facilities and rights as we have in Australia. Theoretically, they may have. But, as a matter of fact, they have no selfgovernment, and no representation in this Parliament. Moreover, they suffer grievous disabilities of a physical and material character which do not affect us in Australia. We have, therefore, to consider how we can maintain the principles embodied in this Bill on the one hand, whilst on the other preventing the people of Papua from suffering further disabilities by reason of our action. I consider that the only way in which we can legislate so as to reconcile those conflicting conditions will be for our Government, by some amendment of this Bill, or by an understanding which our party would honorably observe, to agree that whatever the white people of Papua are deprived of by reason of this amendment shall be made up to them by subsidy, or by direct action. Personally, I favour the latter. I consider that it is the bounden duty of the Government to see that the Papuan people are not deprived of any facilities they at present possess, and that, if necessary, we should suspend the operation of the amendment - presuming that it will be carried - until such time as we can supply Papua with the facilities of which they would be deprived by the operation of the amendment. I consider that it is our duty to do this by direct action; that is to say, by running boats, to maintain a regular and fairly frequent system of communication between the Territory and the mainland of Australia. I do not think that it is impossible to give effect to such a proposal as that. It would not involve a vast expenditure to run a line of mail boats from Northern Queensland, ports to Papua. There is a great deal of weight in the argument of the Minister that the people of Papua have almost unanimously protested against the inclusion of the Territory in the coasting trade. Not unnaturally, the few isolated settlers there, who are already deprived of many of the advantages of civilization, view with alarm and resentment any attempt to diminish the few facilities they now possess. That is a position which we ought to respect.


Senator Guthrie - If the honorable senator were there, would he employ coloured labour?


Senator RAE - If the men I employed were Papuans, certainly. I would not employ coolie labour, but 1 recognise that the native Papuans have a prior right to that country. I would not hesitate to employ them at good wages. I would not subject any native race to disabilities in its own country, where we are intruders. I intend to support Senator Guthrie's amendment ; but, at the same time, I want the Government, and our party, to see that the people of Papua shall not be penalized by the fact that we are sticking to what we regard as a valuable principle. It is an easy thing for us to stand by that principle, because we suffer no disadvantage by doing so. It is very easy for us to carry out our lofty ideals. But I admit that 1 would rather see the amendment lost than have the white people of Papua, for any length of time, deprived of the few advantages which they at present possess. It will be for our party, if the amendment is carried, to recollect that these disfranchised, unrepresented people, who are few in number, ought not to be penalized and sacrificed in order that we may uphold what we regard as a glorious principle. We must be prepared to see that any sacrifice that is called for in the interests of a principle shall be borne by the, comparatively speaking, large population of Australia rather than' by the few white people in Papua.







Suggest corrections