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Thursday, 3 October 1901

Mr WATSON (Bland) - I quite understand the attitude of the honorable and learned member for Parkes, because he looks at thi3 Bill from an utterly different stand-point from that of a large majority 'of this committee. Judging from his speech the other evening upon the main point at issue, he was prepared to allow into Australia any citizen of the world, coloured or white, so long as he was able to pass the educational test. But that attitude is not sympathized with by a majority of this committee ; in fact, the honorable and learned member is almost in a minority of one.

Sir Malcolm McEacharn - I was with the honorable and learned member, though I am not in favour of admitting blacks.

Mr WATSON - Just so; even the honorable member for Melbourne is not with the honorable and learned member for Parkes, as to the admission of blacks, and he is, therefore, in a minority of one. From the point of view of the honorable and learned member, I can quite understand the desirability of making this test of the character he suggests ; but so far as subterfuge and equivocation are concerned, of which he speaks, he deliberately, with the assistance of his vote, committed himself to that course. A number of us thought that we should take only the straight-out course of declaring the desire, intention, and fixed determination of Australia on this point ; but we were in a minority, owing to a set off circumstances it is not necessary to go into again. Those who went to make up the majority on that occasion are not at one in the intention or method . that the honorable and learned member for Parkes desires ;. and so those members, and the majority of the committee as a whole, being desirous of making this measure as. effective as it will in its essence allow, favour the course proposed under present circumstances by the Government. That course is that although the Government have not seen fit to take the straight method - the straight method in our opinion, anyhow - those of us who desire to see coloured people kept out must leave a weapon in the hands of tine Government of the day that will allow them to bar any person who may have qualified in one particular language, but who, nevertheless, is a most undesirable immigrant. If we make the alteration suggested by the honorable and learned member for Parkes, it will be quite possible that the millions of coloured people about whom he spoke the other evening as being well educated and, therefore, able to pass a. test in some European language, may gain admission ; and while he may look with equanimity on such a possibility, I for one cannot do so. Having no desire to let those people in, although they can pass in some European language they might select, I intended to support the alteration proposed by the Government

Mr. REID(East Sydney). - I shall not enter into the old discussion of which we have had so much, because I do not think to do so would be fair having regard to public business. At the same time I wish to make my position in this matter perfectly clear. I was with the honorable member for Bland in his proposal, which the committee refused to adopt when it adopted the proposal of the Government. In my remarks this afternoon I was quite disposed to put out of my mind the Japanese or the coloured race question, and to simply direct my attention to the European phase. It is perfectly clear that the committee have decided to deal with the coloured races in this indirect method, and I was simply thinking of the question as it bears on European races and nations. It is from that point of view that I wish to get this matter put in a more satisfactory form, but it now appears from the statement of the Prime Minister that this is another indirect method of blocking the J apanese.

Mr Barton - We do not deal with the Japanese apart from other people.

Mr REID - Well, coloured races. I will put it that way, and say that this is another indirect method of securing the blocking of coloured races which the majority of the committee have sanctioned. As that matter has been fixed up between Mr. Chamberlain and the Government, it is, of course, impossible to have it altered. But with reference to the European nations we, I think, are under no sort of embarrassment. We are perfectly free, in my opinion, to alter the clause in reference to Europeans at any rate. I really did hope we should have been able to put the clause in a more definite form, but I admit now that the intention of the Government is that if any of the people of these coloured races come here and are educated enough to speak one European tongue, the officer is to be on the watch for them to find which tongue they do speak, and then to test them in some other language which they do not know. We, wishing the exclusion of those races, cannot personally be very bitter about that. It is carrying out our more direct method in a manner which the Government are making characteristic of themselves.

Mr Mauger - It is not an educational test to let people in, but a test to keep them out.

Mr REID - The honorable member for Melbourne Ports, who at one time was the twin brother of the honorable member for Wentworth on the broad path of national progress, will admit that the general idea as to the educational test was not that a man should be able to pass in any language under the sun at a moment's notice, but that he should be able to pass in one given language at least. But I see now that this is one method of carrying out what we all have in view. I take the assurance of the Prime Minister that, in point of fact, this Bill is not aimed at European nations. I accept that assurance, though I regret the form in which the proposal is made.

Mr Barton - It is not more aimed at Europeans than was the Bill of my right honorable friend. The right honorable member knows what that Bill was.

Mr REID - Exactly ; and if the Prime Minister wants to go back to that old matter I am ready to do so. That is not my desire, however, because I do not think it would be fair to the transaction of public business. So far as this House and this committee are concerned at the present moment, we make a very silly and undignified appearance before European nations.

Mr Piesse - No, no.

Mr REID - I do not say that the honorable member for Tasmania, Mr. Piesse, does so, but simply that we, who are anxious to pursue a straight course, and who desire to express our minds in so many words, are made to occupy that position. The Prime Minister used another expression which I do not wish to misunderstand. 1 1 was that this clause might be used in a case where some person was otherwise objectionable. Do I understand the Prime Minister to mean " otherwise objectionable," under the definition of this particular clause ?

Mr Barton - I do not quite understand the question.

Mr REID - I understand that it is quite clear that under this clause the Government do not wish--

Mr Barton - When people come under the other paragraphs of the clause, and are clearly under them, then there is no necessity to apply the test.

Mr REID - Of course nob ; but supposing the officer had a suspicion that a person caine under sub-clause (d), he could " dish " Mm under sub-clause (a) by putting, for instance, a Russian test to a German, who seemed to be suffering from some infectious disorder.

Mr Barton - If the doctor gave a certificate that a man had not a loathsome disease when he apparently had, I do not know what we should do, but I think we should take care to keep the fellow out.

Mr REID - But surely this sub-clause is intended as a convenient way of solving doubts. If a Customs officer has a suspicion that a man is likely to become a public charge, or that he has some disease, or has been convicted of an offence, he will catch him under sub-clause (a) by giving, perhaps, a Frenchman a test in the Turkish language.

Mr Barton - There is no intention to play any tricks at all.

Mr REID - Not any, but the one trick.

Mr Barton - The trick the right honorable and learned member is familiar with.

Mr REID - Do I understand that the Ministry are copying my old familiar trick ? Is that the function of this galaxy of talent 1

Mr Barton - God forbid !

Mr REID - Unfortunately the Ministry pick only my worst attributes, instead of my best ; but I hope that during the next two or three days they will study my best attributes and my desire to keep taxation on a sound basis.

Mr Barton - We should like a photograph of the right honorable gentleman's attribute, because that might not change so much.

Mr REID - On the fiscal question, the Premier must not talk about change. I am where we were together 30 years ago, when he spoke of the Chinese wall that protectionists built round Australia. I have had the satisfaction of carrying out the glorious ambition he and I had, as young politicians in New South Wales, in the way of freedom of commerce. The Prime Minister went the other way ; he had to do it, I admit, because there was not room for him on our side. But I do not want to go into any of these old matters, though the Prime Minister has tempted me to say a word or two. I hope there will be, at least, the satisfaction of an assurance that so far as Europeans are 16 n concerned this clause is not intended to be applied.

Mr Barton - There is no necessity for any further declaration, which has been given over and over again.

Mr REID - I understand that has been so stated.

Mr Barton - The right honorable member knows that it has.

Mr REID - I confess that I do not, because one has to read so many pages of what the Prime Minister says, in order to find out what he means. But I take his assurance across the table, because his assurances are always straight.

Mr Barton - Nobody knows the debates better than the leader of the Opposition.

Mr REID - I assure the Prime Minister that I have not read more than 200 or 300 lines of Mansard - at any rate I have not read my own speeches. I understand that this Bill is not aimed at Europeans, but that sub-clause («) may be used against Europeans of doubtful reputation, under the other sub-clauses. I cannot say much more. The Prime Minister has the ear of the House, and the Bill is practically through, and I simply wish to do justice to the attitude I have taken up in the matter.

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