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Friday, 10 November 1905

Mr DEAKIN (Ballarat) (Minister of External Affairs) . - I move -

That the Bill be now read a second time.

I am obliged to honorable members for having allowed the Bill to be advanced to this stage. The Immigration Restriction Act, No. 17 of 1 901, covers two entirely distinct classes of immigrants. The first comprises those who are sought to be excluded because of differences of type and tendency, which render their assimilation with the people of our own race difficult, if not Impossible. It was thought necessary in the earliest days of the Commonwealth to pass a measure for their exclusion. The Act does not on the face of it distinguish between the nations to which it is applied, and in only one or two portions of the measure does a word occur which even indicates that its administration is intended to be directed) to peoples such as those to whom I have referred, who are not members of the group of races which from colonizing Western Europe, have spread themselves over a large portion of the habitable globe. The other class of immigrants dealt with are those under contract, who will presently be the subject of comment in. connexion with another measure. What I am now asking honorable members to examine is a proposed amendment of the Act, which will apply particularly to those peoples to whom I have referred, some of whom are separated from us by a great gulf of inherited traditions, character and aims ; and all of whom under administration come within the scope of the existing measure. Our control is exercised by means of the application of an education test, which is neither the most convenient form of exclusion nor that which is most readily appreciated elsewhere. It involves a certain amount of indirect action, although from the very first day that it was adopted until the present time, it has been directly and consistently employed, and by this time its purpose is everywhere understood. When the education test was 'adopted as the least objectionable method of excluding those whom we felt bound to keep from cmshores, it was feared that the control exercised would be less efficient than if direct prohibition had been resorted to in regard to people described by race or colour. I think, however, that experience has shown that the apprehension was groundless. The annual returns, which have been laid upon the table, prove not only that a smaller number of coloured aliens are being admitted into the Commonwealth, but that year by year the number of departures of such people exceeds the number of arrivals. They also show that of those who do come here a considerable number are only nominally admitted, as in the case of the pearl shell fishers, in order that they may sign contracts which are fulfilled on the sea. In a similar manner, the greater number of the Chinese and others who figure in the returns as having entered the Commonwealth have been previously domiciled here, or Have been in possession of State permits or other permits entitling them to admission. Consequently, the gross figures demonstrate that the number of coloured aliens within the Commonwealth is decreasing steadily, and is likely to decrease more rapidly year by year. Then, when judging the education test which has been applied to only a limited extent, honorable members must remember that those recorded ashav- ing failed to pass the test, and who have been refused admission to the Commonwealth, do not represent anything like the whole number of those who have been prevented from coming here by its operation. Those who come here and subject themselves to the test represent the few who have some hope of overcoming the difficulties presented by the Act. Probably thou, sands were deterred by it from embarking for Australia. I am justified in stating that the education test, as now applied, has proved efficient, and has enabled us to shut out from the Commonwealth those whom it was desired to exclude. Only a few individuals have succeeded in defeating it. This measure proposes to make a series of minor amendments, rendered necessary by the ingenuity of professional men, who have been able to discover particular means by which the intentions of the Act can be defeated. The first amendment is intended to make members of the police force of any State officers under the Act. This k necessary, because the Commonwealth officers are stationed on the sea-board, and when a prohibited immigrant manages to reach the interior an officer has to be despatched from the sea-board to apply the education test. The proposed amendment will enable any policeman- who may be on the spot to administer the test.

Mr Conroy - Surely it is not proposed to allow any member of the police force to act?

Mr DEAKIN - Yes. I 'shall explain the reason when we reach the Committee stage.

Mr Higgins - Have we not power under the Act to appoint policemen as officers for the purposes of the Act?

Mr DEAKIN - The only power we have in reference to the police is that contained in section 14. We are there empowered to appoint particular police officers, but that involves a separate appointment in every case. What we seek is authority for any policeman to apply the education test provided under the Act. Under paragraph n of sub-section 3 several legal difficulties have arisen in regard to the dictation, test. First of all, there is doubt as to whether the word "passage" does not imply that the test to which the immigrant is subjected shall conform to certain requirements. Again., it is urged that the passage must contain only fifty words, and that the dictation of fifty-one or forty-nine' words invalidates the whole test.

Then the use of the word " European " by implication draws a distinction between people to whom the test is intended to be applied, which so far as the administration of the Act is concerned, is quite unnecessary. This Bill is designed to repair slight omissions and to close small loopholes, which have been discovered in .the practical working of the Act. With exceptions to which I shall presently allude, I might conclude, with these few words, my statement of the purposes of the measure. But, in addition, the fact cannot be overlooked that - however silent the Act may be upon the point - it is intended to be applied to people of particular races. That provision must not be regarded as having been inserted in any Pharisaic spirit, and must not be held to imply any assertion of superiority on our part. Probably every nation, every tribe - and even smaller gatherings - is satisfied that its country, its district, its village is the best in the world, and thai its members are better than anybody else, partly because they try themselves by their own standards.

Mr McCay - That remark is applicable even to Ministries.

Mr DEAKIN - It has even happened in the case of Governments. People try themselves by their own standards, and, naturally, return a verdict which is favorable to themselves. But assertions of superiority are neither conveyed nor implied in this Bill, which simply recognises the incontestable fact that, despite the unity of humanity, its diversity is more operative in fact. The branches and families into which the human race is divided 'have followed different paths for ages. They have developed in. different directions to such an extent that it is now found that any attempt to suddenly blend their blood, unite them in institutions which are foreign to them - or in politics or economic relations - leads to disruptions and disturbances of a serious kind. These blends axe apparently of advantage to neither race directly - and certainly not to the advantage of any hybrid races which spring from them.

Mr Higgins - The Prime Minister objects to the mode of blending as well as to the fact of blending?

Mr DEAKIN - I refer both to the mode and to the fact of such blendings. We cannot deny that the experience of today promotes a reaction from the theory of the century before last, when all peoples were grouped in one mass as if they were divided by no other than artificial distinctions which, by the mere alteration of systems of education, could be readily overcome. That idea is passing away, even in the British Empire, made up of many races, following many different systems of life, with widely divergent religious beliefs, who are able to unite for the purposes of maintaining and extending that Empire. Certain bounds have been drawn between its peoples to trespass which means not only peril, but undoubted loss. That ' is the experience of modern times ; it is the . experience of those Englishmen who have devoted their lives, to work in Asia and elsewhere amongst people foreign to ourselves, -whom half-a,-century ago we should have endeavoured to turn into Europeans by imitation on then existing, European patterns. We have since found that it is wiser to allow each people to develop along its own lines, by the perfecting of its own methods of civilization, than to endeavour to impose our methods upon them. They do best for themselves in their own countries. I say this because occasionally we find .ourselves challenged from the pulpit and the lecture-room as setting up claims to superiority over other nations which no thoughtful man would prefer. As we cannot know how we ourselves look in the judgment of. an -All-seeing Eye, we do not attempt to judge other peoples, but we recognise tha,t racial "and national differences are prominent features which we have to take into account in practical life Nor are we selfishly exclusive in our laws". Owing to the exceptional conditions prevailing in this Continent, and to the fact that the native races promise to become extinct, the first settlers of Australia have an opportunity which has existed nowhere else in the world, of endeavouring to gradually people our land with the descendants of white races capable of blending with advantage and relatively all of about the same grade of culture or possibilities of culture. That is what we generally refer to as the White Australia policy. This measure, instead of detracting in any way from that policy, aims at rendering the law more efficient in its enforcement. In formulating that policy and abiding by it, we are not called upon to cast, even by inference, any slur upon any other people, to imply in them any special defects, or suggest anything more' than a separateness of character, aim, and tendency to which I have already alluded. It is an imperative necessity at the present time that, in pursuance of our great national ideal, we shall exclude the people of the East, of whom two races in particular possess claims upon our respect and admiration. Within the Empire, we have an empire - Hindustan - some of whose races are amongst the most intellectual that the world has known. They rank amongst the intellectuals to-day, and enjoy many heritages comparable with those of most advanced peoples. A tribute to their accomplishments in literature and art is unnecessary. Their records are sufficient to merit admiration-

Mr Skene - Some of them are of the same origin as European people.

Mr DEAKIN - I believe that the Hindoo races are supposed to trace their ancestry back to distant mons, it being one with ours, although that theory is not so universally accepted as it used to be.

Mr Conroy - The Prime Minister is making another misstatement.

Mr DEAKIN - We need not pursue the inquiry whether all races had not originally a similar ancestry. That is immaterial for our purposes to-day. I wish only to safeguard those who support legislation of this character against the assumption that their action is derogatory to any people. The Hindoos as members of the same Empire are entitled to special consideration at our hands. Then there is the nation who have recently sprung into such prominence," attracting the admiration of the world for their ability and patriotism, by their achievements in arms, science, and industry. They are the allies of the Empire to which we belong. Before they won their recent successes many people, including myself, bore tribute to their standing and promise. Now the whole world realizes that it is confronted by a young and virile people, whose possibilities cannot be gauged, although we know that they are of a very high order. It becomes us, .therefore, to see if, in regard to the excluded races generally, but particularly in regard to the two I have mentioned, we cannot, without altering the policy to which this country is pledged, amend the expression of our law and its administration. We can convey to them our appreciation of their qualities, and, while excluding permanent settlers from among them, inflict no sense of offence. To this end we propose to omit the word "European" before the word "language" in the sub-section to which I have previously referred. We shall then declare that the test shall be in a prescribed language, instead of a European tongue, a provision that will give us just as ample a control as we have ,at present.

Mr Hutchison - Would not that provision allow a Government which is opposed to the White Australia policy to prescribe a test in Japanese?

Mr DEAKIN - Even supposing such a case, I would point out that they could now prescribe a test in the Turkish language, which is just as Oriental in character as is, Japanese.

Mr Higgins - But there is no danger of Turkish immigrants coming to Australia.

Mr DEAKIN - There are Turks who seek admission to the Commonwealth. The limitation of the test to a European language is more nominal than real, considering the unlimited power of exemption already contained in the Act. I do not think that the honorable member need cherish any apprehension in that regard. An important proposal is contained in clause 6 of the Bill intended to permit of an arrangement being made with any particular country if such a course is deemed' desirable.

Mr McCay - Would " country" include a dependency of the Crown?

Mr DEAKIN - It is so intended.

Mr McCay - Would it include one out of many races in a country which might be desirable? ^

Mr DEAKIN - I' cannot answer that question offhand. I doubt whether it would. That, however, can *be considered in Committee. The idea embodied here is that with the consent of Parliament it would be possible to make am arrangement with the two countries I have mentioned,, or with other countries, in respect of the admission of their people to the Commonwealth. Seeing that neither the Government of India nor that of Japan desires their, people to come to Australia, we may, perhaps,- arrange that they themselves shall practically undertake to limit emigration to Australia instead of our having to control it when it reaches us.

Mr Hutchison - That is a very dangerous arrangement.

Mr DEAKIN - In Committee, honorable members will have an opportunity to show me in what way such an arrangement - made with the consent of Parliament, and administered in the light of our present knowledge of the immigrants' from these countries - would permit of any influx. No inflow would be possible without our becoming aware of it, because the records kept at all our ports would show how many were entering.

Mr Hutchison - The proposal of the Prime Minister is tantamount to an abandonment of the White Australia policy.

Mr DEAKIN - I am moving the second reading of this Bill before it has ┬╗been circulated. When the honorable memberhas had an opportunity to study its provisions, he will see that his apprehension is groundless. If Parliament chooses to vary an arrangement it can do so.' It is not proposed to change our present policy ; but if an arrangement can be made that will give effect to that policy in a more considerate way, why should we not take advantage of it? If Parliament considers that a proposed arrangement is not sufficiently safeguarded, it will refuse to ratify it. I think that there is not the slightest reason for fear in this regard.

Mr Higgins - Wi'll this Bill allow more than one language to be prescribed ?

Mr DEAKIN - Certainly. The intention is to carry but the existing practice, which is to prescribe such a language in each case as will lead to the rejection of the persons intended to be rejected. That is deliberately done. The test is not of education, and was never proposed as such. It is a means of exclusion, devoid of offence. In pursuance of the same policy, we are now proposing that a general arrangement, which meets with the approval of Parliament, may be brought into operation.

Mr Wilkinson - Is there not some such arrangement between Fiji and the Government of India?

Mr DEAKIN - The only arrangement of which I know between the Governments of Fiji and Hindustan relates to the mode of recruiting coolies, the method of paying them off, and so forth. That is quite a different arrangement from those which we have in view.

Mr Wilkinson - But do not the coolies recruited in Hindustan remain in Fiji ? Are they not re-engaged?

Mr DEAKIN - That is another matter.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - They remain there, and are gradually obtaining possession of the country.

Mr DEAKIN - That has nothing to do with the arrangement here proposed. The

Bill provides not for an alteration of the policy of a White Australia, but for a change in the method of administration. Surely if the Government of India, by agreement with the Government of the Commonwealth, prevented natives from emigrating to Australia that would be just as satisfactory to the supporters of the principle of a White' Australia as would be our pieventing their landing here when they came. We hope to make arrangements of that kind.

Mr McCay - Should we not provide, as we have done in other measures, that such agreements shall not come into operation until approved by resolution of the House?

Mr DEAKIN - That is intended, but I shall be happy to consider any suggestion in the direction indicated. Sub-clause 3 of clause 4A is explicit As to its termination. It provides that -

Any such notice shall cease to have effect upon the Minister notifying, by notice in the Gazette, that it is cancelled.

Any arrangement made will be subject to that power. By way of illustration, I may point to the fact that we have at present an arrangement with the Governments of India and Japan that has proved satisfactory. When previously in office I had the honour to submit the original proposals to those Governments. Subsequently they were approved by the Government of which the honorable member for Bland was the leader, and final effect was given them by the late Administration. The arrangement in each case is to the effect that tourists, merchants, and others visiting Australia shall not be subjected to the education test ; but shall be provided by their Governments with passports, _ the production of which will entitle them to pass freely through Australia. That system has been carried out up to the present time with entire satisfaction to all concerned. There were two cases in which it was thought that passports had been improperly obtained; but we have been able to satisfy ourselves that in one of these the person concerned landed in the Commonwealth prior to the introduction of the system. There is, therefore, only one case in which we have reason even to suppose that the passport system may have been abused. It is possible, by an extension of this system, to study the feelings of other visitors from these countries who desire to come here either for business or pleasure. There is no reason why similar arrangements should not be made with other countries.

Mr Carpenter - Is legislation necessary for an extension of the system?

Mr DEAKIN - It is not; But it is desirable, in order that arrangements of the kind described may be made formally with the approval of the Parliament. In the cases to which I have referred, we took action practically upon our own responsibility ; but with the consent of the Parliament, we may be able to apply the system over a wider area. I do not wish at this stage to detain honorable members, but ask them in looking through the Bill to realize that it marks no change in the existing policy. On the contrary, with the exception of the clause making friendly arrangements possible, its provisions consist of those minor amendments which the application of the original Act to our extensive coastline has proved to be necessary for its economical and efficient administration.

Debate (on motion by Mr. Joseph Cook) adjourned.

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