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Wednesday, 6 December 1905
Page: 6323

Mr McLEAN (Gippsland) - We are all agreed that we should not do anything in this Bill to alter thepolicy of a White Australia, which we have already adopted. I do not think any such intention is indicated in the Bill. Of course, we knowthat the efficacy of a language test to exclude undesirable immigrants depends almost entirely on its administration. That that is so under the present form, or any proposed form, must, I think be selfevident. As I have been compelled recently to say some hard things regarding the proposals of the Government. I feel very pleased that on this occasion I am able to congratulate them on the introduction of this Bill.

Mr Carpenter - That is why we are suspicious of it.

Mr McLEAN - The measure proposes to do in a less objectionable way what is done under the existing Act, or, in other words, it proposes to do by treaty that which is done now in a way which almost necessarily offends the susceptibilities or a great nation that is our next-door neighbour. I see no danger in this Bill of any serious departure from the policy al ready affirmed, because any treaty which we enter into with the Japanese or with any other nation regulating the intercourse between them and ourselves must be laid before Parliament before it can be acted upon. I think that Parliament, represent ing public opinion throughout Australia, may be trusted to do nothing that will in any way endanger the policy of a White Australia that we have already agreed to. To that extent, therefore, the Bill is a very desirable one. With regard to the difference between a European or a prescribed language, it is more apparent than real. The obvious intention of the language test was to prescribe sucha test as would exclude undesirable immigrants. That, I presume, will be done as effecttively under the proposed amendment as it has been done under the existing arrangement. In common with other honorable members, I feel that it would be much more in conformity with our own desires if we could pass a Bill which would express straight out what we really mean, but we must remember that if, without departing in any way from our original intention to maintain a White Australia, we can meet the desires of another country, it is reasonable that we should do so. We should not forget that the Empire has about 300,000,000 of coloured subjects, and an Act of Parliament passed by a portion of the Empire, expressly excluding those subjects on account of their complexion, must necessarily be offensive to those people. It was pointed out by the Imperial Government that, whilst they in no way desired to interfere with our right to exclude undesirable immigrants, we might do exactly what we proposed to do in a less offensive way. That was the reason which induced the Government of the day, in deference to the susceptibilities of the mother country, to adopt the language test, instead of the straight-out colour line, which would have been much more agreeable to ourselves. In these respects, I think the Government do not intend to depart in any way from the present policy of a White Australia, but desire to carry out that policy in a way less offensive to the susceptibilities of other nations. It is only reasonable that we should do what we can, without endangering our policy in any way, to meet the desires of the mother country. It appears to me that that is the intention of this Bill, and though I may not agree with allits details, with the main object in view, I am in hearty sympathy and accord.

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