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Thursday, 7 December 1905
Page: 6507

Mr LONSDALE (New England) - I wish to obtain some information from the Prime Minister in regard to this clause. It provides that every contract immigrant, unless otherwise prohibited, may land in the Commonwealth if the contract - is made by or on behalf of some person named in the contract and resident in Australia. . . .

Would this provision prevent an English firm having a. branch establishment out here entering into a contract with a man to come out to Australia to act as itsmanager here?

Mr Deakin - There would be no interference with the contract.

Mr LONSDALE - Would it not prevent an employer from contracting with a man who was resident in England?

Mr Deakin - No. It is all right.

Mr. JOSEPHCOOK (Parramatta).- I object very strongly to the clause. I protest as strongly as I am able against any British contract immigrant having to explain to the Minister all the particulars of any private arrangement which he may have made, so long as there was nothing in the contract detrimental to the interests of the country.

Mr Watkins - How could the Minister find out unless there were some means of inquiry ?

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) -Does the honorable member mean to tell me that if coal miners were imported under contract to the collieries which he represents, the fact would not be found out very quickly ?

Mr Watkins - Some men were recently Brought out from America, But we cannot find out whether they came under contract or not, although we practically know that they did.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) -Where were they employed?

Mr Watkins - In Brown's collieries.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I know what the honorable member is referring to. He is simply trying to throw dust into our eyes. The men to whom he refers are not miners, but skilled workmen who came out with machines.

Mr Watkins - They did not.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - They are not contract immigrants in the ordinary sense of the term, and the honorable member should not try to bluff the Committee in this way.

Mr Watkins - I ask, sir, that the honorable member should be called upon to withdraw the expression that I am attempting to bluff the Committee.

The CHAIRMAN - I ask the honorable member for Parramatta to withdraw the expression which the honorable member for Newcastle regards as offensive.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - If the expression is offensive to the honorable member, I withdraw it.

Mr Johnson - I, think, sir, that, as honorable members opposite have been so anxious tokeep the Opposition here tonight, the least they can do is to keep a quorum in the Chamber. [Quorum formed.]

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - We ought not to make it obligatory upon the Minister to investigate every contract before we allow the contract immigrant to come in. We . ought to make certain acts penal offences, and leave the matter at that, just as we do in relation to other wrong-doing. We do not ask every man whether he is a thief, or whether he has done wrong in the eyes of the law ; but we simply allow the offence to come to light in the ordinaryway. We ought to do exactly the same withcontracts wrongly made on the other side of the world. So long as we provide penalties to meet such cases, what more do we need to do?

Mr Kennedy - How could the Minister discover unless he had power to investigate ?

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - In my judgment it will be impossible for workmen to be indented here under wrong conditions without the fact becoming known. Suppose, for instance, that miners were brought out to take the place of men on strike, or to work for lower wages than the local men. Does the honorable member think that it would be possible for that contract to be kept secret?

Mr Kennedy - If they came in in a large number at a particular time, the matter could not be kept secret.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - The chances are that the cases where the matter would not be divulged would be extremely rare. Men would not lightly take the risk of being heavily fined and sent back, ' any more than they would now break the law, knowing the penalties to which they would be liable. We ought not to treat this form of contract differently from an ordinary contract. But the Bill proposes to empower the Minister to ask, possibly, every man who comes to Australia, " Are you a contract immigrant? If so, on what terms have you come out? Is your contract in writing, and are the provisions of the Act printed thereon? If not, you cannot land in Australia." Yet this is called a free country ! The proposal is absolutely farcical. It is making our legislation still more irksome and irritating, and the Government, I presume, will get upon the housetops and trumpet it forth to the world that they have removed the obnoxious provisions which have damaged our reputation abroad. They are doing nothing of the kind, but making things very much worse than they are. For a piece of humbug and canting hypocrisy, I have seen nothing equal to this latest attempt on the part of the Prime Minister to alter our immigration law. If an Australian farmer happened to be in London, and desired to engage there a man to work on his farm in Australia, it would be necessary for him to have a contract drawn up in the prescribed form, to send it to Australia for investigation and approval, and to have a format permission returned to England before the man could leave. For irritating circumlocution, I can conceive of nothing more perfect than this measure. If farm labourers would come out under all these inconveniences--

Mr Tudor - Has the honorable member ever known a farm labourer to come out here under contract?

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - If no one desires to come out here under contract, why has the Bill been introduced? Honorable members opposite do not seem to be aware of the meaning of this provision.

Mr Spence - So long as the members of the Opposition are opposing it, we know that we shall do right in voting for it.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I think that most of the votes given by honorable members opposite have been cast on that plan. Under the circumstances, I decline to discuss the clause further.

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