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Thursday, 7 December 1905
Page: 6518

Mr DEAKIN (Ballarat) (Minister of External Affairs) . - I hope that the Com mittee clearly understands what is proposed, and that the honorable member for North Sydney will correct me if I make any error in the statement of his proposition. We are here dealing with considerations which every Minister administering this law is to be called upon to take into account in either accepting or rejecting a proposed contract. First of all, he has to be satisfied that the contract is not made in contemplation of an industrial dispute. The proposal of the honorable member is that that provision shall still apply, and that clause 9, which deals with the prohibition of immigrants intended to be brought out in connexion with industrial disputes, shall still apply to all British subjects, and, in fact, to every one outside Australia. Passing over the provisions of paragraph b for the moment, we come to paragraph c, which requires the Minister to be satisfied that the remuneration and the terms and conditions of employment set forth in a contract are as advantageous as those current in Australia. That condition also is to apply to British subjects, and to all others without restriction. But the honorable member for North Sydney's proposal is to single out condition b, which the Minister has also to take into account, as to whether or not there is a difficulty in obtaining labour of the kind provided for in the contract, where it is proposed to introduce the contract immigrants. In that case there is to be an extension. The provision is to apply to all people, whether white or coloured, except those whom the honorable member has, in brief phraseology, designated as British subjects.


Mr DEAKIN - That is the intention. I have suggested to my honorable and learned colleagues a phrase which will carry out that proposition, and they are examining it. I am sure that the fact of our being able to discriminate in favour of our own kith and kin will be acceptable to every honorable member. The difficulty has been to discover a means by which this can be done effectively, without impairing the economic considerations on which this measure is based. In State legislation against sweating, or similar practices, we have not hesitated to discriminate against our own fellow citizens, in order to compel them to provide what we believe to be a fitting standard of living for people of our race.In the consideration of this measure, it cer- tainly did not occur to me until the honorable member proposed1 it that it was possible so to sever a particular fraction of these provisions, so as to make such an exception. The question of making an exception in a general way had occurred, and had been considered. But, in relation to any- particular clause it was not found possible to make such a condition without making a breach in the whole measure. I am inclined to think, from the consideration I have given it,- that the honorable member for North Sydney has hit upon an ingenious means by which this differentiation can be made without materially impairing the effect of the Bill. It may be that it would lead to the introduction of persons under contract for whom work would not be already waiting, but who would have to create, so to speak, the work in which they were to be engaged. In agricultural pursuits that would be easy. Where land is available, labour can be applied to it, and can make its own employment; so that this proposal would apply under this sub-clause only when contract immigrants were brought out in relation to a given trade or calling in this country, giving employment to a limited number of persons. There is, of course, the safeguard that the Minister will have power to review every agreement and to consider it as a whole. This sub-paragraph, with this new qualification, would also come in for consideration. In the circumstances, therefore, it appears to me that the proposition is one which we might well put into shape. I think that what is desired might be met by the insertion at the commencement of paragraph b of the words -

Except in the case of British subjects born in the United Kingdom or their descendants born in any part of the British Empire

Mr Crouch - That would include some coloured people.

Mr DEAKIN - If it would, we can apply the test in such cases. I think what I have suggested will do in the meantimethat is, until there is a further opportunity to consider it.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Amendment (by Mr. Dugald Thomson) proposed -

That the following words be inserted at the commencement of paragraph b : - " except in the case of British subjects born in the United Kingdom or their descendants born in any part of the British Empire."

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